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Renovations: Make the move to CAD

By Jeffrey Reed
May 30, 2014 - 0 comments

Renovation professionals are still needed for big jobs but these days millions of homeowners looking to visualize redesigns or create their own smaller projects are turning to CAD 3D software


Almost everyone who has lived in a home for a few years – or a few decades – eventually comes to the conclusion that the place could use an upgrade.

Whether a minor redesign is contemplated or a major renovation, the homeowner often starts by thumbing through a décor magazine or browsing in a home store. Soon, the doodles and notes start on paper.

These days, putting pencil to paper and ruler to draw room dimensions may the romantic way of designing and renovating living space. But with 2D and 3D design software now available, there’s no reason why even a novice home-improvement enthusiast can’t jump on the high-tech bandwagon.
CAD software, also known as Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CADD), replaces the tedious task of manual drafting with an automated process. The software helps you explore design ideas, visualize concepts through animation and photorealistic renderings, and simulate how a design will perform in the real world.

The difference between the ideas that can be conveyed on paper versus the heightened imagery enabled by 3D software is tremendous. Jennifer Dainard, designer and project manager with Pioneer Craftsmen Ltd. of Kitchener, raved about the technology and what it allowed her to do for clients in a conversation with FYI awhile back.

“The biggest and most dramatic change in the planning process for us is the technology that helps our clients see the possibilities through 3D camera images using a computer-aided drafting program,” said Dainard. “It isn’t a matter of having to ‘imagine’ the space from a hand-drawn floor plan any longer – we have photo-realistic software to do the imagining for you. Textures and colours can be applied and really bring the project together long before there is a physical reality to it.”

“CAD has been around since the 1980s, making drafting more affordable and efficient,” California architect Dylan Chappell explained. “This computer software allows architects to digitally draft and draw, creating plans and assembling specifications much more quickly than on paper, resulting in quicker lead times for clients.

“However, it's important to remember that drafting is an art, whether by hand or with CAD,” Chappell added. “Learning how to draw beautiful and accurate plans takes years, and it's not something a computer can replace. Should your architect be using CAD? Most likely. But it's no substitute for the skill and experience it takes to become a great architect.”

That said – that there is no substitute for a highly trained professional – more and more homeowners are taking the time to learn how to use CAD and related software for their do-it-yourself projects.

With more than 100 products in its portfolio, California-headquartered Autodesk counts more than 12-million users of its professional software solutions, and more than 145-million users of its consumer applications. Everyone from design professionals, engineers and architects to digital artists, students and hobbyists use Autodesk software to unlock creativity.

Autodesk senior project manager Charlie Crocker says, “The biggest change we’ve seen in the AutoCAD realm is its ability to be connected right from the desktop, which creates a really great environment for collaboration and accessing a big variety of data sets.”

AutoCAD software for Windows and Mac allows users to create 3D CAD designs, and speed documentation with TrustedDWG technology – an efficient, accurate way for storing design data created using AutoCAD and AutoCAD-based products. Cloud-based platform options allow for storage, sharing, viewing and editing of projects.

The AutoCAD 360 web and mobile app allows you to view, create, edit, and share CAD drawings nearly anytime, anywhere, and provides essential tools for sketching and documenting. This app enables you to redline drawings on-site, document as-builts, and share DWG drawings.

Autodesk 360 Mobile gives you the ability to share, view, and comment on 2D and 3D DWG (a design format), DWF (design review), Autodesk Navisworks and Autodesk Revit software files from your mobile device.

Autodesk is a big name in the business but others are finding a niche as well, offering the do-it-yourselfer simpler yet effective solutions when tackling home-improvement projects. SketchUp is a 3D drawing program also used by architects, designers, builders, manufacturers and engineers. Generic graphic programs like Adobe Photoshop and Corel Paintshop Pro aid in the drawing of plans, manipulating pictures, changing paint or material colours at the decoration stage of a project.

Punch! Software provides home design, landscape design and architectural software. IMSI/Design has a number of TurboCAD software programs offering complete 2D and 3D drafting, modelling and photorealistic rendering. TurboFloorPlan 3D is a complete home and landscape design software package.

Chappell said, “The two most commonly used programs in the industry are AutoCAD and Vectorworks. Both are complicated to learn and come with a hefty price tag, but in the hands of an experienced professional they can help architects present homeowners with multiple and better design options, streamlining operations and shortening lead times.”

According to Chappell, Vectorworks is particularly popular due to its ability to manage every phase of the design and production process, whether the architect is working on beginning conceptual sketches or complex construction documents.

Flexible CAD programs like Vectorworks have improved the control over the design and production process. This means better and more accurate drawings of your project, leading to time and money savings, Chappel explained.


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