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Designing and Drafting: The Importance of

AutoCAD in Creating Building Designs

Hamza Mahmood
Intern/Mentor G.T.
29 February, 2016

Mentor: Zulfiqar Baig

Dr. Melissa Kiehl

Architects and Engineers are always constructing, whether it be a newly designed

industrial building or a house. These ideas originate from one source: the designs made on paper.
In the past there was not technology that would create designs or be able to function as a tool for
a live model simulator of sorts, there was only hand drawings, done with simple pen or pencil.
Great architects such as Vespasian, the creator of the Roman Coliseum, and Ustad Ahmad
Lahouri, the creator of the Taj Mahal, did not have any type of software mechanisms that
allowed them to create three-dimensional models of their designs and yet they created such
beautiful pieces of work, which all started with a simple hand sketch. As time has advanced
computer software programs such as AutoCAD, Revit, Sketch up, and Building Information
Modeling (B.I.M.) have made their way into the architectural field. The advancement that
specifically Autodesk AutoCAD has provided to the architectural field is evident through the
designs made by architects and their final construction. This paper will present information of
how AutoCAD has advanced the architectural field through the 2D and 3D modeling software,
construction pieces that were made out of designs in AutoCAD, the comparison with hand
drawings, and the comparison with other modeling software.
In 1979, the development of designing software was merely a thought, and how a graphic
design program was a necessity for some fields. In Autodesk and AutoCAD, David Weisberg
shows that in 1983, Autodesk was becoming a prevalent company that was becoming more
noticed and accepted in the work place. Over time the Autodesk Company started to become
more popular and soon was integrated into school curriculums and taught to student studying
basically any type of engineering or designing subjects. Some competing companies at the time
were: Auto-trol Technology (no longer in the CAD business), Applicon (acquired by UGS),
Computervision (acquired by PTC), Calma (acquired by Prime Computer then merged with

Computervision prior to the latter companys acquisition by PTC), and Intergraph (Weisberg),
but eventually they all died out and Autodesk succeeded. The 3D features in AutoCAD and other
modeling software is important to all engineers and architects from the time of its creation
because no one, nowadays, is willing to dedicate mass amounts of time to create hand-drawn
detailed sketches.
The importance of architectural renderings is that they provide architects with 3D
environments in which they can work with and be able to critique designs and brainstorm how to
fix ideas that may be wrong. This software platform allows users to visualize construction ideas
in a three-dimensional format, to publish these ideas online, and to insert these ideas into 3D
maps (Withers). This description of architectural rendering really allows the reader to grasp
what architectural rendering actually is because it explains the function of the software and what
one can accomplish doing with the aid of these software functions. The benefit of having
architectural renderings is that they help to calculate construction cost such as how much
material will be used, control elements of placement, carefully craft a 3-dimensional model of
something and many more. Appendix A shows the timeline of AutoCAD more in depth features
were added to the AutoCAD software in its later years, primarily in 1995-2000, where
technology was advancing at a quick pace.
Before the mere thought of AutoCAD, there was only one way to conceive an idea or be
able to visually display them, through hand drawings. Hand drawings, even though they are
difficult to go into detail with, can still be used in this modern age. In the article Hand Drawing
in the Age of Computers, the author John Hill, addresses the fact that hand drawings are fading
out of the working community of engineers and architects. Unlike computer models and the
renderings that come from them, hand-drawn sketches have the ability to define various

attributes of a designform, scale, space, and materialitywithout worrying about precision

(Hill). This quote addresses the benefits that hand drawings provide in this age of computer
software that enables people to express their own creativity without restrictions of
measurements. Hand drawings are the basis for everything because they lay the foundation to
move into a computer software program. Also, hand drawings allow for any individual, in any
workplace, to lay out what they want to do and see what ideas come directly from their mind that
can be put upon paper.
Some engineers and architects nowadays are still drawn to the old fashioned hand
drawings techniques and believe that hand drawings are an important role in society such as
mechanical automation engineer and application engineer, Rashid Shakir. In an interview with
Shakir, the researcher and Shakir discussed hand drawings and 3-dimensional drawing software.
Before the question of hand drawings arose, Shakir immediately stated that in the past when he
was in college and learning about engineering he had to use drawing paper and different size
pencils to create sketches to distribute. The researcher then asked what benefits he thought hand
drawings had over was the side of creativity communication because one is able to express their
ideas right to someone else without the middle man of the computer software. In the interview,
Shakir also mentioned where the terms cut, copy, and paste came from in AutoCAD; when
engineers wanted to remove something and place it on another drawing they used to cut the part
they wanted, paste it onto the new drawing, and then copy the drawing through a copier and
make a blueprint. This process, he stated, was very tedious and lengthy to do but because of new
technology, it is much simpler to accomplish.
Going far into the past before the time of Shakir or the time of AutoCAD, many
engineers and architects used very detailed hand drawings. In Hand Drawing and Sketching in

Today's Architectural Office the past of hand drawings is shown and what they were used for
versus what they have become now. In the past, all architects needed to draw by hand because
there was no AutoCAD and this article shows the techniques and materials they used. Plan of
Saint Gall This is the only surviving major architectural drawing from the 700-year period
between the fall of the Roman Empire and the 13th century (Grisinger). This quote discusses a
building plan for a Roman construction is the only surviving drawing from that time period.
Even though it is not extremely detailed the plan of the Saint Gall was made on clay of sorts
versus now where everything is on paper. As much as it seems that hand drawings are a lost art,
they are still used in todays world for example, there are some applications in which one can
create designs on a picture of a building, like adding features or making a new building in an
empty plot.
As the Romans created their construction pieces with multiple hand drawings, in the past,
so did many others around the world like Jorn Ultzons Sydney Opera House. In the novel 100
Years of Architectural Drawing, shows the drawings of multiple architects in the past 100 years
and some hand drawings that they have drawn. Jorn Ultzons design for the Sydney Opera House
is a major piece because it shows the complexity of the designs, while being such a simple
sketch. From our perspective today, in which the computer-aided design [CAD] drawing
dominates, the twentieth century appears as the golden age of traditional architectural handdrawing (Bingham). Bingham is basically stating the fact that all the modern technology that
has taken over the architectural society, cannot replicate the simplicity and aesthetic appeal of
twentieth century hand drawings. This is a very interesting point because as much advanced
AutoCAD, BIM, Revit and other designing software become they lose the root of the hand
drawings that actually brought them to be.

The Autodesk Company has many other branches to itself other than AutoCAD such as
Revit and Building Information Modeling (BIM). Since Autodesk has now become very notable
for all of the features it has, now has been used to create some major construction buildings in
the world. The Shanghai Tower is the worlds second largest construction piece, following after
the Burj Khalifa. The design for the Shanghai tower was performance based, in which it would
withstand the environment of China. Using BIM, architects and engineers were able to design the
Shanghai Tower with all of its twist and turns. The towers iconic twisting shape and dualskinned facade were extremely difficult to convey using traditional 2D approaches, making
model-based design vital for the projects success. ("Rising to New Heights with BIM"). With
the features in BIM the designers were able to sketch in 2D and then bring it into 3D, and begin
modifications and corrections to designs. Principal and Regional Design Director Gensler, Jun
Xia says that BIM helped us visualize the tower in 3D and analyze the design for improved
decision making, showing how BIM is used on a global scale.
Another building that was created with the use of AutoCAD is the Masdar HQ. The
designers for the Masdar HQ were able to take in account many environmental factors, such as
the sun light that could hit the building. By doing so the Architects were able to try out different
materials and test how they hold against varied temperatures, while also seeing where they can
tweak the designs. Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture designed the Masdar headquarters
using AutoCAD [] this software allowed the architects to analyze the building in three
dimensions ("Masdar Headquarters). With the challenge of such a difficult terrain to work with
the architects who created the Masdar Headquarters were able to take into account all of the
difficulties that the environment had to offer in AutoCAD and constructed the designs. The

Masdar HQ shows that even if an environment is difficult, a construction piece can be built using
Zulifiqar Baig has created some contruction pieces himself, around the
Baltimore/Washington area. He has used AutoCAD to design the building and also discuss it
with many architects and engineers. A design that he has worked on before was the Silver Spring
Transit Center, where he was a project consultant. For the design of the building there was a
hand drawn sketch just detailing what the building and transit center would look like. Afterwards
this design would be created in some computer software program, such as BIM, and be able to be
shared with multiple contractors, engineers, and government officials. A design that Baig has
worked on in AutoCAD is the Single Storey Addition to a building Washington Blvd. The design
for this addition was made on AutoCAD and printed out. In the deisng both the exsisting
building and the proposed addition are shown, so people who are viewing the design could easily
see what the addition would look like and all of its dimensions. The benefits of having these
detailed drawings are that anyone who may actually be working on the construction piece
themselves can easily differentiate between different lines and symbols because of the features
AutoCAD has. An aspect of hand drawing that Baig did mention in an interview was So
computer comparing to that the technical aspect of drawing with the computer is very nice, but
aesthetic point of view, whatever you have in your mind and your converting that idea to the
paper thats by hand its a very nice idea (Baig).
As mentioned before, Autodesk AutoCAD is not the only designing software out in the
world; there are others like BIM, Revit, Sketchup and many more. Many architects like to use
different modeling software like Robert Klaschka, who is an architect himself, and owns an
architectural company. When BIM was released, it was a huge success in his own company, but

he also discussed some defects it had with the entire architectural community. For me the major
factor standing in the way of the market penetration of BIM is making it pay. Until a team of
consultants can work more profitably than their counterparts working with conventional CAD it
will continue to hang in the balance (Klaschka). Klaschka shows that BIM is becoming popular,
but it is quite expensive in comparison to CAD. By comparing the two different 3D modeling
software one can see that CAD is the more profitable one, but BIM may offer more with the
outlines and datasheets to architects and engineers.
Revit is another sub group of the Autodesk Company. AutoCAD precision is great for
mechanical or industrial application. AutoCAD is a great tool for some things, but too many
things can be "faked" with it, concerns a veteran architect (Revitology: The Evolution of Revit
over AutoCAD). This discusses that AutoCAD, with all the features it may have, some details
and designing flaws can easily be made and covered up, but with Revit there are more features
and better 3D software. As AutoCAD is used to create multiple famous buildings, the same goes
for Revit, which is also used in many real world situations like the Shanghai Tower project, Xia
stated that Autodesk Revit provided a common platform for our design partners, giving the
team a more accurate representation and deeper understanding of the project ("Rising to New
Heights with BIM"). This quote shows that Revit is a universal software that many architects and
engineers are familiar with. AutoCAD Architecture also allows drawing directly in 3D, and it
has significantly improved over the last few years, but it is faster and more intuitive to use only
its 2D capabilities (Piedra). AutoCAD has many 3D features but even though this is, it does not
mean they are always beneficial. Compared to Revit, which is truly focused on the principle of
3D, everything is designed and created in three dimensions.

A downside to AutoCAD, which author Mark Lepage states is that AutoCAD is

beneficial to small firms but as the firm progresses and becomes more advanced; they should
shift to B.I.M. or Sketchup. Lepage calls AutoCAD a part of the dinosaur, showing that
AutoCAD is a very old program and that architects should switch to the new age of Sketchup.
The benefit that AutoCAD provides for people working in small architectural firms is that it acts
as a base for them to build on so they could move onto a more complex designing program.
Sketchup, explained by Lepage is seen to be more for the creative side of architects; it can enable
the creativity in them to flow. Also, Sketchup provides designing in 3D and modeling in 3D,
while AutoCAD designs in 2D and models in 3D, which can be seen as inefficient. Even though
AutoCAD is given this spotlight, many other software are seen to be used in all aspects of
architecture and engineering.
AutoCAD, since its introduction in 1982, has played a major role in the creation and
enhancement of the architectural field, or any engineering field that uses such software.
AutoCAD has been the foundation for architecture to build upon itself and be able to create
better buildings and construction pieces, not only on a local or state, but on a global level. It is
vital for everyone to know where these ideas for any building originate from because it shows a
sense of understand of what the architectural field is all about. Due to the features that AutoCAD
has, people are able to expand upon their creativity not only in a specified field, but also in
learning and educating themselves about new technology. As seen in Appendix B, many students
have not been introduced to hand drawings due to this society overtaken by technology, but as
time progresses hand drawings may show their true importance once again. With AutoCAD
being implemented in the architectural field and playing such a major role truly shows how
architecture has changed from pen and paper to computer and mouse.

Works Cited
Baig, Zulfiqar. "Student Research Project." Personal interview. 19 Oct. 2015.
Bingham, Neil R. 100 Years of Architectural Drawing: 1900-2000. London: Laurence King,
2013. Print.
Grisinger, Gordon. "Hand Drawing and Sketching in Today's Architectural Office." RSS.
Payette, 12 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.
Hill, John. "Hand Drawing in the Age of Computers." World Architects. EMagazine, 15 July
2013. Web. 29 Nov. 2015.
Hurley, Shaan. "Between the Lines." 'Between the Lines' Autodesk, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
Lepage, Mark R. "Is AutoCAD a Better Choice for Small Firm Architects?" Entrepreneur
Architect. EntreArch, LLC, 30 Apr. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
"Masdar Headquarters." Architect Magazine. The Journal of the American Institute of
Architects, 20 Sept. 2012. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.
Piedra, Javier. "AutoCAD. vs AutoCAD Architecture vs. Revit vs. Sketchup." Arquitectura
Virtual, Productividad Digital. N.p., 03 Apr. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
"Revitology: The Evolution of Revit over AutoCAD." Architectural evangelist. Architectural
Evangelist, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.
"Rising to New Heights with BIM." Rising to New Heights with BIM (n.d.): n. pag. Autodesk.
Autodesk, 2012. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.
Shakir, Rashid. "Mini-Interview." Personal interview. 19 Dec. 2015.
Weisberg, David E. Chapter 8 Autodesk and AutoCAD (n.d.): n. pag. Cadhistory. 2006. Web. 13
Oct. 2015.

Appendix A

Appendix B