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What Makes A CADD System Work?

Audio version
Posted / Last update: 01-07-1999
Publication: Petroleum Equipment & Technology Archive
Issued: July 1999
Author: Comisar Frank , AIA

Production standards that produce results

Computer-Aided-Design-and-Drafting (CADD) has redrawn the boundaries for architects, yet problems still exist for many end users. Frank Comisar, AIA, reports on how to eliminate them.

In a very short time, Computer-Aided-Design-and-Drafting (CADD) has revolutionized the architectural industry. It has freed the architects from many mundane drafting tasks that used to require countless hours spent on a drafting table. As recently as ten years ago, many architects still were producing drawings manually with ink on mylar. Today, most architects use CADD to produce all their drawings. Pentium class personal computers are most common, and software by Autodesk (AutoCAD) and Bently (Microstation) are the most popular.

Skills not bills
However, as many early adopters learned the hard way, just laying out the cash for a computer and some software was not a panacea. You need people skilled in the use of your software and, if you have more than one person using CADD, you’ll need some groundrules for producing drawings that will be used by everyone in the firm. For purposes of the column, I will call those groundrules “production standards.” Production standards define how a firm will create its CADD drawings.

Production standards for CADD have been a topic for discussion and debate since the early days of CADD. Participants in this debate include architects, engineers, government agencies, building owners, CADD software vendors and many others. A good CADD standard is the foundation of a successful CADD operation and must facilitate the efficient production and use of CADD drawings.

Software vendors, to satisfy the varied needs of every possible user of their product, have built platforms that offer flexibility and customization options for the end-user. The human element, and the ability to make choices on CADD production, require standard operating procedures to assure efficient production of construction documents. To use a cliché, there are many ways to skin a cat. That is not to say that one cat-skinning method is any better than another; just different. It is the same with CADD standards. As a minimum, every office should choose a standard, any standard, and make its use mandatory. Many firms create their own standard to suit their needs. Some professional organizations (AIA and CSI, for example) and government agencies promote their own standards.

Certain issues will be addressed in any good CADD standard used by architects and engineers. These usually include layers, text and plotting. Layers are critical to any CADD drawing as everything must be drawn on a layer. Layers can be turned on or off (making items drawn on that layer visible or invisible) to facilitate editing or for sharing data between drawings or others. For larger building projects, a drawing will usually include more layers than can be efficiently managed manually.

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