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An outlook on architectural software packages



You will find an exposition about software packages used in architecture, those that are really adapted to this practice and that understand the functions that follow:


1. Basic 2D drawing

Example: Draw lines, curves, dimensions, etc...



2. Basic 3D drawing

Example: Modeling cubes, spheres, cylinders, etc...




3. 2D and 3D specifics to architecture

Example: Automatically draw walls, doors, windows, stairs, roofs, etc...



4. Presentation software

Example: Hyper-realistic renderings with textures, lights, etc...



5. Edition

Drawing changes. (Example: Copy, move, erase entities, etc...).



6. Quantity take-off

Example: Area and volume calculations, quantity take-off from each object used in the drawing, etc... (Examples: Windows and doors table).



7. Layout and printing



Parametric software packages



The most advanced architectural software packages today work in a parametric way allowing the automatic coordination of all elements of the drawing.

In fact these software packages rest on the following principle:

What is drawn is simultaneously the virtual model of the building in 2D/3D.
In fact, the major part of the construction documents 2D are 2D views from the 3D model.


Source: Images tiré du tutorial de Autodesk Revit


Thus, the ground floor plan will be an orthogonal view of this level.
The frontal elevation will also be a vertical view of the corresponding face of the building.
I another words, what is drawn are really 3D objects, like windows, doors, walls, stairs, roofs, furnishings, etc.

Compared to an usual 2D software, the 2D/3D opens large possibilities for the confection and the management of the architectural documents, mainly, via the automatic coordination of the changes.

The 3D and 2D objects are defined by parameters associated to the object and bound between them.
Thus, instead of drawing line by line a window, it will be defined by three-dimensional numeric parameters. From there, it will be drawn by the software, therefore, the technician must choose the good parameters and must place the window at the good place.

However, the parameters define, in computer terms, the spatial geometry of the object.




Example: Parametric window table:



Source: Spirit 12 from Softtech International (STi)


Example: Parametric door table:



Source: Spirit 12 from Softtech International (STi)


Example: Parametric wall table:


Source: Spirit 12 from Softtech International (STi)


Example: Parametric stair table:



Source: Spirit 12 from Softtech International (STi)


Then, the chosen wall is drawn in the screen with the chosen wanted configuration. It being made, we insert in the wall, objects like windows and doors. By these actions, the wall is pierced automatically.

The same principle apply for the set of main elements of the building, such stairs, roofs, columns, ledges, etc.

It can greatly facilitate the edition, because if one wants to change the wall style, It's the parameters defining the wall that should be changed by the operator and not the wall directly on the drawing.

The parameters being changed, the software himself will change the geometric representation automatically 2D/3D of the wall.

Ultimately, all drawn objects can be parametric and can behave like it.


The possibilities of parametrics



Intelligent objects:

Since all definitions and 2D/3D representations can be directly connected, all changes that are made in a place or any model, will be automatically reflected or executed on the whole file.


Source: Autodesk Revit



The general coordination:


The ultimate stage is the automatic coordination of the whole with the National Building Code. It will open the possibility to automate the construction of the building, including the automatic order of the materials and their assembly on place or at the factory.


The assessment of the costs and the material:

Besides, it is possible to us to do an automatic assessment of the costs as well as a management of the building.

Source: Take-off macro in Spirit 12 from Softtech International (STi)


The data processing opens its doors to a panorama of possibilities!


The software list



What do we think about the present range of available software in architecture?

First of all, the majority of the software tend toward this previously described optimum.
Some have just been born, some approach of the maturity, some stand somewhere between these two extremes, while some are essentially 2D drawing software packages.

Notably, if it is about choosing software for your own use, it is good to judge according to
your needs and the real use that you will make of it. Without forgetting, that a more complete software asks for a more powerful and faster computer, avoiding waiting and losses of time.

The best way to choose a software, is first to try a couple of them in order to compare them by direct experience.

Now, in order to put a face on our general subjects, here is a panorama of the main available software packages.

We will start with those that we know more, since we use them daily. Thus, our statements will be elaborated more on these.

Thereafter, we will continue by a partial list of the available software packages and for each we will give the Internet link, which will allow you to get more information directly from the correspondent web site.

The software that we use for our projects of architecture are bound directly to our manner to work: 3D modeling is the key words that correspond to our choice.

- Spirit ( STI international)


- DataCAD ( DataCAD LLC)


- AutoCAD (Autodesk)


- Architectural Desktop ( Autodesk)


- Revit (Autodesk)


- Archicad (Graphisoft)


- Sketchup (@Last Software)


- Vectorworks (Nemetschek North America)


- Chief Architect (Art, inc.)


- SoftPlan (SoftPlan Systems, Inc.)


- PowerCAD (GiveMePower Corporation)


- SoftCAD (SoftCAD International)


- TurboCAD (Mindscape)


- Home Design Architectural Series 4000 (Punch software)


- Sierra Architect (ValuSoft)






Spirit is a 2D/3D software with parametric functions.

In fact, Spirit consists of 3 main software packages in one, in addition to numerous macros (mini software) that allow  accelerating and automating several functions of 2D and 3D drawing.

The heart of Spirit is a universal 2D / 3D engine, like AutoCAD is to Architectural Desktop.



With this engine we can draw almost all we want in 2D and 3D, so that architect's complete drawing can be done with it.

On this engine, a second one is added, and this one can draw in 3D / 2D parametric the main elements of architecture, either the walls, doors, windows, floors, roofs, stairs, dimensions, etc. This part of the software is designated by the ZAC name, what means Zone Architectural Construction.


In fact, the base of this module is an automatic data manager who allows coordinating the drawing automatically according to the wanted "zoning", as for example, according to the wing of the building or according to the floor. In practice, it means a very simplified management of the "layers" (and consequently of the types of objects) and an automation more suited to changes.

For example, a ZAC wall places itself automatically on the good "layer" as well as on the good zone, this one having its parameters been determined beforehand.

In this way, a change of thickness, height or composition takes place automatically while changing the parameters of the wall or its definition, rather than redrawing it. The same principle applies for the windows, the doors, the roofs, the floors and stairs.

With regard to the dimensions associated to the objects, they will be corrected automatically.

Thus, as the modeling requires that a software is more complex and complete, its automation comes to compensate for this supplementary mastery demand.

The final product is more interesting for the architect and for the customer, since the "virtual building" becomes directly observable by all.

Finally, the 3D takes us directly on this:
An hyper-realistic rendering engine for presentation.

To this effect, Spirit offers several tools:

- A "Quick Shader"

- An interactive animated viewer, named O2C

- An high end rendering engine called "Lightworks", this one found in many modelers, as for example, Form Z.

Here is a preview of Spirit:

Spirit is developed by Softtech International. Their main offices are in Germany and the North American market takes place in the East of the United States.

The licenses are considerable cheaper than AutoCAD.


For more informations:


STI International, Inc.

P.O. Box 311
Pittsfield, NH 03263
Phone 1 (603) 435-6458
Fax 1 (443) 339-0076






The drawing engine of drawing to Spirit is the same that we find in DataCAD.

In fact, the files worked in DataCAD can be easily opened in Spirit.



If we had to compare DataCAD and Spirit, the comparison would sum up in 2 words:

DataCAD and Spirit are similar with a minimal difference: DataCAD doesn't have, at present, a parametric module such ZAC in Spirit.

It is why, for our computer drawings, demanding 3D modeling, we prefer Spirit even though we own some DataCAD licenses.

We use this last mainly for the 2D drawings.

DataCAD is sold in 2 versions:

- The complete version

- The version "Lite"

The prices are evidently cheaper than AutoCAD.




For more informations:



20 Tower Lane
Avon, Connecticut 06001
Main phone: 1 (860) 677-4004
Sales representative phone: 1 (800) 394-2231
Fax: 1 (860) 677-2610








AutoCAD is an excellent software for 2D / 3D drawing, but he is deprived of what would make it a real software appropriated to the architecture. What makes it less efficient for who wants to make the drawing in 2D and 3D. Autodesk knows it and openly affirm it since 2 or 3 years. In fact, it is since the company has acquired Revit from its original creators.



Today, Autodesk offers Architectural Desktop again as a more suitable solution to the architect's work.

However, Autodesk knows the limits and the relative heaviness of Architectural Desktop well.
It is why, for the architects, the company attracts the attention strongly on Revit.




Autodesk Inc.

111 McInnis Parkway
San Rafael, CA 94903

Phone: 1 (415) 507-5000
Fax: 1 (415) 507-5100






Since the beginning, Revit is a software conceived for the architectural 2D / 3D drawing completely parametric.
This makes it, one of the most advanced software packages today.

Revit works on the principle of the virtual building. To the basis, it is a parametric modeler with an extractor and a coordinator automated for the 2D documents.



Between parentheses, Architectural Desktop doesn't have such an automatic coordination capacity and its training (as the one of AutoCAD) is more difficult.

Besides, contrary to what Autodesk affirms, Revit is not the first 2D / 3D parametric modeler based on the modeling of the virtual building. Other software were, since the beginning founded on such a concept:

- ArchiCAD

- Chief Architect

- SoftPlan

- SoftCAD

- Arcon

- As well as other software destined to the general public were born of the same family of
thought, notably Sierra Architect, Home Design Architectural Series...




Autodesk Inc.

111 McInnis Parkway
San Rafael, CA 94903

Phone: 1 (415) 507-5000
Fax: 1 (415) 507-5100





ArchiCAD is the ancestor of the parametric 2D / 3D architectural software.

Since the beginning of the 80's, about the same moment where AutoCAD was born, ArchiCAD come with the same philosophy that Revit extols today, either the one of the virtual building made of parametric objects with a centralized and auto coordinated database.









SketchUp is endowed with a revolutionary interface that allows you to create, visualize and modify all your studies 3D in real time with an easiness and an exceptional speed.

With SketchUp, you draw as easy as with a pencil.



Source: Sketchup internet site

To create your 3D models, it is sufficient you to draw a shape then to push it, pull it, move it back again, advance it again... to your manner, with the help of only one tool, and that, it is really magic. This tool is not a banal tool of extrusion, but the tool of your creativeness.



@Last Software



Main office: 629, rue de la Visitation, Saint-Charles-Borromée, (Qc) Canada  J6E 4P8

Phone number: 450 759 3093

Web Sites: www.tellier-architecte.com

E-mails: michel@tellier-architecte.com


Michel Tellier architecte - All rights reserved

Web site conceived by: Michel Tellier - michel@tellier-architecte.com

Last updated: Friday, January 14, 2011 11:00 AM