Suitable design software


Hello to all;
This is a query regarding architectural software packages. I have been researching a bit and have arrived at a short list of candidates.
* Chief Architect * Softplan * Revit * AutoCad Architectural
The primary use will be for designing and developing complete building plans and bill of materials for the construction of alternate "green" technology homes.
* Post and beam framing * Strawbale walls * Some rammed earth foundations, walls, and loadbearing features * Polygon "round" shaped dwellings * Reciprocal roof designs with slate or steel finishes * Thermal mass utilization (solar heat storage) * Integrated greywater systems * Solar water heating systems * Adjustable awnings and shutters * Photovoltaic and wind power electric service
The points of most concern are the first five, or six. The rest is mainly extensions of regular plumbing and wiring and should be less of an issue to define in working plans.
I am versed in pen and pencil architectural and engineering drawing. I am hopeful for a CAD tool to assist in speed and provide accurate and clear construction drawings.
Any help or guidance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Carpe Diem, Mark
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Is there a question in there somewhere?
Here's an observation: This post appears to have been authored by someone that watches a lot of TV and is very susceptible to very basic suggestions. I also detect a fair amount of greediness as well as laziness and a general attitude of entitlement.
Where's 3D Paul and his legendary FAQ when you need him?
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wrote:

Dear creative1985, (not a name, maybe a birthdate?)
The question is, of the four software candidates that I have researched, what are the relative strengths or weaknesses in relation to my task at hand as defined within the points and text? Being that I am employing quite a few nonstandard building techniques, which software package would enable complete working results with the least amount of workarounds or issues?
Perhaps I have missed a software product that would provide appropriate results. I would appreciate any suggestions in this regard as well. Whatever product that I choose to use will be an expense of capital and time to learn. This is why I am asking for opinions from experience in this regard.
In response to your assumptions of my character...
* I hardly watch any television. There is very little content worth the time to watch. TV basically sucks.
* I may be susceptible to basic suggestions. I do not discount any suggestions until due diligence has proven otherwise.
* I am not absent of greed, but it is not my general nature. I enjoy sharing knowledge, and never guard knowledge for my own personal benefit. Enough money to survive is necessary in this life, but "chasing a buck" is overrated .
* I can be lazy at times. But when it comes to completing a necessary task, I am usually tireless and focussed until completion.
I am a 54 years old. My full time working career started with machine shop and tool & die work in 1975. I finished my full time working career in mechanical engineering; grad of Western University 1986. My father was a builder, in all ways. He built and renovated countless homes and buildings during his life. I learned much from working with/ for him on many jobs. Our present home, and our previous home were built from my design and construction drawings. I am presently semi- retired (since 2006) and work only part time now.
Carpe Diem, Mark
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Whether the house actually gets done may be awhile, :) but I'm nevertheless designing it in AutoCAD 2010, which works well enough for my purposes so far. Then again, I have formal training in ACAD and other CAD/2D/3D programs and so am not coming from strictly a pencil background. I'm also without any experience in the other packages, so am unqualified to comment on them. (I presume you will do/have done an online search for some reviews and comparisons.) I could always roll up my sleeves and try them all for you for a fee. ;)
There may be practicing architects hereon with some additional info if they catch your post.
Seeing as we're approaching similar architecture, please feel free to return and compare notes.
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I'll suggest that you approach each of those software companies and try to get a copy of their demo software and perhaps meet with one of their salesfolks to get an idea of what you are dealing with if you are set in trying to design your own building.
I previewed many CAD softwares back in the early 90's, maybe 30 or more, and all of them failed for various reasons until I tried AutoCAD, which at the time had version R12 for Windows available. The reasons the others failed was mainly because they were either too expensive at the time or did not do what I needed them to do. Chief Architect was one of the first failures as it is little more than a toy with very little flexibility. I was a long term hand drafter (ink - crystalene) prior to doing CAD and its from that angle that I chose the CAD package I did.
But be advised that the CAD package is only a very smart part of what is required to design a home in today's environment. Most of the necessary tools are gained through experience by way of all of the rules and regulations one must follow. If you have a lot of time, patience and energy it is doable. Todays building and zoning departments are downright diabolical and even designers with long experience frequently become frustrated maneuvering through the maze of regulations and deceptions and outright laziness and irresponsibility on the part of the rule tenders.
I will also mention the possibility of being involved with Fire Marshall's, Life & Safety Codes, ADA, Energy Codes and the ever nefarious Deed Restrictions, and others that may be eluding me at the moment. I can't imagine anyone taking this on without ample apprenticeship.
And finally, most jurisdictions today will require the building permit drawings to supervised and sealed for structural compliance by a licensed architect or engineer. Architects and Engineers will NOT seal plans for people they do not have a long history with nor people with little in the way of experience.
So you can spend the time and effort and create the worlds best home design but it will not get you where you are wanting to go without the knowledge of the secret handshake.
My best advice to anyone that does NOT already have the required experience and connections in this is to assemble their ideas in their various forms and communicate with a well experienced designer and perhaps a building contractor.
In the long run it is the best, fastest and least expensive way to achieve the goal of creating a building.
This advice comes from 38 years of experience and thousands of completed projects in one of the most demanding areas of the country.
You can see some of that experience here: http://www.linsenbach.com/hpotm_2008_January.asp
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wrote:

Dear Don, (I presume?)
Thank you for your thoughtful suggestions and comments. You do appear to be quite knowledgeable and experienced in this discipline. I understand full well that a CAD package is pretty much a design and development facilitation tool. What goes into the design determines what shall be received, and no software package is going to correct poor, or incorrect conceptual or construction design. What I would like to achieve is a faster result from concept to print; and more importantly to be able to edit, and revise with less time, effort and cost.
I understand the laws, regulations, rules, legalise, etc... that surround and control the building process. My father taught me well by example to research the proposed site for any issues or obstacles that could entangle or disable a building project. There are legalities from Federal, Provincial, County, Township, Municipal, and sometimes title issues that must be tested against whatever the project's design is proposing. In my experience, the suitablility of the site is normally the most governing factor to consider for a project.
As my father was a lifelong builder and renovater, I have access to quite a bit of help in all related neccessities to complete a building project. As most of my full time working life was directly involved in engineering, I also have many contacts and colleagues that can be leveraged for plan approvals prior to approaching the municipal planner and inspector for a building permit. I have personally gone through the entire process for the completion of my last two residences as I designed them from scratch, with pencil and pen the old school way. The only difference in this instance will be the employment of many "green" construction techniques and self sustainable technologies to arrive upon an off-the-grid, self sustaining dwelling.
I am not "reinventing the wheel", as there is very little new, or original conceptual thought that I am using. Instead, I am drawing mainly from ages old construction techniques that are basically "materials cheap" and "labour intensive". Speed is not an issue either, this home will be built while we live in our present home. There will be no external pressures either legally or finacially, or we will not enter into the project.
We are considering building in a very rural area in the Haliburton and Bancroft area of Ontario. We are purposely scouting for land that is absent of any services, and the only necessity is a size of at least 5 acres and year round road access. This area already has history and precedence supporting the type of construction that we are considering. Strawbale and rammed earth homes are already present and the municipality has a campus of Sanford Fleming College that specializes and teaches sustainable building. They have built part of the campus in alternate, sustainable techniques with many integrated "green" features. The students can be utilized to help with green building projects for a low cost and the work contributes toward their schooling.
As for the software, I have yet to decide, but I am likely to use an Autodesk product as it is the most ubiquitous solution available that can be configured with little or many features. If our endeavour realizes an economical, easily maintaining, self sufficient result, it would be satisfying to be able to publish the design of the dwelling and technologies and share my results freely with whomever wishes to engage in this type of living themselves.
Carpe Diem, Mark
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For me, Chief Architect was a logical choice. For 29 bucks, I bought a simplified version which did most everything I needed. I used the "lite" version until I was sold on the usability, then upgraded. Any of these things listed has a pretty steep learning curve. I know that most architectural drawing tools have the same features because the end results (working drawings) have to all be pretty much the same. The city doesn't care which software you use or if you draw it by hand, as long as everything they need is there, so the easier it is for you to generate everything the better. Some will try to sell you on the cute elevations they use or the photo-realistic renderings they can do and that is great if you NEED it. Chief has a really good rendering engine. I have used it once to render a school project for my daughter. Working drawings are the end result here and any of these tools can do it. I have a friend who uses Chief for "green building" drawings and he really loves it.

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Oh dear...........
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