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
* 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
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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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