The Changing Role Of Caad In Architecture Computer Science Essay

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CAD has been a tool utilised in the design process for representing design ideas at the final stage of the design. With improvements in Computer Aided Design/Drafting technologies CAD is becoming more of an influence on the design process, assisting architects in designing. Practices are choosing to carry out whole projects solely in computer software, some of which very successfully. The computer becomes a design medium rather than an instrument for drafting and representation. Is there a place for computers in the design process and is there a requirement for CAD at the initial conceptual stage of design?


Computers are increasingly being used in architecture as a tool for designing. The diverse range of programs and products, provide a large base of mediums that can be used in the design process. From AutoCAD, to ArchiCAD, Skecthup to Vector works, as well as several programs available for calculating u-valves, stresses on key areas of the building, and analysing wind loads on facades etc. The list of available programs is somewhat endless.

The computer modelling and analysing allows designers to see objects, forms, and spaces in three dimensions and view them as 'real' spaces. Allowing architects to walk through areas in the building and carry out changes to areas without having to amend a series of drawings or do any recalculations as these can be done instantaneously at the click of a button. This results in the architect focusing on solving problems in the design and in the form rather than on amending, adjusting and drawing. Does this then result in computer modelling and Computer Aided Design being employed and used in designing and the design process as opposed to a drafting tool for realising ideas and spaces. The designing process moving from two dimensions to three and where studies and analysis can be carried out in the three dimensional computer models.

Computer modelling and design although it can be useful, can this be a restraint on what the architect visualises and wants from his design or can this improve the design? Yes designs can become more complexed and calculations can be done quicker than you or I can calculate. For example the great court in the British museum in London is one of the largest covered squares in Europe, and the roof is a glass and steel construction with 1,656 uniquely shaped panes of glass. This may not look the most complexed of structures, but if a designer had to sit down and draw, measure and calculate each pane of glass it would possibly take months. Whereas with a computer modelling tool this can be seen and visualised in a matter of hours and calculations and measurements of each pane of glass can be done by a few mouse clicks. But does this tool restrict the architect by his knowledge of how to use the said program, and does the computer model and drawings dictate the design rather than the designer.

In the first stages of architectural design, the conceptual stage, architects tend to establish the requirements of the design brief and review it several times in order to gain an understanding and develop initial thoughts and ideas, concepts. In the initial stage sketching is usually the preferred method to develop these thoughts and conceive a concept for the design. Some studies believe that the key reason for sketching is the ability to see the representation, rather than just think it. Overlaying and sketching over the represented forms develops new interpretations, and further understanding of the concept/design. In this, the conceptual stage, sketching is believed to be an effective medium. However is sketching or external representation an essential part of the conceptual design process, does an architect/designer require to produce these representations at the initial stages of the design.

The paper will look into the changing role of computer aided design in architecture and the use of CAAD in the very early conceptual stages of the design process. "The increasing emphasis on digital design tools and methods, and research on presence provides the opportunity to give greater attention to these activities particularly imaging and it role in designing" (McAuliffe, M. And Franz, J., 2008) Can CAD systems be used for conceptual designing and what are the implications, if any of using such systems. By analysing a study of sketching versus CAD in the conceptual stage, an understanding of each mediums advantages and disadvantages, implications each process may have. By understanding how the way in which CAD is evolving and increasingly being used may result in the future of paperless studios or even virtual ones.

Aims and Objectives

CAD has evolved at an exceptional speed over the last decade, bringing may aids to architecture and design, programs are increasing their ability to solve design problems and generate realistic three dimensional representations of the design. One of the aims of this paper is to discover how CAD is evolving architecture and the role CAD will play in the future for architects and practices?

Computer Aided Design/Drafting has been used in architecture for several years and has evolved into an essential part of the design process. CAD and computers have changed its role its role in architecture over the years and is currently changing and evolving again, with more and more practices using computers as a design tool. How is CAD evolving and what is its role in design?

As CAD becomes used more as a medium for designing, will practices using it at early stages of design, what role will the conceptual stage become will it stay with its traditional guise of sketching and drawing or will this become computer based too, do we need CAD in conceptual design?

Evolution of Computer Aided Design

The application of computer aided design, CAD, and information technology, IT, continues to grow in architectural design. Developments in new information technology have provided architects to extend the realm of architectural design. The late 1980's architectural design overcame an important transition with the introduction of CAD in which computers were introduced to become a key aspect of architecture, not only in professional practice but also in architectural education. Many architects invested in computing resources to ensure and provide themselves/practices with the necessary equipment and skills to have a competitive edge and to be advantageous.

Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) and/or Computer Aided Design (CAD) have been an important part of architecture since the 1990's, this is when it was adopted and adapted by many work places around the world. However attempts were made in the 1950's to create a relationship between architecture and early computing. Research and development continued to build throughout the next two decades and by the early 70's most of the research material and theories created the basis on which many of the first architectural computing programs were developed. By the late 1980's and early 90's computing systems were increasingly being used in architecture, but there was a resistance to these systems and programs by many of the traditional design studio practitioners, one of their strongest arguments against it was "computer drawings were talking away the suggestive nature of hand drafting and hand modelling which were very important elements in developing rationalisation in the design process." (Reffat, R., 2008) it wasn't until the mid 1990's that CAD became widely recognised as a necessary requirement in the core of architectural design "CAD proficiency has become an important requirement for the employment of undergraduate architects." (Reffat, R., 2008) However old studio methods of developing design ideas and concepts through plans, sections, elevations, and model making have virtually been untouched by the new computer software and tools.

In most practices the initial design ideas, sketching, drawing and modelling are done manually and the final computer drawings and renders are used at the final stage for presentations and the documentation of the project. Since its introduction into architectural design, CAD systems have gone through three main evolutions. In its first inception computer programs were to aid and assist in designing. Software to help with special organisation, plans and to find solutions to specific areas of designing. These programs over time were developed, resulting in the second evolution of the CAD system. The computer software became a drafting machine and CAD became known as Computer Aided Drafting. The third evolution is currently on going and will be possible in the near future, CAD will become Computer Aided Design and will "demand the elaboration of new methods of using the computer at the early stages of this process" (Asanowicz, A., 1999). The computer will be utilised for creating 3-D forms by 3-D sketching, transforming the computer from a tool into a design medium.

First Evolution of CAD

CAD was first used to analyse the design, and were of a linear function. The information from the architect was imputed into the design system and each drawing/image created is analysed and observed. Methods of evaluating special distribution, relationships of areas/objects and geometries in several scales are developed and enables the architect to review areas of the design closely. These initial tools proved to be not very successful, and more often than not the designer would refer back to their more traditional, tried and tested, design process. The more the architect/designer looked into the systematic procedures of the program, the designer somewhat lost control over the design situation. The first evolution CAD methods had many flaws, there was a limitation on the program to solve functional problems, and there were also minimal ways for the designer to understand graphically what was occurring between themselves and the computer. These tools and programs we a success in that they were a direct influence on design problem solving and finding functional solutions in the areas of designing.

Second Evolution of CAD

Due to the many difficulties associated with the early use of computers in architecture, mainly down to the lack of communication and interface between the architect and the computer system, resulted in minimal backing and support for their use in architecture. Research and development into these programs were undertaking to enable the designer to have more interaction and input with the computing system. Some of the first programs created in this second evolution allowed the user to draw on the computer screen, essentially replacing the drawing board. Designers started using these programs to produce technical flat plans as well as three dimensional models, the software allowed the user to change elevations, sections, plans whilst at the same time developing the design. The old ways and processes were integrated into these new software programs, the stages of design could be described as the following: Concept, Initial Design, Design development/integration, and Presentation. CAD software allowed these stages to be coherent with the current design process. In the conceptual stage the sketches developed of the concept and ideas could be scanned into the program or digitally drawn to bring these drawings/images into an electronic format. During the design stage, 2-D and 3-D drawings and designs can be created and the architect/designer is able to explore a broad range of ideas and solutions in different areas of the design and at several scales. At the following stage, Design development/integration, after initial studies and designs have been explored, analysed and resolved, the architect begins to generate hard information about the design/project. These could be the structure layout, service integration, junction details, wall make ups, or construction details. The programs allow drawings to be layered up and studied and analysed as a whole and rational decisions can be made. The presentation stage is the point near the end of the design process. The architect, once the design is precise, is able to begin generating 3-D rendered images and models to give the client an idea and feeling for what the building will look like. These new systems became a one stop shop, allowing the architect to develop the design for the conception on the idea through to the detailed design and construction, and on to presentation drawings and models. There is little difference between the old design process and this new digital one, resulting in the architect having a better relationship with his new designing tools. The pencil or pen is being replaced with computer mouse and keyboard and the drawing board with the computer screen. "The computer was transformed into a drafting machine and CAD means Computer Aided Drafting." (Asanowicz, A., 1999) It was believed that the introduction of these systems would allow the architect to spend more time on the creative stages. CAD systems accelerated the development of the technical stages of the design process and furthermore the creation of documentation.

Third Evolution of CAD

Within the third evolution of CAD new methods of designing at the early stages of the design process are being created, but problems of transforming the computer into a medium arises. The computer can be called an extension to the architect's abilities, supporting the designer and enabling them to explore ideas of the design in more depth and in more detail. Others have said the computer has been treated like an artificial limb (prosthesis). Computer systems take over from the designer and carry out tasks that they would normally be responsible for. These two ideas may seem contradictory to each other these two ideas in fact complement each other "just as a prosthesis substitutes a lacking organ, a computer substitutes the brain. On the other hand the computer is an "extension" when it stimulates the designer to a more efficient work on generating the idea of the designed object." (Asanowicz, A., 1999) The computer should be seen as an object to help enhance ideas and design, not as a substitute.

Means of displaying designs graphically is one of the most important and basic forms of media, sketching results in the flexibility to explore design ideas, each drawing created is an expression of the architect's idea of the form and geometry, allowing the exploration and evaluation of every new idea. Computing systems have been created to more fully explore these issues. The sketches created that represent the view of the designer do not necessary create additional value to the design process. Direct designing is created by architects designing virtually. The work of the architect becomes closer to that of an artist, manipulating the design directly area by area, room by room and thus becoming fully engaged with the present project. The designer has a direct relationship with the created forms, acting in real time to resolve and change design issues and problems.

These third evolutions of CAD systems are very possible in the near future and some are currently being used and developed. The computer should be used for creating 3-D forms via 3-D sketching rather than just a drafting tool for discovering functional solutions to design problems, for this to be achieved the computer has to be seen not only as a tool but a medium for designing. "Computer architecture has been revolutionary in both sensorial and the intellectual spheres" (Ananowicz, A., 1999) Computers have played a large hand in modern day architecture and the traditional design methods have been transformed and evolved by the computer. However the computer may not be being used to its full potential in designing as many still view it as a tool rather than a medium and is still referred to for drafting, finalising, and presenting designs rather than actually designing. "CAD tools are increasing their expressive and geometric power to enable a design process in which the computer model can be used throughout the whole design process" (Achtens, H. and Joosen, G., 2003)

Current use of CAD in Architecture

There are many CAD systems and programs in operation at the moment, covering all stages of the design process. From initial ideas, through to the design development on to the testing of the final idea. The computer and digital software has become an essential and crucial tool in the architect's arsenal, there are not very many practices that don't use computers, and the drawing board is becoming a thing of the past and very seldom found in practices or studios.

The current CAD systems are used to process information and visualise ideas. CAD is used to represent and finalise designs rather than help design them. The final produced CAD drawings, models and renders are created to convey design ideas and attract attention, engaging the project with the client. Computers have become a reliable partner for the architect, speeding up drawing processes and producing drawings in limited time, creating very professional representations of the design with ease and simplicity. Computer Aided Designs current position in architecture is a tool for drafting and creating visual representations of the design rather than being the design. Sketching and physical modelling are one of the first stages of designing, once the design has progressed it is transferred to CAD for the idea/drawing to be realised, it is then worked up again by sketching and drawing and then the CAD drawing/model are amended and adjusted to suit. Digital design is very rarely used in the initial design and conceptual stages.

Despite this some practices are beginning to carry out projects solely using CAAD software. Architects such as Frank Gehry have been using computers in design for many years, and many of his projects couldn't have been possible or conceived without the use of Computer Aided Design. Cloud 9 Architects based in Barcelona recently completed a project designed solely using Computer Aided Design. The Media-TIC building, the building is very successful is showing how computer technology can be utilised to created sustainable design.

We are at a stage when CAD is evolving to become a central medium in design, but it is still primarily used for drafting of design and three dimensional representations. Practices are realising its potential to be a design medium from the conception of an idea through to it final representation.

CAD in Conceptual Design

"There is a small yet increasing number of architectural projects being carried out using solely CAAD software" (Achtens, H. and Joosen, G., 2003), that is using CAD from the conceptual stage through to the presentation of the project. Despite this CAD is still referred to as a drafting tool rather than a tool for design, by utilising the computer to assist in design it allows for further exploration and analysing ideas. "Digital technology is improving the traditional ways of designing" (Salman, H., 2008) and "can lead the architect in having a greater awareness of the representation of form and space." (Szalapaj, P., 2001) By using CAD at early stages of design the computer becomes a central medium in the design process and the model becomes the design rather than a representation of it.

Sketching and physical model making involve lots of redrawing, tracing, modelling and take up some considerable time, where as a digital model has a longer life span and doesn't require continuous redrawing and remodelling. Different aspects of the design can be considered remodelled, redrawn and worked with in CAD. Each area of the design can take on a separate focus and it shifts from one to another once the particular area of interest has been considered and resolved. "CAD technology has progressed to a level in which it is possible to communicate design expressions representing early stage design right through to detail drawings" (Szalapaj, P., 2001). CAD has evolved that it is now possible to design from concept to completion solely in one medium and it is believed "that it is important to teach the "conceptual" use of computers for the purpose of design" (Barrow, L. and Mathew, A., 2006), just as much as it is to be able to use the pen/pencil to draw. With all these digital programs available is it necessary for the designer to use these for their conceptual designs?

What is the Conceptual Stage?

The conceptual stage definition varies from person to person. There are many ideas to what the conceptual design stage is and what it should entail. For some conceptual design id the making, testing and development of prototypes that may eventually turn into a finished product or design. Conceptual design is significant and very important, without concepts there wouldn't be a universal understanding of the idea between the parties involved in the design. The initial conceptual design is the very first phase of the design process, where drawings tend to be the primary focus. These drawings usually consist of simple plans, sections, and simple 3-D geometrical forms, these simple, initial drawings are then able to lend themselves to more specific detailed plans and drawings. The concept stage differs from developed or engineered ideas because they lack details and development which makes them this.

Within the conceptual stage there are specific phases that are required to transfer the idea to a concept:

A description of the overall design concept

The specifications or requirements of the plan

An understanding of what the concept is intending to achieve

A list of objectives for the concept

It is not uncommon to find designers who believe that a design to be conceptual it must not be practical. Some others believe that the concept should mirror the final design. Architects at time may find it frustrating as they want their concepts to become reality, but would like to do so without compromising their ideas, intentions and thoughts. Good conceptual design is comprised of the creation of an idea, the representation and exploration of it. Concept design can range from diagrams to building structure blueprints. If concepts are not fully drawn out and analysed, then the idea may not be completely understood, the idea may be diluted and the end product will be compromised as a result.

Shifting the Focus: CAD as a Design Tool

Designing is a complicated creative process, design is said to have three main activities, imaging, presenting and testing. With increasing reliance and emphasis on digital design mediums and methods there is an opportunity to have greater attention to these activities during designing. In practice and the design discipline, they have relied on developing designs in specific ways. The representation of these ideas are utilised by traditional ways, hand drawn perspectives and sketch ideas. Designers have learnt and achieved the skill of envisaging and conveying ideas by means of using different mediums to the client in order for the said client to understand their ideas and concepts in a form of 'reality'.

Previously due to the potential of the cost and time of the design process, digital design in the design development stage was rarely seen as an option to visualised and develop the project. Now with more designers becoming proficient with CAD software in modelling, presentation and design it has become a more viable and accepted process. "Digital design tools have the possibility to heighten a sense of experience in places and space" (McAuliffe, M. and Franz, J., 2008). It has although been argued that the use of digital design in representation of designs is too stylistic and at times repetitious. The architects ideas in CAD modelling can be too real, buildings appearing as though they are complete and nothing or very little is left to the imagination.

Technology has advanced with increasing speed and is set to increase further into the future, architects are responding to this by creating "more 'intelligent' and technologically sophisticated buildings" (McAuliffe, M. and Franz, J., 2008) by using CAD software. Increasing the use of Computer Aided Design throughout the process raises the question to "whether or not physical scale models or drawings are still required" (Achtens, H., and Joosen, G., 2003). Some architecture practices carryout many projects and ideas in solely Computer Aided Design. "In Frank Gehrys work many of the forms he develops are only possible through computer" (Lindsey, B. And Gehry, F.O, 2001). Using CAD software throughout the design process could possibly cut down on time spent on projects, sketching and modelling involve lots of redrawing on the area the architect isn't focusing on, in CAD the designer can concentrate on a small area of the design and explore it in three dimensions without the need to touch or redraw the rest of the design. On the other hand through all these enhancements in software the designer may lose touch and a connection with the design. Although these tools are used for the visualisation in architecture, it is important to use the CAD software to enhance architectural elements and explore ideas and solutions.

The Media-TIC building in Barcelona's technology district, conceived by the Catalan architecture practice Cloud 9, is a demonstration of digital design. The building developed for Consorci de la Zona Franca, an organisation which promotes sustainable development, represents a huge step forward in the 22@Barcelona project, a scheme aimed at converting 200 hectares of the city's Poblenou district into a digital hub. The building comprises of high-end offices, start up company space and a media museum, auditorium and workshops. Barcelona is looking to reinvent itself as a green 'smart' city. The building developed solely using CAD has very impressive sustainability stats, surpassing the European Union's 2020 targets, the building cut emissions by 60% and gained a LEED gold certificate. Designed exclusively in CAD technology, the Media-TIC is a representation of the evolving digital age and Enric Ruiz-Geli the Cloud 9 principle firmly believes that it is the future of architecture. "We built it really fast with no mistakes and no overspend. This is why machines are so good."

Figure 2. Media-TIC building

Figure 1. Media-TIC building, CAD model

As CAD has developed it is increasingly been used as a tool in architecture, CAD has now developed to a stage in which it is possible to design from conception to completion with the software, shifting the focus from CAD as Computer Aided Drafting to CAD as Computer Aided Designing. In this day and age CAD and technology should be seen as a tool to help design and improve on design ideas, and the Computer becomes the design rather than a representation of it.

Computer Aided Design and/or Drafting

Design is perhaps the only area in which Computer Aided Design and Information Technology has had a less of an influence in architecture "CAD systems used within the design process, support drafting and modelling rather than special design attributes and analytical capabilities" (Moum, A., 2005). CAD systems haven't changed the design process but brought benefits such as the ability to produce many drawings in limited time, and the ability to create and generate realistic representations of the design. Programs have been developed to support the designers sketch ability, for example SketchUp which is described "as the pencil of digital design" ( "Although digital design has become an option, we do not advocate that digital design should develop into a process" (Achten, H. and Joosen, G., 2003).

The computer can handle huge amounts of information and design parameters, the software combines them to create solutions in a much shorter time than the human designer can. The computer analyses information far quicker than that of the designer and if the designer were to do these on their own, manually, it would take a considerable about of time. However the computer is only able to give these solutions based on information imputed by the user. CAD design enables the possibility to design in three dimensions, seeing objects and their relationships with others. "The possibility of realistic imitation of a real world environment, combined with the special experience dimension, can become a powerful future design tool." (Moum, A., 2005) This can perhaps inspire or influence the designer to develop an evolutionary architecture. The success of this depends on how user friendly the computing systems and technology are, and how easy they are designed to operate. The development of more intelligent CAD systems could change the traditional methods of designing, through realistic visualisations and simulations it is possible to get an idea of the building before the project is finished. Problems can be identified and solved and errors can be avoided at early design stages, developing "a different attitude towards CAD-models in the design process." (Achten, H., and Joosen, G., 2003)

Computer Aided Design is mainly utilised as a drafting tool and for the realisation of visualisations of projects. Support is growing for its use in the design stages and the benefits it brings to the analysis and development stages. With this increasing usefulness and understanding of the software's ability and advantages, is the focus shifting from the traditional design methods to more digital design media.

CAD in Conceptual Design: An Experiment

Architects review their design ideas and reassess the design requirements constantly to create a design proposal and concept in the early stages of design. These ideas are tested and developed around a stronger idea and the design progresses. Currently architects prefer to use sketching to represent their thoughts and ideas at this early phase and can drawn and sketch out design idea on a whim. The ability to see these ideas generates new interpretations and possibilities for the design and the design progresses and develops.

An experiment carried out by Zafer Bilda and John Gero, of the University of Sydney was carried out in 2005 to see whether this external representation in conceptual design is required. Frank Lloyd Wright was able to visualise and develop a design entirely in his mind with drawing, external representations, only being used at the end of the process. Architects don't tend to initially draw to begin with, they interpret the brief, review the requirements, research, often visit the site and meet with the client, the next period is thinking where thoughts and ideas are mulled over in the architects mind, this is all before pen/pencil even touches paper. This time for though processing varies from architect to architect, design to design, before any ideas are conveyed to paper.

The experiment conducted by the University of Sydney, was an attempt to understand the use of external representation in conceptual design. The experiment was carried out in two sessions and conducted under two different conditions. One was carried out when the designers participating had access to sketching and in the other the tool was taken away and the designer had to conceive the idea mentally. Three architects participated in the experiment all of which had been practicing for more than 10 years. Two design briefs were generated for the same site; each brief required a different approach to the site and its surroundings.

The first experiment condition was to design without the use of sketching. Each architect had to study the brief and be able to recite it with no mistakes, this was in order so all the designers had a clear understanding of the brief. Pictures of the site were shown and the architects were allowed to ask questions about them. At the end of the design time period, the architects were to produce an initial sketch design which would fit the design and the brief. The architects were blindfolded and given 45 minutes to mentally design. Once the time period was up the architects were to produce an initial design as quickly as possible and without making any changes. It was hoped that if the participants were to come up with a good solution, then it would be evidence that there isn't a need for external representation, sketching and drawing, during the conceptual stage.

In the second experiment, the same architects were asked to carry out the same experiment but this time using sketches. The experiment was carried out at least one month after the first one. The participants were to again memorise the second design brief produced and were also shown the same site photos as in the first experiment. The architects again were given 45 minutes to design this time using sketches, they were asked to number each sheet of tracing paper produced as the design progressed. The requirement at the end of the time period was to produce an initial design for the given brief.

The two design conditions were accessed by an independent board of three architects, of which all had been practicing and teaching for over 15years. The judges were given copies of the briefs and the same photographs of the site the designers were shown at the beginning of the experiment. The judging architects were also given copies of the sketch layouts and any additional drawings that were created, sections, elevations, if any, that the architects had produced. The judges were not made aware of which experiment each design belonged too. The designs were graded on three different criteria, how creative the design is, how it satisfies the design brief, and also on practicality. Each was grade out of 10 and the results are shown in the table below:


Blindfolded Experiment

Sketching Experiment

A 1

A 2

A 3


A 1

A 2

A 3


How Creative









How it satisfies the design brief


















Average Score







Overall the designs produced in the blindfolded sessions score highly over the designs created in the traditional way of designing, sketching. The designs produced in by the architects being blindfolded score higher in the criteria of practicality and in fitting the design brief but are less creative than those produced during the sketching session. The results are for a small amount of participants and at present cannot be generalised but there is scope for this idea of visualising design at the early stage. Architects may find it possible to create designs in CAD as opposed to on paper, starting with CAD at the initial design stage. Design processes continue to change and evolve as technology improves, and with as proven with the above experiment there is the possibility of visualising designs at early stages and transferring them straight in to computer design systems. The framework for this process is currently in place and many architecture firms are taking advantage of these, the future for CAAD tools is looking promising but the designer should maintain to use the traditional techniques of design. The use of using CAD throughout the process could in time eliminate sketching and drawing in studios and practice and they could become paperless.

Paperless Design Studio

Paperless design studios began to emerge in the early 1990's and was created by eliminating the use of hand drawings. This developed strong links and usage of the higher end CAD software. This software had the ability to create animations, smooth fluid diagrams and had special tools and functions to test architectural specifications. The software possessed the attributes to test circulation, building form variations and reproduce quick diagrammatic ideas, studios were able to experience design in a new way. "The high-end CAD software has proved to be more useful than offering a mere rendering tool, and started to inform and transform the design process" (Reffat, R., 2008)

Design tools in a Paperless Design Studio should begin to be used at the conceptual stage of designing to encourage the use of computers as medium for designing instead of, as they are mainly seen as at the moment, a tool for drafting. As CAD design tools begin to be incorporated into the design process, at the initial conceptual stage, the architect's ability to analyse and develop design ideas is becoming more thorough. Using computer design tools in the conceptual stage in designing can be quite important. Time based animation allows the designer to evaluate, test and investigate designs and approaches in a simulated reality. The use of these functions lets the designer understand the objects, their relationships and influences in more depth. The application of CAD tools at the conceptual stage might make the architect (designer) less of an influence on the design process and the software program may begin to take control of the design. An understanding on the computers design ability has to be met the designer is responsible for its roles and limits as a tool for designing and inquiry. The influx of digital media into architectural practice is gradually changing how the design process is carried out. There is a transition form an analogue system of representation to one of the computer and eventually the paperless design studio. Practices and architects have already be beginning to struggle with the integration of new media and/or going completely digital. New design media and its forms it creates are challenging the traditional skills of representation and in practice we should look to the new media for the further creation and exploration of design ideas and creating new forms. "The validity of a paperless design studio lies in the notion that digital media can change the process of design, the forms of design, and how design ideas are communicated." (Reffat, R., 2008) The designer has to become aware of the capabilities that the CAD software and digital media offers and how this can be used successfully to explore ideas and concepts in the design process. "Digital models and web-based project sites are becoming normal practices within the real world of building construction. As the world becomes a more global society, the ability and means to transfer, communicate, and collaborate design ideas in more efficient ways and timely manner is ever increasing." (Reffat, R., 2008)

CAD software for designing should not be considered as a constraint on designs, but rather use its attributes in developing various design ideas. Instead of viewing the program as a basis to generate layouts and routine designs, but use its features as a starting point to explore design ideas. The experience of designing with computers opened up a large amount of new ideas and design possibilities that may not have occurred had the designer been drawing on paper or exploring using physical models. "Not only are their ideas become richer and innovative, but also they were able to test the behaviour of their designs". A new designer to a paperless design studio may expect instant efficiency as a result of the move to digital design studio, but even after developing a good understanding of the program and its functions this efficiency in the design studio is not likely to be immediate. A significant amount of time must be set aside for the user to be proficient with the software. In traditional studios forms of representing designs include the use of physical models, 2-D and 3-D CAD drawings and manually draw drawings. In these paperless design studios, CAD tools are used for inquiry, and furthermore they are used to produce 3-D modelling, animations and even walk-throughs. Designers produce digital 3-D models from their designs; this has created a new relationship between designer, project and design objects (Reffat, R., 2008).

Using digital media in the paperless design studios, enhances the studio environment, providing a multitude of information sources and representations that allow designers to realise and understand there design ideas at the early conceptual stage of the design. A paperless design environment is a place for investigating, exploring, and constructing new design ideas.

Information technology and Computer Aided Design are evolving to cover all areas of design. Primarily CAD is used to visualise and draft ideas however architecture practices are beginning to utilise these programs to design buildings from conception to completion. It has been show that it is possible for designs to be visualised and then transferred into these programs, however designs show not solely be created using one media and drawing and physical modelling are still important tool in the realisation and development of design.

The Disadvantages and Problems in Computer Aided Design

There have been several papers written on the disadvantages and problems within Computer Aided Design. Thomas Maver wrote a paper on 'CAADs Seven Deadly Sins', he describes these as:


Déjà vu



Failure to validate

Failure to evaluate

Failure to criticise

The ambitions of software producers and users are over ambitious at their time of creation but over a longer period of time the program grows and eventually over achieves itself. CAD fails to build on previous ideas and concepts, these ideas are abandoned and forgotten, the systems then recreate these abandoned ideas rather than build upon them. New software produced has failings with its claims on what it is to achieve, often there is no evidence to support these claims and no previous research to support these systems. The system producers therefore can have their systems evaluated or these claims validated. Computer software has errors in their programming; no system is created without them. With all the different functions of CAD and all the lines generated errors inevitably creep in. When the system is processing requirements or details errors can be discovered, as the computers solution is dependent on the information imputed by the designer, when these errors do occur further down the design process it becomes more difficult to find the original error or problem.

There are difficulties in Computer Aided design when you are trying to transfer drawings/models from one program to another; these design programs currently are not all compatible with each other. In order for computer aided design to be a universal success the programs will need to be interchangeable, for example a designer is working on a design in SketchUp and his colleague in Rhino, at the moment a model created in SketchUp cannot be opened or worked on in Rhino and vice versa. In order for his colleague to work on the design/model they would potentially have to learn this new, alien program.

CAD systems are currently quite difficult to operate and many people have to be trained for several weeks on a new system/program until they are capable of taking on a new project, even after this initial training it may still be several months for the user to be comfortable using the system. This problem then reinvents itself when the system is upgraded or changed from one CAD system to another.

Computer Aided Design has several problems but software companies are working to resolve these. Software is increasingly becoming easier to use and understandable and many systems are adaptations of previously successful programs, therefore training will be on the new and improved features rather than the whole system.


Computer Aided Design is currently going through it third main evolution, changing to a system and tool for designing as well as for drafting and producing visualisations of the design. Practices are using these attributes to design buildings using solely one media, CAD. Computers have been the main focus of practices and studios for many years, virtually eliminating drawing boards from the design process, now these computers are evolving to take over the design process. However despite this designers shouldn't solely use CAD, it is still important for architects to use drawings and physical models during design. These traditional methods and skills shouldn't be lost.

CAD and its role in architecture are to aid the designer in the design process, helping to solve problems and design details. Computers have a high performance and can analyse and calculate much quicker than a human can, speeding up evaluation and decision making and as a result quicken up the design process. As mentioned before one media shouldn't be used on its own and other mediums should be explored when designing.

Questions have arrived at whether we need CAD during conceptual stage of design and its effects on traditional methods. At the conceptual stage designers explore ideas and sketch them, once on paper these are then reinterpreted and as a result new ideas come about and the design evolves. It has been proven, although it was a small example, that this conceptual stage can be carried out mentally and a design drawn up. This initial stage can be thought out and transferred straight to CAD and the design can be evolved and created with the computer. However we don't want to lose the ability to draw and sketch, becoming completely dependent on digital based systems.

Computer aided design has some current problems in design but with it evolving and improving it is only an amount of time before CAD systems are accepted as a design medium in most, if not all design practices. There will be a reluctance to change, similar to when computer aided drafting was introduced, from the current methods to these new and improved ways of assisting design.