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A logical software solution

TECHNICAL: COMPUTING

It's unusual to be able to report on the success of a British cad company in the highly competitive area of 2D drafting. With the field generally dominated by the large software developers, it's heartening to hear about a company which not only provides well-thought-out software but also provides users with ease of use and value for money.

cadlogic began life in the mid-1970s, developing Interactive Parametric technology. It moved on to develop paracad+, a stand-alone Windows-based 2D cad system launched in 1994. The subsequent release of archcad+ recognised the specific needs of the architectural community with a toolset tailored to architectural drawing production. Automated wall construction, parametric doors and windows, scheduling and automatic associative elevations from the plan view all go to make the process of generating production information much easier. Costing £1750, archcad+ provides an extremely cost-effective way to introduce cad into an office.

The Duval Brownhill Partnership is an 18-strong architectural practice based in Lichfield, Staffordshire. Its wide-ranging client base includes English Heritage projects on listed buildings, through ecclesiastical, educational and industrial projects, to retail development all over the uk. In 1994 the decision was made to replace some of their manual drafting production with cad, and after much debate archcad+ was selected from cadlogic, which is also based in Lichfield. The practice then purchased another seat of archCAD+, using both to design projects ranging in value from £100,000 to £8 million.

Richard Harris, the it manager at the practice, explains why archcad+ proved an ideal solution for this diverse small practice. 'The learning period was short and painless for our staff. We 'hit the ground running' because archcad+ retains most of the logic, processes and features of traditional architectural drawing. The familiar Windows environment made it straightforward for those who already knew Windows 95 from other applications. Thus, despite being first-time cad users, our initial operating skills were acquired in just three days.

'We quickly recognised that there were vast time savings to be made as information could be prepared quickly by recourse to archcad+'s automated routines for drawing plans, sections, door and window schedules, and so on. archcad+ has enabled us to react with a much greater efficiency at sketch design stage to comply with the inevitable changes to the client's brief, very often experienced at the early stages of a project.

'After using archcad+ initially on new build work, we noted that it produced excellent results also on refurbishment and conservation projects, areas not typically associated with cad. The system can be readily used for plotting surveys, and this information can then be applied effectively in the preparation of proposals. Ease of use in these areas means that the software performs well on projects relating to existing buildings too.

'We find that, through a standard file exchange format, archcad+ can also read in hmso mapping, a feature that is most helpful in, for example, our town-centre redevelopment projects, for the highly accuratepresentation of proposals at the early scheme stage.

'Excellent ongoing technical support by cadlogic has meant that at no point in our more than three-year association with archcad+ software has any workstation been out of action for more than an absolute minimum of time.

'To sum up, cadlogic's archcad+ system has been refreshingly simple to absorb yet feature-filled, sophisticated and versatile enough to meet the needs of our extremely varied project portfolio. This cad system has enabled us to shorten lead times substantially to meet our clients' needs in very competitive markets, while enhancing the quality and accuracy of our work and improving control over our projects.'

The ability to edit a number of drawings simultaneously was important to Duval Brownhill. This feature allows the practice to 'cut and paste' between drawings, or simply open other drawings for dimensional reference, without closing the working drawing. Any number of layers can be created within the same drawing, allowing wall, glazing and roofing types, building services and fitting to be organised within drawings.

Users can define and alter variables through simple dialogue boxes, while a neat series of automated routines allows the speedy insertion of footings, structural and non-structural walls, floors, windows and doors, with cavity closures automatically tidied up. The elements are completely user-definable and modifiable in terms of size and style. Moreover, dimensional units can be given as metric and/or imperial at the press of a key. dwg and dxf import/export provide a means to exchange information with other professionals in the design team.

For users who want to go a little further, 3D walk-throughs are available to archcad+ users with a Virtual Reality viewing add-on for £250. For more details on archcad+ or paracad+ contact cadlogic on 01543 419860. The minimum system requirement for the software is Microsoft Windows 3.11 or Windows '95 with 8Mb of Ram, 10Mb of hard disk space. For Windows NT 3.51 or 4.0, 16Mb of Ram are required. You'll need an ibm-compatible pc with a 386 or higher processor and a mouse.

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