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Forgetting the third dimension

While much of the technology covered in Architech is discussed in terms of bringing your designs to life in 3D, many architects are still working with 2D drawings and are happy to do so. For many applications, 2D works well and should not be dismissed just because the visual results are less impressive than a fully rendered model

cadlogic, a British software developer based in Staffordshire, has once again come to the aid of the architectural community with the release of archcad+. Based on paracad+, archcad+ is an object-oriented system tailored to building design and site layouts. Like lt Architect, the application add-on for Autocad lt, it has been designed to be as intuitive and easy to use as possible. While lt Architect adds architectural functionality to basic LT-automating, archcad+ serves as a fully stand-alone, Windows- based application for many mundane tasks such as the placement of windows and doors or the creation of cavity walls.

The interface has been designed to be familiar to any Windows user. While lacking some of the stylised aspects of Microsoft's own products, it presents the user with a clean and clear working environment. Unlike Autocad for example, archcad+ takes a reductive approach to application design. It has been built for architects and as such performs architectural design tasks well with the minimum number of mouse clicks out of the box. You won't have to spend hours setting the software up as this has already been done.

It is often assumed with lower-cost systems that they have something missing and are therefore not worth considering. In many cases this is true; archcad+, however, provides all the standard 2D-drawing functionality users need with the addition of object intelligence and parametrics. Intelligence within archcad+ is not true object technology but rather a subset of it. Non-graphic data is attached to walls, windows, doors and roofs, for example, that 'tells' the element how to relate to others in all dimensions, not just the 2D plan. This feature comes into its own during sketch design stage as elevations can be automatically generated from the plan and remain associated with it during design modification. Plans are bound to change over the lifetime of a design and, due to the associations set up, elevations will automatically update as the plan is changed. This saves a tremendous amount of drafting time even for small projects. The advantage of this as opposed to full 3D-modelling is that the amount of information needed for the process is far less and thus handled much faster.

The structural tools allow you to draw cavity walls quickly, determine dimensions and set cavity stops. Wall attributes are entered via a simple dialogue box and are then available in the build cavity command. The control over wall-breaks is excellent with a number of cavity-closing and capping options available. Tht cavity, single-skin and stone wall are catered for is an indication this is a native uk application rather than an import. This is an important factor as many of the major architectural applications still have a us bias. Once walls have been placed, the window and door tools allow you to select a door or window type and drop them into place. The software automatically creates wall breaks in the style set by the user. All the doors and windows are fully parametric, allowing them to be quickly re-sized. Another dialogue controls the styles of the objects being placed and also allows you to set construction details. Jamb position, sill dimensions and lintel details can all be adjusted, and so can the mullion and jamb dimensions.

Staircases are also available in parametric form, with a library of standard stair types provided with the application. Straight-, quarter- and half- turn stairs are all included. The number of rises can all be entered and the results appear on your screen. Handrail placement can also be controlled. While the stair options are very useful, the objects do not have in-built intelligence: you won't be stopped for creating something that does not conform to the Regs.

As well as structural elements a number of libraries of furniture, landscaping and symbols are provided, again many of which are parametric. These symbols, unlike normal blocks, can be sized to your exact needs. Dialogues prompt the user to enter dimensions of objects as they are placed, greatly speeding up work. Automatic grid options allow ceiling layouts to be produced, once again saving time.

While archcad+ offers only orthographic 2D drafting an optional package available for £250 allows 3D vrml walk-throughs to be generated from the basic plan and elevation information. The internal wrl file can be created from design data with textures and colours applied to surfaces to produce effective though basic visualisation material. The vrml viewer can be used from within archcad+ or used in conjunction with a web browser. In this way your design can be passed to clients and explored by them without them having to buy additional software.

At £1750 archcad+ is not the cheapest package on the market but if all you need is 2D it's one of the best.

For more information contact cadlogic on 01543 419886.

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