Computer aided design (CAD)
7 Best Architectural CAD Software in 2022
Professionals in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector make use of a variety of software and tools to carry out their work.
When it comes to designing buildings, architects need to be experts in both architecture and computer modelling. Thanks to technological advances, architects have access to a plethora of new innovations, tools and software at your disposal to level up their architectural design processes, including something called CAD software.
What does CAD stand for?
CAD stands for computer-aided design, which is essentially using a computer to help you with design work.
It is used by various professionals across several fields such as architecture, engineering, manufacturing, construction and even fashion.
For architects in the industry, you are no stranger to architectural CAD software.
What is architecture design software?
Architectural CAD software is used to design buildings of all shapes and sizes. Architects use CAD software to draft plans, elevations, and sections of buildings.
With the help of CAD software, architects can visualise building designs, simulate how a building will look after it’s been completed, analyse building layouts, and create 3D models of a building.
There are a variety of CAD software in the market, from general-purpose ones to specialist software for niche projects.
Here are the best architectural CAD software programs to help you with your next project.
The best architecture design software programs
A popular program by tech giant Autodesk, Revit is the tech giant’s Building Information Modelling (BIM) software for those in the AEC sector.
Autodesk Revit is a 3D CAD BIM software that supports your entire project design and documentation needs. With Revit, you can create documentation including architectural drawings, renderings and more. Its parametric components are based on design patterns, easing the customisation of complex models and assemblies.
Revit offers several features which include:
- Building information modelling (BIM), which supports integrated design for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) teams;
- Multicad functionality, which enables users to import other file formats;
- Customisation with APIs and programming language support;
- Rendering capabilities with built-in resources like lighting analysis features in Autodesk FormIt 360 and the ability to import images into Inventor or Fusion 360 CAD CAM software for CNC machining and 3D printing
- Cloud collaboration with other teams through Autodesk BIM 360 and Autodesk 360.
Created by Dassault Systèmes, the company behind SolidWorks and CATIA, DraftSight is a professional-grade 2D design and drafting solution that lets users create, edit, view and markup any kind of 2D drawing.
It includes all the standard features you'd expect from an architecture program such as the ability to sketch, modify or alter shapes using basic drawing tools like lines, circles and other geometric shapes.
It supports multiple layers, has a dimension tool so users can easily create scaled drawings, and also has advanced annotation tools such as text notes and hatches to show different materials in a section of your design.
One of the most popular and well-known architecture software programs, AutoCAD is a CAD program that helps you create blueprints and technical drawings. It’s made to be used by anyone involved in the design and engineering process, from creating plans to visualising a final product.
Notable features include 3D modelling capabilities that allow you to create designs from scratch, or import existing designs as reference models for use with your own project. You can also add textures and materials to your design with the rendering feature, which gives it a more realistic look.
It has interactive documentation tools for creating digital drawings from scratch in real time, while tools for 2D drafting to 3D modelling let you create high quality renderings.
While CAD programs are generally used for architects and engineers, Chief Architect is specifically made for home design. It can be used to create floor plans or blueprints for homes and buildings.
The main components of this program allow you to draw 2D floor plans that illustrate the layout of a space from different angles, 3D design of rooms, structures and products, as well as advanced rendering.
Chief Architect can also generate house plans—you can even import a photo of your home and recreate it in the software.
Chief Architect uses a rule-based design process that allows you to quickly create floor plans in spaces such as kitchens, decks, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
Rhinoceros 3D is one of the most versatile CAD software for those in the AEC industry. It is not only a design tool, but it can be used for industrial design, architecture, marine and landscape design.
It has an easy-to-use interface that allows you to create anything from a simple concept drawing to a detailed architectural interior and exterior drawing. Its wide range of tools allows it to be commonly used for things like freeform roofs, parametric facades, repetitive components, versatile shapes, or complex structures.
You can use it to visualise your project before you start construction as well as in real-time. In particular, its Rhino with Grasshopper feature lets users create more dynamic geometrical shapes.
Rhino 3D also offers a variety of plugins — for instance with Rhino.Inside.Revit, Rhino-Archicad Toolset and VisualARQ’s FlexibleBIM — so you can integrate BIM with the features offered by these other applications.
Whether you are a professional architect or have never done any architectural design before, Archicad may be the right architecture software for you.
Make use of its free-form tools to create full BIM models and get in deep into the details of your building design to design anything from stairs to curtain walls. Its Sketch Render tool produces high quality renders for when a project is in its early stages, while the MAXON’s CineRender tool is built-in to give extremely realistic renders that give you the best visualisations.
Widely used by industry professionals and hobbyists alike, SketchUp is a simple but powerful CAD program that supports almost any architectural project, from interior design and 3D modelling to creating construction documents.
It can support you with basic tasks like designing a floor plan or adding furniture and fixtures, as well as help you create and edit 3D models with ease. You can also produce photorealistic rendering and create presentations through Animator.
SketchUp’s intuitive interface features “face-me” components and dynamic components that make modelling even the most complex of shapes a breeze.
Conclusion: Which architecture CAD software is suitable for you?
The best architecture design software programs are those that are easiest for you to use and understand. The most important factors to consider when choosing a program include:
- Review the features and benefits of each program - which is best for 3D modelling, for 3D printing, etc
- Consider the operating system requirements
- Compare pricing plans and evaluate which best fits your company’s needs
- Assess each program's level of support.
- Evaluate how seamlessly you can integrate your new software with other business tools
- Check which programs offer a free trial so you can test them out first.
Once you’ve selected a suitable program, to complement your work, you would also be in the market for a large format printer. Contact us today to discuss your printing needs.
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