Archive for the ‘CAD Software’ Category

Building Toward BIM, Part 1

March 7, 2016 Leave a comment

A small architectural firm shores up business with a move to Revit LT.

By Cameron Kruger, ArcWest Architects

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series sponsored by Autodesk, highlighting how Autodesk® Revit LT is improving the design workflow and overall success of small architectural firms.

Walking down the streets of Denver, peeking past the small gaps in the covered chain link fence of a construction site, you can’t help but notice a sense of vitality in the hard concrete surfaces and piles of bent steel around the unfinished building. Life has yet to begin in this building, but you seem so aware of the energy the building was designed to project. I was walking toward the building when it hit me: The energy is coming from the thin sheet of vinyl wrapping the chain link fence, which reads, “Future home of. …” Above the text, an image shows a building yet to exist, a 3D rendering produced through a computer program that gives life to this area even before the occupants arrive.
The software programs that produce these images are a driving force in architectural documentation today. Pursuing the opportunity to accurately represent a design through many phases, model components faster, and compete with larger firms, our small firm was committed to taking on the challenges associated with implementing the new building information modeling (BIM).

With the obvious market forces driving the industry toward BIM, it was becoming more difficult for our company, ArcWest Architects, to market our work, compete with firms that had already adopted the technology, and convey design concepts to our clients at a reasonable cost to them. And with the Internet providing access to many BIM-based projects, clients were expecting to see more from start to finish. Floor plans and elevations were no longer good enough. No one wanted to see a project develop in two dimensions — those flat, stagnant shapes that an architect calls a building.

We needed to move to BIM, and Revit was the clear industry leader. We opted to rent Autodesk® Revit LT, which was more affordable than full Revit, yet extremely capable. With the ability to model designs in 3D space, Revit LT would allow us to move toward a much more efficient and accurate workflow.

One of the challenges associated with changing the AutoCAD-based design workflow of an entire company was the knowledge required to operate the new software. Before the transition, ArcWest comprised only three partners, all with experience in AutoCAD. Filling their time with running a business and keeping projects moving through the door, they were unable to obtain the required knowledge to operate Revit LT. At that point, the firm began to grow, as the new workflow required a new set of talents. With architectural education recognizing BIM as the new standard for the AEC industry, more professionals are entering the field with the required skill sets, so talent was easy to find. This in turn allowed the partners to develop a business strategy that allowed them to have more time to run the business while their BIM-savvy associates did the production work.

Vista Pointe - Revit LT Rendering

Assisting with design and engineering of a new multi-use commercial building
in Bloomfield, Colorado, ArcWest Architects is using Autodesk Revit LT
to produce 3D renderings as well as 2D documentation.

The justification to move toward a Revit LT workflow was obvious to us, and should be to any other small firm as well.  With BIM, you can grow as a company, compete with larger firms, and improve overall client satisfaction. Being able to provide clients with all they could ask for is invaluable — from final renderings placed at construction sites to raise awareness of their future building, to final as-built models the client can reference and build upon in the future — switching to Autodesk Revit LT will open many opportunities for ArcWest.

In my next post, I will look into the firm’s transition from CAD to BIM and how we implemented Revit LT into our workflow.

Cameron Kruger 1-cropped

About the author:  Cameron Kruger is an architectural associate at
ArcWest Architects in Denver.

Expert Interview with Lynn Allen, Autodesk Evangelist and Cadalyst Contributing Editor

April 10, 2015 Leave a comment

Lynn Allen, Cadalyst Contributing EditorContributing Editor Lynn Allen is a Cadalyst favorite — with readers who benefit from her prolific AutoCAD advice as well as the editors who work with her. Allen’s “Circles and Lines” AutoCAD tutorials are in their 23rd year of publication, and she is the creator of Cadalyst’s popular AutoCAD video tips.

But Allen’s day job is Technical Evangelist at Autodesk, where she advocates and instructs about AutoCAD and other technologies for the CAD software giant, speaking at events worldwide and authoring Lynn Allen’s Blog. She also has written three AutoCAD books.

We wanted to learn more about this well-known Autodesk personality, and Allen was happy to accommodate us.

A lot of people might not know when and how you got started with CAD and how you became what could be described as the voice of AutoCAD for Autodesk. Can you share that story?

While I was working at American Honda, I was handed a very early copy of AutoCAD (1.4) and told it would be my job to learn it and teach it to others. Embarrassingly, they were using it for flowcharts. Talk about overkill! I fell in love with the program and eventually went to work at one of the first AutoCAD Training Centers as a teacher. I went on to teach at the corporate and collegiate level — eventually joining Autodesk in its training department.

I eventually switched jobs within Autodesk to become the Worldwide User Group manager (go AUGI!) and started presenting my AutoCAD tips at user group meetings to help increase attendance. I was STUNNED at how many people would show up to hear me present. People knew me from my Cadalyst articles and my books and were anxious for more AutoCAD tips and knowledge. Remember that these were the days before the Internet — so user groups were an essential means of finding out Autodesk product information.

Eventually Autodesk changed my role to Autodesk Evangelist and began to use me as a full time presenter and advocate for their technology.

What does your job today entail, and what do you enjoy about it most? Do you see the job changing at all down the road?

Today I spend most of my time traveling and speaking at various Autodesk events worldwide. I no longer focus on AutoCAD alone — my expertise has expanded to include BIM, cloud technology, Internet of Things, 3D printing, reality capture, etc.

What do I enjoy most? The people — hands down. I love meeting our enthusiastic customers around the world.

You, arguably, interact with more AutoCAD users than anyone else on the planet. What can you tell us about this crowd? Has it changed over the years?

The AutoCAD crowd is definitely more knowledgeable on the product — and it isn’t uncommon for them to have more than one Autodesk product under their belts. They have many resources to find their AutoCAD answers but still always crave more!

How did you get started writing your blog?

I was asked by Autodesk to start my blog and actually had to be talked into it! Once I got started, though, I was addicted.

You’re also a big fan of Twitter, correct? What is it about Twitter exactly that you like? (Any interesting Twitter stories to share?)

I do love Twitter. I like that it’s so easy to write a quick post to educate people. I think it’s perfect for those of us with short attention spans. You can very quickly see the topic of a twitter post — explore more if you’re interested or simply move on to the next!

Even though I don’t really know my nearly 17,000 followers, it actually feels like I know them in a way. I just find the whole process very interesting!

What are a few lesser-known AutoCAD functions that you’re particularly fond of? And why should users dig into the depths of AutoCAD?

I’m fond of any tip in AutoCAD that helps my readers get their jobs done in fewer steps. The more options you know, the more likely you’re going to get your jobs done faster! A personal favorite is changing the F1 key so it does an Escape (instead of launching Help). It always drives me crazy when I hit F1 by accident and then find myself in the Help function!

Users should learn to customize AutoCAD to create a comfy design program that works just the way they like to work.

How do you decide which tips to share and which don’t make the cut?

AutoCAD is used in so many different ways and in so many different industries. I often share even the most obscure tips because I believe that someone out there will benefit from them.

It seems there’s never a shortage of interesting developments at Autodesk. What are you particularly excited about lately?

I’m excited about the cloud — Autodesk A360 project-collaboration software — and the power that will bring to the design process. I am also very excited to see how 3D printing will develop and am anticipating the many steps forward we should progress as a result. I’m especially passionate about the future of bio-printing.

Why is it especially important that CAD engineers and offices stay as organized and efficient as possible?

A good design is an organized one and lends itself more to changes later on. And with project timelines getting shorter and shorter, efficiency will be the key to maintaining accounts. As you wrap in BIM [building information modeling] and digital prototyping, design projects can have many different pieces, and organization is essential.

Any parting words of advice for AutoCAD users? And where will you be appearing next?

You can check out my next speaking gig on my blog.

As for advice for AutoCAD users? Don’t get stuck using AutoCAD the exact same way every day. You might be working harder than you need to – always be willing to try other techniques, such as the ones you find on

For more from Lynn Allen, follow her on Twitter, and don’t miss her biweekly series of AutoCAD video tips, published on and in the Cadalyst Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter

A Look at Vectorworks 2015

March 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Is it CAD or BIM? Vectorworks 2015 combines enough of both to satisfy a variety of design and development needs. In all, reviewers and users have been pleased with what they’ve seen from this new product. It seems to be an improvement over previous versions in several ways (more discussion on this below), and offers some neat new features that can be helpful in a multitude of situations. Here is what you need to know before investing in this version of Vectorworks.

One of the biggest improvements in the 2015 version is 64-bit capabilities across all of the products. The product description states, “We do not consider remote login environments (such as remote desktops, terminal services, or virtual machine environments, such as Parallels and VMware) to be appropriate for regular work, so Vectorworks performance in these situations is not of primary concern to us.”

This was concerning to some users who planned to use the product in remote situations or in a cloud environment. However, numerous users have had good success operating Vectorworks 2015 with both the cloud and via remote workstations. The primary concern is connectivity and bandwidth, not any known issues with the product itself. This version is compatible with all of the common modern processors.

The interface will be familiar to most users, a sort of mash up of Photoshop, SketchUp, and MicroStation. Though it was originally designed for use on Apple computers, Vectorworks 2015 looks and acts exactly the same on Windows systems as it does on the Mac. This makes it easy for users to  switch between systems and collaborate with others who rely on different systems.

The open GL mode is becoming more common in software developed for CAD workstations, and is well received by users for its easy fly around mode, simplicity in changing viewing modes, seamless virtual walk through mode, and speed in switching between modes and features.

Users are also having fun with the Deform Tool, which allows you to bend solid geometric shapes into user-defined shapes. Though this is more practical for users like furniture designers, it’s fun to play around with.

Vectorworks 2015 also features the ability to set text style by class, which allows you to provide more consistency within the documentation. It also allows for the modification of PDF files. You can now import a PDF file and crop it. This is helpful when using only part of a PDF file as a reference, and for including a picture of the product within the design.

Rectangle Wall Mode is another significant improvement which allows you to select a type of wall and create it by simply drawing a rectangle. You can draw curtain walls automatically, without having to input vertical or horizontal mullions. Better yet, if you decide to change the design halfway through, you don’t have to begin the entire process over again.

For photorealistic renderings, users can import 3DS and SKI files, such as those found on 3D Warehouse and Turbosquid, or use images provided with Vectorworks, which are somewhat improved over previous versions and render quickly.



The stock images are better, and version 2015 allows you to easily import more images from other sources.

Vectorworks 2015 continues to require large amounts of memory and a fast processor to run. Users who lack a sufficiently equipped workstation have reported problems running out of memory, having to shut down the program, and even sometimes having to reboot the computer.

How Much Does It Cost and What’s in the Box?

Expect to pay just under $3,500 for Vectorworks 2015 from most outlets. The Vectorworks 2015 installation DVD, “Let’s Get Started” pamphlet, and “Getting Started” DVD come in the box. The all-inclusive product features:

• Vectorworks Architect
• Vectorworks Landmark
• Vectorworks Spotlight
• Vectorworks Machine Design



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