Godden Sudik Blog

CAD vs. BIM: A Digital Drafting Debate
Godden | Sudik Architects - Tuesday, November 19, 2019
CAD vs. BIM

Architectural drawings have come a long way from the traditional blueprints of the past. No longer tied to hand-drafting, nowadays firms are predominantly utilizing two forms of digital drafting to produce construction drawings — CAD (computer-aided design) and BIM (building information modeling) programs. Determining which program works best for you and your firm is crucial to stay competitive in today’s market.

Benefits of Computer-Aided Design

Up until recently, CAD drafting has been the industry standard for producing CD’s. While there are several programs that utilize CAD technology, the most common within the architectural field is AutoCAD. Part of the Autodesk family, AutoCAD utilizes 2D space to create vector-based graphics as a tool for digital drafting. Since it came onto the scene in the early 80’s, CAD drafting has increased efficiency and speed immensely throughout the field. It allows the user to draft much faster and more accurately than previously possible by hand. CAD programs also give the user more freedom in the design phase, allowing them to quickly create their own custom details rather than relying on standard components that they would then need to manually alter to fit their needs. Accessible and efficient, it grants the user the ability to bring their designs to life in a matter of minutes.

CAD drafted floor plans

With the increasing popularity of BIM, AutoCAD and other CAD based programs have exhibited a growing set of disadvantages. CAD drafting is still time-consuming and leaves much more room for errors. If minor changes are made to a drawing, for example, those changes must be manually tracked and changed throughout the entire project. Another drawback to AutoCAD’s workflow capabilities is the inability for multiple users to work on a project file simultaneously, potentially cutting productivity by at least half.

Building Information Modeling Excels in Productivity

According to the AIA’s biannual report, “ninety-six percent of large firms, seventy-two percent of mid-sized firms, and twenty-eight percent of small firms utilize one or more BIM (building information modeling) software programs” (Cimino, Digging into BIM Data). With 3D capabilities, BIM programs such as Revit allow the user to visualize the project in three-dimensional space, even during its most preliminary stages. Another Autodesk product, Revit utilizes BIM technology to create comprehensive architectural models that can include everything — ranging from structural plans to mechanical systems– within one file.

Once the Revit model is created, producing construction drawings or making client revisions becomes a snap. With the ability to instantly generate detailed sections from the existing model and functions such as witness lines for easy dimensions and general note tagging, creating CD’s becomes a lot quicker and a lot more efficient. BIM takes care of the tedious tasks, leaving you with more time for design and a better looking budget.

Example of Revit section drawing with note tags and sheet list.

While boasting an appealing list of benefits to your workflow, Revit still has its own set of drawbacks that must be considered before making the switch. The first major drawback of using a BIM program like Revit is the time required to get started at the onset of a new project. While you may save time later on in the project, it requires a great deal of time upfront in order to generate the initial model.

Which Program is Right for You?

With each program boasting its own list of benefits and drawbacks, the decision between CAD vs. BIM technology is not always a clear choice. Weighing the benefits of each to find the program that best fits not only the needs of your firm, but the individual needs of the project ensures that your office is operating at maximum efficiency and productivity.


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