Autodesk's Architectural Desktop provides an all-in-one integrated environment for architectural firms to accomplish conceptual design, design development and design documentation. The software follows the established flow in the architectural industry and provides tools to save time and increase accuracy at all stages of the design process.
In the conceptual phase, for example, the software offers modeling support for the massing function while delivering a wide range of space-planning features. As an example, constraints can be set. Say a series of rooms needs to be between 180 and 200 square feet. The software will automatically calculate the length as the user designates the width while maintaining the desired square footage. Of course, the user can change the proposed layout at any time during the process by simply altering the geometry of the space and the software will automatically update the square footage calculation. That information can be reflected live in schedules or on space tags, easing the task of tracking square footage.
Architectural Desktop provides an entirely different tool set for the design development phase. This phase of the design process is different in almost every architectural firm and the software is flexible enough to adapt to almost any work environment — users don't have to change their thought process to use it. For instance, architects can start off by drawing simple two-line walls and then later, after it's been determined what makes up the wall, the wall style can be changed and the new component information is automatically reflected in the walls previously drawn. Moreover, where the wall crosses or touches another wall, the software automatically updates to the new wall system. For example, where a concrete wall crosses another type of wall, the software will continue the concrete wall and interrupt the other wall by default. As always, the user can second-guess and change the software's decision, but it's correct far more often than it's not.
Tools assist users with creating construction drawings, as well. Six types of documents can be created: plans, sections, details, elevations, schedules and 3-D representations. For example, the user can create a building section simply by specifying the plane on the 3-D model where a section view is desired. Then the user can generate a 2-D section of that plane. Architecture firms that are still generating 2-D section drawings from scratch will appreciate the enormous amount of time that is saved by automating this process.
No review of this product would be complete without mentioning the software's automated scheduling tool. The tool prevents architects from making the occasional scheduling mishap, such as forgetting to remove a door from the schedule after it's been erased on the drawing. If a door is removed from the drawing, the schedule automatically updates to match. Likewise, if a door is added to a drawing, it will be automatically added to the schedule.
Although Architectural Desktop can save time and improve accuracy and consistency, there's a fair amount of training and setup required. For instance, the lack of industry-wide graphical standards, which may be partially traceable to the independent nature of many architects, means that the product requires a fair amount of optimization to make it work the way a design firm wants.
These obstacles, however, are well worth overcoming. The productivity gains provided by Architectural Desktop will make it possible to do more in less time, and will free architects from the drudgery of detailed drawing and documentation and allow them to focus instead on the more creative aspects of the profession.