The previous section of this article identified several scenarios that might indicate that it is time to invest in a new CAD software system; here we explain how CAD software can address those issues and offer insight into additional advantages of CAD software. We also introduce the concept of Building Information Modeling, which extends CAD beyond a project's design phase to construction, operation and maintenance.
One of the most obvious advantages of CAD software is the use of digital models instead of paper blueprints. Here measurements are automatic, and lines, shapes and objects can be created with simple mouse clicks as opposed to slide rulers and calculators. Models can also be viewed in three dimensions.
Another advantage of CAD software is data centralization. All digital blueprints are saved on the same server, not in disparate file cabinets, and can be accessed by anyone who uses the software. (Some CAD software also gives users the chance to view files on mobile devices.) This lets designers in different locations work on the same project, sharing edits and modifications, which reduces communication bottlenecks and improves efficiency, accountability and project execution.
Finally, many CAD software tools integrate with cost estimating software or, at the very least, let users export information such as lists of building components (windows, doors, pieces of furniture, etc.) This, too, saves time and reduces the likelihood of transcription errors, since part lists need not be recreated.
Building Information Modeling
The process of Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is closely tied to the advantages of CAD software and can offer further benefits to software users and project stakeholders alike.
Building Information Modeling is the process of managing building data through the creation of a Building Information Model that covers not just geometry and spatial relationships but also geographic information and properties of building components.
Those who use the BIM process create models of the building's actual parts and include data pertaining to that part, such as size and model number. The idea here is that, when a building model goes from the design team to the construction company to the owner/operator, data loss is minimized; in fact, as the BIM process advances, it is possible for data to be added to the model, such as the installation date of a valve; here the advantages of CAD software can really pay off.
For the Building Information Modeling process to succeed, a significant investment of time and resources is necessary during the design phase of a construction. Moreover, the software tools used in all stages of the plan, build and operate process must be highly interoperable so project data can be easily shared.
The savings associated with BIM can be hard to quantify, since the success of a Building Information Model tends to relate to things that do not happen -- the change orders that are avoided during the building process, for example, or the large section of wall that remains in place because a building superintendent can consult a model to pinpoint the possible location of a leak. However, the Construction Informer blog entry Documented BIM Advantages Tell Savings Story does point to a scenario where BIM savings have been quantified.
Wrapping it up
Overall, there are several advantages of CAD software that your company can and should realize. Computer-aided design should save time (by letting you produce 2-D and 3-D models faster) and money (by limiting the need for change orders). CAD software packages will also improve the quality and integrity of the information that you present to prospective clients and project stakeholders, reduce the risk of cost overruns and allow you to standardize the processes that help you finish projects faster.
The next section of our article, Evaluating CAD software programs, will help you devise a plan to look at your company's CAD software needs.