4 Apps and Tools That Every Architect Needs

Gone are the days where architects spent long hours at drafting tables and ended their days of hard work with lead- and ink-stained hands. In recent decades, building and home designers have been using digital solutions … but some of the newest, advanced tools are taking the work to an entirely different level.

Try These Four Helpful Tools 

Few fields have undergone as much change over the last twenty to thirty years as architecture. What was once a manual, analog profession has become predominantly digital in both initial design and application.

Plus, as computers, mobile devices, and other systems have become more mainstream and cost-effective, it’s become workable for architects to complete a large percentage of their professional obligations outside their office; indeed, from almost anywhere.

Whether you’re an amateur, beginner, or partner in a leading design firm, here are four of the most interesting apps, tools, and solutions with which you should be familiar.

  1. SketchUp 

It may not feature some of the more advanced features of AutoCAD, but the intuitive yet robust nature of SketchUp has made it a favorite recent tool among architects and designers at all skill levels.

As architect Nicolas Valencia notes, “Its open source library helped the software to provide a wide range of 3D objects, while hundreds of users developed their own plugins not only to solve the problems of each version but also to exploit the potential of their tools.”

In fact, this latter aspect is what makes SketchUp such a useful tool. It isn’t limited by the notions of the software’s development team. Third-party plug-in capabilities make the platform capable of constantly evolving — and it does!

  1. Lumion 

It’s one thing to have a 3D model on a program like SketchUp or CAD. It’s something else to breathe life into the model with the help of a fast, efficient rendering software.

“Lumion enables anyone to create movies and images without any prior training. It’s a functional tool to make beautiful 3D rendering yourself,” the company explains. “You don’t need to outsource visualizations any longer. This saves you time and money. All you need is a 3D model and Lumion will take care of the rest.”

Whether you want to add clouds, trees, water, people, textures, freshly mowed grass, or rich natural light, Lumion is the visualization tool that will get it done. It helps your clients to see exactly what a drawing will look like once it’s been built in the real world, even though it’s still only in the design phase.

  1. Canvas

One of the biggest and most time-intensive challenges an architect or designer faces is having to model an existing space. Whether for a remodel, renovation, or expansion, getting all the detailed measurements included and accurate has been nearly impossible … that is, until Canvas came along. 

“Powered by the world’s first mobile depth sensor, the Structure Sensor, Canvas makes capturing a 3D model of a room delightfully easy. Simply tap scan, walk around the room, and watch as a scale-accurate model is built in real-time, right on your iPad,” explains Occipital, the team behind the platform.

“No more busting out the measuring tape and converting scribbles into floor plans later — Canvas captures tens of thousands of measurements all at once, and then pieces it together into an interactive 3D model.” 

The hardware and app can be purchased for a flat fee, but Canvas offers additional services. One of the more valuable is the “Scan-to-CAD” service, which can convert a can into an editable, professional-grade CAD file that may then be used for a variety of purposes.

  1. Vabi Apps

For architects who crave highly technical tools that can help with visualization of a project’s environmental, financial, and programmatic performance, Vabi Apps by Vabi Software is impressively powerful.

As Architect Magazine observes, “The Thermal Comfort Optimizer calculates ideal heating and cooling set points for each room in a building, while the Daylight Ratio Evaluator calculates the amount of daylight a space is receiving and highlights rooms that do not meet requirements. The Energy Assessor, which is forthcoming, estimates the project’s monthly and yearly energy use and costs.”

This may not be a tool that the average architect would find suitable, but for a convenient monthly price, it’s an invaluable solution for professionals who require precise project specs to be readily available at their fingertips. 

Set Yourself Up for Success

Architecture is a highly creative field in which professionals need the ability to explore and innovate. But it’s also technical, which means you also require strict processes and systems for creating uniform work in a timely and resource-efficient manner.

When they’re combined with other standard industry platforms and solutions, the tools discussed in this article can deliver immense value without entailing a massive learning curve. Try them and see what you think.

Image: Architect Tools and Apps GaudiLab/Shutterstock

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