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CAD software for building design

When it comes to something as complex as building design, you can imagine just how much time, effort and resource goes into the creation process. Particularly in the UK where regulations are so strict, making your design feasible from a safety, affordability and scalability standpoint represents a huge challenge.

But what if you had software that took care of all of that for you? With specialised CAD software for building design, it's never been easier to create 100% accurate building plans from scratch. In this guide, we'll find out how CAD is helping building engineers to push their designs to new limits in the UK's booming building, construction and architecture sector.

What is CAD building design software?

Building design CAD technology is specialised computer-aided design (CAD) software that allows building engineers to create 2D drawings and 3D models digitally. The sophistication of CAD tech today means that users can carry out the full design process of the building using the software, from scaling and design through to the safety and security credentials of the proposed model. It also allows them to collaborate seamlessly with the designers alongside whom they work – a prime example being the transition between the building design and architectural design process.

What’s the history of engineering building design software?

The origins of CAD in building design and architecture date back to the early 1960s and the fledgling design systems of Patrick Hanratty and Ivan Sutherland. While working for General Electric in 1961, Hanratty developed an early program called DAC, which was the first system to use interactive graphics and a numerical control programming format.

Two years afterwards, Ivan Sutherland introduced Sketchpad – a ground-breaking system that would form the basis for modern CAD. Sketchpad allowed for line drawing and movement of figures around on a computer screen and was the starting block for building design to be created via 3D modelling and visual simulation.

By the early 1970s, Hanratty had put together a new program called ADAM, described as the "first commercially available integrated, interactive graphics design, drafting and manufacturing system". Such is the impact of ADAM and its evolution through 16-bit and 32-bit computers, it's estimated that around 90% of today's CAD programs are based off it.

3D building design with CAD made huge strides forward in the 1990s but the technology continues to develop today with the dawn of Building Information Modelling (BIM), which offers real-time visualisation and model analysis that stretches the possibilities of digital modelling even further.

How do building engineers use CAD?

CAD has been used to successfully overhaul the building design drafting process from manual (hand-drawn) to digitally produced. It's helping users to create completely accurate 2D and 3D designs and better visualise the construction project ahead. Essentially, it's taken the pencil and paper out of the building engineer's hand and replaced it with faster, more detailed and more expansive design capabilities. There are two main uses of CAD in building design, which encapsulate many smaller capabilities, actions and features of the software.

Planning and design

The introduction of true – and completely accurate – 3D modelling has revolutionised the planning and design stages of building composition. Replacing this once-hand-drawn element has massively sped up processes while also improving them – plans can be easily shared, edited, revised and collaborated on across teams for a fully streamlined solution.

Modern CAD software is even compatible with traditional design elements. Still want to draw a 2D plan before heading into a digital process? The scanning technology of building engineering CAD software will bring manually drafted designs into the software, too.


We mentioned earlier the relatively recent introduction of BIM. BIM is an evolution of CAD that incorporates the full project cycle into computer design. That means that real-time visualisations and model analysis are now readily available in building design concepts, offering even more support for designers and stakeholders.

What are the benefits of using CAD software for building design?

CAD has optimised the work of building engineers in many ways. Here are a few of the major benefits.

Expanded design opportunities

CAD software allows all building engineers to make the most of their designs, offering limitless scope to modelling as well as incredible levels of detail and accuracy in production. That means that, as a building engineer, you can do more with your design while not having to worry about human error.

Improved, easier collaboration

The ability to easily share, review and edit designs means that building designers can collaborate with others faster and more effectively than ever before. Given that building engineers often work closely with architects, the vast reduction in editing and revision time on projects has huge benefit for all involved.

Speed of process

CAD software can take something as complex and typically drawn-out as building design and minimise the effort and resources required to complete the project. Parts of the process that once took days now take hours, meaning that windows for production and output can be significantly reduced for businesses.

The bottom line

More expansive design. Better accuracy. Improved collaboration. Faster processes. The most important thing that all of the above impact – as far as businesses are concerned, at least – is bottom-line costs. CAD allows for a reduction of resources while also an improvement in the quality of the product delivered, making it a hugely cost-effective addition to any building design team.

Looking for free CAD software for building design? Download DesignSpark Mechanical Explorer today

You can get started with our CAD software for building engineers right now for free! Download DesignSpark Mechanical Explorer to see what our basic CAD package looks like, then upgrade to Creator or Engineer to get a host of advanced features.

If you want to know more about what our CAD software has to offer, you can learn the basics of DesignSpark Mechanical here or take a look at our support FAQs and Mechanical forum to get all of the answers that you need.

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