Go mobile, go 3-D and paperless, or go home

In the not-too-distant future, it will be expected that engineers have instant access to a home’s construction documents, that an architect or designer can modify these documents anywhere, at any time, that takeoff and material lists can be generated at any moment, that 3-D images are available for anyone including the homeowner to view, and that all of this is done using cloud technology. And, if you’re not using a tablet device to do all this, you and your rolled-up drawings behind the seat of your pickup truck might be left in the digital dust. To get a handle on these advancements and expectations, Residential Design + Build spoke to several manufacturers of design software. Following are their thoughts on design software today and in the future.


What’s the latest design software product you offer?

“Autodesk Building Design Suite 2013. Autodesk recently released its newest portfolio of design software in a suite format. Suites provide customers across a wide range of industries with the tools they need to design, visualize and simulate their ideas to help win more business. For example, Building Design Suite 2013 complements the BIM process to help the users design, analyze, visualize and build better buildings. We recognize the importance of interoperability in our software,” says Joy Stark, industry marketing manager, architecture solutions.

Where are design software trends going?

“BIM/Ongoing maintenance of buildings. Fewer and fewer architecture and engineering firms are designing 2-D; in the future, 3-D models will prevail,” Stark says. “The opportunities for leveraging the data in the 3-D models are limitless. Design software development will take advantage of the cloud to manage design data, and facilitate collaboration, analysis and visualization. The capabilities provided by the “virtual construction” of building projects will expand to ensure greater communication amongst dispersed project teams and help keep all parties on time and on budget.”

Chief Architect

What’s the latest design software product you offer?

“Chief Architect offers a professional line of software for full residential and interior design. We also provide a line of products for the DIY market. It’s a great relationship because so many homeowners are using the Chief Architect Home Designer products; clients can send their design ideas to the professional for the required details needed for construction,” says Scott Harris, vice president.

Where are design software trends going?

“You can expect more clients will be using software themselves especially now that home design software is widely available for mobile and tablets,” Harris continues. “In fact, Chief Architect is making a free iPad version available to the DIY market. The continued importance of having software for 3-D visualization is really a key factor in growing a professional home design or remodeling business.”


What’s the latest design software product you offer?

“Today we want to make sure builders, architects and engineers are aware of the industry-leading capabilities of the Sapphire Suite, an extremely rich 3-D CAD design platform. We actually offer builders, architects and engineers a free ‘viewer’ tool. It’s called Sapphire Viewer, which is a MiTek software product designed for the builder, architect or engineer to collaborate in real time on house plans with their component manufacturer using the Sapphire Structure module. Through this collaboration, in a digital prebuilding process, the Buildability of the structure is ensured. With Buildability, the builder can rest assured that the structure can, in fact, be built as drawn,” says Greg Renner, vice president, marketing.

Where are design software trends going?

“Design trends are all moving toward integrating data-rich, back-office CAD systems with 3-D images that are integral to the builder’s sales and option-selection efforts, e.g., his 3-D options selection system, fly-throughs and his website. It’s now entirely possible for the 3-D image presented on a builder’s public website to be the same 3-D CAD file that is used to model trusses and wall panels,” Renner concludes.


What software product do you offer?

“ArchiCAD allows architects, designers and builders to create and collaborate. Graphisoft answers the need for design tools that facilitate LEED certification, Passive House and energy-efficient design with EcoDesigner,” says Yanni Alexakis, product manager, Graphisoft North America. “EcoDesigner helps architects plan elements of a building in consideration of variables that impact energy use and consumption.”

Where are software trends going?

“We see the trend moving toward cloud-based services, products and applications, where the cloud is the ‘safe haven’ for data access. Broad acceptance and use of official standards such as IFC will become more prevalent, and to facilitate that BIM will be codified and required as a deliverable by most permit-issuing agencies. All these trends must be accompanied by a robust data production and exchange system that can be used throughout the lifecycle of the building for maintenance, energy performance and asset management,” Alexakis says.

Softplan Systems

What are the trends in design software?

“Builders, architects, remodelers and designers are using design software to work smarter and focus on their clients’ needs,” says John Jones, vice president. “Users of design software are getting savvier and clients are more discerning. Users are focusing on creating professional looking 3-D renderings to show to their clients. And they’re using the materials list to get faster, more accurate bids to their clients.”

What’s the latest design software product you offer?

“SoftPlan’s latest release, SoftPlan 2012, gives users more intuitive access to their design. A new interface, enhanced real time 3-D, and expanded libraries featuring manufacturers’ content ensure that users put their best foot forward when presenting designs to clients. As always, SoftPlan gives users the ability to create impeccable construction documents. But now SoftPlan integrates the design more than ever before, you can import content from Google Sketchup, and automatically generate REScheck energy reports, and more,” Jones says.

Where are design software trends going?

“With the way technology is transitioning, it seems the next logical design software trend will be to allow users to view and modify the design anywhere, anytime. SoftPlan sees a future where the designer creates a house plan and simultaneously, the engineers can critique the design or modify electrical layouts, tradesmen can see changes instantly, and the clients can see their home come together,” Jones says.

ProKitchen Software

What’s the latest design software product you offer?

“ProKitchen Software released a series of smart phone/tablet solutions such as iProK3D and for both Apple’s devices and Android-based devices. With these apps, customers can receive interior designs and make final decisions with respect to the color and material choices. We released multiple design ERP (pricing systems) integrations for ProKitchen with such cabinet manufacturers as Wellborn, Medallion, Huntwood, Jim Bishop and others,” says Chris Midgley, vice president, marketing/sales.


What design software product do you offer?

“What AmeriCAD/ITW Building Components Groups offers is Instinct, which is the ITW brand of BIM. Instinct Components and Instinct Enabled Partners and Products can use the same data in their processes and software solutions. It starts with VisionREZ for the residential BIM design package and our Options Manager. You can use the same tools to accurately frame the model either in house or at your structural engineer’s office,” says Richard Boothman, AEC Consultant.

Where are design software trends going?

“With all of the great electronic data sets in-house, how do you deliver them to the field? Print them out in a rolled-up set of docs that end up in the back seat of a truck? Don’t do it. Invest in field tablets or iPads. Autodesk Design Review, AutoCAD WS, and PlanGrid are great cloud-based solutions that can provide most of this data to the field where it gets put together,” Boothman says.

20-20 technologies

20-20 Technologies’ Version 10 interior design software offers improved features that include: more photorealistic renderings; an intuitive user interface; the ability to browse and directly import 3-D models from Google SketchUp warehouse, or from disk for SketchUp and AutoCAD; an “item browser” for ideas; and 20-20 LiveOrder to submit orders electronically to multiple manufacturers simultaneously and track them in real time.