my CAD Story, the Firm Years

0313-A10As mentioned in the last post, i spent the first 4+ years at the firm i worked for drafting exclusively by hand. While i did, and still do, enjoy manual drafting, the inefficiencies of it prevent me from doing a whole lot of it anymore.

I started working in a small architecture firm in August of 1997. Some three years after my first introduction to CAD. I had not had the opportunity nor the reason during that time to use CAD. Everything was being drawn manually at the firm, which consisted of the owner at the time. I still had no reason to use CAD. It must of been somewhere around the summer of 2002 that we started using AutoCAD in the office. I had been back in school pursuing my Masters of Architecture degree for two years, but had still drawn most of my projects by hand. That summer, we had an intern who was an AutoCAD evangelist and convinced the firm owner that it was time to make the move. Nearly eight years after first being introduced to CAD, i was about to be immersed into it.

0313-PlanCadAn inexpensive computer was purchased with AutoCAD LT 2002 to begin our foray into this brave new world of Computer Aided Drafting. As i was still in school at the time, i missed much of the early excitement. But the firm adopted some "standards" that the intern brought to the table. Some of these were quickly abandoned in favor of common sense. For instance, at first, every layer had it's own color. This made it virtually impossible to manage line weights and made the screen virtually unreadable. We eventually settled on using a five colors scheme for everything: Magenta, Cyan, Green, Yellow, and Red. This made line weight management manageable as well as made the screen much easier to read. I eventually learned to see line weights when looking at the colors. Only having five colors to contend with made this a much less formidable task. In the end, it also produced much better looking drawings. We never did have a formal layer standard, which could make for some messy files. But with only a few of us working in CAD the first couple of years, and then only one at a time, we managed to muddle through.

After a couple of years, a second work station was purchased with AutoCAD LT 2004 to allow us to more fully immerse ourselves into the CAD world. By this time there were two of us as full time employees and i had graduated, so we each had our own computer work station. We also each had a drafting board with parallel bar.

0313-A16For even though we had bought into CAD, we did not make the transition from a fully manual drafting firm to a fully CAD firm all in one fowl swoop. No, we continued to draft elevations, sections, and details by hand. Utilizing the computer primarily for the efficiency of plan drawings. As a set of construction documents will contain many iterations of the plan view, it made sense to only draw it once and then use it as an external reference to generate ceiling plans, lighting plans, power plans, HVAC plans, etc... But we felt that we could produce better looking details and elevations more quickly by hand. Which was probably the case at first. But by 2005, we were almost exclusively drafting in the computer. The firm owner was still drawing everything by hand, and preliminary design work would be done by hand. But the efficiency of the computer had finally won the day when it came to producing construction documents. We had learned to draw efficiently enough that we could generate the sections, details, elevations, etc... in CAD more quickly than we could be hand.

I do not remember all the details, but at some point the first workstation had given up its ghost and we needed to replace it. I convinced the owner to purchase a Powerbook for me to use with the caveat that i would provide the software needed to be able to run AutoCAD on it. I purchased Virtual PC with Windows NT and did my best to run AutoCAD LT 2002 (it would not handle the extra processing power that 2004 evidently required). Which it did, but it could be painfully slow at times, especially when refreshing the screen. For the most part it worked almost as well as the native Windows machine we had. But probably about once an hour i would end up sitting for a few minutes waiting for it to catch up with me.

And so i worked thusly until November of 2008 when i would leave the world of Windows and AutoCAD behind in favor of a native Mac solution...

On a slight aside, i will mention that i would not have traded my time manual drafting for anything. It really helped me view the computer not merely as a tool for efficiency, but as an extension of my hand to create well crafted drawings.

 

**All the images used in the post are of drawings created by the author while in the employment of Marion Zaugg, Architect & Designer. Content of the drawings is copyright 2003 Marion Zaugg, Architect & Designer.**

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