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Building a Better Design Process: How CAD Is Evolving to Meet Construction Needs

Courtesy of Autodesk

New technology innovations are transforming nearly every industry. The construction field has seen its fair share of advancements over the past century, not least of which has been the evolution of manual construction drafting to more accurate and precise Computer Aided Design (CAD) systems.

In addition to reducing errors, these software-based design tools offer tremendous flexibility, allowing drawings to be modified easily and quickly, and shared for use across critical operations. CAD is to the construction industry what the Gutenberg printing press was to literature.

With the rapid pace of innovation today, it comes as no surprise that CAD too is quickly evolving to meet the changing needs of the construction industry. With the emergence of software-as-a-service (SaaS) business models, design solutions are adapting in three major ways:

  • they are becoming highly personalized;
  • they are enabling greater collaboration across diverse and distributed teams; and
  • they are taking advantage of cloud computing to offer a better user experience and access to game-changing insights.

How will advancements in CAD technology impact professionals in the construction sector?

Adapt to Unique Construction Needs

Over the years, traditional desktop software tools have grown highly complex, filled with a large number of features and commands that many users never fully utilize. Even with this wealth of functionality, many users find they require additional features that aren’t offered out of the box.

To address this problem, CAD software is evolving to become highly adaptable, making it possible to personalize functionality for each user’s needs. This new breed of CAD platform will be easily configured and augmented, allowing users to test add-ons and third-party vertical applications. Advancements in smart customizations, where the user interface is personalized based on how customers use the software, will become increasingly commonplace in the near future.

Foster Improved Collaboration

Getting everyone on the same page for a construction project is a herculean task. With numerous stakeholders involved in the design process, the challenges around collaboration are staggering. The sheer number of design revisions performed throughout the lifecycle of a project makes it difficult to achieve management efficiency.

Fortunately, new cloud-based CAD platforms hold the promise of helping designers reduce the time and cost required to make changes to their designs, while also making collaboration more seamless. Instead of restricting use of a file to a single user at any given time, new technology will enable simultaneous work, fostering far greater collaboration and efficiency. Such platforms will empower users to utilize different tools and file formats, freeing them up from concerns over versions, compatibility and interoperability. Ultimately, these advanced systems will enable users to focus on the most important aspects of their project, such as energy efficiency, sustainability and iconic designs.

The next generation of CAD technology will offer additional opportunities for collaboration. In the future, digital marketplaces and social networks will emerge, making it possible for CAD users to connect with one another directly from within their application. Designers will be able to share best practices, content, add-ons and engineering solutions, creating a wealth of intelligence and even opportunities to monetize this information across the industry.

Tap Into Rich Data, Delivering Critical Insights

Big data is a hot topic throughout most industries today, and it has real implications for the construction sector as well. As cloud-based platforms evolve, designers will be able to leverage design data to share critical insights with colleagues. In the past, data was not easily accessible, making it hard to search. Or when employees left a business, that knowledge would go out the door with them. These new technologies will allow designers to analyze data that has been archived from past projects, providing access to a treasure trove of information. The insights gained will help with strategic decisions and improve workflows.

Data gathered in the cloud also will enable unique uses for solving construction-related challenges. With the advent of drone technology, it will now be possible to take aerial photographs of a construction site, and then use CAD technology to stitch the images together for a highly accurate 3-D model. These insights will allow managers to scan the jobsite to create progress reports in real time and produce maps for crews and managers. Now, instead of having to employ cranes to photograph the jobsite from various angles, this new technology makes it possible to accomplish the same outcome far more cost effectively.

Without a doubt, new SaaS CAD models hold the promise of greatly improved design processes for the construction sector. The advent of highly personalized, cloud-based solutions will encourage improved collaboration and deliver a better user experience. All in all, these changes promise to be game-changing for the industry.

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