Computer Science in Architecture

Vinson Chen

What is CAD?

CAD (computer-aided design) is the use of software to help with designing projects for many industries. Prominent industries that use CAD include architecture, aerospace, and interior designing.

The History of CAD

As computers started to develop, researchers started looking for new ways to implement computers into fields such as engineering and architecture. In 1963, the first commercial CAD app, Sketchpad, was created by Ivan Sutherland. By the end of the 1970s, CAD programs were further developed which allowed architects to create 2D designs that were similar to hand-drawn designs in quality. In the 1990s, there was a huge leap in the development of CAD. New apps were released that allowed for 3D designs to be created. These new CAD apps became the standard for designs in many industries.

Ivan Sutherland using Sketchpad in 1963

Basic Features of CAD

CAD allows users to use sketches and basic shapes to create drawings. CAD also provides tools such as rotating, centering, etc. to make creating these drawings much easier and more accurate. These drawings can then be extruded to become 3D models. These 3D models become parts that can be exported for use in bigger projects. For example, a user can use shapes to draw a pillar which can be extruded to become a 3D part. This pillar can then be exported into another project where it’s used to help design a house.

Implementations of CAD in Architecture

CAD greatly helps architects in many different ways. For instance, it helps architects plan buildings more efficiently. CAD apps allow architects to import a satellite image. This means architects can design a building with its surroundings in mind. They can use this information to make design changes so the building can function and blend in with its surroundings better. For instance, architects may shift windows and balconies depending on the surrounding buildings in order to have a better view from the inside. CAD also has extremely precise and accurate measurements. This helps make sure the building plan is absolutely correct and safe. In addition, CAD helps architects properly design smart buildings. Many CAD applications for architects allow basic simulations to be run. This allows architects to test certain smart home features such as automatic lighting and temperature adjustments. Moreover, many CAD applications allow files to be shared. This enables architects to work with other architects and clients all around the globe. Architects can work together to brainstorm ideas and work more efficiently. Although CAD by itself is already greatly helping the architecture industry, Building Information Management (BIM) is often used in combination with CAD. BIM is able to give users information about the physical elements within a model. For instance, BIM tracks all the materials used for a model and has information on the general price of most of these building materials. This allows architects and other collaborators to get a general sense of the amount of materials and the overall price of the building. BIM also provides information on the functional elements within a model. For example, BIM can be used to track the structural integrity and energy consumption of a building based on a model. This allows architects to determine the safety and lifespan of a building.

An example of a model building using CAD

Why are CAD and BIM so Important to Architecture?

The features of CAD and BIM are so important to the architecture industry for many reasons. One very important reason is how much time it saves. Architecture often involves many edits and revisions. Using CAD, if the client wants something changed, it can be done extremely quickly compared to completely redrawing another sketch. In addition, the precision and accuracy of CAD combined with the functional testing of BIM allows buildings to be much safer. The reduction in time, increase in safety, and ability to collaborate all help greatly reduce the cost for a building project. Overall, CAD and BIM have greatly evolved over time and will continue to evolve. For instance, recent advancements have led to the implementation of virtual reality into CAD. Each time CAD and BIM make huge leaps in development, they won’t just be great for the architecture industry, but for society as a whole.

Works Cited

  1. Autodesk Building Solution, director. What Is BIM (Building Information Modeling)? YouTube, Autodesk, 29 Aug. 2017,

  2. CAD Software Evolution. CADTALK. (n.d.). Retrieved from

  3. Bernstein, Larry. “What Is Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Why It’s Important.” Jobsite, Procore, 11 Oct. 2020,

  4. Bethany. “How the Architectural Industry Uses CAD.” Scan2CAD, Scan2CAD, 13 Jan. 2020,

  5. Chai, Wesley. “What Is CAD (Computer-Aided Design)?”, TechTarget, 7 Dec. 2020,

  6. Purnima. “How CAD Design Is Used in the Architecture Industry.” Cad Crowd, 6 Dec. 2018,