A CAD Manager’s Story

Two important things happened in 1948; the first stored-program electronic digital computer successfully executed its first program, and I was born.

I was interested in drawing from a very early age. I would flatten paper sacks and draw comic strips on them on the kitchen floor. In school; art, science and math were my favorite subjects. I saved my allowance to buy a book on perspective drawing when I was in the fifth grade. When given the opportunity to take an art class in junior high school, I already knew most of what they were teaching. In high school I enrolled in a drafting class. This was before CAD. It was the age of triangles and t-squares. I loved it. I took 3 years of drafting in high school. The third year was architectural drafting. I graduated from Permian High School, in Odessa, Texas, in 1967.

I then attended the University of Texas, majoring in Architecture. After two years of study, I left school to support my new family and began a career as an architectural draftsman. I enjoyed doing construction drawings but found that I had a real talent for creating perspective renderings, both watercolor and pen & ink. I worked evenings and weekends one semester so I could take classes in Art at the University of Texas.

CAD (kd) acronym for computer-aided design

In 1973 I went to work in the property development department of Zale Corporation, where I worked for the next 9 years. In 1979 Zales got a CAD system. This was the first computer I had ever seen. It was a refrigerator sized “minicomputer”. It included 4 storage tube work stations which used thumb-wheels to move the crosshair across the screen, and a pool-table sized flat-bed plotter. This was one of only around 100 architectural instillations in the US. I could see the amazing potential for CAD and I decided at that time to dedicate my life’s work to the productive use of CAD in architecture. I worked the night shift so I could take a semester of computer science at the local junior collage. I learned everything I could about computers and programming. I soon became the CAD Manager. I supervised the CAD users and implemented standards and procedures. I also created custom programming for the system. One of the programs I wrote reduced the time required to draw a store from 40 hours to 9 hours.

In 1982 Intergraph introduced a new CAD system for architects. I went to work for them to demonstrate their software and provide training and technical support to end users.

In 1984 I left Intergraph to go to work for a smaller CAD company called Sigma Design. I felt that what architects needed was a less expensive CAD system that was dedicated specifically to architecture. Intergraph was having me demonstrate more of their other applications and less to architects. I am glad that I was exposed to these other fields (P&ID diagrams, printed circuit board design, numerical control machine operation, oil exploration, and others) but I wanted to stay with the architectural profession. Sigma Design only sold to architects and their software was written specifically for their needs.

At this time all CAD was sold as turn-key systems. You would buy the hardware, software, training and support all from a single vendor. And they were very expensive. A typical four station system sold for around $250,000.  In 1984 a program came along that changed all of that. It was Auto-CAD. This was the first CAD program that could run on the “Personal Computer” that IBM was selling. You could buy a CAD program that “provided 90% of the capabilities for 10% of the price”. All of the other CAD companies then scrambled to come up with a PC version of their software. A version of Intergraph’s software that ran on PCs became Bentley’s MicroStation. Sigma came out with a version of their software that ran on PCs, and they started selling it through dealers around the country instead of directly to architects. It ran on a PC version of the Unix operating system called Xenix. My role changed to one of providing dealers with software training and support.

In 1988 Sigma had a company wide layoff due to slow sales and I started providing independent CAD Consulting under the name CAD Directions. I was retained by NTS (a major real estate development and management company in Louisville Kentucky) for 9 months to plan and implement their CAD operation. I trained the operators to use the new CAD system, created 3D Model and fly-around presentations of new homes, procured hardware and software, provided NTS with the ability to do 2-D design, 3-D modeling and Video imaging, directed personnel in developing an as-built CAD database of their commercial properties, enabled their personnel to provide automated tenant fit-out cost estimates and create 3-D walk-throughs of their office designs, wrote custom software to provide HVAC, electrical, and inventory tracking information, established a set of standards and procedures with information on what to do, and how to do it, complete with documentation on all custom software, managed the CAD personnel on a day-to day basis and implemented work-flow procedures and revision-control. In short, I was their CAD Manager.

CADD (kd)  acronym for  computer-aided design and drafting

Sometime during the 1980’s to differentiate their software from the others, some CAD companies started spelling CAD with two D’s.  This was just a marketing strategy and didn’t indicate any real difference in the software. I always thought it to be a little pretentious.

In 1989 I accepted an offer to become the CAD Manager for AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service) in Dallas, Texas. AAFES is a joint military activity that builds and runs the Post and Base Exchanges for the military. Working in their store planning department I was in control of training and supporting their CAD system operators. My official title was “CADD Analyst“. While working there, AAFES switched from ARRIS CAD to AutoCAD and an architectural add-on application that later became ADT (Architectural Desktop). AutoCAD grew to become the de-facto standard for use by architectural design firms nationwide.

I worked at AAFES until, in 1993, I was approached again by Sigma Design. They had recently sold their CAD system to Wal-Mart and needed me to oversee the instillation, train their personnel and provide whatever other services they might require to insure a successful implementation. Basically they needed me to be Wal-Mart’s CAD Manager while they got on their feet.

I worked with Wal-Mart and Sigma Design until, in 1994, the company had another company-wide layoff, this time due to bankruptcy. Again, I was working for myself as a CAD Consultant, and have been ever since.

Architectural CAD has changed a lot in the last 15 years, and so has my company. At first much of my work was supporting users with Sigma’s software. One architect, who bought Sigma software based on the strength of my demonstration, later purchased Sigma Design, Inc. out of bankruptcy and renamed the software ARRIS CAD. He contracted with me to help develop their training materials and give the first demonstration of their newly released software to their dealers. I also created the training videos that they included with that product.

My business slowly evolved to working less with ARRIS CAD and more with AutoCAD. After a while, I found that less of my time was spent doing training and support and more was spent creating production drawings. Then for a time I was mostly doing photorealistic renderings.

BIM (bm) acronym for building information modeling

A few years ago AutoCAD’s company, Autodesk, purchased the architectural software program Revit. Autodesk adopted the acronym BIM as a marketing term and it has caught on. It was intended to separate Revit from its competitors, but now practically all architectural CAD companies claim some BIM capability. Revit is so different from AutoCAD or ADT that many people that use Revit refer to it as BIM and to everything else as CAD. Although Revit isn’t the only, or even the first, BIM program, it has been the most successful. Like Sigma Design many years ago, Revit was designed for use by architects, and it shows. I am a real fan of this software and have been using it for about 5 years now. I have converted both commercial and residential projects from AutoCAD to Revit. I have also created Revit families for architectural building material manufacturers.

Architectural CAD has come a long way and no one knows what the future holds. It is a dynamic and exciting field and I intend to stay abreast of the technology as it evolves. I see it as a blend of art, math and science made possible by two things; an electronic digital computer, and a CAD Manager like me.

Ronny Hart, CAD Manager


Minimum Recommended Hardware Configuration

I got a call yesterday from an AutoCAD professional who was in the market to purchase a new computer. She wanted my recommendation as to what she should get for running AutoCAD. This got me thinking. If I was going to buy a new computer today to run the latest versions of the programs I use the most what would I get?

First the software: AutoCAD, Revit Architectue, 3dx Max and Photoshop. Assuming that I wanted to be able to run the latest versions should I decide to upgrade them all,  that would be: AutoCAD 2010, Autodesk Revit Architecture 2010, Autodesk 3dx Max 2010, and Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended.

Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional (Latest Service Pack)

All of these programs will run on XP or Visa and they can all run 32bit or 64bit. For now I would stick with 32 bit. I worry that all of my older programs won’t work on 64bit, and besides, I’m nor really ready to up date all of my software at the same time. I am also not comfortable with switching to Vista for some of the same reasons. I wouldn’t even consider a MAC because none of the architects that know are using it and I have to work with them. 3ds Max doesn’t list XP Home Edition as an option, so I will stick with the Professional Edition.

Processor: Intel® Core™2 Duo 2.4 GHz or equivalent AMD processor

Autodesk recommends this for Revit. It isn’t the minimum required, but it doesn’t cost much more and should be really fast. Adobe doesn’t recommend anything slower than 1.8GHz.


I think that the more RAM the better. This is the most that a 32 bit operating system can access. If you go for 64bit, then I recommend 8GB ram.

Graphics Card: Depends on Monitor Configuration

It will need at least 120 MB and support for all of 3ds Max features (DirectX, OpenGL, Shader model 3.0, etc.) This is not a gaming machine, so there is no need for a lot of on-card 3D processing. I have been using 2 monitors for a few years now and would highly recommend it. So, you will need a card to support the monitors you want to use. The primary monitor should be a large as you can get, probably a 1,680 by 1,050 resolution. The other monitor should be the same or smaller (a minimum of 1,024 by 768 for your secondary monitor). And these both should be set for 32 bit color. Make you’re your graphics card supports all of this. A good place to start would be this list of Photoshop supported graphics cards.

Hard Drive: Plenty

No new computer you get will have too small a hard drive. These are getting larger and cheaper all of the time. You will need a lot of disk space so I recommend you get three. One for all of your program files, one for all of your data, and one for backup. Get them as big and fast as you can afford. Sacrifice a little size for speed if you need to. The one for program files can be smaller than the other two as long as it is about twice as big as you think all of your program files will require.

Other Stuff: Dealers Choice

Most everything else just depends on what you like. Some programs require a DVD-ROM drive, but your system will probably come with one of these. You will need a 2 button wheel mouse. I personally prefer a large one (I have big hands) that has a lot of programmable buttons. You may want a Wacom pen tablet to use with Photoshop, but that is optional. I also couldn’t work without a high-speed internet connection, but again that may not be required by everyone.

Here is the information I got off the various software publisher’s web sites:

Operating System Processor RAM Graphics Card
AutoCAD 2010 32-bit XP or Vista P4 or AMD 2 GB 1,024 x 768
AutoCAD 2010 64-bit XP-64 or Vista-64 AMD-64 or Xeon or P4-64 2 GB 1,024 x 768
any AutoCAD for Rendering same 3 GHz single or 2 GHz dual 2 GB 1,280 x 1,024 (32 bit)
Autodesk Revit Architecture 32-bit XP or Vista P4 or AMD 3 GB 1,280 x 1,024 (24 bit)
same – recommended XP or Vista Core2Duo 4 GB 1,280 x 1,024 (24 bit)
Autodesk Revit Architecture 64-bit XP-64 or Vista-64 P4 or AMD 3 GB 1,280 x 1,024 (24 bit)
same – recommended same Core2Duo 8 GB DirectX 9
Autodesk 3dx Max 32-bit XP(pro) or Vista(pro) P4 or AMD-64 2 GB 120 MB, D3D or OGL
Autodesk 3dx Max 64-bit XP-64(pro) or Vista-64(pro) P4-64 or AMD-64 4 GB same
Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended XP or Vista 1.8GHz or faster 1 GB 1,280 x 800 (16 bit)
XP = Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional or Home edition (SP2 or later)
XP(pro)=Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional (Service Pack 2 or higher)
XP-64=Windows XP Professional x64 edition (SP2 or later)
XP-64(pro)= Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional x64
Vista=Microsoft® Windows Vista® (SP1 or later) including Enterprise, Business, Ultimate, or Home Premium edition
Vista(pro) = Microsoft® Windows® Vista (Business, Premium, or Ultimate)
Vista-64=Windows Vista 64-bit  (SP1), including Ultimate, Business, or Home Premium edition
Vista-64(pro)= Microsoft® Windows® Vista 64 bit (Business, Premium, or Ultimate)
P4 =I ntel® Pentium® 4  1.4 GHz
P4-64= Intel Pentium 4 with Intel EM64T support and SSE2 technology
Core2Duo=Intel® Core™2 Duo 2.4 GHz or equivalent AMD processor
AMD=AMD Athlon® dual-core processor, 1.6 GHz or higher with SSE2 technology
AMD-64=AMD Athlon 64 with SSE2 technology, or AMD Opteron® processor with SSE2 technology
Xeon=Intel® Xeon® processor with Intel EM64T support and SSE2 technology
1,024 x 768=VGA display with true color
1,280 x 1,024 (24bit)= 1280 x 1024 monitor and display adapter capable of 24-bit color
1,280 x 1,024 (32bit)=32-bit color video display adapter (true color) 128 MB or greater, Microsoft® Direct3D® capable workstation class graphics card
DirectX 9=Dedicated video card with hardware support for DirectX 9 (or later)
D3D=Direct3D 10 or Direct3D 9

3ds Max notes:

DirectX® 9.0c* (required), OpenGL® (optional)

Some features of 3ds Max 2010 are only enabled when used with graphics hardware that supports Shader Model 3.0 (Pixel Shader and Vertex Shader 3.0). Check with your manufacturer to determine if your hardware supports Shader Model 3.0.

Photoshop Notes:

Some GPU-accelerated features require graphics support for Shader Model 3.0 and OpenGL 2.0

QuickTime 7.2 software required for multimedia features

Broadband Internet connection required for online services

Certified for 32-bit Windows XP and 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista

Revit Architecture Training Course Outline

Duration: 10 – 8 hour days

Each day is divided into 4 separate classes. Each class will have one hour of lecture followed by one hour of hands-on practice.

Day 1

1: Overview and Basic Drawing Tools

* Building Information Modeling
* Revit Terminology
* Overview of the Revit Interface
* Starting Revit Projects
* Viewing Commands

* General Drawing Tools
* Editing Revit Elements
* Modifying Tools

2: Datum Elements – Levels and Grids

* Setting Up Levels
* Importing CAD Files (Covered in more    detail in a later class)
* Creating Structural Grids
* Adding Columns

3: Drawing and Modifying Walls

* Drawing and Modifying Walls (Creating custom walls is in a later class)
* Helpful Editing Tools

4: Adding Doors and Windows

* Adding Doors and Windows
* Loading Door and Window Types from the Library
* Creating Additional Door and Window Sizes
* Creating Storefront Windows

Day 2

1: Floors

* Creating Floors
* Creating Openings
* Creating Building Sections

2: Roofs

* Creating Roofs by Footprint
* Setting Up a Roof Plan
* Reference Planes and Work Planes
* Creating Roofs by Extrusion
* Cleaning Up Wall and Roof Intersections

3: Vertical Circulation

* Adding Callout Views
* Creating Standard and Custom Stairs
* Creating Ramps
* Adding and Modifying Railings

4: Reflected Ceiling Plans

* Creating Ceilings
* Adding Ceiling Fixtures

Day 3

1: Interiors

* Duplicating Views
* Setting the View Display
* Adding Furniture and Fixtures to a Project
* Creating Interior Elevations

2: Construction Documents

* Setting Up Sheets
* Placing and Modifying Views on Sheets
* Printing Sheets

3: Annotating Construction Documents

* Working with Text
* Adding Detail Lines and Symbols
* Working with Dimensions

4: Tags and Schedules

* Adding Tags
* Working with Schedules (Creating custom schedules covered in a later class)

Day 4

1: Project Phasing and Design Options

* Project Phasing
* Design Options

2: Groups and Links

* Using Groups
* Linking Revit Files
* Links and Groups
* Visibility and Graphic Overrides in Linked Views
* Interference Checking

3: Importing and Exporting

* Importing Vector Files
* Working with Imported Files
* Importing Raster Image Files
* Exporting Files

4: Project Team Collaboration

* Introduction to Worksets
* Opening Workset-Related Projects
* Working in Workset-Related Projects
* Setting Up Worksets
* Best Practices for Worksets

Day 5

1: Advanced Modeling Tools

* Creating Sloped Floors, Roofs, and Slabs
* Creating Dormers

2: Curtain Walls

* Creating Curtain Walls
* Adding Curtain Grids
* Creating Curtain Wall Types with Automatic Grids
* Working with Curtain Wall Panels
* Attaching Mullions to Curtain Grids

3: Site Design

* Creating Topographical Surfaces
* Property Lines and Building Pads
* Modifying Toposurfaces
* Annotating Site Plans
* Site Components
* Shared Coordinates

4: Structural Tools

* Structural Basics
* Foundation Plans
* Framing Plans and Elevations

Day 6

1: Detailing in Revit Architecture

* Setting Up Detail Views
* Creating Details
* Annotating Details
* Patterning

2: Schedules

* Creating Schedules
* Creating Material Takeoff Schedules

3: Advanced Annotation

* Keynoting and Keynote Legends
* Creating Legends
* Revision Tracking

4: Advanced View Setup

* View Templates
* Working with Dependent Views
* Enhancing Views

Day 7

1: Massing Studies

* Basic Mass Elements
* Custom Mass Elements
* From Massing to Building
* Working with SketchUp Files

2: Space Planning & Area Analysis

* Space Planning
* Area Analysis
* Creating Color Schemes

3: Visualization

* Perspectives
* Creating Walkthroughs
* Solar Studies

4: Rendering

* Basic Rendering
* Working with Lighting
* Enhancing Renderings

Day 8

1: Creating Custom Templates

* Preparing Templates
* Presetting Annotation Styles
* Creating Titleblocks
* Creating Object Styles
* Materials and Fill Patterns

2: Custom Walls, Roofs, & Sections

* Creating Wall, Roof, and Floor Types
* Adding 3D Profiles
* Vertically Stacked Walls
* Vertically Compound Walls

3: Family Concepts & Techniques

* Introduction to Families
* Creating Parametric Dimensions
* Creating Family Elements
* Creating Family Types
* Adding Family Parameters
* Visibility Display Settings

4: Creating Specific Families

* Creating Custom Doors and Windows
* Creating In-Place Families
* Creating Profiles
* Creating Angled Cornices and Copings
* Creating Custom Railings
* Adding Custom Posts
* Creating Annotation Families
* Working with Shared Parameters

Days 9 and 10

Putting it all together – Creating a project from scratch

* Two days of hands-on practice with emphasis on your companies standards and project types. Work will be done on the various aspects of a “typical” project for your office.

Graphic software programs

I thought that I would start by listing some of the software that I use. Later I will be commenting on each of these, offering my opinions and tips I have discovered along the way. Here are most of the graphic programs I use:

  • AutoCAD
  • Revit Architecture
  • Autodesk 3D Studio Max
  • Sketchup
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Adobe Photoshop CE
  • Arris
  • Corel Painter
  • Irfanview
  • Piransei
  • Bricscad

There are others, but these are the main ones.