AutoCAD vs. AutoCAD Architecture | Know the Difference

By Microsol Resources | CAD

In a previous post, we talked about the differences between AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT. Depending on your needs, you may require more features within AutoCAD (ACAD) specific to architecture, design & documentation. AutoCAD Architecture (ACA), which is one of the vertical products available with AutoCAD Including Specialized Toolsets, has all of the same functionality as AutoCAD, plus the addition of tools designed for Architects to enhance the workflow of construction documentation. Since all AutoCAD functionality is available within AutoCAD Architecture, you get more in almost every way*.

*AutoCAD is available for MAC, whereas AutoCAD Architecture and all other products in the Specialized Toolset only have compatibility with Windows.

2D Drawing vs. 3D Modeling vs. BIM

AutoCAD is used to convey design intent, by utilizing Lines, Arcs, and Circles, to illustrate the design.  In AutoCAD Architecture, lines, arcs, and circles are complemented by intelligent walls, doors, and windows, known as AEC Objects. These intelligent objects give the designer the ability to manipulate building elements at a higher level, far beyond what Dynamic Blocks have traditionally offered.

NOTE: AEC Objects are not backwards compatible, and just because you can save back an AutoCAD DWG file from 2018 format to 2013 format, you cannot save back AutoCAD Architecture components.

These AEC Objects have hints of Building Information Modeling (BIM) which has become the standard for larger government and institutional projects. Autodesk Revit is a BIM authoring software that uses a standardized hierarchy of objects (Category, Family, Type, Instance) allowing the designer to build a 3D model at a higher level. Some may consider a project created in AutoCAD Architecture to be BIM, but this requires strict drafting and CAD Management standards to ensure. Even if it is not BIM, there are productivity studies indicating that AutoCAD Architecture can save up to 60% of the time vs. regular AutoCAD, which is a significant value proposition. Take a look at the potential time savings for all AutoCAD verticals, including 85% productivity gain with AutoCAD MEP, and 95% gain with AutoCAD Electrical!

Higher-Level Design

It can be a difficult task for drafters to ensure that a change to an element in plan view (like a door or a window), is updated across all relevant sections and elevations. In AutoCAD Architecture, elements such as walls, doors, and windows mimic real-world behavior and construction. So, you can insert doors or windows into your wall, and when you change the location or Style of object, you may update this same object in other drawings where it is shown. You can also modify all objects of that Style, meaning if you insert a certain style of window 50 times into several different walls, but want to update the style, you can modify it once and it updates every object; a huge time-saver!

Advantage of 3D Models

Wouldn’t it be nice if sections and elevations were easier to create directly from your floor plans? Just like individual elements, when you change a major element like a wall or floor in plan view it automatically updates element locations, as well as material hatching, layer, and line type properties in all other views.

A 3D model, populated with intelligent objects, offers the ability to easily extract sections, elevations, views, schedules, etc. The extraction is an inherent quality of creating a 3D digital model, vs. the traditional drafting / CAD workflow of producing separate 2D projections of each view.

Productivity Tools

The Default Workspace for AutoCAD Architecture contains all of the controls, commands, and palettes that are enhanced for Architecture so you can hit the ground running. With the Layer Properties Manager, there is less cumbersome management of Layers in AutoCAD Architecture, even across multiple DWGs.  Details and annotations are also easier with ACA, because it offers a larger library of detail components and keynoting tools.

Placing and populating room tags, finding room areas, or making schedules can be a time-consuming task. With AutoCAD Architecture and Spaces, you can make room tags and areas automatic so they update with changes upon REGEN. You can also make the elements in your design link to schedules, so they automatically reflect design changes, leveraging the power of data that is in the drawing.

As you may have read in our previous blog posts, there are many benefits added to your software when you sign up for an Autodesk Subscription such as getting access to the latest software releases, technical support, and flexible licensing. Now with a subscription you also gain access to Autodesk 360, allowing for file sharing, viewing, 25 GB of storage space. Additionally, there are visualization services through Autodesk Cloud Rendering which is available for both AutoCAD and AutoCAD Architecture.

Note: Autodesk Cloud Rendering requires the purchase of Cloud Credits, but don’t worry, with access you get 100 free credits to try it out!

As with all software, with more capabilities comes more complexity, and some things are harder to figure out if you are not as experienced with using the software. One example of this: since AutoCAD Architecture is style-based, getting objects to appear on screen and plot as you would expect is not as easy, so that’s where the Display Manager, Display Representations, and the Style Manager come in. If you use AutoCAD Architecture as it is designed, it is a much different workflow, but once you become adept at using all of its tools and functions it is well worth the investment.

Also, don’t forget – ACA could save you 60% of your time compared to regular ACAD!! 🤯

Customers of Microsol Resources enjoy the added benefit of free Technical Support for all AutoCAD verticals, in addition to many other CAD programs.

If you would like to purchase seats of AutoCAD, AutoCAD including Specialized Toolsets, or any other Autodesk software, feel free to visit our eStore or send an email to Microsol Resources Sales Team.

INDUSTRIES: Architecture, Buildings

Published on January 13, 2021 in CAD.

About the Author

Microsol Resources delivers integrated solutions that help customers design, simulate and analyze their ideas, increase operational efficiencies, and maximize their return on investment in their technology solutions. As a team, we are passionate about helping customers improve their productivity and overall business processes. How can we help? Just reach out.