What is AutoCAD for Architecture?

By Anna Liza Montenegro | CAD

AutoCAD is a valuable tool for architects, engineers, interior designers, and other industry professionals. With its 35th official version being underway, we can undoubtedly say that it has persisted as the number one design software in the AEC industries. What’s more, architects today can reap the benefits of the incredible AutoCAD for architecture, which allows them to create 2D and 3D models with technical precision quickly.


To learn more about AutoCAD, as well as its use in architectural design and drawing, keep reading this article.

What is AutoCAD?

In short, AutoCAD is a popular computer-aided design software by Autodesk. It has been around since the early eighties, but it has not failed to keep up with the technological advancements. In addition, it has many different versions and expansions and supports several APIs for customization.


AutoCAD has plenty of useful features that can help AEC industry professionals improve their workflow. It allows you to easily draft, draw, and annotate floor plans, piping, electrical grids, etc. The model automatically adapts to every new change. Also, AutoCAD can even calculate and estimate the costs.


Aside from the standard version, Autodesk offers a light version as well — AutoCAD LT. Although it has reduced capabilities, such as the lack of 3D modeling and API customization, it is significantly cheaper than the full version. Furthermore, there exists a mobile and web version that allows its users to design on the go. You can also use it regardless if you have a Mac or Windows operating system.


At the moment, the pricing of the full version of AutoCAD starts at $210 a month, while AutoCAD LT costs $55 a month. However, if you opt for a 1-year or 3-year plan, the price will be significantly lower.


AutoCAD Toolsets, Expansions, and Related Products

Here are some of AutoCAD’s expansions:

  •     AutoCAD Architecture. ACA is intended for easy drawing and keynoting of buildings and structures.
  •     AutoCAD Mechanical. AutoCAD Mech is a toolset that engineers can use to create mechanical designs for manufacturing.
  •     AutoCAD Electrical. This toolset helps designers plan the control system of the building.
  •     AutoCAD Map 3D. We use this toolset for geographic information systems.
  •     AutoCAD MEP. This extension covers mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP).
  •     AutoCAD Plant 3D. Plant 3D can assist in the 3D modeling of plants.


Other similar Autodesk programs include:

  •     Civil 3D. This is Autodesk’s BIM software for a professional civil engineer.
  •     Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection. The AEC Collection combines BIM and CAD to provide you with a powerful tool that can help you manage the whole construction process, start to finish.
  •     Revit. Revit is primarily a BIM design software that you can use to create an accurate live 3D model of the project and coordinate your plans.



The conception of a program like AutoCAD began way back in 1977, but it wasn’t until 1982 that Autodesk released it under its official name at the COMDEX trade show. Surprisingly enough, that was even before the occurrence of Microsoft Windows.


AutoCAD was revolutionary, significantly improving the design process in the AEC industries. Before AutoCAD, architects and engineers had to either use a separate graphics terminal, which was hard to do or draw and calculate everything by hand. Unlike the traditional drawing methods, which were tedious, time-consuming, and error-prone, AutoCAD was incredibly efficient. It not only simplified the design process but also sped it up by taking over some of the mundane tasks.


Since its release in 1982, the CAD software has seen many updates and improvements. It instantly became popular worldwide, and that has not changed to this day. AEC professionals swear by it, as well as universities and other educational institutions.


Nowadays, aside from having multiple industry-specific expansions, AutoCAD is available in 14 different languages. In addition, by consulting a tutorial or a support forum, anyone can learn to use AutoCAD or get advice if they run into an issue.


What is Architecture Drawing?

An architectural drawing is a graphic representation of a building, house, or any kind of structure. Making sure to keep within the right scale and proportion, architects use lines and symbols to create sketches, drawings, and diagrams, convey their ideas, and make them come to life.


Aside from helping us visualize structures before they’re built, architectural drawings facilitate communication between sectors — engineers and construction workers, for instance. These drawings provide a valuable database that all parties can consult for accurate measures and, therefore, construction. 


While they had to use drawing boards and T-squares before, architects today don’t have to do nearly as much manual labor, thanks to the advent of computer-aided design software like Sketchup or AutoCAD for architecture.


Types of Architectural Drawings

The main classification of architectural drawings is based upon their purpose, and it includes:

  •     Presentation drawings. This type of drawing depicts how the building will look in the end in order to promote it.
  •     Survey drawings. These drawings exhibit the exact measurements of existing lands and structures.
  •     Working drawings. Working drawings represent a set of drawings in construction. They can be location, assembly, and component drawings.
  •     Record drawings. These are drawings of historical buildings and structures that we can use to understand them and perhaps emulate them later.


In addition, they can also be sorted by their views:

  •     Site plans. A site plan is a drawing in which the architect depicts the building in its context. In other words, a site plan shows the building, as well as its surrounding structures and objects. That way, architects and others involved can have insight into the full scope of the work.
  •     Floor plans. A floor plan displays a single floor of a building, as shown from above. It displays the structure of that building level, i.e., walls, doors, windows, stairs, sometimes even furniture.
  •     Sections. Like the floor plan, which represents a horizontal section viewed from above, a section represents a vertical cut, viewed from the side.
  •     Elevations. In simple terms, an elevation is when only one side of the building is shown, typically the exterior facade. 
  •     Other. There are also architectural drawings of certain building elements and details.


Architectural Applications of AutoCAD

AutoCAD for architecture (ACA) is probably the most popular extension of AutoCAD. It offers a vast architectural toolset, as well as over 8,000 intelligent objects and styles to choose from. Unlike the standard version, ACA has the added functionality of 3D modeling. Therefore, instead of lines and circles, you can create a 3D design using realistic-looking objects that mimic real-life constructions. That will also allow for better visualization.


What’s more, AutoCAD Architecture automatically adapts the drawing to any changes you make. You can easily edit the drawing without the fear of messing up the project, as the drawing software will make sure all the updates have been integrated seamlessly.


Aside from all that, this architectural software has an excellent selection of annotation and keynoting tools. In addition, layer management has never been easier.


However, even though it uses the same .DWG file format, the intelligent objects featured in AutoCAD for architecture might not be available in other programs.


ACA has also been linked with building information modeling (BIM) many times. While it undoubtedly helps architects design 3D models more efficiently and on a higher level, ACA is not considered a BIM software. Autodesk has another product to serve that particular purpose — Revit. However, these two programs are interoperable and can be used together.



To sum up — AutoCAD is a powerful and versatile tool that many AEC professionals can’t live without today. Aside from the already impressive array of features, AutoCAD also offers numerous industry-specific extensions and toolsets that can help you customize it to your specific needs.


One such extension is AutoCAD for architecture, which allows for efficient drafting, drawing, and annotation of buildings. Unlike standard AutoCAD, ACA provides the option of 3D modeling. However, despite the common belief, it’s not BIM software. Still, according to Autodesk’s research, it can increase productivity by as much as 60%.


All in all, there’s no denying the enormous impact AutoCAD for architecture has had on the industry, arming us with never-before-seen accuracy and speed. 


If you want to find out the difference between the software products AutoCAD and AutoCAD Architecture, you can also read this blog article.


Learn More about AutoCAD



INDUSTRIES: Architecture, Buildings, MEP Engineering, Structural Engineering

Published on May 4, 2021 in CAD.

About the Author

Anna Liza Montenegro develops design technology conferences for architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals as a forum to exchange innovative strategies, and best practices, and facilitate discussions into the technology trends driving significant change in building design and construction. As Director of Marketing and as a trained architect, these events are offered to AEC professionals by Microsol Resources, a value-added reseller of Autodesk, Bluebeam, Rhino, Chaos V-Ray & Enscape, Egnyte and other various technology partnerships.