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Architosh Staff ([email protected])
13 Feb 2001 [Correction: 15 Feb]


Reader Q: Any good Mac CAD programs for architecture?

Migration Questions: John F. Kennedy High School, Sacramento, California.

A reader wrote in to tell us of their troubles keeping Macs in their high school CAD department. In the process they wondered if there were any good Mac CAD programs for architecture and if architecture firms were really using Macs these days. Architosh hopes Mac readers can help keep this school Mac-based in its CAD program (see link below).

Here's the story:

My daughter is a senior at John F. Kennedy High in Sacramento (6715 Gloria Drive, Sacramento, CA 95831). Her Architectural Design teacher, Craig Yost, has an entire program built around older Macs using Generic CADD and is being forced to migrate to the Windoze platform (JFK has nearly $1 million in Digital High School Funds available). He has been told that he must move to Windows and use Autocad, but will not be given the funds to purchase Autocad. He has already spec'd out a new lab using iMac DVs, G4s, Laser Printers, plotters, and a G3/G4 server for much less than the Windows workstations will cost. He had planned to use VectorWorks which will cost him nearly 1/10 what Autocad. would cost to outfit 25 stations in the lab, but asked me to get information for him on other Architectural CAD programs which might help him make his case to the school administration.

The administration's reasoning? JFK administration has stated that everyone in the Business World, especially Architecture, uses Windows and Autocad., so he must, too. His reply is the same as mine. The philosophy of education is not to simply train someone to use a program, but to give these students the skills and thought processes necessary for them to use ANY programs which may be in use or developed in the future. Why train a mechanic to work on Model T's when new technology arrives daily in the auto industry. Teach students how to think and figure out how to use related technology and software.

We don't believe that we are clueless or misinformed? Please help us find Architectural Design companies who are involved in migration to the Mac platform or who have used it for some time now. We need PROOF to fight this narrow minded view. Architosh appears to be the group for which we have been searching.

Thank you for your assistance.

David Link


Help: Resources as you Requested

First off, many of you readers can help David by contacting him with your information, firm history and opinions on using Macs in architecture. Help David by contacting him at the link provided.

Market Share versus Market Perception

What? "everyone in the business world, especially Architecture, uses Windows and Autocad" ?? This is an ugly perception issue. And it is not true, especially the Autocad part. Here's the real story.

Market share for Macintosh is US architecture firms is somewhere between 15-33%. In 1999 an AIA online survey showed Macs in 33% of architecture firms. This was debated online at the AIA and we ran a story on it. A more accurate figure may be around 20% in US firms but based upon professional experiences here in Boston that figure could be 10% higher in major metropolitan areas with high Mac concentrations (New York, Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco, San Jose, Austin, and others) and it says nothing about actual seat count market share Here in Boston some of the largest and most profitable firms are Mac-based, like Earl R. Flansburg + Associates.

Mac architecture firms range in size from one person studios to worldwide-based multi-office practices doing millions of dollars in fee revenue each year. One such practice is Studios Architecture (which Apple did a feature on). And some of the most talented and brightest minds in architecture doing cutting-edge and award-winning work do that work on the Macintosh. Here are a few and they are listed in our AIWUG listing:

Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Rizzoli monograph, widely-published.

Koetter Kim & Associates, Rizzoli monograph, widely-published/exhibited

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Rizzoli monograph, widely-published

Zaha Hadid, Many monographs, widely-exhibited, (AppleMasters Program)


"...especially Architecture"?? Nothing could be further from the truth!

About Autocad

Though we don't have the most recent data, the 1999 Boston Society of Architects Firm Survey had Autocad use (as primary CAD) at just 53%. That's just over half the market. We believe (and need to confirm) that new firm data for 2000 in Boston may show lower market share for Autocad, possibly less than 50%.

Why is Autocad not so dominant anymore?

The answer is because it does not deserve its market share on the basis of performance versus cost and architects are waking up to that fact. Many architects see Autocad as the dinosaur of architectural CAD. In fact, one such competing vendor makes a straightforward reference to Autocad as a big clumsy dinosaur in its advertising (to be found in Architecture and Architectural Record magazine).

In the Boston (BSA) 1999 Firm Survey the CAD software used for primary CAD (many firms use more than one) were as follows: Autocad - 53%, DataCAD -15%, None -7%, ArchiCAD - 6%, VectorWorks (MiniCAD) - 6%, Microstation - 4% and all others including PowerCADD - 2% had less market share Granted, the firm survey only accounts for AIA firms who take the survey, and there are many non-AIA member architecture firms, design-build firms and architecture-engineering firms as well, this survey is a pretty good picture of Autocad's waning influence in architecture.

And there are some powerful new CADs on the block. Revit is just one of them with very deep marketing pockets and the program has already garnered praise in most of the industry's IT circles. Like Revit, BOA (by BOA Research) is also a parametric, model-based CAD program from the original Architrion programmers. Revit is currently for Windows only while BOA is currently for Macs only. Hopefully both will cross over soon. Both are pretty amazing and can do things no other CAD program can.

More on Autocad's Waning Influence

After DataCAD, the firm survey noted above cited both ArchiCAD and VectorWorks as the most popular programs used in architecture firms. Both have gained market share at the hands of Autocad in the last few years and a lot of it is due to their performances in the now famous CAD Shootouts in AEC Systems Expo (originally at BuildBoston).

Both VectorWorks and ArchiCAD are recent first place overall winners, [15 Feb:] with ArchiCAD being at the top, first and second, two years in a row. What do they both have in common? They are made by longtime Mac developers and are completely cross-platform today with very strong Mac support. Both are being Carbonized for Mac OS X as well.

And unlike Autocad which has finished last or next to last in the CAD Shootouts in recent times, both demonstrate that you can have powerful, cutting-edge architectural CAD software running on Macintosh computers.

Closing: The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: The John F. Kennedy High School's administration is very wrong, especially with the Autocad argument. Suggesting Autocad now simply reflects opinion five or more years back. Today the industry experts at Cadence, Architecture, or Architectural Record are writing about potential "Autocad killers" in the likes of ArchiCAD, VectorWorks and, especially recently, Revit.

It is suggested that this administration step back and take a serious look around at what is happening in the world of architectural CAD. And hopefully when they do they will see that the Mac OS (especially OS X) holds special promises in graphics and CAD that no other computer platform can match. And there is plenty of top choice software to choose from. (see our older lists)

Some Architosh References

Help David by contacting him


Apple G5: Smokes Intel Competition

Apple, Autodesk and Mac OS X

ProSwitcher: Joe Esch: SketchUp, Cocoa and Mac OS X

Bill Gates' House Designed on Macintosh?

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