A Few Things You Might Not Know About ADT

7 Jan, 2007 By: AIA ,H. Edward Goldberg

Two notable companies offer software, training that take Autodesk's Architectural Desktop to a whole new level.

Despite all the interest today in Autodesk Revit, Architectural Desktop (ADT), the application built on AutoCAD, is still Autodesk's best-selling software for architects. One reason is Architectural Desktop's open programming interface. Also, ADT styles allow more program flexibility than Revit can. I'm not condemning Revit -- I use and enjoy that program. Rather, I'd like to simply put forth that ADT is still one of the best building modeling and documentation choices for those architects who prefer an AutoCAD-based solution -- in particular when it comes to making subtle changes to designs.

Two companies contributing to ADT's longevity by pushing that software to its limits are Ameri-CAD and ARCHIdigm. ARCHIdigm is a consulting and training firm that produces tutorials and automated content for ADT users. Ameri-CAD, via its VisionREZ software, has radically customized ADT specifically for the residential market.

Ameri-CAD VisionREZ
As I have said many times before, VisionREZ by Ameri-CAD is, in my opinion, the finest implementation of Architectural Desktop available. This is a very serious and well-designed implementation of ADT that includes many features that Autodesk itself should have put into the program. The platform includes a suite of solutions that are specifically optimized for those areas that can often hinder overall performance, such as roof design, trim detailing, labeling, framing and bills of materials.

Roofs. Top among these features is the VisionREZ roof object. ADT's roof object leaves much to be desired, while the VisionREZ Roof object has planes that project to the wall below higher overhangs, independent rake and eave settings, and rake-to-eave transitions such as lambsleg and eyebrow returns, which allow it to easily create any roof variation you can imagine. This is not to say that the object is easy to learn, but once you have mastered its concepts (made easier by watching the free VisionREZ video tutorials), there appears to be no limit to the types of roofs you can create.

Windows and Doors. What about window trim? Here again, the program shines. Many ADT users dread creating window and door trim because it takes too much time. Vision REZ has automated the process, allowing you the option to place trim at any side of the window or door; automatically add or delete; break or miter; adjust the shape, width, depth, length or rotation angle; adjust the starting or ending point; and anchor trim to other trim. You can also easily create projected windows, including box, bay and bow windows; draw niches; create door/window combinations with nonrectangular shapes. Muntins auto-adjust as you change the window size, shape or style. And I really love the automated brick window sill and brick window arch features.

Roof Framing. The roof and floor framing systems are excellent. VisionREZ utilizes structural objects to draw floor joists, ceiling joists and rafters in 2D and review in 3D. Included in the program are valleys, ridges, subfacias, facias, soffits, purlins, decking layouts, x-bracing and splicing tools.

Walls. VisionREZ also includes a complete set of customized walls and content.

Bills of Materials. The VisionREZ BOM module allows you to extract a fully relational Microsoft Access database from the model. It has the ability to be quantified per client specifications, and generate Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that contain all raw data, and it can match building objects to database products.

Video and Online Tutorials. If all the features in the program weren't enough, VisionREZ offers free video and online tutorials. The online tutorials allow the user to interact with the programmers, asking questions while they view demonstrations of software features.

If you are designing houses, or if you are like me and realize the value of all the customizing that VisionREZ has done to enhance Architectural Desktop for commercial as well as residential projects, I think you will find this program a must. For $1,995, you get the plugin version that adds the VisionREZ features to your existing copy of Architectural Desktop 2005, 2006 or 2007 or Autodesk Building Systems. For $2,995, you get a stand-alone copy of VisionREZ that includes most of features of Architectural Desktop, excluding the curtain wall and AutoCAD 3D primitives such as cone. Both versions license you to use the program on one workstation plus one laptop at the same time. Request a free 30-day copy and review current pricing promotions by visiting the Ameri-CAD Web site.

ARCHIdigm (and Odin Carey)
In my book, Odin Carey, principal of ARCHIdigm, is the master of Architectural Desktop content. If you own Architectural Desktop and haven't visited the ARCHIdigm Web site, then you haven't really seen what Architectural Desktop can do. Carey, a magna cum laude graduate of U.C. Berkeley's architecture school, has a series of CDs available that teach how to create kitchens, bathrooms, fences and street objects, as well as assorted miscellaneous accessories.

The ARCHIdigm site also offers free tutorials on diverse subjects such as rendering in ADT and making pier blocks. I think I am pretty good with Architectural Desktop, but Carey is excellent. He manages to do things with ADT's curtain wall objects that I never imagined. He began teaching in 1989 at one of the first CAD training centers, the ACADemy, in Sausalito, California. It was across the street from the original Autodesk offices, and he saw many of the original employees. He later taught at San Francisco State University, where he eventually became program director. Carey has also taught independently and, as a subcontractor, for numerous Autodesk resellers. He "retired" from teaching last year. If you have a special need for content, I highly recommend that you contact Odin Carey. Take a look at his site and, while there, please make note of Carey's impressive graphic and presentation capabilities.

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