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New here...question about plan drawings

Posted by loribug26 (My Page) on
Thu, Dec 13, 12 at 15:14

I've lurked long enough... :)
I would like to know what graphic plan designer some of you use. Simple.
Plan 3D is one that I have on my home computer, but I'm not very good at it.

Thanks in advance!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

Loribug, there are a variety of CAD programs available. The Home Designer line from Chief Architect offers a lot of options for those seriously wanting to pursue a CAD program.

That said, I have to say that it's much more productive for a new home owner to put together a written list of criteria in two categories: 1) essential needs; 2) desirable wants and use these with an experienced architect who has a successful background with homes such as you may envision and desire.

There's at least one current thread on this topic on the forum at the moment.

From personal experience I can tell you that prospective home owners who walk into an architect's office with a developed floor plan, more often than not, waste their time/money and the architct's time, since there are so many other important influences and inputs for the successful design of a house that the owner has not considered in their CAD plan. The issue often is that owners simply don't know what they don't know.

But CAD programs are a lot of fun for those of us who are geeky and enjoy playing with them.

If you are serious about designing and building a new house, however, there's lots more productive (and less expensive) ways to spend you time.

Good luck on your project.

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

SmartDraw VP is the one I use. 7 day free trial so you can play with it before you commit to buy. I found it to be very easy to learn and use without reading the manual. Very pleased with the results and it has definitely paid for itself many times over before, during & after our build.

Hope this helps!

Here is a link that might be useful: Smart Draw VP Website

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

I have never found CAD to be a very useful tool for developing design ideas however it can be very useful for testing, documenting and presenting design ideas. A preliminary design drawing should have unsteady lines with many notes, arrows and question marks with single-minded concentration on the design.

Before sketching you might cut out some paper room sizes and move them around on graph paper. The important aspect of this early design phase is to be able to focus well enough to recognize design opportunities while juggling the multitude of program requirements and restrictions. For me starting a design with 3D CAD would be like texting while driving; the computer all but eliminates the wonderful discoveries that make designing fun for me and my clients although I guess that is not as painful as driving into a tree.

When I meet with my clients rather than showing them black & white computer plans I try to show them colorful sketches and 3D models that can be rotated on screen. For that I use Pilot Razor Point and Papermate Flair pens, a roll of tracing paper or a napkin, and Sketch-Up (free from Google). When I draw the contract documents I use a program that is worth more than my car and is thoroughly boring to use.

It is difficult to find examples of what I use for design because sketches get thrown out as the design progresses but a few have survived.

The local pizza house now uses tan napkins to thwart me:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A rough sketch for me not the client:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

One of several Sketch-up kitchen options for a client:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

The real, important challenge when doing 2-D plan studies is to be able to also visualize the interior space in 3-D (what will this space actually look like for a person(s) in it?), and, at the same time, be thinking about and visualizing how the exterior massing, form, proportions and architectural style will develop.

This simultaneous ability takes quite a bit of experience to achieve. Beginning and intermediate architecture students don't have it, and it often doesn't even occur to consumers as they search diligently in 2-D for the "perfect lifetime plan", moving kitchen islands here and laundry room cubbies there, trying to get every feature that they've seen on Home TV into their plan.

While it's fun to play with 2-D sketches and CAD programs, it's often far more useful to take one's criteria list and the list of measured furniture and closet space to an experiences architect and allow her/him to use their expertise to produce useful sketches for review, much as Reno has done.

If one's DNA is such that one simply must work on their own 2-D plans, then try to not become too fixated on them, such that the opportunity for creative ideas and years of architectural experience is lost. Architects are not "drafters", they are experienced and creative professionals who can research, synthesize and develop ideas and solutions that homeowners may never recognize before hand.

Good luck with your project.

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

Thank you for your responses!!
Renovator8, I love the sketches. They remind me of the ones I grew up with from my dad.
I'm just geeky enough and have enough of my dad in me I was just wanting something to play around with. I had forgotten about Google sketch up. I don't have any real drawing ability, but like working with stuff in 3D on the computer.
I'll have to check into that. :)

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

I also enjoyed looking at the sketches you posted R8.

As I look at the different architectural sites and read the posts re: architecture, I wonder if this is a talent like singing. No amount of education can teach you this if you don't have the innate spatial ability or the ability to see things in a certain way?

The best surgeon I know makes intricate architectural gingerbread houses during the holiday seasons. Each structure takes over 200 hrs. It seems his surgical skills go hand in hand with his artistic skills.

Just an OT thought.

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

I suspect it IS like singing-- most people can, with effort, learn the basics, but it's going to be easier for some than others and only a handful will ever be truly excellent (and those will be people who are both naturally gifted AND have put in lots of hard work).

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

When it comes to vocal music, some people are blessed with perfect pitch, but whether one is a vocalist or an architect (or any other profession), there's an unbelivable amount of disciplined learning, practice and experience that's required to develop any degree of expertise.

But if the bug bites you, it all seems like fun (most of the time)!

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

I wish there was some notification system here. I totally forgot about this thread!

I am a singer, but not one with perfect pitch. I don't have the disciplined learning. I have to learn a song, and sing it as learned. My mom, on the other hand, can adlib and sing whatever note you ask of her.

I totally understand the difference.

I love it when things go completely OT... lol :)

I'm still using the clunky 3D software I have. I've still not managed to get into Sketch Up, I just haven't had time to fool with it.

Anyway, good luck to all on their projects!

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

I too enjoyed the drawings by Renovator8. However, what differs most people from someone like R8 is that he has an exquisite sense of scale, something that doesn't come as natural to most, at least not without a lot of practice. For this reason alone I think a simple cad program or sketchup is both helpful and preferred for the tinkerer, but like the man said, starting by cutting out paper room sizes on graph paper is a good start.

Incidentally, which program is it that you use for construction documents, R8? I guess it being more expensive than your car either says a lot about the program or about your car. :)

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

Interesting to see this thread float back to the top!

Another thought or three about CAD:
--Every CAD program has a steep learning curve--so a lot of early time is devoted to understanding the user interface;
--When/as that curve is mastered, a consumer still doesn't know about building code requirements; doesn't know about minimal and desired shapes and spaces; probably doesn't understand stair design; etc--so many of the owner created spaces are often inadequate and/or unworkable;
--Finally, most consumers don't have a spatial sense and don't understand the spatial implications of linking one room to another room in various ways--so the interior spaces and the exterior massing of the design almost always suffer, or are rudimentary at best.

Reno's sketches (the old analog approach to design) have all of these issues inherently considered, as with the sketches and studies of all experienced and talented architects. Each of these sketches represents a strategy to address the various issues required for designing and building a house or other structure.

These seemingly freehand, random sketches are akin to the thumb-nail sketches that artists do in their sketch books, exploring design, composition and later, as the design progresses, studying options for values and color. Design is an iterative process and in archtiecture the process involves a number of simultaneously considered issues: site conditions, code requirements, life style, budget, climate and energy options, etc. The list of issues is usually extensive.

For an architect, those sketches represent thinking on many levels and synthesizing opportunities and constraints from all of those levels into what may look like a simple droodle (but is not).

This is one of the primary reasons most architects understand that owner-derived floor plans (working by themselves) may actually do more harm than good, setting pre-conceived but narrowly formed expectations.

Just some thoughts.

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

I like Home Designer. I did find that tinkering by myself did NOT yield great results -- our home designer (person, not software!) came up with a far better plan on paper within a few minutes than I did after weeks of messing around!

But I don't have great spatial awareness, or the ability to visualize things very well, so it helps me to "build" our plans in HD and see what they'll look like.

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

I've cut up more pieces of graph paper than you can imagine. I still love doing that. I'm working on kitchen cabinets like that right now.

I also scan things into the computer and cut & paste on the screen. :)

I just like to tinker with 3D to see what I can see...

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

About 10 years ago I decided to replace my kitchen cabinets. I spent 2 days using a T square and paper, like I did in wood shop. Then I decided to look into CAD. I found this cheap software called DeltaCad. I love it. No 3D. It works just the same as if you we're drawing on paper. Very small learning curve. The best thing is the ability to have layers.

When I'm done planing, I then move to Sketchup and build it. It is usually here that I find design flaws. Sketchup also helps the wife to visualize what I can see in my head. That's not always easy.

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

We started with HomeDesigner Suite thought they were pretty good then took them to our lumber supply place for a quote. He then entered them into a CAD program for us and has been doing the editing ever since! They are great!

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

LOL Mudflap :) I know how that works with trying to get others to see what's in your head. Luckily, my dad is pretty darn good at getting what I want out of mine.
DH has just told us that we are the builders, he'll just move in. He's a farmer/mechanic/metal fabricator, but when we start talking things made with wood, he totally ZONES out!
And I seriously love your user name. Please tell me there's a reason you chose that! :)

We have a local trades school that my dad taught building trades at for about 10 years.
They build a house every school year with the students learning on the job.

I'm to the point now, where I think I'll hit them up for some CAD drawings.
My framer doesn't do computers...old school, but I had at least parts of it done in Plan 3D on my computer and he thought it was pretty darn cool!

Jenny!!! Hadn't thought about the lumber co! I'm trying to stay out of that part, since my framer knows what he wants and doesn't want, but I might have him check into that too!

Since we're pretty much GC'ing it out ourselves I'm ready to pass copies around and see what everybody else thinks too. Dad's tired of erasing... lol :) (I really think I'm done moving things...after all the cut & pasting on paper & computer.

I'm just ready to see interior roof lines and wall spaces, etc. Most I can see in my head, but some little spots I'm not so sure.

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

"--Finally, most consumers don't have a spatial sense and don't understand the spatial implications of linking one room to another room in various ways--so the interior spaces and the exterior massing of the design almost always suffer, or are rudimentary at best."

Virgil--I have a question for you. Is that spatial sense something that can be learned? Or is it a "gift" for lack of a better word?


RE: New here...question about plan drawings


I'm not Virgil, but to give my take on it I think it can be learned. As with everything people are more or less talented on things, but for example architects spend a ton of time in school in so called studios where they design numerous solutions to a design problem and then discuss and reiterate. This type of learning enhances their spatial sense as well as numerous other design considerations. Your design and spatial sense will most likely be more advanced once you've done your tenth house as well.

RE: New here...question about plan drawings

red-lover wrote, " spatial sense something that can be learned...?"

Yes, of course it can. Few architects are born with it. It just takes 5-6 years for formal university education, several years of architectural practice and lots of visits to construction projects and finished projects to finally get to an intuitive sense about the length, width and height of spaces when one first starts to sketch them out on a napkin.

It's a bit more tricky to go from the spatial proportions of a single room to a spatial sequence of multiple spaces, say from the entry of a house to, ultimately, the living room, dining room and outside in the back.

But that's what architecture is largely about: spatial sequences and contrasts. There are lots of good examples of how this can work effectively, but a good one is the spatial sequences of Frank Lloyd Wright's houses.

Wright always created a sequence from the entry to the major living spaces in all of his houses. One never, ever simply walked into the living room. Entries might have had a low ceiling, and after a visitor traversed a turn or two of right angles with ceilings of varying heights, the visitor arrived at an "explosion" of space and light in the main living area.

If one want to begin to explore and understand the design of spatial sequences, study the work of Wright in his houses. It's very instructive.

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