Page T1.1 . 19 July 2000                     
ArchitectureWeek - Tools Department



CAD for AEC Principals

by Susan Smith

Does computer-aided design provide significant business benefits to architecture, engineering, and construction companies? In many cases, the heads of these firms are skeptical, according to new studies. Is this a matter of perception, or are the software technologies really failing to measure up to vendors' claims for efficiency?

At the recent Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES 2000), technology experts Kristine Fallon, FAIA, and Kenneth Stowe, P.E., offered their opinions on the problems and the solutions.

What Principals are Saying

Fallon, principal of Kristine Fallon Associates in Chicago, conducted surveys in 1997 and again in 1999. She interviewed principals from a broad range of Chicago AEC firms (having between 10 and 400 employees) and discovered that these principals are not convinced that CAD is benefiting their companies.

Of course, it immediately makes us wonder why. Vendors continue to claim that their customers are making great strides, which the vendors attribute to the use of 3D CAD. Software tools, particularly ones that change the way we work, should improve processes and expedite time to market. Are they doing that?

Fallon compared her 1999 results to 1997 responses to the same questions from a similar cross section of firm principals and found that the conviction that CAD yields benefits has actually declined. What could be contributing to this? Perhaps between 1997 and 1999, users' expectations rose. They now expect more from the products they buy.



ArchWeek Photo

The Expectation. After a momentary drop in productivity while staff is learning how to use CAD, there is a continuous climb in productivity forever after.
Image: Kristine Fallon Associates

ArchWeek Photo

The Reality. The drop in productivity due to learning occurs not once but whenever a new software version is released. The learning curve never has a chance to reach promised heights.
Image: Kristine Fallon Associates


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