AutoCAD Architecture 2009

This review looks at the many enhancements in the new release of AutoCAD Architecture, the AutoCAD-based design and documentation software for architects, including the updated user interface, sophisticated navigation modes, streamlined workflows, and significant AEC object improvements related to walls, spaces, and multiline attributes.


18 thoughts on “AutoCAD Architecture 2009

  1. You say that Autodesk Architecture is not a “True BIM.” Is there such an animal available now?

  2. AutoCAD Architecture even at 2007 provides the best environment for a BIM delivery than any other product including other Autodesk products. The only real delivered BIM in current use is the Terminal 5 project. I think that Autodesk should get out more and try to understand what a BIM is, what is required and how it can be delivered.

  3. Ultimately I believe AutoCAD Architecture 2009 (much like this release of AutoCAD) is a work in progress. The Ribbon which you thought Autodesk dropped the ball on (in terms of AEC content) is actually currently being worked on as you speculated, the ACA team simply didn’t have the time to develop it before the release cycle hit due to the long development time it took during the AutoCAD team’s development of the feature.

    In the end this is a good product, at least in the ADT/ACA line, but since it does sit on AutoCAD which has been totally redesigned in the interface it’s going to need some tweaks to be a memorable (in a positive fashion) release…. 2010 should be better.

  4. You refered to the “tired-looking status buttons” in your reivew and I feel the need to point out some business issues that reviewers and corporate software vendors fail to recognize. Cosmetic upgrades do not equal upgrades. Signifigant changes to the cosmetic appearance of standard tools only serves to cost end users time hunting down old features and ultimately cost companies money.

    The new Microsoft Office is receiving very loud compaints from end users because of the latest cosmetic movement and graphical changes to standard tools. The CAD market is no different, there are not as many of us to make the same noise.

    It will help all of us end users if reviewers like yourself will help us notify the software companies that retraining costs are better spent learning about new features and less should be spent re-finding old tools.

  5. Scott Onstott asserts that AutoCAD Architecture “doesn’t offer the full benefits of a true BIM system” but fails to back up that assertion other than to say that “it’s never really going to get there because it has CAD at its core” and “comparing [AA to Revit] is like comparing apples to oranges.” I think these are specious arguments, because the unspoken assertion here is “BIM is a product, and that product is Revit”.

    BIM is a complex reworking of the construction business model that at its technological root requires (believe it or not) only 3 things:

    -Model-based drawings that involve change management (change the model in one place, and the change cascades through all drawings (i.e. all views of the model);

    -Models composed of information-rich objects that have semantic properties (i.e., a “door” can represent itself as such in a variety of contexts);

    -“Machine-readability” or the ability to exchange meaningful information about the building with a other software in an open, standardized format (aka interoperabilty);

    Some products that can do this include (in alphabetical order) Allplan, ArchiCad, AutoCAD Architecture, Microstation, Onuma Planning System, Revit, Scia Engineer, Tekla, and VectorWorks Architect. And a bunch of others that don’t come to mind right now.

    If someone says something isn’t “true” BIM and can’t define succinctly what “true” BIM means, it usually means they have a hidden agenda.

  6. I agree completely with Jeff’s point about UI changes and his example of MS Office is just perfect.

    Regarding Robert’s comments — your summarization on what defines BIM is interesting, but that too is open to debate. And from what I can tell, this review was focused on AutoCAD Architecture rather than arguing about “true BIM”. Also, the comment about a “hidden agenda” seems unfair —  I thought this was a balanced and informative review. I have read reviews of most of the products mentioned in your post right here on AECbytes.

  7. Richard, I agree that the content of the review was informative, but the “Cons” listing said, “[T]his enhanced AutoCAD vertical doesn’t offer the full benefits of a true BIM system”. And then didn’t support that by explicitly saying what “true BIM” is and demonstrating how AA does or doesn’t meet those requirements. I admit there may or may not be a hidden agenda, but there are definitely unspoken assumptions or inferences in such a statement. Look at Chuck G’s initial response to this article.

  8. Part of the confusion in a “true BIM” system is that Autodesk and others consider it a method of drafting and not a method of putting information into a drawing then having a means to get that information out. In the best method, one does not only get the properties out but they have a method of comparing that information from extraction to extraction.

    True BIM is a methodology that enables the user to put in as much information as they see necessary or reasonable, then pulling that information out and applying it to a costing database or quantity comparision. Architecture Integrated has developed a methology that works great with 2008 and will be ported to 2009 that will do just this.

  9. Robert, from what I can tell, Chuck G implies that there are no “true BIM” solutions available yet, while according to you, all the products you have mentioned (all well as a bunch of others) are all BIM solutions. And Kevin has just come forward with a different take on it. It certainly shows that “true BIM” is quite a controversial and debatable topic!

  10. I have to agree with others that there is no backup to the reason why ACA 2009 is not a “true BIM solution”. In my opinion, there is no application in itself that could be called true BIM as it is much more complex than that.

    At a previous company I would say that we were close to true BIM and used a mix of tools like AutoCAD (yes even 2D P&ID, etc. is a part of BIM or in our case, maybe it should be called PIM, with P as in Plant), AutoCAD Architecture, 3rd party applications for AutoCAD, PDMS, NavisWorks, and engineering database applications to tie things together and communicate object data to purchase systems, etc.

  11. This is certainly a very interesting discussion and I would like to thank you all for contributing to it. Here’s what I think:

    – BIM is more about a process than a product. That is why some firms have been able to achieve it even without the use of what we commonly refer to as “BIM” solutions. A great example of this is Neil Katz’s work with AutoCAD at SOM which he described in his Viewpoint article last year: see

    – At the same time, solutions that have been built from the ground up with the BIM concept definitely have the advantage of making it easier to do BIM than solutions which do not. This is an important aspect to consider for firms who have been doing 2D CAD all this time and are now looking to move to BIM.

    – BIM is still a work in progress, and I foresee that it will continue to be for quite a while, simply because there is still much we can do to make our tools smarter, faster, and more efficient. This is true for all the solutions, including Revit, ArchiCAD, and others.

  12. I certainly agree with Lachmi, and a lot of the other comments. BIM is certainly a work in progress and there is a lot of confusion still out there even among the experts about what is “true BIM”. The National BIM Standard focuses on the Information (or noun) aspect of the BIM as a common model from which we can all share information. Whether you are doing BIM, VDC, IPD, Lean, Green, Sustainability, LCC, Cost Engineering, or any number of other activities (no matter from which vendor) all can benefit from a common model, so that everyone is using the same information base from which to make decisions and can benefit from those preceding them in the business processes of producing a facility. We need to focus on what we are trying to achieve and use an open standard to achieve interoperability (Industry Foundation Class (ifc)) because that will truly provide us all the tools we need to ultimately achieve “true BIM” as we move forward along this journey. No hidden agenda here – Please join us at the buildingSMART alliance to help make it happen! We need the best minds in the business working toward a common vision.

  13. Further to earlier comments, I have to agree that BIM is more about procedure and process than IT. Some would define BIM as Buisness Information Modelling and this may be a comment to reflect on. To apply a ‘true’ BIM will need a total rethink on the way in which our industry does business. It will require a fully collaborative way of thinking, contractual changes brought about by new roles and responsibilities, and inevitably a change to the standard fee structures. Additionally we will have to move away from the designer/CAD operator/drawing environment and think more about data and project management in a fully integrated and interoperable environment. This requres education and not just tools training on specific products.

  14. To BIM or not to BIM, true BIM and what? false BIM? Non-true BIM? Almost BIM? BIM, bam boom…

    I agree with many points made here and in the original article. However, I agree most with Lachmi’s point about BIM’s being a process rather than a product. After all, Mervyn’s firm was doing BIM with R14 and a variety of other supplemental applications years ago. So it is not so much if AutoCAD Architecture is BIM or not but rather if the folks using it aspire to BIM and are comfortable implementing BIM with an “AutoCAD based tool.” Revit is often referred to as being “purpose-built” for BIM. This is true. Revit is designed with BIM in mind but more importantly, much of what BIM requires (like the items Robert points out) is built into Revit and much of its content out-of-the box. However, despite this, one could still quite easily use Revit in a “non-BIM” way. Just because it is “purpose-built” does not mean that one is required to use it for its intended purpose. Knowledge of what it takes to achieve BIM comes first followed by the intent to achieve it. Both are required.

    This brings us back to AutoCAD and AutoCAD Architecture. While neither product is “purpose-built” for BIM, nothing prevents them from being utilized to facilitate a BIM process. However, as Richard pointed out, the definition of BIM is often a “controversial and debatable topic” and as Lachmi pointed out, it is still a “work in progress.” This is precisely the value of AutoCAD Architecture. Whether or not it is or should be a BIM product is really beside the point. While folks like me have very strong opinions on the “correct” way to use AutoCAD Architecture, the fact is that one of its biggest strengths is that it can be easily adapted to way that you and your firm prefer to work. This is largely inherited from its AutoCAD core. In fact, I have often joked in my classes that both the best and worst feature of ADT/ACA was that it was built on AutoCAD (as Scott pointed out in his review); I offered the observation more as an anecdote. I think that for most users, the value of the AutoCAD platform within AutoCAD Architecture cannot be overstated.

    Anyhow, ruminations aside, I think if we look to the meat of Mr. OnStott’s review, we will find a very clear and concise outline of the many new features found in AutoCAD Architecture 2009. When so focused, there is much to be excited about. I think that the most valuable benefit of AutoCAD Architecture continues to be its ability to allow a firm to evolve its process beyond the creation of several disconnected and static drawings created primarily from primitive geometry to a process of more interconnected parts built from purpose-built AEC objects. With this in mind, the fact that this release focuses so heavily on making staple objects like Walls function the way that users expect is a huge boon for productivity.

    AutoCAD Architecture is about choice. Choose to work as you always have using mostly AutoCAD methods and tools; choose to implement AEC objects to enhance drawing quality, accuracy and speed; or choose to use the product like BIM. In any case, the advantages over ordinary AutoCAD are tangible and worthwhile.

  15. Almost everyone has a argument. But only a few have the good arguments. As mentioned, BIM is a process. BIM will be a process change for most of the AEC world. A change that no one can argue won’t take place but can only predict when it will take place. Once anyone looks deep at some of the changes that have taken place (GSA’s requirement for a BIM deliverable), (Push for Leed certified buildings), (Sustainable Design) — all of these indicate this process change is taking place today.

    Now as far as the “True BIM” argument goes — the software is only a tool. The design process change along with the correct tools will get you to a BIM deliverable. So the argument is, which is the best tool? Here, of course, there is going to be much debate. So for simplicity I will give you the ones I am familar with.

    Revit, by far, is the best purpose built BIM application. It allows one to have the most control over the information put into the model and the most information to be extracted from the model. It is the only one of the three that I list here that give you full bi-directional (Parametric) relationship out of the box leaving less room for error. And now that Autodesk has opened up the programing interface for this program, it will not be long before 3rd party companies develop even better tools to work with Revit. After reaching over 250k users in 2007 (much more now), it is the fastest adopted BIM tool on the market.

    AutoCAD Arch (AA) was not a purpose build BIM application. Who knows if it will ever get there. There is limited bi-directional relationships and is mostly uni-directional which mean the user has to update portions of the model manually. This allows two much room for error. With over 500k users in the US alone, a small amount of the users use AA the way it was meant to be used. This program is very hard to learn inside out ,therefore most users never utilize its power.

    ArchiCAD claims to be a BIM application as well. Unfortunately this is as true as saying AutoCAD Arch is a BIM application. They have the same technology used in both programs. Technology that is now 25 years old. You have limited bi-directional relationships in ArchiCAD and more uni-relational. Once again, too much room for error. Now with that being said, ArchiCAD is a much easier program to learn than AA and many of the users see the power behind it faster than they do AA. However, ArchiCAD has only a fraction of the users that AA or Revit have in the US I would stick with Revit or AA if you plan on going to these technologies.

    One more thing to mention. Neil C. Katz of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP talks about AutoCAD and BIM in his article. The problem there — in order to do the type of work he is doing with AutoCAD you need to have custom lisp routines and 3rd party programs to do what he describes. Not many firms have the knowledge, time, or money to customize AutoCAD to that extent. So AutoCAD will not cut it when it comes down to it for BIM. Not only that, he did not mention that his firm was one of the first to quickly adopt Revit and designed the Freedom Tower in NY city using Revit Technology. ArchiCAD was also used on this project and was dumped during the design phase with too many problems.

    Hope this helps.

  16. Chris, Just curious but at the end of your post you state, in regard to Neil Katz, “The problem there – in order to do the type of work he is doing with AutoCAD you need to have custom lisp routines and 3rd party programs to do what he describes.” And because of this AutoCAD will not cut it when it comes down to it for BIM.

    But in the same post you stated “Revit, by far, is the best purpose built BIM application.” Then went on to state “And now that Autodesk has opened up the programing interface for this program, it will not be long before 3rd party companies develop even better tools to work with Revit.”

    Ummmm, does this not then place Revit in the same position you described for AutoCAD and 3rd party development if it too is having to open up its API for 3rd party development to further enhance its BIM capacity? Sounds a bit contradictory to me.

    In short, it is just additional proof that no single platform, in their currently available state, is a true BIM solution. If Revit is indeed “by far, the best purpose built BIM application” then why are the greatest majority of its sales as the AutoCAD / Revit bundle? Surely, the best BIM application would not have to rely or depend on such an archaic tool as AutoCAD just to complete 2D construction documentation?

    Technically speaking, this pairing of Revit and AutoCAD then virtually makes Revit just like AutoCAD Architecture (ACA), except you don’t have to dumb down intelligent objects in ACA to get your construction documents as you do when taking a Revit file to a DWG file.

  17. BIM is of course still evolving, as many have pointed out, but we feel that a clear definition of the terms involved is possible. In our “BIM Handbook” (John Wiley and Sons), we define them as follows:

    Building Information Modeling (BIM)

    We use BIM as a verb or an adjective phrase to describe tools, processes and technologies that are facilitated by digital, machine – readable documentation about a building, its performance, its planning, its construction and later its operation. Therefore BIM describes an activity, not an object. To describe the result of the modeling activity, we use the term ‘building information model’, or more simply ‘building model’.

    Building Model

    A digital, machine – readable record of a building, its performance, its planning, its construction and later its operation. A Revit® model or a Digital Project(tm) model of a building are examples of building models. ‘Building model’ can be considered the next-generation replacement for ‘construction drawings’, or ‘architectural drawings’. Downstream in the process, the term ‘fabrication model’ is already in common use as a replacement for ‘shop drawings’.

    Building Data Model

    An object schema suitable for representing a building. A building data model may be used to represent schemas for file exchange, for XML – based web exchange, or to define a database schema for a repository. The main examples of building data models are IFC and CIS/2.

    Some of the earlier contributors to this thread discussed certain conditions that should apply in order to qualify a software application as a BIM tool. We prefer to define the qualities of the tools and their ability to support BIM in terms of their parametric modeling and object-oriented functionality. The three conditions that Robert Anderson cites are certainly valid, but there are others, such as support for parametric behavior and team collaboration (see chapter 1, section 1.4 of the BIM Handbook for a detailed discussion and definitions).

    It is perhaps easier to define what is not BIM technology, which we do in section 1.5. Among the caveats listed, are these two, which are perhaps problematic for AutoCAD Architecture:

    – Models that are composed of multiple 2D CAD reference files that must be combined to define the building. It is impossible to ensure that the resulting 3D model will be feasible, consistent, countable, and display intelligence with respect to the objects contained within it.

    – Models with no support for behavior.

    Rafael Sacks, Chuck Eastman, Paul Teicholz and Kathleen Liston

  18. No one can come to a decision easily without using both versions that “AutoCAD Architecture 2007” or “AutoCAD Architecture 2009” provides the best environment for BIM. A few like older versions, as they are very much familiar with them, while many give preference to new versions.

    I personally feel that often in certain cases (not for AutoCAD), older versions provide better facilities or solutions for the problems.

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