Do Architects Still Use Pencils?


I remember when I registered for my first architecture classes in 2001 and there was a huge list of materials and supplied needed for the course. Supplies included a variety of mechanical pencils, pens, stencils, erasers, rulers, and more.

Luck would have it, you could find all of these supplies at your local art store, but it wasn’t cheap. One requirement in particular I remember was to purchase four different types of pencils, each being a different thickness. Why would I need four different thicknesses of pencils? After the first few weeks of classes I quickly realized drawing, or ‘drafting’ in architect’s terminology, was an art form.

It took a lot of time, patience and a steady hand; imagine the difficulty after drinking too much coffee. For those who don’t know, architects draw different line weights to distinguish different elements in their drawings. Contractors and consultants reading these drawings, or construction documents, need to be able to visually see the difference between walls and doors or cabinetry and windows.

If every line weight were the same, the drawing would become illegible and very difficult to read. Before computers were invented, architects always used pencils or pens to draw different line weights to create their drawings. I must admit, it was a great learning experience to draft with my own hands, but this method quickly changed throughout my architectural career. When I transferred into a four-year school, I never used pencils to draft again. 

Ever since the invention of a computer program called AutoCAD, there has been an enormous shift in the architecture industry for producing drawings & construction documents. AutoCAD is a CAD (Computer Aided Design or Computer Aided Drafting) software application for 2D and 3D design and drafting. What does that mean? It means that we can use AutoCAD to create architectural drawings and construction documents on the computer, exactly how we used to create them on the drawing board.

Some old timers may not agree with me, but I feel CAD has helped architects save time and allow architects to become more efficient. We are able to draw faster, quickly change line weights, and stack multiple drawings on top of each other. This enables us to be more efficient and make sure walls, voids, staircases, etc. are lining up properly. 

CAD has been around for some time and is used by most architecture firms, but what can we expect in the next few years for software development? There are a few programs out there that are already being used by architecture firms. One program that really stands out is called Revit.  Revit is a building information modeling software for architects, engineers, and contractors.

It allows users to design a building and its components in 3D, annotate the model with 2D drafting elements, and access building information from a building models database. This means that we can design your building in 3D, specify exactly how it will be built down to the stud size and Revit will create the construction documents and/or drawings for you. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Create the 3D model and your practically done.

So, do architects still use pencils? I’m sure you could find a few of them that refuse to use the computer, but for the most part, it’s all done on the computer now.

To be honest, I have a few lying around my desk for sketching and taking notes, but that’s about it.  

Pinnacle Architecture, Inc. 541-388-9897


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