Exploring CAD

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Summit L & D, May 17, 2008.

  1. Summit L & D

    Summit L & D LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 269

    I am looking at getting into CAD for our landscape designs. Up until this point I have always done the designs by hand, and it has served us well. However, I feel that moving toward a CAD system might be a step toward greater efficiency and professionalism.

    So herein lies my question, what specific programs are you using? What is the learning curve like? And is this something that I should go take a college course on?

    I have seen some wizbang offerings that you import a picture into and go from there, but there is something that seems a little homeowner level about it. But it could just be the product I was looking at.

  2. mrbray101

    mrbray101 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 251

    Are the drawings to be used for construction documents or to show clients ideas and concepts.

    I think illustrative hand drawings are best for showing clients.

    If you are drawing for construction type drawings, CAD is good. You can make your own blocks or download them so you have plant symbols already made. There is a program called LandFX which goes along with CAD and is simple to use. It has a huge plant library with symbols. You can create plant schedules with one click, etc... Check that out too, you can also download a free trial of it.

    Ive taken a good bit of CAD classes and am going to school for Landscape Architecture. Let me know of any specific questions and I may be able to help. Its hard to know what to tell you since I dont really know what your intentions for the drawing are. Good luck.
  3. Summit L & D

    Summit L & D LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 269

    I'd like to be able to do both. To be able to walk a client through a design would be great, but where the rubber meets the road for us is being able to translate a design into finished product out in the field.

    Right now all I am doing for designs are top view. When it comes to side view and elevation (aside from slope lines) views, my talent takes a nose dive. So to be able to show a more finished look on paper would be a great thing.
  4. mrbray101

    mrbray101 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 251

    I only use CAD for plan view. I've always done section and elevation drawings by hand. Even quick sketches of elevation view can really help someone so see what the plan would look like. It is hard for people to envision what a plan will look like but a character sketch or elevation can really help.

    The easiest way (at least for me) to design something with CAD is to sketch out my drawing by hand, scan it into the computer, and then import it as a raster image and trace over it with CAD. This way you can straighten lines, perfect dimensions, and create a neater, cleaner drawing.

    I do not know much about any other programs, but Im sure some people on here use some design programs that you can select plants and show them in 3d view or elevation.

    Hope this helps a little. Like I said I don't know much about any other programs but if you need help with hand graphics or anything like that I could probably send you some reference stuff.
  5. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    I have done roughly 15,000 hours of autocad drafting site plans. I'm further along the learning curve than many, so I would not use anything at this point.

    That said, if I had not been this far along, I would definitely cosider Dynascape because it has built in some drafting techniques, particularly lineweights (thickness) that add a lot to the appearance of the drawing. That will help you have good looking plans long before you develop your own ability and sense of how, when, and where to change lineweights. You can concentrate on laying out the design instead of multiple cad commands. I have seen their demo disk and have seen their people doing demonstrations at trade shows and I thought it looked like they designed their program from the perspective of a landscape designer rather than having a program and then looking to see who they could sell it to.

    I know that ProLandscape seems to be very popular with landscape contractors. I know that early on it was for the photoimaging. I'm not sure that the photoimaging is still the attraction, or if the cad application is really good. I saw it several years ago and the cad portion did not get me too excited. It may be much improved now.

    Another thing that contractors get excited about is when the software people try to upsell quantity take off add on programs. I honestly think they are over rated. Almost any cad program will give you areas of closed lines at a click.
    Counting plants and checking them off with a red pen is pretty easy and gives you the chance to notice drafting errors as you closely look at the plant symbols. When programs automatically count things, they can not distinguish between a plant symbol that you accidentally dropped on top of another or moved out of view, so there is a great likelihood of counting errors.

    The thing is that no matter what you use, you have to input the information. The programs designed to be user friendly prompt you for input where something like autocad does not. The reason that long time cad people like autocad is that we no longer need the prompts and we more or less tell it what we want to do much quicker without going through the questions and answers. A new user will not be able to do that efficiently.

    Another reason to use autocad is if you exchange files with surveyors and engineers because they use it. Plenty of programs can convert to acad format, but often there are problems.

    I use Autocad Lt 2008 (~$850) at my own landscape architecture office and use the full Autocad Land Desktop at the enginering office that I work in full time. I don't feel like I'm missing anything I need using Acad Lt when doing landscape plans from site plans done with the full deal. Acad Lt does not allow you as much options in dealing with importing images to trace over. The only thing that I have not figured out is how to rotate an image in Lt which is handy if you want to show a drawing over an aerial photo and don't want to rotate your drawing - not a big deal.
  6. EagleLandscape

    EagleLandscape LawnSite Platinum Member
    Male, from Garland, Texas
    Messages: 4,350

    AutoCad 2005
  7. Summit L & D

    Summit L & D LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 269

    Is AutoCad the type of program that I can sit down and teach myself how to use without having to take an intensive class?
  8. mrbray101

    mrbray101 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 251

    I think you could watch a lot of tutorials starting basic and getting more advanced and learn the main points of CAD. Some things just take time and trial and error.

    There are some things that just take some time and trial and error to learn though. Lineweights, using blocks, plotting, etc... are all things that take some time to learn, at least for me.

    Like AGLA said, I would check out Dynascape. I got some great advice from him and while back and everything he says is right on the money. I haven't used that program before but it may not have as rough of a quality as CAD. It took a lot of time to produce something in CAD that didn't look like boring engineer type drawings. Even then, CAD is a little too flat looking for me for anything other than construction drawings.
  9. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    Josiah, an education in CAD, would be a huge help in working with any CAD based landscape software. Any of the CAD based design programs can be learned on your own or with the companies education seminars, but to master the programs and go beyond what is the normal, a CAD education can make your life easier.

    As AGLA has stated, Dynascape & Pro Landscape are the two most popular, most feature filled and best supported landscape design programs available. Dynascape seems to be a bit more intense in it's plan mode, but lacks the imaging and 3D flyover features that are part of Pro Landscape. The plan mode in Pro Landscape is quite adequate for high end residential and commercial work. The addition of imaging allows you to let your clients see your designs and get a better understanding of what your vision is. It has become almost mandatory with high end residential clients, but imaging should not be used to design with. Imaging is only a representation of your well planned design.

    You will also find folks using straight CAD programs, like Autocad, and importing or creating all their own symbols and libraries. It works out to be what you are familiar with and your intended use of the software. There is also a free program out there called Google Sketchup, and it is very popular with hardscapers. It seems to be relatively easy to use and gives the client an image of the project you are intending. It is not photo-realistic like Pro Landscape, but is is free.

    If your intention is design/build, determine the amount of time you wish to spend designing. Design is an art form in itself and any software you use will only be a digital pencil and selling tool. Another thing I consider about design work, especially hand work, is it's beauty and art, but the real art is in the installation and successful project management. The function of design is to inform and sell your work and create an installable and sustainable plan.

  10. N.H.BOY

    N.H.BOY LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,603

    Just got done with my spring semester in Autocad 3D:clapping: at a local tech school ( Im 38 ) so I went to night school. I found out the 3D cad is awesome...you can show the sun shine at anytime of day and rotate the project to show where the sun will be at a certain time of day. 3D is the way to go, but I highly suggest you take a class at a college for it. It alittle hard to grab at first, but as with anything it takes time. I have autocad full verison 2008. I do not have landcadd which I will be looking into soon.

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