1. Home
Send to a Friend via Email

Discuss in my forum

What Is CAD? What is BIM?

Computer Software Applications for Architects and Builders


CAD rendering of a solar house with photovoltaic panels and ramps

Students from the University of North Carolina used a CAD application to create this rendering of their Solar Decathlon 2013 concept house.

Illustration courtesy of UNC Charlotte Solar Decathlon 2013 team, solardecathlon.gov
IMSI TurboFLOORPLAN Instant Architect - Architecture Software

Home design software like IMSI TurboFLOORPLAN Instant Architect uses simple CAD technology.

Photo: Jackie Craven

Definition of CAD:

The letters CAD stand for computer-aided design. Architects, drafters, engineers, and artists use CAD software to create plans and construction drawings.

Before the age of computers, drawings and blueprints were drafted by hand. CAD is more efficient because the software records lines as vectors based on mathematical equations. Portions of a drawing can be twisted, stretched, or moved. The picture as a whole will automatically adjust.

CAD Software will let the designer:

  • Switch between two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) views.
  • Zoom in and out for close-up and distant views.
  • Rotate images to view them from different perspectives.
  • Change the scale of images: When one value changes, related values are automatically adjusted.
  • Manipulate the shape of images: Changing one portion of an image automatically changes the entire picture.

Also Known As:

CAD is also known as CADD, which stands for Computer-Aided Design & Drafting


Popular CAD programs used by architects and engineers include:

Simplified versions of CAD tools can be found in home design software tailored for non-professionals.

Definition of BIM:

The letters BIM stand for Building Information Modeling. Many professionals are moving from CAD to BIM applications. This change in software use demonstrates a philosophical change in doing business—from paper-based, proprietary ways (the CAD approach) to collaborative, information-based operations (the BIM approach). Construction law attorneys, such as Thomas L. Rosenberg of Roetzel & Andress, have addressed many of the legal concerns surrounding an inclusive, shared process of design and construction (see the PDF document "Building Information Modeling" (2009). Issues of risk and liability should be clearly defined in any contract where information is shared and design drawings can be freely manipulated.

Examples of BIM Products:

Learn More about BIM from About.com:

CAD and BIM Standards in the United States:

The buildingSMART alliance,™ a council of the National Institute of Building Sciences, develops and publishes consensus-based standards for both CAD and BIM. Standards help the many groups involved in building projects to more easily share information.

  1. About.com
  2. Home
  3. Architecture
  4. Research Tools
  5. Dictionaries
  6. C: Architecture Terms
  7. What Is CAD? What is BIM?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.