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in categories  opensource  architecture  freecad  blender  linux  permalink:  40   posted on 28.11.2009 2:25
From Yorik
Actually I really should write a kind of FAQ or article about doing architecture on a Linux platform... Many people are indeed interested by the subject. So, here we go:

My architecture workflow on linux

Actually there is no obvious or productive workflow possible at the moment, due to the lack of good (productive) CAD software on linux. You can do architecture on linux, but you won't have the same level of productivity as if you just draw with your favorite CAD program under windows (I indeed have a dual boot system .


just for the fun, my linux desktop!

That said, if you are willing to move away from the "all-in-one" solutions that big CAD vendors sell, you already can do a very big part of the work with linux software. I myself use blender for about 80% of the conception work, the rest being simple hand sketching. You already have several good scripts to generate plans and sections from your models in blender, and export them to convenient CAD formats like DXF. Search the blender wiki scripts section.

In blender you can do all kinds of useful things like importing your hand-drawn sketches, pieces of 2D CAD plans, model on top of it, etc, for example:


blend file here

The biggest problem is then, when you want to do 2D CAD. There are indeed several solutions, like qcad, autocad under wine, bricascad/intellicad, or long-time linux CAD challengers, like cycas, graphite one or varicad. There are also a number of interesting newcomers, like realCADD or medusa. But none of those solutions are really productive and free at the same time.

What I do most of the time, when I don't need much detailing, is to use several programs, each for doing pieces of the work. This is a typical unix-like approach (use several simple, reusable programs to do separate tasks, instead of having one all-in-one program) that in my opinion could benefit much architecture workflows on linux.



I myself contribute with coding and documentation to a very interesting program (currently) named FreeCAD that could hopefully fit very well in the middle of the workflow, to rework data coming from 3D into precise construction drawings. It is in usable state already, but not for real production.



Note that FreeCAD is not at all aimed at becoming another autocad clone, and 2D drafting is only a temporary use I make of it. The plans for the future of FreeCAD include much more powerful things such as parametric modeling, automatic sectionning, or structural analysis.
Today I still use a mix of other programs, such as autocad, qcad or sketchup. I also use different utilities and convertors to manipulate different file formats, like RealCadd converter or Varicad viewer.

The same way as the data you export from a 3D program to a 2D app, the way the data is formatted is the most important point, not the program you used to make it. If you modeled your building correctly, you will have good 2D data, easy to rework in 2D. The same should apply to 2D data. If you build your technical drawings correctly, they will be easy to export to other programs for presentation work.

The presentation work in itself is also easy to do under linux, there are several programs able to import technical drawings and rework them, my favorite being inkscape:



I also use gimp a lot.

All this works quite well for short or limited architecture projects, like competitions or draft projects, but of course, not so well for more detailed work such as execution drawings. For that, we would need better tools for technical drawing. At the moment I don't know any that is strong enough to allow fast, efficient and beautiful work. But the way we draw architecture is slowly changing too, so maybe new solutions will begin to appear on the linux platform too.

And if you are interested in helping the situation to evolve quicker, there are many great open-source projects out there that could use your efforts, even if you are not a programmer. This is the case of most of the software I showed in this article.
Note: I wrote a sequel to this article, explaining how to get started with Linux...

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