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Diary of a home extension by Ian Rock

Part 4: CAD and the Building Regulations

By chartered surveyor Ian Rock, director of the website for local surveyors, architects and structural engineers.

It’s a CAD world

Given our fairly tight budget I was keen to produce my own drawings but traditional hand drawn plans today seem positively pre-historic, so this would be a good opportunity to learn a valuable new skill with a suitable CAD package. But which one? Ranging in price from £5.99 downloads through to all-singing-all-dancing packages costing thousands of pounds, there’s no shortage of contenders, all making great claims. After deciphering the sales blurb I thought it prudent to steer clear of anything resembling gimmicky 3D computer-games, and also anything obviously American with imperial measurements and a radically different U.S. approach to construction (and some rather curious building terminology!).  I just needed a plain-vanilla programme for drawing straightforward scale plans and elevations, ideally incorporating the facility to add text and import images. But as a CAD ‘learner driver’ I was also going to need some decent online tutorials and technical support.

Many packages seem obsessed with 3D modelling but struggle to explain how you draw a straight line. After a few frustrating false starts trying out too-clever-by-half software that does it all for you (just not the way you want it) I decided to call up an old friend at Leeds Council Council Building Control who it transpired uses AutoCAD LT. He cautioned against really cheap software as “you can struggle to make it work, and the pretty pictures on the box will look nothing like what you want”. AutoCAD seems to be the choice of many professional designers, although it’s not cheap costing well over £1000 (there’s a baffling array of versions and upgrades). But even top end packages aren’t without their detractors posting critical reviews, and it’s a lot of money to risk when for not much more you could pay an Architect to do the job for you.

So what to do?  A little more research and I came across the Arcon range costing from £150 to £550, so I thought I’d give them a call to find out more. Gratifyingly I got straight through to Tim Bates at Elecosoft and asked him if they had anything suitable for 2D Building Regs drawings.  I liked the fact that they had some decent guides, sensible UK-produced videos, and if required, access by email for phone to a ‘real person’ who knew what they were talking about..........

To read more about Ian’s extension project, pick up a copy of Homebuilding & Renovating or see the website for the latest instalments.

Drawings produced using Arcon Evo software and buildingregs4plans pack


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