3D Render

VectorWorks Training

The design industry has been moving towards BIM (Building Information Modelling) with many big practices investing heavily in this due to the complex projects many work with that demand extensive coordination. The ease of retrieving and manipulating information in BIM is extremely attractive on these complex projects.


At PAD studio we have always used Vectorworks for our modelling requirements, recently we had two days intensive training and were delighted to find how far the software has developed. The majority of our design team were born in the era of the drawing board; familiar with paper, pen and ruler drawing on a sheet. This is how we used Vectorworks; various line weights drawn in 2D on various sheets like individual drawings. We even had separate files for each drawing sat in a folder, as if layered in the old draftsman’s drawers. It’s not that we shy away from technology, we all use it on a daily basis and actively collaborate with consultants that use advanced software such as PPHP (Passive House Planning Package), IES (Integrated Environmental Solutions) for Dynamic Thermal Modelling and Revit for 3D structural analysis but for several reasons it seems we had not progressed our CAD skills to the capacity of the software. For example:

  1. We had got stuck with our very particular way of working, the PAD studio tired and tested method that has worked for many years. The training has made us all positively re-think the way we approach a project in CAD, the way we draw, schedule and write specifications.

  2. From our work teaching in Universities we had been exposed to the potential downfall of getting inhibited by the constrains of BIM modelling, or detailed computer modelling. Not only could designs suffer but so can the representation, which is very important to us. Thanks to the training we are now gaining confidence that we can manipulate the software to create our own style of representation, rather than the software controlling our designs.

  3. We are protective of the little time available for a tactile, experiential and reflective form of creating, this is an important part of our design process, we were fearful that the ‘BIM’ approach would be constrictive to this. The training has highlighted that a move towards digitally integrated ways of managing a project drawings and information will increase the time available to explore designing, researching and collaborating.

  4. We always felt our projects were not big enough! All our designs are bespoke with unique details, how would this work in an age where systems are being set up for repetitive production? Yes they are! We are now looking at free form modelling on VectorWorks instead of Sketch-up at the early stages. Using the right tools our projects are the perfect size to be worked up to BIM level to start exploring collaborative working on digital models. Although our details are always bespoke there are elements which are the same or similar, we can store these in the software and adapt as and when they are required.

Our two days training was intensive! We started at the very basics working our way to more complex modelling, representation and scheduling, working as a group and also with one-on-one training with Jonathan Reeves. We were drawn to Jonathan’s CAD methodology as he does not over complicate the setting up and management of projects. The training allowed us to discuss and explore how we could tailor the software system to work for us while maintain an industry standard for collaborative BIM projects. It gave us renewed confidence in using Vectorworks and  understanding the programs flexibility on maintain a sense of individuality. 

Examples of the design stages and how modelling assists from initial sketch, through plans, 3D structural models, thermal modelling, detailed structural to final design render.