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Thread: Why do planners need AutoCAD when...

  1. #1
    May 2007
    East Lansing, MI

    Why do planners need AutoCAD when...

    Hi, I'm an undergraduate student at college. I have a choice of taking either a GIS-based cartography course or a plain AutoCAD course. I have no background in either and I'm not interested in designing career. Which course would YOU prefer if you are planning a long-term career in urban planning? I'd like to mention that I'm NOT one of the techie In*ian guys who always bother forum members with "which course should I take? which school is the best in the U.S.? If I have GIS skills, will I get hired and get visa sponsorship from American company?" questions.

    Anyway, if the only purpose of learning AutoCAD is to design a map, what good is it when you can jump right into map design and production with GIS technology? Just wondering, which is more widespread practice in industry? Map making with GIS or with AutoCAD?

    Thank you. Peace~

  2. #2
    Dec 2006
    Good question you bring up. GIS and CAD are really more like families of software programs. ESRI based GIS software (which is the most popular type of GIS software) not only has ArcGIS but ArcIMS, ArcSDE, etc. AutoCAD (which is trademarked CAD program by AutoDesk) includes AutoCAD, Architectural Desktop, Revit, Vis, etc). I have used AutoCAD 2005 and ArcGIS 9 to create maps.

    AutoCAD does not have the spatial analysis functionality because it is not networked to a database. So I cannot use the computer to determine the relationships between different types of data. For example, if I wanted to draw a 1/2mile buffer area around each elementary school (to determine proximity of schools to homes) I would have to offset the school parcel in CAD, and manually create polylines using line and arcs to connect the various offsets, close the polylines, and then use lsp commands (which do not come with the program) such as AREA2 to compute the area of the buffer. Whereas in ArcGIS 9 I can create the buffer with one or two clicks.

    AutoCAD is used much more by designers (architects, landscape architects, interior designers, industrial designers, etc.) You have a much higher degree of accuracy with CAD, especially with architectural drawings which are drawn at a much smaller scale, such as 1/4"=1'. ArcGIS is used to create maps that are drawn at much larger scales (1' = 100 miles or even larger). Microstation (which is a CAD program designed by Microsoft) is the CAD program of choice for engineers. However, any good designer will know how to work with both. The layers in an AutoCAD system are named, the layers in Microstation are numbered.

    ESRI used to have their own program ArcCAD (?), which was taken off the market a while ago, now ArcGIS has greater compatibility with AutoCAD 2007 (which I had that upgrade in my office. I am still using 2005). AutoDesk has AutoCAD Land Desktop as their version of GIS, however it is not as versatile as ArcGIS.

    In terms of planning your career, it all depends on what type of work you want to do as a planner. Some planners are more tech-savvy and would like to do more of the technical aspects of planning, with map creation and analysis. Some planners are more sociable and enjoy interacting with people more. I try to some of the first and a lot of the second. One computer program is not going to be the answer to your career.

    I do not know anything about how VISA programs work in the United States. However, from interviewing at alot of GIS heavy entry level planning jobs, you not only have to understand GIS but also alot of heavy program and database networking programs (even for entry-level). I learned AutoCAD script commands at my current job, took me about 6-8 months to master, although I didnt do CAD all the time.

    Overall I think more planners as a whole use GIS than CAD. If you are not going into design, CAD will probably not be as important.

    Hope this helps-

  3. #3
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Dec 2001
    West Valley, AZ
    It is especially important to know cad if you want to make your office paperless. It is far easier to store a dwf or dxf file than it is a giant roll of 36x24 plans.

    I enjoy using cad for reviews, but need to know GIS to do analysis.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jkellerfsu's avatar
    Dec 2005
    Baltimore, MD
    GIS for planning.....it makes much prettier pictures. I am a CAD user basically b/c I come from an engineering background.

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