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The Evolution of Architecture Tech

You don’t need a long tenure in architecture to know that the tools used every day to design buildings have been radically transformed by technology. At one point, pen and paper was the design method of choice. Now, however, architects and other building designers visualize a virtual version of their plan before laying a single brick.

To showcase just how far some of these most popular tools have come thanks to innovation, we take a deeper dive.


What started out as a process that used nothing more than paper and pencil, creating blueprints was then streamlined by the creation of the blueprint machine. This method of design produced copies of drawings by running an original through a mixture of chemicals and reproducing the image on specialty paper. Now, of course, we have printers that make the whole process digital, from initial concept to finished design. We also have cloud-based software that innovates every step of the process – including masonry design.

Erasing mistakes

Erasing traditional blueprints required traditional erasers and then a bit more evolved tools when blueprints were created on the machine. The “undo” function on drafting software could perhaps be one of the best examples of how tech has evolved in architecture. Entire drawing sets were scrapped in years past due to last-minute changes, but now the undo function can save time and money for architects. 


Architects do their fair share of measuring existing buildings, and that used to take a tape measure and paper notes. Now surveying has turned into a process that’s far less time-consuming and much more cost-efficient — thanks to the advent of infrared measuring devices. There’s even software available that turns survey information into accurate CAD drawings that are digitally accessible. 

Marking measurements

A drafting table used to be covered with rulers and protractors of all sizes and types. That is, of course, until the drafting arm consolidated all of these tools into one revolutionary appendage. It’s been virtually replicated to match the ease and efficiency of the original, manual version in almost every CAD software program out there. 

Seeing shadows

Before the robust offering of software we have today, heliodons were essentially the only way to measure the context of shadows on architectural projects. These became increasingly optimized until architecture software became ubiquitous in firms of all sizes and industries. SketchUp is one feature that mimics the heliodon and it’s available in many 3D software platforms. 

Drafting templates

When hand-drafting, designers use templates of furniture measured to the scale of the project; these are simple stencils with a limited variety of shapes and dimensions. 3D models now allow for a much better idea of how furniture sits in the space and opens the door to an endless number of styles. This also paves the way for making cosmetic choices early in the design process and streamlining the project.

Photo retouching

For the layman, conceptualizing a finished project is nearly impossible without a less technical visual than blueprints (the photograph). If you’ve been in the field long enough to remember the chemicals and brushes used for photo retouching, you might be a little nostalgic. These methods are now digitized with software — namely Photoshop — the ubiquitous method of altering photographs to give clients a better idea of the finished product. 

Drafting tablets

As drafting marched into the digital world, digitizers would allow architects to either choose commands or draw directly onto a specialized tablet. Huge advancements have been made to CAD software making a keyboard and mouse highly efficient drafting tools. Some industry experts are saying the proliferation of touchscreen tech will shift the tide back to a more hands-on approach. 


Once CAD became widely used in architecture, industry software has come a long way in helping architects and designers. A seemingly unending range of choices is available for every stage of the process — literally from the ground up. This proliferation of software makes it easy for firms to create a suite of agile, accessible platforms instead of being shackled to legacy programs that don’t age well.

With just clicks of a mouse and specifications on the keyboard, you can use tools like Masonry iQ to create a 3D image that allows architects to share detailed drawings with clients and order precise amounts of building material without requiring waste allowances. Once in the field, the drawings are color-coded to match codes on the building supplies, which simplifies the process even further and cuts costs. Ready to upgrade your architecture tech? Learn more about 3DiQ and how we can support your digital transformation.