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What Tools Does an Architect Use?

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The architectural profession has changed dramatically in recent years due to technological advancements. Computers and other electronic devices have improved the speed and accuracy of design and provided convenience for architects. Despite these developments, there are some traditional tools that are still widely used in the architectural profession. Architects should be comfortable utilizing technology as well as more traditional methods of design.


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Most architects work extensively with computers, using them to develop design ideas or draft construction documents using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Word processing software is used to write specifications, proposals and other documents.

Large Format Printers or Plotters

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Architects typically work with large-format drawings on 24 by 36-inch or larger paper. Most architectural firms have their own large-format printers or plotters to print and copy computer-generated drawings.

Digital Photography

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Digital cameras enable an architect to document existing site conditions for future reference or for use in presentation images. Photographs help the architect remember important site characteristics that will influence the design.

Measuring Devices

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Architects use measuring tapes or laser measuring tools to take accurate measurements on site, ensuring that their designs are accurate and feasible. An architectural scale, a type of ruler, is used for measuring scaled construction documents, or to scale down real-world measurements to a size that will fit on paper.

Sketching Materials

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Even with computer software advancements, it is often quicker and easier for an architect to carry a sketchbook to jot down important notes and brainstorm design ideas as they occur. Tracing paper is still commonly used to sketch design modifications over existing drawings.

Manual Drafting Tools

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CAD technology has almost completely replaced manual drafting, but some architects still prefer to draw by hand. Most architectural schools still teach manual drafting as a required skill. A drafting board, parallel rule, triangles, compass, drafting pencils and inking pens are some commonly used tools for hand drafting.


Jennifer Roberts has enjoyed writing since 2008. Her professional experience includes computer aided drafting and design in the hospitality industry, graphic design for several nationally televised PGA Tour events, and an adjunct professorship in Computer Aided Design. She holds a Bachelor of Science in architecture from the University at Buffalo.

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