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How Design and Rendering Software Is Changing Architecture

How Design and Rendering Software Is Changing Architecture
View of glass platform seen from below at the opening of "Edge", the Western Hemisphere's highest outdoor sky deck in New York City on March 11, 2020 (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Larry Alton By Sunday, 15 March 2020 08:51 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Architectural technology is always improving, and the latest iterations are changing the industry for the better. Software products like Lumion have made a name for themselves as industry leaders, providing architects, designers, and engineers with a more advanced suite of tools than ever before, including 360-panoramas (with the help of VR) and digitally rendered natural scenery. But what exactly is it about design and rendering software that makes it better, and how is it changing architecture?

High-Level Improvements

We can think of the improvements offered by design and rendering software as unfolding in a few main categories:

  • Efficiency. Better technology is typically easier for architects and designers to use. Newer iterations of the software allow artists to use quick menus, shortcuts, and intuitive features to design components that, a few decades ago, would have taken hours to create by hand. Accordingly, industry professionals are spending fewer hours on the painstaking work of getting their ideas on paper and more hours actually generating those core ideas.
  • Simulation. Design and rendering software gives architects and designers a chance to simulate how their designs might look in a real-world environment. Rather than simply drawing a building in a static, unmoving environment, modelers can apply a host of different variables and environmental changes to see how their design looks in different conditions. For example, you can experiment with different lighting types and different weather conditions to see how your building might look in different situations or on different days.
  • Advanced ideas. Good software also allows architects to experiment with more advanced ideas. They can play with unique materials they ordinarily may not have considered. They can try to establish a structurally sound building with advanced, norm-defying shapes and positions. Best of all, they can run multiple experiments without destroying the core of what they’ve built; they can showcase many different variables of the same design, quickly and easily.
  • Visualization. One of the best features of modern design and rendering software is its capacity for visualization. Thanks to better material simulation, animations, and coloring, architectural buildings and surrounding environments can come alive in the eyes of buyers and consumers. And thanks to 3D rendering and the help of VR, people can actually immerse themselves in the design, seeing it as if they would in the real world. It’s much more compelling than seeing 2D, hand-drawn images and trying to imaging what they’d look like in real life.

Specific Features of Modern Design and Rendering Software

Let’s dig into the specific features that make design and rendering software capable of achieving new heights:

  • 3D modeling and rendering. The biggest feature is the capacity for 3D modeling and rendering. In the early days of architecture, almost everything was based on 2D designs. Working in 3D opens the door to a much wider range of possibilities. Vector programs are more precise than hand-drawings, and 3D buildings are much easier to create and visualize. Rendering allows a 3D model to become more realistic, or be modified in multiple different ways, like by experimenting with different materials and conditions. These features have emerged and become refined, as well.
  • Materialization. One of the best tools available to modern architects is materialization via 3D rendering. With a few clicks, designers can change the materials used in a building without changing the layout or structure of the section. Depending on the platform you’re using, you can usually adjust variables like glossiness, opacity, reflection, ambient color, diffuse color, specular color, bump, transparency, and texture. It’s a quick and easy way to adjust a design on the fly.
  • Lighting. Even more impressive is the capability of simulating and experimenting with lighting. Easily, designers can change the level and nature of both natural and artificial lighting in their design. They can showcase the building as it would look on a bright summer afternoon, and how it might look at night with spotlights highlighting its surfaces.
  • Environmental features. Some design and rendering software allows designers to integrate more environmental features, such as city backgrounds, rivers, lakes, trees, mountains, and even clouds in the sky. These serve as small touches that could escalate the impact of your design, but they might also play into the nature of the building.
  • Animation. High-tech software also allows you to customize animations within your render—including little touches, like how the grass blows in the wind.

3D rendering and design software is only going to get more sophisticated in the future. It’s going to become more accessible, easier to use, and packed with more features that can make designs both more advanced and more realistic looking—while still in the design phase. Architects will have more tools at their disposal than ever before, and the art is going to progress even further.

Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant.Currently, Larry writes for,, and, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at, and on his website, To read more of his reportsClick Here Now.

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Architectural technology is always improving, and the latest iterations are changing the industry for the better. ...
renderingsoftware, technology, architecture
Sunday, 15 March 2020 08:51 AM
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