Why Our Firm Has Used Vectorworks for Nearly 20 Years

Greg Upwall Headshot

This blog was written by Greg Upwall of Studio Upwall Architects.

With over 28 years of experience in the field, Greg Upwall is a licensed architect in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, and is a LEED Accredited Professional, and Certified Passive House Consultant. He is the Principal at Studio Upwall, and lives in Washington, DC.

Greg’s career reflects his commitment to cultivating the younger generation of architects. From 2004 to 2009, he taught at the Graduate School of Architecture at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA. While there, Greg was instrumental in the launch of the Graduate School’s first Design-Build program, for a Berkeley-based, non-profit project in the Spring of 2008. In the following year, Greg’s design-build class project won the 2010 Exceptional Bay Area Regional Design Award from the American Institute of Architects.

In addition to managing the firm he has spent time teaching as Adjunct Faculty in the Cultural Studies & Sacred Space Program at The Catholic University of America, School of Architecture & Planning since 2010. 

Greg Upwall received a Bachelor of University Studies with an emphasis in Architecture and Urban Planning in 1993, and a Masters of Architecture in 1995, both from the University of Utah Graduate School of Architecture.

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After working for various architecture firms for more than ten years, I decided to take the leap and launch Studio Upwall Architects in 2004.  

At the time I was based in San Francisco, and I was our only employee. One of the most important decisions that I had to make upon launching the firm was which CAD software to use. In previous offices I’d learned a variety of CAD programs including AutoCAD, CADvance, Form Z, and Vectorworks, which I first learned in the office of a San Francisco firm in 2002. At that time I actually learned Vectorworks by reading the manuals (they were still paper-bound copies back then).

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When it came time for me to decide which program to go with, I chose Vectorworks for Studio Upwall for a variety of reasons:

  • I’d grown to like the intuitive user interface.
  • It was native on Mac. I was also committed to running an all Mac-based office (which we still are).
  • Vectorworks felt more like a designer’s software whereas AutoCAD felt more like an engineering software.
  • The price. A single license was less than half of the cost of an AutoCAD license at the time.

Today, 18 years later, Studio Upwall Architects is still going strong. We’re now based in Washington DC (although we are still working on some projects out west), with multiple employees, and we’re still using Vectorworks as our only BIM software that we use to accomplish everything we need – we find no need for any other CAD software.

Greg Upwall Headshot

In the 18+ years since the launch of our firm we’ve been with Vectorworks through many new releases and have learned to utilize its 3D/BIM and rendering capabilities. And over these past 18 years we’ve designed and drawn virtually all of our projects in Vectorworks from single-family custom homes to large multi-family apartment buildings and urban mixed-use projcts.

Here’s a list of some of the reasons why Studio Upwall has continued to use Vectorworks after all these years:

  • The Vectorworks ethos and culture. We feel that Vectorworks, as a company, is driven by its people and community. When we have questions, we can call or email tech support, and we actually get responses from real people.
  • We also like that the company is based in Columbia, Maryland, which is so close to us here in Washington, DC. We’ve also attended Vectorworks Design Summits in the past and really liked the way that the event was run, staffed by Vectorworks employees who really seemed to be excited and passionate about the company and its mission.
  • We like the ability to create simple or complex BIM models based on the scope and scale of each of our various projects. The intuitive user interface really helps with this.
  • We like how we can easily represent and study solar path and angles so that we can incorporate passive solar design measures like proper roof overhangs, window sizes, and orientation of building components.
  • We like the advantages of being able to use both classes and layers since it allows us to explore multiple design schemes for clients within one Vectorworks file simply by selecting different visible classes and layers in different viewports.
  • We like the ability to create and edit wall and slab assemblies to accurately reflect the relevant components and thicknesses of these assemblies in the BIM model.
  • We like to use fast, simple renderings like hidden line and open GL in addition to the higher quality Renderworks renderings based on which settings are appropriate for the project.

My team and I have created many projects with Vectorworks that we’re very proud of; click here to check them out.

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Images courtesy of Greg Upwall.

Topics: Buildings


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