Please make sure you have read the general Frequently Asked Questions on the NJIT Computer Requirement.
These FAQs are for students enrolled in Architecture programs (B.S. in Architecture, B. Arch., and M. Arch) at NJIT. Art + Design students should see the list of frequently asked questions specific to Art + Design located at http://ist.njit.edu/compreq/faq_art_design.php
Students at the College of Architecture and Design use their computers as professional tools during the course of their studies. The study and practice of architecture in the twenty-first century requires extensive use of the computer. As graphics-intensive machines, the demands placed on them are high. A typical CAD/graphics workstation has to be much more powerful than a computer that is primarily used for business applications – or even for many computer programming tasks. The creation and manipulation of graphics (including animation) on a computer are among the most demanding applications that can be run. As such, it is important for the computers used in the College of Architecture and Design to be able to accommodate the tasks students are assigned. An underpowered computer will run required software slowly (if at all) and will be unable to handle the large files created by students when producing three-dimensional models of original architectural work. The speed and capabilities of CAD workstations are very dependent upon the total amount of RAM, size of hard drive, and quality of graphics card (including the amount of video RAM on the card itself). While the ability for a computer to perform the required tasks does not depend on the size or resolution of the monitor, the designer’s ability to work efficiently is. Typical CAD software assumes large screens and sufficiently high resolution in order to produce detailed and precise work. Low resolution or small monitors may require continual zooming in and panning of drawings that may lead to inferior work, eye strain, longer time to complete assigned tasks, and general student frustration. Finally, the computers specified are expected to last a student three to four years.
Purchase as much RAM as you can afford – but no less than 32 GB. Additional RAM allows you to have larger files and/or multiple files open at the same time. While more RAM does not guarantee that you will produce more comprehensive work, insufficient RAM makes it virtually impossible to produce large complex models efficiently. Without adequate RAM, you will be constantly spending time looking for ways to reduce model complexity (not necessarily bad unless it leads to a reduction in desired design complexity) and may experience unwanted computer “crashes” if the work gets too large.
Video RAM (VRAM) is important to the on-screen display of your design work and the speed at which renderings of your work are produced for preview. As one changes a design and relies on screen redraws to evaluate decisions, faster video cards allow for screen regeneration in “real time” and can avoid tedious delays that not only waste time, but can interrupt the natural flow of ideas during the design process.
The graphics processor on the video card has an impact on the display and resolution of CAD work in a manner that is similar to the video RAM. Furthermore, while no one can guarantee the availability of software drivers to keep the graphics card operating with future software, our experience has shown that there are a limited number of manufacturers that traditionally provide better support as their equipment ages. In our attempt to make the new computers last as long as possible, we use graphic cards that contain chips from these relatively reliable manufacturers.
The desktop model specified for the College of Architecture and Design is designed to be a “graphics-capable” computer in as cost-effective a package as we are able to obtain. Laptop computers simply are not available with equivalent graphics capabilities. A “graphics laptop” that contains a slower CPU, half the video RAM, more than 32 GB RAM, and a smaller screen has an approximate cost that is almost DOUBLE that of the desktop! Furthermore, while it may be possible to upgrade graphics cards and add/change drives in the desktop when desired in the future, it is difficult to upgrade the laptop and the quality of the graphics processor is fixed. While laptops are used extensively in the profession for off-site presentations, construction site communication, email, and so on; architects and designers traditionally use desktops in the office precisely because they offer greater power/capabilities and larger screens for CAD/graphics.
The vast majority of architects, designers and engineers use computers that run with a Microsoft operating system. We have specified computers with the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system – Windows 7. The market share of this operating system is so large that almost every software application used by professionals is available to run on this operating system while this is not true for other systems. Additionally, some of the most widely used applications created by Autodesk, which are commonly employed by architects and designers, and which are available at NJIT, run only under Microsoft Windows. The vast majority of software applications available for CAD/graphics on other operating systems (Linux, Mac OS) are also available to run under Windows. This is the operating system that gives us greatest flexibility in software selection, compatibility with the architectural and engineering professions, and cost effectiveness.
The method of instruction utilized in architectural design dictates that students work in the design studio. Collaboration and cooperation are essential components of an architectural education. Even when working on individual projects, students frequently help one another and discuss architectural ideas as they are being formed and this essential component of education is missed when working in isolation. Also, license requirements for some of the software applications provided to students limits their use to within the College of Architecture and Design facilities.
The specific College of Architecture and Design computer you are required to purchase will ship with an operating system. Also, all NJIT students are provided with a suite of software applications that includes virus protection, Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook), Microsoft web creation software, Visio and MatLab or MathCAD. A variety of additional NJIT owned software applications, including AutoCAD and 3D Studio, are available on the College of Architecture and Design network for use by architecture and design students with the specified computer in the design studio. Students who wish to purchase and install additional software applications are urged to wait until school starts to see what applications are needed. Also, the procedure we use to prepare the computer to use software we provide wipes out all data on the hard drive.
The College of Architecture and Design has obtained a number of site licenses for educational use within the school. These licenses, valued in excess of one million dollars, stipulate that use is for academic, in lab/studio use only. Students may purchase academic versions of much of the software used for use on their own computers outside of studio. The academic cost of the applications most widely used in the studio is approximately $2,000. The College of Architecture and Design does not sell software and we do not endorse any particular sales outlet. Academic software may be purchased from a variety of mail order and telephone sources, including Academic Superstore JourneyEd.com and Campus Technology. We do not support the use of “bootleg” software. So do not ask us to help you install illegally obtained copies of software on your own machines – either in the studio or outside of the studio! This includes the attempt to download software for your use from our servers. This software is configured to run only on specific configurations – including the configuration of our network, which means our applications will not run on your machines when disconnected from our network.
The upgrades we provide are limited to new disk images that accommodate new software applications we have obtained. These new disk images will typically be available at the beginning of the academic year in the fall. It is simply not possible for us to upgrade hardware and it is inevitable that next year’s freshmen will be purchasing computers that are more powerful than the ones you purchase today.
Students will have access to the design studio whenever the university is open. Internet access is provided at every studio desk so email, paper writing, and other academic requirements for support courses can be done in the studio. We recognize that it is not always convenient to work in the studio and for those occasions students may want to purchase a “less-capable” computer – either desktop or laptop. However, please note that this is in no way required or necessary. It is only a convenience that some may want to consider. These computers do not have to be configured for architectural design CAD/graphics work and may be used for papers, Internet research, email, etc. We CANNOT provide copies of CAD/graphics software for your use on these additional computers. Anyone who wants to use design or graphics software outside of the studio must purchase it. If you are considering the use of an additional computer for graphics, please keep in mind the technical requirements mentioned above that are needed to effectively run the software. We would also recommend that you see what software you are using in class prior to the purchase of any applications.
We rely on high-speed wired connections to work in the design studio. The use of our software requires communication between the workstation and our application servers. Also, there is some network storage for data utilized by students within a design studio. The transfer of large files/data and information during application use is inefficient with current wireless technology. Wired connections are faster and more secure.
CAD/graphics software applications are designed with large monitors in mind – the kind used by professionals. In order to fit the images and three-dimensional models as well as all of the menu options and icons, the monitors need to be large or the images become very small and difficult to see. Students generally spend a lot of excess time scrolling, panning, and zooming in and out when the monitors are too small. Poor quality monitors and images too small to see comfortably may lead to eye strain and headaches.
The College of Architecture and Design has traditionally been a successful early adopter of new technology as it becomes available and relevant to the College of Architecture and Design disciplines. Starting in the Fall of 2016, we will use Windows 10 to take advantage of a number of stability improvements as well as 64bit software support.
Questions on the computer requirement for students entering the College of Architecture and Design can be e-mailed to CoAD-ComputerRequirement@njit.edu. You may also call the IST Helpdesk at (973) 596-2900.