By Joe Stoddard. While there hasn't been much news lately surrounding CAD products per se, I recently came across two remarkable new innovations that could enhance any builder's use of CAD as a sales and presentation tool. Both supplement your existing CAD program.

AI phones home

How great would it be if you could jumpstart the design process with a simple point-and-click, fill-in-the-blanks questionnaire and have the information actually start to define living spaces with a sort of artificial intelligence? You can with Affinity for Residential (starting at $750), a design automation tool from the Houston-based Trelligence (

The Affinity system prompts buyers for their budget, square-footage requirements, and basic design choices (for example, a family room next to the kitchen). The program then creates a to-scale bubble diagram with boxes representing the rooms requested. The "rooms" take on the project requirements and have built-in intelligence that limits how they can be arranged as well as how features selected impact the project budget and other choices made by the buyers. At any point, the user can confirm that the design is in line with the original requirements. Once the bubble diagram is complete, it can be exported to a traditional CAD system and tweaked.

Affinity is the first of several planned products that will be based on the company's patent-pending Applied Functional Knowledge (AFK) platform, essentially a way of gathering and storing intelligence about any group of objects. According to Trelligence president and CEO Larry Ciscon, future products could use AFK technology to arrange cabinets in a kitchen design instead of rooms in a building or to make sure that modifications to a particular base-model-home would allow it to fit on a particular lot in a selected community.

Power walking

Sometimes, a picture is worth far more than a thousand words. That's certainly true of good interactive virtual reality walk-throughs, which could conceivably replace the physical model home as a way to present a builder's product line. But until recently, creating such presentations required a steep learning curve, as well as a hefty cash investment--usually tens of thousands of dollars--in proprietary design software and services.

Photo: Rich Grote

Presenter, from Allen, Texas, QuadriSpace (, tears down both barriers. It costs only $995 and lets anyone who can drop and drag import standard 2D or 3D CAD files, digital photos, and multi-media clips--and link the whole thing together to create impressive walk-throughs and interactive presentations. A 3D walk-through can be synchronized with a floor plan so that a "you are here" indicator on the plan shows your location at all times. You can click any spot on the floor plan to zoom to that location in the walk-through. It's slick, and it's easy. The interface isn't limited to walk-through presentations, but can be used to synchronize any two things, such as a subdivision map with an aerial photograph.

Joe Stoddard is a technology consultant to the building industry. You can contact him at