Re-Thinking CAD Standards: Why there’s never a good time, and never a better time…

parametric design, architecture and art

cad standards

After several months of blood, sweat and tears, we are very happy to share with you a free download of our CAD Standards, the Electronic File Naming Convention and the Project Folder Organisation we will be using at HDA, with immediate effect.

We are a hybrid team of architects, designers and engineers. Even though we strongly believe in this interdisciplinary approach, we understand that it presents difficulties in achieving coherence and clarity in our management systems. The files we are sharing today with our readers are the first outcome of a thorough review and coordination process intended to make our different design tools and activities more coherent.

As noted elsewhere on this blog, at HDA we believe in an open culture, that sharing content can be useful, productive and not anti-economic, and therefore offer these free to download in the hope that they may be useful to others.
As noted earlier, HDA is a French company. Therefore the naming of folders, files, CAD layers, etc. were prepared originally in French. The document text however, was prepared in English (due to that being the author’s native language). For these downloads, all document text, file names, folder names, layer names and abbreviations have been put into English.


Document 1/3 | HDA – CAD Standard
VIEW or [download id=”17″]

Document 2/3 | HDA – Electronic File Naming Convention
VIEW or [download id=”18″]

Document 3/3 | HDA – Project Folder Organisation
VIEW or [download id=”19″]


It is hoped that soon we will produce a full set of documents in French also. Each document is designed to be printed out A4 portrait, double-sided (duplex).

Here is a text by Phil Barrett, who has been mainly involved in this process and who produced these documents for HDA


CAD Standard

The management of CAD standards is an area that is commonly neglected as small companies expand and grow.
This is due in part to it being an area of work that is not directly ‘chargeable’ (with companies preferring to concentrate their resources on fee-paying project work), and partly due to its importance and effect on company efficiency not being fully understood by those not directly involved in it.

Like many architectural/engineering/design companies HDA had a basic CAD standard in place at the company’s inception. As the company grew this standard was updated intermittently in line with the progressive releases of existing design software programs (primarily AutoCAD), the introduction of new software (particularly for HDA the introduction of Rhinoceros), and the natural rotation of company personnel.

Just as with the evolution of design as a whole, there arrives a point at which it is no longer viable to further revise and ‘patch up’ an outdated model. The introduction of a new CAD standard can be a disruptive and time-consuming process, but the risk for companies is that the longer they continue with an inefficient system, the more disruptive, time consuming, and ultimately costly it becomes to replace it when they later have more staff and project work attached to it.

With the securing of several new projects, and the consequent arrival of new personnel to HDA, the decision was taken earlier this year to conduct a review of our existing system, and to design from scratch a system to properly suit our current (and expected future) requirements.

It was accepted from the outset that there is no one perfect system that will suit all companies and all projects, and that there is no single, globally accepted standard. HDA is particular too in the sense that it is a French company, with a mixture of French, Italian and British/Irish staff, and working on projects worldwide in French, Italian and English. As part of the research undertaken for the design of our new standard, a variety of existing standards have been consulted, including ISO 13567, BS 1192, AIA, Uniclass and AEC (UK), and whilst we have incorporated ideas into our standard where applicable to aid the compatibility of standards as a whole, trying to fully implement any one of these standards wholesale would be impractical, and largely unworkable. HDA CAD files are worked on by architects, designers, drafters and engineers, and it is accepted that most architects, engineers and designers do not have the same skills as experienced drafters. Therefore our standard has been designed to be as minimal as possible in certain areas, to make it more accessible to less experienced users and to lessen the scope for errors and differences in presentation styles.

As noted earlier, HDA primarily uses AutoCAD and Rhino software at present. Our previous CAD standard was designed exclusively for AutoCAD, therefore when Rhino was introduced there was no particular standard to be adhered to. This resulted in a variety of organizational styles arising, and a lack of uniformity and coherence in our project files. While still focusing primarily on the preparation and presentation of drawings in AutoCAD, much of this standard is designed to be applied to both AutoCAD and Rhino (and possibly other design software programs which may be used), with the aim of increasing compatibility between the two.

Document 1/3 | HDA – CAD Standard
[download id=”17″]



File Naming Convention and Project Folder Organisation

In addition to a new CAD standard, HDA has also produced two further standards documents.
The design of a file naming convention, and the re-design our existing project folder structure both arose from the questions posed by the design of our new CAD standard. In order to implement an effective CAD standard, it was necessary to have a more logical and effective folder structure in which to put the CAD files, and likewise a systematic and logical file naming convention to enable them to be located and identified.

Document 2/3 | HDA – Electronic File Naming Convention
[download id=”18″]


Document 3/3 | HDA – Project Folder Organisation
[download id=”19″]




Thanks to Craig Miller, Alex Jones and the London CAD team at Heatherwick Studio for their assistance with the issues of compatibility between AutoCAD and Rhino, your input was much appreciated.
Thanks to Ecosistema Urbano for sending us their standard for reference, and to all the people and companies who have published their standards online which have aided us during our research.
Thanks also to the number of online CAD forums that we have searched through for answers (,,,,,,

  1. Thank you! This is a great idea. Specially for small offices this is ver helpful.

  2. this is very generous of you. as someone who has struggled with the endless possible ways to organize this kind of information, i really appreciate seeing how another firm approaches it, especially as the variety of media and information pathways are multiplying. elegant solutions, bravo!

  3. Hi, Thanks for these documents. I am a architecture student and I hope that I will be able to keep my files in better order based on these guides. Just wondering if you could send me the rhino and autocad template files to have a look at? This may be to much to ask. Thanks.

  4. Hi Gary, This is Francesco, coordinator of this blog.
    I passed your request to Phil, who is taking care of all this Standards issue..

    I had a tour on your blog and find quite nice contents!
    If you could be interested in feature some of your works on this blog, feel free to contact us at

    Thanks for your interest!

  5. here’s a batch file to create a sample structure, save it as ProjectStructureMake.cmd and run it from the container directory:

    :: ProjectStructureMake.cmd
    :: creates a default directory structure for a new project
    :: Andrea Ricci 2012
    @echo off
    rem set a default name
    set project=XXX_ProjectName
    rem Ask the main dir (Project) name
    set /p project= “Give to the main folder the Project name (current: %project%): ”
    rem Sets the main dir (Project) name if not answered
    rem check if the directory already exhists
    If exist %project% choice /c yn /m “the directory %project% already exhists, do you want to merge it?”
    if ERRORLEVEL 2 exit
    echo %project%
    md “%project%”
    md “%project%0_DOCS_OUT”
    md “%project%0_DOCS_OUT\YYYY-MM-DD_[TO]_subject”
    md “%project%1_REPORTS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\_OLD”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\A-Architectural”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\A-Architectural\CeilingPlans”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\A-Architectural\Details”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\A-Architectural\Elevations”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\A-Architectural\FloorPlans”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\A-Architectural\RoofPlans”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\A-Architectural\Schedules”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\A-Architectural\Sections”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\A-Architectural\Signage”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\A-Architectural\Site”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\B-Geotechnical”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\C-Civil”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\D-Process”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\E-Electical”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\F-FireProtection”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\G-General”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\H-HazardousMaterials”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\I-Interiors”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\L-Landscape”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\M-Mechanical”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\O-Operations”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\P-Plumbing”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\Q-Equipment”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\R-Resources”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\S-Structural”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\T-Telecommunications”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\V-Survey-Mapping”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\W-DistributedEenergy”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\X-OtherDisciplines”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\2D_MODELS\Z-ContractorDrawings”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\3D_MODELS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\3D_MODELS\_OLD”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\EXPORT”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\SHEETS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\SHEETS\_OLD”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\SHEETS\PDF”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\TOOLS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\TOOLS\Blocks”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\TOOLS\Borders”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\TOOLS\Defaults”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\TOOLS\PlotStyles”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\TOOLS\ReadMe”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\TOOLS\Standards”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS1_ACAD\TOOLS\TitleBlocks”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS2_RHINO”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS2_RHINO\2D_MODELS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS2_RHINO\2D_MODELS\Superseded”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS2_RHINO\3D_MODELS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS2_RHINO\3D_MODELS\Superseded”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS2_RHINO\EXPORT”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS2_RHINO\SCRIPTS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS2_RHINO\SHEETS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS2_RHINO\TOOLS”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS\10_IMAGES”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS\20_VIDEO”
    md “%project%2_GRAPHICS\30_SKETCHES”
    md “%project%3_CALCULATIONS”
    md “%project%3_CALCULATIONS1_GEOMETRY”
    md “%project%3_CALCULATIONS2_SHEETS”
    md “%project%3_CALCULATIONS3_MODELS”
    md “%project%3_CALCULATIONS4_REPORTS”
    md “%project%3_CALCULATIONS5_IMAGES”
    md “%project%4_PRODUCTION”
    md “%project%4_PRODUCTION2_ESTIMATIONS”
    md “%project%4_PRODUCTION3_MINUTES”
    md “%project%5_PHOTOS”
    md “%project%5_PHOTOS\MAQUETTES”
    md “%project%5_PHOTOS\MAQUETTES\YYYY-MM-DD_maquette”
    md “%project%5_PHOTOS\REFERENCES”
    md “%project%5_PHOTOS\SITE”
    md “%project%5_PHOTOS\SITE\YYYY-MM-DD_site”
    md “%project%6_MAILS”
    md “%project%7_RESEARCH”
    md “%project%\10_ADMIN”
    md “%project%\10_ADMIN1_CONTRACT”
    md “%project%\10_ADMIN2_ORGANISATION”
    md “%project%\10_ADMIN3_PLANNING”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN1_REPORTS-IN”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN1_REPORTS-IN\YYYY-MM-DD_[ALL]_subject (sample)”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN1_REPORTS-IN\YYYY-MM-DD_[CLIENT]_subject (sample)”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN1_REPORTS-IN\YYYY-MM-DD_[CONTRACTOR]_subject (sample)”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN1_REPORTS-IN\YYYY-MM-DD_[FROM]_subject”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN2_GRAPHICS-IN”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN2_GRAPHICS-IN\YYYY-MM-DD_FROM_subject”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN3_CALCULATIONS-IN”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN3_CALCULATIONS-IN\YYYY-MM-DD_FROM_subject”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN4_PRODUCTION-IN”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN4_PRODUCTION-IN\YYYY-MM-DD_FROM_subject”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN5_PHOTOS-IN”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN5_PHOTOS-IN\YYYY-MM-DD_FROM_subject”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN\10_ADMIN-IN”
    md “%project%\99_DOCS_IN\10_ADMIN-IN\YYYY-MM-DD_FROM_subject”
    echo – > “%project%0_DOCS_OUT\_All project files sent by us, in dated folders
    echo – > “%project%1_REPORTS\_Preparatory work for reports and brochures
    echo – > “%project%2_GRAPHICS\_2D+3D drawingsmodels, sketches, renderings, images, animations
    echo – > “%project%2_GRAPHICS\10_IMAGES\_Rendered images and images (eg. from Photoshop-Illustrator)
    echo – > “%project%2_GRAPHICS\20_VIDEO\_Animations created from Rhino or other modeling programs
    echo – > “%project%2_GRAPHICS\30_SKETCHES\_Scanned images of hand-drawn sketches
    echo – > “%project%3_CALCULATIONS\_Calculation models, analysis, notes, preparatory work for reports
    echo – > “%project%3_CALCULATIONS1_GEOMETRY\_Geometric models used for calculations
    echo – > “%project%3_CALCULATIONS2_SHEETS\_Calculation spreadsheets and notes
    echo – > “%project%3_CALCULATIONS3_MODELS\_Analytical models
    echo – > “%project%3_CALCULATIONS4_REPORTS\_Calculation reports and preparatory work for them
    echo – > “%project%3_CALCULATIONS5_IMAGES\_Images produced from calculations and analysis
    echo – > “%project%4_PRODUCTION\_Other production files-documents (estimations, specifications, etc)
    echo – > “%project%4_PRODUCTION1_SPECIFICATIONS\_All specification-type documents
    echo – > “%project%4_PRODUCTION2_ESTIMATIONS\_All costingquantity estimates (eg. BOM-BOQ)
    echo – > “%project%4_PRODUCTION3_MINUTES\_Minutes of meetings
    echo – > “%project%5_PHOTOS\_Photos taken by us(onsite, construction progress, etc)
    echo – > “%project%6_MAILS\_Emails (in and out)
    echo – > “%project%7_RESEARCH\_Research prepared in relation to the project
    echo – > “%project%\10_ADMIN\_Administrative documents (proposals, fees, title pages, etc)
    echo – > “%project%\10_ADMIN1_CONTRACT\_Contract documents, incl. fee proposals, invoices, etc
    echo – > “%project%\10_ADMIN2_ORGANISATION\_Folder spines, title pages, headers, blank template docs, etc
    echo – > “%project%\10_ADMIN3_PLANNING\_Project calendars, time plans, etc
    echo – > “%project%\99_DOCS_IN\_All project files sent to us, in dated folders
    echo – > “%project%\99_DOCS_IN1_REPORTS-IN\_All received reports and brochures
    echo – > “%project%\99_DOCS_IN2_GRAPHICS-IN\_All received models-drawings and drawing-related images
    echo – > “%project%\99_DOCS_IN3_CALCULATIONS-IN\_All received calculation files
    echo – > “%project%\99_DOCS_IN4_PRODUCTION-IN\_All other received production documents and information
    echo – > “%project%\99_DOCS_IN5_PHOTOS-IN\_All photos received in relation to the project
    echo – > “%project%\99_DOCS_IN\10_ADMIN-IN\_All received administrative documents and information
    echo %project% folder structure created
    timeout /T 6
    rem The End

  6. I have Solidworks 2011, and want to enter material properties which are anisotropic, orthotropic etc. Please share detailed steps. Highly appreciate!

    • Dave Shaw
    • March 30, 2015, 11:21 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing. This is very daunting for anyone involved, I really appreciate you sharing this.

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