Chief Architect Q&A, CAD, and More - Designers Show #108

designers show Aug 07, 2023
Chief Architect Q&A, CAD, and More - Designers Show #108

 This episode of the Designers Show was all about diving deep into Chief Architect's 2D CAD tools. Renee had some real talk for the AutoCAD crowd, suggesting that Chief's tools, while they might seem basic at first, are actually pretty rad. And Dan? He was on fire, showing off all the cool things you can do, from drawing simple lines to crafting intricate tile layouts. 

The deep dive into terrain design was where things got super interesting. Designing for specific terrains can be tricky, and the episode highlighted the dance between architects and land engineers. There were also some neat tips about managing layers in a DWG file, which, trust me, can be a lifesaver.

The show also explored the nitty-gritty of terrain adjustments. From the magic of retaining walls to the art of driveway design, it was a visual feast. And for the geeks among us (no shame, I'm one of them!), there was a cool segment on how Chief Architect plays with geographical coordinates and sun angles. They even teased a new tool that uses macros for reference coordinates. Geeky? Yes. Awesome? Absolutely.

The episode wrapped up with this jaw-dropping 3D view of an adjusted terrain. It was like watching a masterpiece come to life. And as the credits rolled, the message was clear: Dive in, play around, and discover the world of design with Chief Architect.

In a nutshell, if you're looking to up your design game, this episode of the Designers Show is a must-watch. It's fun, informative, and trust me, you won't be disappointed. Check this out!


Used Video Captions

Based on the first segment of the video, here are the topics and highlights with timestamps:

  1. Introduction and Welcoming Guests (00:01 - 00:27)

    • Dan welcomes guests John, Renee, Kevin, and mentions Robin might join.
    • Casual greetings and mentions of an upcoming event in four weeks.
  2. Event Promotions (00:44 - 03:35)

    • Kevin mentions there are three rooms left for an event and encourages viewers to click on a link for more details.
    • Discussion about the value of attending the event, especially for networking and learning.
    • Mention of another event, the "Total Immersion Summit" in March of the next year.
  3. Introduction to Chief Architect's 2D CAD (03:40 - 09:59)

    • Transition to the main topic: Chief Architect's 2D CAD capabilities.
    • Discussion about the power and versatility of Chief's 2D CAD tools.
    • Renee mentions that people coming from an AutoCAD background might initially find Chief's CAD tools lacking, but they are actually very powerful.
    • Dan demonstrates basic CAD functions in Chief Architect:
      • Drawing lines and polylines.
      • Using the Tab key to input dimensions.
      • Adjusting dimensions and understanding X, Y positioning.
      • Using the trim and extend tools.
      • The importance of the multiple copy button and its various applications.
      • Drawing a box and discussing potential applications like tile layout.


  1. Advanced Tile Layout with Multiple Copy (10:02 - 12:17)

    • Demonstrating how to use the multiple copy tool to create a tile layout.
    • Discussion on the difference between a polyline box and a regular box.
    • Using the multiple copy tool to create a radial or spiderweb pattern.
  2. Using Subtraction for Tile Layout (12:18 - 17:38)

    • Introduction to the subtraction tool and its uses.
    • Demonstrating how to use the subtraction tool to trim tiles at the edge of a room.
    • The importance of the order in which items are selected for subtraction.
  3. Trimming with the Trim Tool (17:39 - 20:08)

    • Demonstrating how to use the trim tool to trim lines.
    • Using the trim tool to trim tiles in a layout.
    • Discussion about the difference between beginner and intermediate users.
  4. Trimming with Circles (20:09 - 20:47)

    • Using a circle to trim tiles in a layout.
    • Demonstrating the versatility of the subtraction tool with different shapes.


  1. Trimming with Circles Continued (21:00 - 22:03)

    • Further demonstration on how to use the trim tool with circles.
    • Discussion on how the trim tool can be used with framing items.
  2. Rotating Around a Current Point (22:04 - 25:38)

    • Introduction to the concept of rotating objects around a current point.
    • Demonstrating how to set a current point and use it for rotation.
    • Discussion on the difference between rotating around the center of an object versus a current point.
  3. Creating Unique Staircases (25:39 - 27:32)

  • Using the subtraction tool to create a unique staircase design.
  • Discussion on the versatility of the subtraction tool for various design elements.
  1. Addressing User Questions: Interior Railings (27:33 - 29:09)
  • Responding to a user's question about interior railings cutting the ceiling finish.
  • Discussion on the importance of using the correct wall type for railings.
  1. Addressing User Questions: Terrain Features (29:10 - 29:37)
  • Responding to a user's question about irregularities in 3D terrain features, especially at the front of garage doors.
  1. Google Reviews and User Engagement (29:38 - 30:58)
  • Encouraging viewers to leave Google reviews for Chief Experts.
  • Discussion on the importance of Google Business and user reviews.
  1. Introduction to Site Plans (31:00 - 32:08)
  • Introduction to a project site plan for a house on a hill in California.
  • Discussion on the view and design elements of the house.


  1. Working with Terrain and DWG Files (32:12 - 38:02)
  • Discussion about the terrain of a lot and the challenges of designing for it.
  • Mention of working with a land engineer and the importance of obtaining a DWG file for the plot plan.
  • Tips on how to handle numerous layers in a DWG file and how to import only the necessary layers into Chief Architect.
  • Emphasis on never importing a DWG file directly into the working plan to avoid layer conflicts.
  • The process of selecting and copying only the desired layers from the DWG file.
  1. Rotating and Aligning the Terrain (38:03 - 41:40)
  • Explanation of how to rotate the terrain to fit the plan.
  • Discussion about the "plan footprint" tool in Chief Architect and the decision not to use it for this project.
  • Demonstration of how to rotate the terrain and align it with the building outline.
  • Tips on how to accurately rotate the terrain using angles and the transform replicate tool.
  1. Copying and Positioning the Terrain (41:41 - 42:26)
  • Steps to copy the adjusted terrain and position it accurately in the Chief Architect plan.
  • Use of the "point-to-point move" tool to align the terrain with the building outline.
  1. Positioning Terrain in the Plan (42:31 - 43:56)
  • Demonstrating how to paste the terrain in the exact spot needed in the plan without affecting the house design.
  • Emphasizing the importance of turning layers on and off to view specific elements.
  • Warning against directly importing DWG files into the working plan.
  • Suggestion to select desired items from the DWG, rename them, and then copy them into the Chief Architect plan.
  1. Addressing Driveway Terrain Issues (44:00 - 48:06)
  • Discussing potential issues with unevenness at garage doors or other parts of the plan.
  • Emphasizing the importance of not crossing over another terrain contour line.
  • Demonstrating how to shape terrain using elevation regions.
  • Highlighting the importance of ensuring contour lines do not overlap to prevent terrain irregularities.
  1. Using Retaining Walls in Terrain (48:07 - 53:34)
  • Discussing the use of retaining walls in terrain design.
  • Demonstrating how to draw a straight terrain wall and the difference between a terrain wall and a retaining wall.
  • Tips on how to prevent walls from intersecting and causing terrain issues.
  • Using the "partition wall" setting to ensure walls do not extend into each other.
  1. Addressing Terrain Irregularities (53:41 - 54:21)
  • Discussing issues with terrain irregularities and how they can be addressed.
  • Mention of using a "Terrain hole" to fix areas where the terrain is acting unpredictably.
  • Suggestion to use a slab to level out areas where the terrain has been removed.
  1. Longitude and Latitude in Chief Architect (54:45 - 57:19)
  • Discussion about how Chief Architect handles longitude and latitude, especially in relation to the sun angle.
  • Speculation about where the sun angle is placed on a plan based on longitude and latitude.
  • Introduction of a potential tool that uses a macro to set a reference coordinate and then determine the longitude and latitude of various points on a plan.
  1. Terrain Adjustments and Tips (57:45 - 61:03)
  • Emphasizing the importance of making terrain adjustments to fit the design.
  • Tips on how to work with contour lines and elevation regions to shape the terrain.
  • Mention of using the trim tool to adjust terrain lines.
  1. 3D View of the Terrain (61:52 - 62:29)
  • Displaying a 3D view of the terrain to show the results of the adjustments.
  • Discussion about the computational demands of building the terrain in Chief Architect.
  1. Closing Remarks (62:34 - 63:01)