Engineer Briana Brubaker Talks About Coming of Age with AutoCAD

Customer Spotlight

With AutoCAD now in its 35th year of existence, we’ve started talking to designers who don’t know about life before the original CAD software. Briana Brubaker, a structural engineer with Martino and Luth in the Denver, Colorado area, is one of them.

Briana Brubaker“I’ve used AutoCAD since I was a kid,” she says. “My father is actually a high school CAD teacher. I saw the first AutoCAD when it came out on the DOS computers a gazillion years ago.” Read on to find out what inspired her to go into engineering, and how she’s using AutoCAD to make the world as safe as it is beautiful.

Why did you decide to become an engineer?

I actually was a Girl Scout and we had engineering day when I was ten. We built a popsicle stick bridge and had a competition; we came in third. I thought it was the coolest thing that I had ever done in my life. From then on, I worked to go into engineering. Probably the only thing that has changed is that I originally wanted to build (real) bridges, but I found this awesome company that designs buildings instead of bridges. I really enjoy the job; even though I’m not doing bridges, I am still doing structural engineering.

How do you use AutoCAD?

There are a lot of engineering companies where the engineers do the engineering and the CAD drafters do the CAD. At our company, which is small, we do both. I use AutoCAD pretty much 50-75% of my day. Usually, I take architectural drawings out of Revit by doing an export, but the client sometimes provides the AutoCAD background. Either will work, but I generally prefer to set the range for myself in Revit so that I can get what I need. I take those drawings and I set up the structural elements.

Right now, I am working on a school. They knew that they wanted pre-cast concrete panels with steel columns and beams inside. We got the architectural drawings and we set up where the columns were going to be and where the joists were going to be, and the beams, etc. We put in the structural floor. We draw these structural elements, and I’d say 90% of it is done in AutoCAD.

Why do you prefer to work in AutoCAD?

As a company, we are trying to move more into 3D, but right now, as wonderful as the 3D software is, Revit and everything, it just cannot beat the cleanliness and the user friendliness of AutoCAD. It just can’t. AutoCAD produces the best planned drawings. When you’re out in the field, you’re not looking at a model. You’re looking at a sheet. For now, and probably for the foreseeable future, we are going to be putting our drawings out in AutoCAD.

Briana Brubaker

What kinds of projects does your company work on?

We do all kinds of stuff. We do apartment buildings—everything from eight-story concrete apartment buildings to smaller three-story walk-ups where there are eight buildings in the apartment complex. We do malls. We do hospitals. Actually, recently, we are doing a pot dispensary now that that’s legal in Colorado, so that’s interesting. Anyway, it’s that kind of stuff. Not huge buildings but pretty good sized.

You’ve used AutoCAD for a long time, in fact, you’ve grown up with it. How has it changed?

How much time do you have? [Laughter] I think it’s changed a lot. It is kind of insane, but it is cool to learn each time something comes out and makes things easier for us. 

That popsicle bridge you and your troop created for that Girl Scout competition… did you design it in AutoCAD?

You know, I don’t think we did. We drew it by hand.

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    Interesting Article, Thanks for sharing your experience Leah. Agree with you about the 2D drawing sheets still used for presenting Building Models. We receive floor/site plans predominantly in PDF format, dwg is the dominant vector format by far. My personal opinion is that AutoCAD is an excellent, mature, Design Automation tool whose main benefit is the ability to communicate with most, if not all of the numerous other formats. We work in a Multi-Format world, my wish would be, please Autodesk, to have a common format and Tools for modelling Buildings/Facilities. Tools that can be used by Building Owners, Designers, Consultants and Contractors. Not too big an ask?

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