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Computer and Media Policy

Recommended Computers

The role of digital computing is fundamental to architectural education and practice. Through the guidance of faculty and a creative environment, each student is responsible for constructing and maintaining their own RIG.

The primary curricular position of the Department of Architecture is to give students an understanding of a conceptual framework to engage and maximize the design potential of digital tools comprising their own RIG. Laptop or notebook computers are highly recommended for maximum portability to ease all facets of college life. First-year classes do not require the use of a powerful computer; therefore, it is perfectly acceptable to use an older laptop you may already own, a tablet computer. Students are expected to purchase a laptop computer during the fall of their second semester as undergraduates. Successful completion of the program will require each student to develop proficiency with these technologies.

It is important to keep in mind that digital technologies are continually changing and will do so throughout one’s academic and professional career. However, the fundamental concepts shaping computational design do not change as rapidly as software platforms and techniques. An agile RIG should allow for the flexibility and opportunity to explore the exchange of ideas and functions across different software. To facilitate and promote students’ aptitude with these tools, the Department of Architecture has developed the following guidelines and policies regarding computer hardware and software.

Incoming freshman are encouraged to consult their instructors prior to the purchase of a computer, but ultimately, the choice of computer should balance recommendations, personal usage, and budgetary confines. is a great source for researching laptops, and even have a 'Top 10 Workstation Notebooks'. 


Sophomore year starts using more and more 3D modeling software. A more powerful computer will be absolutely necessary. Although gaming computers tend to work well for modeling software due to their power, a workstation-class video card designed for intensive OpenGL usage (such as AMD FirePro and NVIDIA Quadro) is the best option for 3D modeling. There are also problems inherent with trying to use an Apple computer in a program that requires the use of many Windows-only software, described below.



 Thin and Light


 Name Dell Precision 15 3000 Series Dell Precision 15 5000 Series Dell Precision 15 7000 Series
 Processor Intel® Core™ i5 2.3GHz Intel® Core™ i7 2.7GHz Intel® Xeon® E3 2.8GHz
 Video Card AMD FirePro W5130M w/2GB GDDR5 Nvidia® Quadro® M1000M w/2GB GDDR5 Nvidia® Quadro® M2000M w/4GB GDDR5
 Screen 15.6" FHD IPS (1920x1080) 15.6" UltraSharp™ FHD IPS (1920x1080) 15.6" UltraSharp™ FHD IPS (1920x1080)
 Memory 8GB (2x4GB) 2133MHz DDR4 16GB (2x8GB) 2133MHz DDR4 32GB (4x8GB) 2133MHz DDR4
 Hard Drive 500GB 7200 RPM HDD 256GB M.2 PCIe Class 40 SSD 512GB M.2 PCIe Class 50 SSD
 Thickness 0.97" 0.44" 1.09"
 Weight 4.75lbs3.93lbs 6.16lbs
 Price* $1,073.83 $1,979.00 $2,466.15

*Prices as of 07/22/2016 and are subject to change. DoArch does not endorse a specific computer model or brand, Dell is just what the architecture department uses most and are shown here merely as variances in specifications and prices. Other reputable brands of computer with mobile workstations include, but is not limited to, HP, Lenovo, and MSI

Regarding Macs

Macs MUST have a Windows partition to run Rhino3D and Revit as Parallels or similar virtual machine software will not be powerful enough to properly run 3D modeling software well. Windows with necessary software will use a minimum of 80 GB, not including Adobe software. Switching between Windows and Mac requires a reboot, diminishing a fluid workflow. It is much easier to put all software on the Windows partition and rarely use the Mac OS, or to simply buy a Windows workstation.


Each student should consider the role of systematic storage in the construction of their RIG. Systematic storage partly refers to an organized and reoccurring backup storage device that is updated manually or SDSU Department of Architecture Computer and Media Policy February 2016 2 South Dakota State University / School of Design automatically. It is also essential to carefully develop a system by which digital work is named and organized. It is required that each student obtain additional external storage as a means of file backup. External hard drives are well suited for archiving files and for supplemental storage. Cloud storage is also an option for file backup. OneDrive for Business cloud storage is given to students for free through university-supplied email. Small flash drives (also known as thumb drives, jump drives, pen drives, or memory sticks) are well suited for transporting files between devices.


Each student may find additional hardware accessories to construct their RIG in order to support their work, including but not limited to:

  • Mouse (trackpads can make 3D modeling difficult)
  • Kensington computer lock (to reduce chances of theft)
  • External hard drive that is at least 150% the capacity of the internal drive (for file backup)
  • Larger external monitor (for later years to ease advanced computer modeling)
  • External DVD Drive (None of the examples above have a built-in DVD drive)


Students are expected to obtain the software needed to complete the tasks and produce the outputs required by their courses. Each student is expected to engage in pursuing the necessary aptitudes with specific software tools. Addressing the implications and fundamental concepts of digital tools is a critical part of the DoArch curriculum. Software training is not a standard part of the architecture curriculum. The software platforms outlined below are integral to the development of each student’s RIG. This development is evidenced in the architecture curriculum through the relationship between analog and digital processes.

As student’s architectural education progresses, so will the capacity and composition of their RIGS. Software piracy is illegal. Students are responsible for the maintenance of their own RIG. DoARCH does not provide hardware or software support for student equipment.

General Productivity

The list of software outlined below is a basic outline of some of the most commonly used tools for general communication. This is the communication and maintenance component of the RIG.

Microsoft Office (Available for free through the University)

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • OneDrive for Business

Anti-Virus + Malware (Available for student purchase at: the University Bookstore)

Basic Digital Concepts, 3D Modeling, and BIM

Adobe Creative Cloud for Students and Teachers ($20/month at

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Acrobat Pro

Autodesk (Free for students from

  • AutoCAD
  • Revit

McNeel Rhinoceros3D Version 5 ($95 at Bookstore)