I used to think it would be too difficult a task to even consider the idea of designing one’s own home, doing a remodel or an addition.  Not any more, thanks to this amazing software from Broderbund, a division of The Learning Company.

3D Home Architect 4 ($39.95 for Windows 95 and higher AND for Windows NT4 and higher) absolutely blows me away with its comprehensive set of tools, ease of use and completeness.  Look, I’m no architect or graphic designer.  I have a hard time drawing a straight line with a ruler, but even I can see just how wonderful this program is.  So, for anyone even remotely interested in what this program can do for you (and your family), you owe it to yourself to read on.  It’s really fun to use.

Start with a new rendering engine.  This is the guts of the program that does the drawing.  It’s new.  The rendering engine is what takes all the input you select and renders or draws it out with all its elements so it looks really purdy on the screen and in a printout.

To add to the ease of use I found, there is a new HouseWizard, a tutorial that walks the user through the program in easy to follow steps.  Design your own “thing” by answering a few questions OR start with any of the 150 customizable plans that are included.  Since I am NOT artistic and completely without talent is this regard, I like this approach.  Create movable room blocks and simply drag them and drop them where you wish.  It’s that simple.

There is even a HUGE object and texture library that lets you see what, for example, a parquet floor would look like in the garage, or light-colored wood paneling in the attic.  It’s up to you.  Apply carpeting, siding, stucco, tile wall covering.  You name it.  It’s in there, as area all the colors, more than 16 million of them, to choose from.

With the built-in lighting simulation, you can visualize what your project will look like at any time of the day or night.  That’s an important consideration when designing landscaping, considering heating and air conditioning loads, and for general interior brightness – where to put the house itself relative to the sunlight streaming in.  With this information, you might select the property more carefully and wisely, especially in this era of energy conservation.

If you have your own plans done outside the program, you can scan them in and then customize, editing in both 2D and 3D!

How much will it all cost?  With the built-in Materials List, you can see what the approximate costs are of REAL products, from landscaping to plumbing and fixtures to decks and lighting, and much more.  See, I told you it’s all in there!

In the design, you can even see what the wood framing will look like!

Just like the software professionals use, 3D Home Architect lets you do a virtual walk through, a simulated tour of the home or addition, and then, it can be recorded for sharing or for reference. You can also view the design from ANY angle – multi-story, bird’s eye, cross-section and ground level.  All the beams, every stud and post and rafter is accurately detailed.

I’ve never seen anything quite like 3D Home Architect and I highly recommend it!  You’ll find it at most of the usual suspects where software is sold.  For more information, please visit www.learningco.com or call toll-free to order at 1-800-KID-XPRT (1-800-543-9778).  The product-specific page is HERE.  Be sure to click to view the Flash Movie on that page so you can see a sample of the power and ease of use of this software.

The 3D Home brand of products is the leader in the home improvement category and has been around the longest. You get a lot of great software for the money, and I really like that!

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