Beginning in Fall 2019, each incoming freshman in the Bachelor of Science in Architecture (BSAS) program and each incoming student in the Master of Architecture (MArch) program will be required to purchase a laptop computer that meets or exceeds the Department of Architecture’s hardware and software specifications as published on the year the student enters the program. Beginning in Fall 2020, each incoming transfer student will be required to purchase a laptop computer. Students graduating from the BSAS program will be required to update or renew their laptop to conform to the School’s specifications upon entry into the M.Arch program.

2020/2021 School Year

Department Of Architecture Computer Requirement

All students entering the Bachelor of Science in Architecture Studies (BSAS) program and the Master of Architecture (MARCH) program are required to purchase a design-capable laptop computer and software. By choosing to study architecture, you enter a world of advanced computing. Architecture students do far more than write emails, make spreadsheets and compose term papers. They develop complex 3D models. They simulate lighting, materiality, air flow and energy flow. They produce intricate technical drawings. They use parametric representations to simulate intelligent, responsive envelopes and structures. They interface with robotic fabrication equipment. This work requires a powerful computer that costs significantly more than a typical one. Students are encouraged not to skimp on their computer. An under-powered computer will frustrate you and hold you back at every step. With normal architecture student use, the recommended laptops described below will serve your educational needs until the completion of your BSAS or MARCH degree, enabling you to participate in not only beginner-level but also more advanced coursework as you progress.

The recommendations below are intended as a guide for our typical BSAS and MARCH student. Please understand that individual student circumstances vary, and so you should carefully consider your own needs and purchase the right laptop for you.

Computer Hardware Requirement

Two laptop recommendations are provided below. The recommended minimum laptop specification is designated by “Minimum.” For students interested in a computer that is better-than-minimum, please consider the specification designated by “Preferred.” Requirements are noted by the term “Required.


Required: Laptop.
The School requires laptops because of their mobility. Many classes require students to participate digitally in various learning environments on and off campus. A laptop can be used in a lecture hall, in design studio, in common areas with a study group, in the field to measure and document sites, at a local architecture firm during an internship, and at home.


Required: Windows Operating System (Microsoft Windows 10 Pro, 64-bit). Windows 10 Home Edition is not acceptable. The School of Architecture is set up to support computers with a Microsoft Windows operating system, and this is also the standard platform in professional architectural practice. Students are required to use a PC.


Minimum: Intel Quad Core i7 with clock speed: 2.2 GHz+ (turbo boost preferred). A faster CPU and one with more cores means faster 3D rendering time and video update. The latest 8th generation Intel i7 processors have six cores. Recommended: Six-Core Xeon processor or Six-Core i7 processor.


Required: 16 GB.
Preferred: 32 GB or more.


Minimum: 500 GB SSD drive.
Preferred: 1 TB SSD drive, or larger.


Minimum: Nvidia or AMD, 3 GB memory, discrete not shared or integrated. Preferred: Nvidia Quadro or AMD Radeon or better. For an extended discussion of video cards for architectural design and rendering see: If you want to use the rendering software Lumion (recommended below in the Software section) you should read the guidelines at this link and buy a processor and a video card suitable to Lumion. Lumion is one of the most popular tools for rendering used by architects and students of architecture today.


Minimum: 15” with minimum resolution of 1920×1080. Computer-aided design is a graphical medium and screen size and resolution are important considerations. Laptops with a 17” screen are nice for graphics, but heavier. Laptops with 13” screens are difficult to use effectively.


Required: 802.11ac wireless.


Preferred: 4-year on-site/at-home warranty with accidental damage service to protect against drops and spills. An on-site warranty means the company will send someone to the home or campus drop-off location to fix the computer, rather than waiting two weeks or more for mail-in service. In the event of a hardware problem this will greatly minimize delays on time-sensitive projects.


Required: External optical mouse.
A mouse is essential for using 3D modeling and graphics software. Using the built-in trackpad is not sufficient.


Expect to pay around $2,500 for an appropriately configured Minimum laptop and up to $3,250 for Preferred.

UWM Techstore

READY-TO-PURCHASE LAPTOPS. If you want an easy, pre-arranged purchase option for either the Minimum or Preferred laptop, consider purchasing your laptop from the UWM TechStore. You can order your laptop online or in-person at the TechStore, located at the UWM Student Union. The laptop will be built by Dell and shipped to your house, or you can pick it up at the TechStore. Estimated time from purchase to delivery is three weeks.

Computer Software Requirement

The following list of software is the Department of Architecture’s basic software suite. It is required for all students. Students need to get the current production version of each. Some software requires purchase, some can be acquired for free, as indicated below. As students advance in the program, other more specialized software will be required by particular teachers in particular courses. The list below includes only the basic software suite, not course-specific software.


Please note that for students entering the BSAS program, Microsoft Office Suite is required for the Freshman year and beyond. All other software listed below are needed for the Sophomore year and beyond. (This assumes that a student takes classes in the normal sequence.) For MARCH students, all of the software below is required for the entire duration of the program.


Includes Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
Cost: Free
Download the software at: How to install Office 365 at


Cost: $20/month first year, then $30/month.
Includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat Pro and other Adobe products. Adobe Creative Cloud is subscription based. Subscribe through Adobe’s website. All Adobe products are included with the subscription.

AUTOCAD – Student version

Cost: Free.
Go to the Autodesk Education Community webpage ( and look for the “Sign In” link. Fill out the registration form using your email address. When creating a password, please use a different one than your UWM password. After logging in, go to the software download section to obtain the free software.

REVIT – Student version

Cost: Free.
Go to the Autodesk Education Community webpage ( and look for the “Sign In” link. Fill out the registration form using your email address. When creating a password, please use a different one than your UWM password. After logging in, go to the software download section to obtain the free software.

RHINOCEROS – Student version

Cost: $195 (one-time).
Go to the Rhinoceros website at This is a general-purpose modeling system for architectural designers.

V-RAY FOR RHINOCEROS – Student version

Cost: $99/year.
Obtain a student version of this Rhinoceros plug-in at This is a general-purpose rendering engine.

LUMION – Student version

Cost: Free.
Preferred. Obtain at This is an advanced rendering and animation engine. Please note that Lumion is the most processor and graphics processor-intensive software listed here. Therefore its requirements set the bar for the laptop you buy. If you want to be able to use Lumion and produce higher-quality renderings much faster, then read the graphics card and laptop hardware guide provided on the Lumion website:


Cost: Free.
Obtain at

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to match the Minimum or Preferred hardware specification exactly?
No. Students are encouraged to assess their individual circumstances and purchase a laptop that is right for them. To do this, a student needs to balance cost, performance, durability and timing of purchase. The Minimum and Preferred specifications described above is best-suited for our typical BSAS and MARCH student, so these should be taken as a general guideline and starting point for each student’s individual consideration. Items noted as Required in the above specification are needed for students to take part in required coursework. If you do not have a Required item it could be impossible for you to complete required work in your courses.

Is financial aid available to help cover the cost of the laptop and software?
Yes. The cost of a laptop is considered as a legitimate educational expense, and it is included in the calculations made by the Financial Aid Office. If you are eligible for financial aid without considering the laptop, then you will likely be eligible for more aid when considering the laptop. If you were previously not eligible for financial aid, you might become eligible when considering the laptop.

Are there any tutorials to aid with the required software programs?
Yes. Students take required courses in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, where they learn how to use Required software.

What if my laptop is lost, stolen or damaged – will there be backup laptops available for my use?
Yes. Campus IT Services offers a limited number of rentable laptops for temporary use. Also, the School of Architecture computer labs will remain, and students can use these lab computers while waiting for their laptop to be repaired. It is a good idea to protect against loss, theft and damage with an appropriate insurance policy and technical support plan.

Do you recommend I insure my laptop through my personal insurance against damage/lose/theft?
Yes. It is advisable to have insurance coverage, a warrantee and a technical support plan. A design-capable laptop is a big investment and it is important to protect that investment.

Can I configure my laptop to print wirelessly to a printer or plotter managed by the university?
Maybe. It will depend on a lot of factors related to the Windows operating system as it continues to evolve and improve, the speed of wireless technology as it continues to improve, and a student’s individual technical prowess. Students can always print by simply uploading their files to OneDrive and then accessing the files from a computer in the printing lab.

Why do I need to purchase a laptop instead of a desktop?
Teachers in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning will be making significant updates and improvements to the curriculum once students have laptops. These changes will take advantage of mobile computing. As these changes happen, students without a laptop will lose the ability to participate in required coursework. Examples include field documentation, community engagement, and in-office collaboration with local architecture firms.

Is the School of Architecture network accessible via wireless connections?
Yes, but a traditional network is used less and less. The new standard for file sharing is web-based, such as through OneDrive or Canvas.

Who should I contact with additional questions about this policy?
Associate Professor Kyle Talbott: