University of South Florida

School of Architecture & Community Design

USF College of The Arts

Required Laptop Policy

(Issued: Feb. 3, 2003; revised: Aug. 15, 2013)

The USF School of Architecture & Community Design (SACD) requires each student enrolled in the Advanced Design Studios A, B, and C to possess (through purchase or lease) a LAPTOP COMPUTER sufficient to reliably run the software listed at the bottom of this page.

The laptop computer requirement allows students to conduct the majority of digital work, which is an integral aspect of advanced architectural design education and professional practice, in the design studio. The studio is the primary place for the exchange of design ideas, critique, and synthesis, and the faculty at SACD believes that the student's regular presence in the studio is critical for maximizing their architectural design learning.

The laptop is required in lieu of a desktop in order to address the limited design studio space available to each student. The mobility of the laptop allows the student to easily and quickly transform a relatively small desk space into a variety of configurations suitable for physical model-making, hand-drawing, hand-drafting, design research, and design writing as well as digital drawing, modeling, and graphic design.

SACD will continue to maintain more powerful computer systems in the teaching laboratory for intensive computing requirements when they are not being used for scheduled classes. Students may begin their digital work on their laptops and, if needed, transfer files to the teaching lab computers for final development.

Because the laptop is an educational requirement at SACD, some of the cost of a new computer purchase may be able to be factored in when determining a student's financial need. For those that cannot include a laptop in their financial aid, the USF Federal Credit Union is one source for additional loans. Details about qualifying guidelines are available directly from USF Financial Aid Services. Please review these guidelines prior to choosing and purchasing a computer. The decision regarding a student's eligibility for a budget adjustment may take six to eight weeks, so students are strongly encouraged to plan ahead. The rules by which budget adjustments are made and the amounts allowed have recently changed, so all students needing financial assistance should contact the University Scholarships and Financial Aid Services as early as possible in the planning process.

THE COMPUTER PURCHASED FOR ALL ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS MUST BE A LAPTOP and must meet or exceed the specifications required to run the latest releases of the software listed in the Software Requirements section below.

SACD Laptop Hardware Recommendations

  • CPU/Processor Recommended: Intel Core i7 or similar quad-core
  • RAM Minimum: 16GB DDR4
  • Graphics: Dedicated cards only, AMD or NVIDIA
    • Recommended: AMD Radeon R9 M370X, Radeon Pro 555/560, AMD FirePro M4000 Mobility Pro | NVIDIA® Quadro® K2100M/K1100M/M1000M, NVIDIA® GeForce 950 M, 1050 M or similar cards
  • Display Minimum: 1080p (1920x1080 resolution)
  • Storage Minimum: 500GB+ HDD
    • Recommended: 500GB+ SSD (Solid State Drive; significant performance increase)
  • Operating System Minimum: Windows 10 64-bit
    • Recommended: Windows 7 64-bit (software compatibility; most computers ship with Windows 10 but sometimes Windows 7 + free Windows 10 upgrade is an option if purchased online)

Macintosh Computers

The Macintosh operating system is incompatible with several key software packages commonly used in architecture. While it is possible to run Windows-based software on a Mac through virtual machine software or BootCamp, this is only recommended for advanced users. If purchasing a Mac, please understand the risks and ensure the specs meet the requirements above.

SACD Laptop Software Requirements

The following software requirements comprise a basic text and graphics set-up. Additional software may be required for individual courses.

Some software may be included with your hardware purchase as part of the base package or as an upgrade. For software that is not included, the USF Computer Store and other local, mail-order, and internet companies (such as or offer discounted academic versions of software. When comparing prices, ask for the academic version and be prepared to provide proof of student status.