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Information technology resources

Students in the School of Architecture are provided access to a variety of computer resources:

  1. The Engineering Microcomputer Facility (EMF) maintains 22 specialized labs, allowing student's to use the Internet, CD and DVD recording devices, scanners, plotters, and printers when it is convenient for them. For that reason, many EMF labs are open 24-7 and extensive wireless access is available across campus.

    EMF provides over 100 course-specific software programs such as AutoCAD, Matlab, Pro Engineer, and Adobe Creative Suite. Changing course requirements necessitate that new software programs be continuously installed, allowing students to complete impressive course projects and compulsory assignments.

    Output resources available to architecture students include plotting and large-format colour printing.

  2. Students in the School of Architecture also enjoy access to the Media Centre, which provides faculty, staff and students with equipment and technical expertise in four areas of multimedia production and design: photography (digital and film), web design, publication design, and videography.

  3. In addition to the Media Centre and EMF, students may use the multimedia facilities of McGill’s ICS Customer Services (ICS), located at 688 Sherbrooke West, Room 285 (south-west corner of University and Sherbrooke, to the right of the elevators on the second floor).

    Walk-in services include:
    - General IT Inquiries (Walk-in Service Desk)
    - Audiovisual Equipment Loans
    - Academic Laptop/Tablet Support
    - Laptop/Tablet Repairs
    - Software media pick-up (for McGill licensed software)

Students are strongly advised to acquire a personal computer, and to use it in the studio. Laptops are recommended, and the minimum specifications listed below have been defined as essential for most course work in the School of Architecture.

The School of Architecture sees computing as an essential part of an architecture education. While coursework using computers can be accomplished in the existing School computer labs, the program requires that students purchase a computer that can handle the advanced graphics and design applications we teach in our curriculum.

The School recommends laptops for their easy portability. A laptop also can be brought to class when learning certain software programs, and occupies less space on a student’s studio desk than a desktop computer. Screen size is a significant consideration for CAD and graphic work. Laptops with 15” displays are recommended as the minimum screen size. Those wishing to purchase a laptop with a 17” display should keep in mind that this will usually add 1-2 pounds of weight, making it less mobile. At a later time, students might elect to purchase a larger independent monitor. This can be used to expand the size of the virtual desktop.

Here are some basic laptop configurations and specifications recommended for running CAD, graphic and 3D applications that can be used as a guide to purchase your equipment:

Note: plus signs (+) below mean “or better”.

Windows Operating System (Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium or Pro, 64-bit)

  • Processor: Intel: Core i5 or i7, AMD: Athlon II or Phenom II, Clock speed: 2.2 GHz+
  • RAM: 4 GB +
  • Hard Drive: 320 or 500 GB (7200 rpm preferred)
  • Network: 802.11g (or n) Wireless Network Support
  • Video Card: Nvidia or ATI, 512 MB-1 GB, discrete not shared or integrated. Avoid Intel graphics.
  • Screen size: 15"+
  • External optical mouse
  • 3 year on-site/at-home warranty

Macintosh Operating System (Mac OS X)

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 or i7
  • RAM: 4 GB+
  • Hard Drive: 320-500 GB+ (7200 rpm preferred)
  • Network: 802.11n Wireless Network Support (AirPort Extreme)
  • Video card: 512 MB+ dedicated Video Graphics Card (avoid Intel or integrated graphics)
  • 15”+ notebook display
  • External optical mouse
  • 3 year warranty (Apple Protection Plan)

Note: In order to run Windows programs such as AutoCAD or Rhino* on a Mac, you must purchase a Microsoft Windows license (make sure to get the full version and not an upgrade version). The preferred method for running Windows uses Apple's Boot Camp, which comes with OS X. Another option is to run Windows within OS X using 3rd party programs such as Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion, but the performance is lower compared to Boot Camp. *A Rhino beta exists for OS X but is incomplete and may not be stable for coursework use.

Other Essential Items (both Windows and Mac):

  • 4+ GB USB memory key (at least one)
  • External 320+ GB USB 2.0 hard drive for extra storage and backup
  • Kensington-type cable lock for securing the computer to one's studio desk. Don't forget the lock - losing a laptop can set you back weeks or months of work.

EMF runs the Engineering Pilot Laptop Program, providing students with an opportunity to purchase specially priced and well-configured laptops. EMF Pilot Laptop Program webpage.

This program is not compulsory and is open to all students registered in Engineering, Urban Planning, and Architecture.


Students may purchase the EMF recommended laptop, equivalent Mac or PC laptops, other electronic and computer equipment and software at academic prices through the McGill computer store.