University of Virginia: School of Architecture

Computer Requirement for Students

All students in the School of Architecture should consider obtaining their own personal computer.

Use of digital tools and technology in the School of Architecture is significant, especially for students of design (Architecture and Landscape Architecture), and as early as the first year of study for both undergraduate and graduate students.  Computer use is far more intense than basic office and productivity work, and will include significant use of graphics tools like the Adobe suite, CAD, 3D modeling, GIS, and more.  To be effective and not frustrated with your computer's working performance, this requires a higher specification, and higher cost, than what would be required of some other academic areas.  All incoming students should read through the information on this page and look to purchase a computer according to this expectation.

Approximate costs to expect for a computer capable of the work that you will need to do, plus costs for software that you will need to buy, are as follows:

Design students:~$2,300 - $2,800~$450 [see note]$2,850 - $3,250
Non-design students:~$1,800 - $1,900~$255 [see note]$2,055 - $2,155


Please note that these are rough averages based upon current offerings and are intended only to give a general picture of price.  These only include the most common hardware and required software. Individual needs may differ.

[note] The prices shown above indicate only first-time purchase costs, not ongoing costs.  Some software, such as the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, are subscription-based and require a yearly cost.  Adobe CC, for instance, is $240 for the first year (included above), and then $360 each year afterward.  Most other software is a one-time purchase.

The good news is that while the School of Architecture does require software purchases, we require very few large textbooks.  The money that you would be spending on expensive textbooks in other disciplines can be applied to software costs here.

Specific requirements and specifications for hardware and software are given below.

We strongly encourage students to purchase their new computers through the CAV Program at Cavalier Computers.  CAV Program computers are pre-configured to meet the specifications and software options for the School of Architecture and include additional installation and support services.  See the bottom of this page for more detail on the CAV Program.

If you prefer, you can purchase your computer through other sources at educational discounts.  If you choose this, however, please make sure your computer meets the appropriate specification for your group.  See the table of groups and list of specifications below.

Additional resources, including computer labs, imaging, scanning, and printing facilities are available in the school. These facilities are intended as supplements to personally owned computers, not replacements for them.

A required computer orientation is held for arriving students at the beginning of the academic year. 

Selecting the right computer - which group are you?

Undergraduate Students
Requirement:Type of Computer:
All undergraduate studentsPurchase a new laptop computer that meets the specification identified to the right upon entering the School.Laptop -- spec 1
(see specs below)
Graduate Students
Landscape Architecture
Purchase a new computer that meets the specification identified to the right upon entering.Laptop or Desktop -- spec 1  
(see specs for each below)
Urban and Environmental Planning
students who expect to pursue GIS intensive courses.
Purchase a new laptop computer that meets the specification identified to the right upon entering.Laptop -- spec 1
Urban and Environmental Planning
students who do not expect to pursue GIS intensive courses.
Purchase a new laptop computer that meets the specification identified to the right upon entering.Laptop -- spec 2
Architectural HistoryPurchase a new laptop computer that meets the specification identified to the right upon entering.Laptop -- spec 2

Both Macintosh and Windows platforms are supported in the school.

Design students (Architecture and Landscape Architecture) do need to be able to run Windows-based software.  If desired, this can be accomplished on Apple computers using BootCamp (a dual-boot Mac and Windows configuration) or Parallels or VMWare Fusion.  Some students find this very workable.  Some do not.

NOTE: All computers brought must be able to run regular software.  Tablet computers, netbooks, chromebooks, etc. that cannot run a full Windows or Macintosh Operating System and cannot install regular software will not be adequate.

NOTE for all Design Students:

  • An external monitor screen (20"+) may be helpful to put on your studio desk, even if you have a laptop.  Design students find large screens beneficial for graphics work.  This is optional, but may be very useful.  Monitor options are available with your CAV Program purchase.
  • We recommend students rebuild / cleanup their computer at the beginning of each year.
  • Consider a RAM upgrade at the beginning of your 3rd or 4th year.

Please read the following advice on purchasing a computer.


Software Requirement

School of Architecture students should also purchase both Microsoft Office and the Adobe Creative Cloud.  

Both are available through the University (see Cavalier Computers) at negotiated student pricing contracts.  Microsoft Office is available for $15 and the Adobe Creative Cloud is available for $240 (first year cost, $360 each additional year).  Computers purchased through the CAV Program will include options for both of these at time of purchase.

Additional software may be required by other courses.  Some software is free, like the entire Autodesk (AutoCAD) suite.  Some must be bought.  

The most common additional software for Architecture and Landscape Architecture design students are Rhino (a 3D CAD modeling program, $95), which can be purchased and included in the box when you buy through the CAV Program, and V-Ray (a rendering program for Rhino, $103, purchased separately).  

A list of software available to students, along with links to download or purchase, is at our SARC Software page.

If other software is required, information will be provided in the individual course syllabi.

The University provides basic utilities, such as for virus protection and off-grounds access, for free to students.  See ITS Software Central for details.


Required Computer Specification

This configuration is suitable to effectively work with the most common graphics software packages used in the school.

Spec 1 - Design and GIS performance

(see chart above for which levels and disciplines this applies to)

Laptop Computer

  • 2.3 GHz or better Intel Quad-Core i7 processor; Windows or Macintosh
  • Windows 7+ (Professional, 64-bit) or Mac OS X
 (10.7+) *
  • 16 GB RAM ** (32 is better if you can afford it)
  • 500 GB hard drive (or larger)

Desktop Computer

  • 3.1 GHz or better Intel Quad-Core i7 processor; Windows or Macintosh
  • Windows 7+ (Professional, 64-bit) or Mac OS X
 (10.7+) *
  • 16 GB RAM ** (32 is better if you can afford it)
  • 500 GB hard drive
  • Wireless network card (please check this - this is often an add-on for desktops, but will significantly help with access to the studio network)

Spec 2 - Standard use

(see chart above for which levels and disciplines this applies to)

  • 2.0 GHz or better Intel Dual-Core i5 or better processor; Windows or Macintosh
  • Windows 7+ (Professional, 64-bit) or Mac OS X
 (10.7+) *
  • 8 GB RAM (you might consider 16)
  • 250 GB hard drive

 **Recommended for All Computers**

  • Wireless Network card
  • 3-button mouse
  • 3- or 4-year warranty strongly recommended (included in CAV program machines)
  • Accessories: Cable lock, surge protector power strip
  • External Hard Drive (USB) for automated backups of your computer.

* Note: For students choosing Macintosh computers, the Windows operating system is available to students at UVa for $15, and can be installed to run through BootCamp (dual-boot setup). Through this, an Apple computer can run any Windows-based software used in the school.

** Note: Many software programs used within the School of Architecture are fairly memory-intensive.  16 GB or more is recommended for best performance and longevity of your computer, especially for those using CAD, GIS, and similar software.  More RAM is optional for those wanting to push these programs even further.

 The CAV Computer Program

The School of Architecture has partnered with UVa's Cavalier Computers to offer a line of pre-configured computers for students to purchase under the university's CAV Program.

Under this program, students can choose from one of a handful of computer configurations that out-of-the-box meet the School of Architecture's computer requirement, including some of the base software needed for School of Architecture programs.

The CAV Program computers offer the following benefits to students:

  • Pre-configured computers that meet the School of Architecture's computer requirement
  • Competetive educational pricing through the UVA Bookstore / Cavalier Computers
  • Apple and Dell platforms available
  • Microsoft Office pre-installed (under UVA educational contract pricing)
  • UVA customizations pre-installed
  • Option for Adobe Creative Cloud, included in the box (UVA student license pricing, select at checkout)
  • Option for Rhino (for design students) included in the box (Student license pricing, select at checkout)
  • 3- or 4-year system warranty included (option to select which)
  • Accidental Damage warranty included.

Additional benefits:

  • Authorized warranty service on-campus through Cavalier Computers
  • A free loaner computer while yours is being fixed
  • A restore-disk to get you right back to day 1 with all included software, in the event of an emergency.
  • and more. 
Additional Services:
Cavalier Computers is now also providing additional for fee services including:
  • Windows OS installation (for BootCamp Apple computers)
  • Individual software installation service - help installing your software
  • Personal Backup service - installation and setup of a personal backup for your computer
  • and more. 

See the CAV Program page at Cavalier Computers for details.
Choose Architecture to see the options configured for you.