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Which BIM Software Should I Use?

Curved Building. Comparing BIM Software

If you work in the AEC sector, you’ll have encountered BIM software at some point. Building Information Modeling software is designed to compile all the information that designers, architects and engineers might need to know about a building or infrastructure. From the concept of the structure to its eventual demolition, the entire lifecycle is covered with BIM. With it, it’s easy to produce timescales, budgets and much more. If you’ve not yet taken the plunge, however, you might be wondering which BIM software you should be using. As usual, Scan2CAD is here to help. 

Our latest guide covers all the major BIM software packages out there—looking at top features, product descriptions and even prices.

Which BIM software should I use?

As with most software—whether it’s CAD, CAM or CNC—your choice of BIM software almost always depends on two main factors: what type of budget you have and what kind of capabilities you need. If you’re only interested in testing the waters and seeing what BIM is capable of, you might opt for BIM freeware. If, however, you’re looking for something with more functionality, you’re more likely to need the pricier software.

Fortunately, if you’re already a CAD user, you might already have the software needed for BIM capabilities. Most CAD software nowadays comes with BIM capabilities and add-ons—so you get a two-in-one deal. We’ve previously spoken about which architecture software you should use, which briefly delves into BIM. Here, however, we’re going to look specifically at the top BIM software packages you should be taking advantage of—if you’ve got the budget! 


Modeling in 3D and BIM in Revit

Image source: Non-Stop Learning

  • Operating system: Windows
  • Price: $2,200/year
  • Interested? Check out the free trial!

If you’re a Scan2CAD regular, it’s unlikely that you haven’t yet encountered Revit. One of the most popular software packages from CAD giant Autodesk, Revit is a software for BIM which includes architectural design, MEP and structural engineering and construction. With Revit, you can use an intelligent model-based process to plan, design, construct and manage your buildings and infrastructure. It doesn’t matter which discipline you’re working with—architects, engineers and construction professionals can work in a single platform. A great advantage of this is that the risk of miscommunication or errors, for example, is much lower. Capabilities for specific disciplines include: 

  • Architects: generate floor plans, levels, sections, 3D views and renderings. You’ll also get cost estimates and analysis to optimize building performance during the design process. 
  • Structural engineers: using an advanced BIM environment, it’s possible to create detailed reinforcement designs and shop drawing documentation. Additionally, engineers can conduct structural analysis while you create the physical model in Revit. 
  • MEP engineers: conduct simulations and interference detection before you move to construction. Model for MEP fabrication using tools that automate the fabrication model layout. 
  • Construction professionals: reuse design intent models in order to make planning and preconstruction decisions earlier. It’s possible to improve communication by using Revit models to coordinate information. 

It’s also possible to subscribe to Collaboration for Revit to gain access to BIM 360 team—an integrated, cloud-based web service that gives teams access to project data. This means everyone’s working on the same page. It also minimizes the need for in-person meetings which often tend to slow down the design and production process. 

Of course, Revit is just one of the many Autodesk products that come with BIM capabilities.

Others include: 

  • AutoCAD Civil 3D: supports BIM for enhanced civil engineering design and construction documentation. 
  • InfraWorks: supports connected BIM processes and consequently allows designers and engineers to plan and design infrastructure projects in a real-world context. 
  • Navisworks: enables AEC professionals to holistically review integrated models and data in order to better control project outcomes. 


Open BIM in ArchiCAD

Image source: Graphisoft

  • Operating system: Windows, Mac
  • Price: Unspecified
  • Interested? Check out the free trial!

Developed by Graphisoft, ARCHICAD is regarded by some as the first real implementation of BIM. Indeed, Graphisoft was one of the founders of the Open BIM concept—supporting 3D BIM data exchange between different design disciplines on open-source platforms. The software enables architects to take advantage of seamless design and collaboration—from the very first sketch through to a building’s full lifecycle. 

Design in BIM couldn’t be made easier with ARCHICAD. The software comes with a range of innovative tool sets to create models and automatically generate elevations, sections and schedules. And with its bi-directional connection, it’s also possible to use Grasshopper with ARCHICAD. One of the biggest advantages to the software has to be its ability to store large amounts of information within 3D models. Indeed, ARCHICAD effectively uses all the RAM your computer has. It further improves BIM performance with its Predictive Background Processing feature. This makes use of unused computer capacity by anticipating what you might do next and preparing for it in the background.

Presentations, of course, are also an important aspect to any project. Whether you want stills, animations or interactive models, ARCHICAD has you covered. With MAXON’s CineRender, you can create photo-realistic renderings. Meanwhile, you can also take advantage of fully-interactive design presentation packages that run on mobile devices with BIMx.

Vectorworks Architect

Screenshot of working with BIM in Vectorworks

Image source: gfxspeak

  • Operating system: Windows, Mac
  • Price: $2,945
  • Interested? Check out the free trial!

Designed with BIM at the heart of its design process, Vectorworks Architect is a great choice for many in the AEC sector. The software allows designers to conceptualize ideas, edit and analyze their models all while generating drawings and schedules. Essentially, it gives users the ability to refine every construction detail throughout a building’s lifecycle, whilst streamlining costs.

With “superior documentation”, Vectorworks Architect enables designers to take advantage of a broader range of drafting and annotation tools than other BIM applications. You can use your BIM model as the focal point to create custom schedules and construction documents—supporting any changes you make throughout your entire design process. Much like Revit’s Collaboration functionality, Vectorworks Architect offers a multiuser environment. Project Sharing enables architects, interior designers and others to unify their workflows and work on the same project simultaneously.

And with robust import and export capabilities—with industry standard file formats like IFC, for example—you can easily move your BIM models through different industry packages. Not sure how it measures up compared to other BIM software? Vectorworks offers additional capabilities not found in either Revit or ARCHICAD:

  • Full suite of 2D drafting tools
  • NURBS modeling
  • Integrated graphical scripting
  • Extensive import/export options
  • Site Information Modeling (SIM) and design

Allplan Architecture and Engineering

BIM in Allplan Architecture

Image source: Detail

  • Operating system: Windows
  • Price: Unspecified
  • Interested? Check out the free trial!

Developed by Nemetschek, Allplan has two main industry packages: Architecture and Engineering. We’ll start with the first package. Allplan Architecture is a BIM solution for architects, enabling them to produce detailed design drawings and unparalleled information quality. You can opt to work either completely in 3D or in a combination of 2D and 3D. You can build virtually before in reality—therefore finding errors and conflicting elements as early as possible. This enables you to avoid costly delays in construction. As with Vectorworks Architect, Allplan comes with MAXON’s CineRender integrated to enable you to create high-quality visualizations. 

Allplan Engineering is a solution for the entire BIM process for civil and structural engineering, structural detailers and contractors. With it, you can easily, for example, compress schedules, compile up-to-date documents and create high-quality visualizations for every step of the way. Allplan also gives users reliable and traceable quantities and costs. Using your BIM model, you can quantify determinations and bending schedules not to mention structural calculations. And with associative views, all changes you make are carried out at once and automatically transferred to all drawings. Thus, reducing errors and saving you more time. 

Both packages also come with a direct connection to the cloud-based BIM platform Allplan Bimplus. And with Allplan Share, you can directly collaborate with teams around the world with the same Allplan data. IFC import and export also ensures secure data exchange between teams and collaborators. 


Keyframed targets in MicroStation

Image source: Jerry Flynn

  • Operating system: Windows
  • Price: $5,234
  • Interested? Check out the free trial!

Developed by Bentley Systems, MicroStation is a CAD software package with extensive BIM capabilities. With 3D parametric modeling capabilities, MicroStation can be used in a number of disciplines to create BIM-ready models. It’s a universal modeling application which enables large project teams to work on the same project. Everything from paper plots to reports to PDFs remain in sync with your design model whilst it’s still in progress. 

MicroStation and Bentley’s other BIM software applications are built on the same comprehensive modeling platform. This means you can progress your MicroStation work into discipline-specific workflows with Bentley’s BIM applications. You can also enforce standards throughout the design process, such as applying templates to control geometry and data standards. As we’ve mentioned in CAD file management, this can be an unquestionably vital part of design. Additionally, it also offers: 

  • Automated deliverables: from drawing sheets to schedules to models to realistic visualizations and so on. 
  • Reality modeling: reality meshes, images, GIS data, DWG files, external data sources and much more. 
  • Intrinsic geo-coordination: ensures your BIM models are created in precise geographic and geometric context. 
  • Functional components: allows users to take advantage of 2D and 3D constraints so they can accurately capture and model design intent. 
  • Hypermodeling: create a rich 3D experience with annotated documentation—vital for team projects and presentations. 


BricsCAD Platinum and BIM

Image source: Bricsys Blog

  • Operating system: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Price: $1,760 (BricsCAD Platinum + BIM)
  • Interested? Check out the free trial!

This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned BricsCAD on the Scan2CAD blog. One of our top 5 picks for affordable AutoCAD alternatives, BricsCAD is a 2D and 3D modeler which comes with a similar interface to the popular AutoCAD. We’re looking here, however, at the add-on module offered by Bricsys: BricsCAD BIM. Be aware that if you want to use these BIM capabilities, you will need BricsCAD Platinum. 

BricsCAD BIM comes with an advanced 3D modeler with IFC certified BIM functionality. With it, all the building elements you create—from windows to doors to columns—are automatically classified. This is enabled with the Structural Modeling toolset which recognizes linear solids and automatically classifies them as columns, railings, ducts and more. You can also attach specific information to each element—from layer names to rendering definitions to specific building materials. It’s also possible to analyze alignments and connections between your building elements. As a result, you spend less time searching for issues and more time perfecting your models. 

As you build your models, 2D sections are automatically generated so everything is kept in sync with your final construction document set. This makes it even easier to find everything you need once you’re ready to head to the construction stage. Finally, with its enhanced BIM functions, it’s also possible to create and manage building and infrastructure faster and more economically—advantageous no matter how small or big your project is. 

Want to stay updated on all the latest CAD, CAM and CNC news? Keep an eye on Scan2CAD’s blog!

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2 Responses to Which BIM Software Should I Use?

  1. Dmitry Feb 20, 2018 at 6:32 PM #

    It’d be fair to mention open source software for the same purpose. There is a chance that community doesn’t have a counterpart with exact functions, but it’s likely that a similar program exists.

  2. Dmitry Feb 20, 2018 at 6:39 PM #

    One of the possible examples is Dynamo BIM:

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