5 best 3D software for architecture
Features, functions and benefits of powerful BIM tools for architecture
3D architecture software provide AEC professionals the insight and tools to more effectively manage and optimize design processes.
In this article I’ll review some of the most common BIM software for architecture and their main features. You will also find you some useful links to free test-run various software trial versions.
Let’s start off with briefly explaining what a BIM software for architecture is and how it can increase productivity and improve the quality of your work.
Here is a project file that you can download for free and use as example for your future projects together with Edificius free Trial version, that has been used to create the render below.
Why using a BIM software for architecture?
The evolution of the architectural representation method has enabled the transition from manual drawing to CAD and later to the development of BIM, changing the conventional structure design processes.
What is BIM? And why using a BIM software for architecture?
First of all, in order to understand the advantages that BIM technology brings to the construction industry, it is necessary to highlight the differences with traditional representation methods.
Building Information Modelling is the next step in the development of computer-aided design, whereas designing with CAD tools can be defined as a process that is limited to the graphic representation of a project through 2D or 3D drawings. The BIM design, on the other hand, does not simply reproduce visual information (renderings, drawings, real time videos, etc.) but it allows you to build a virtual model to which you can assign data and information. The information associated to the model can be of different nature and varies according to the project objectives and the building’s life cycle: from the concept phase to its dismissal. For each BIM object (walls, floors, windows, etc.) it is possible to associate geometric information (thickness, width, height, surface, etc.) but also non-geometric information (thermal transmittance, acoustic insulation, physical and environmental performance, costs, etc.).
BIM has been developed to meet the growing needs of reducing the risk of errors and optimize costs and times relating to construction design, execution, management and dismissal. In practice, the BIM methodology requires collaboration between designers and interoperability between different authoring software.
The current BIM software market offers us many opportunities for choice as to which tool we are going to use. The majority of popular BIM programs save the results in the open IFC (Industry Foundation Class) format, to ensure interoperability between the various disciplines and project data storage.
It goes without saying that BIM is the future of design anf facility management!
Let’s take a closer look at what are some of the most popular software currently used by technicians, what are their requirements and main features.
Best BIM software for architecture
Here are some of the most popular BIM software for architecture:
Edificius®, the 3D BIM software for architecture
Edificius® is the software that integrates all the aspects of design in a single solution:
- 3D architectural design
- 2D architectural design with integrated CAD
- interior design
- interventions on existing buildings
- project visualization (architectural visualization)
- garden design
- landscape design
- MEP systems modelling
- work scheduling (4D BIM)
- data extraction from the BIM model and calculation (5D BIM).
In addition, the IFC import and export function enables a seamless integration with other BIM software for architecture and various disciplines.
Here are some interesting features relating to project visualization and presentation:
- the ability to navigate the model with Real Time Rendering (RTBIM) view
- model navigation in virtual reality (VRi BIM)
- production of static renderings with the new AMD Radeon ™ ProRender Ray Tracing Rendering Engine, which uses Artificial Intelligence to produce very high-quality renders in a short time
- photo retouching and photo insertion
- tools for video editing.
Although Edificius offers many functions, users’ feedbacks often report its simplicity of use and to learn.
For more info, have a look at the ACCA software page about Edificius.
Download the Edificius full Trial version for a thirty-day free test-run.
Revit® software is designed to have a single and specific multidisciplinary BIM platform that enables a building’s entire life cycle from construction to management.
It is a very complex software, but you can achieve excellent results thanks to the possibility of further extending its features and functionalities through third-party services and industry partner add-ins.
The software main features and functionalities are:
- the perception of reality as faithful as possible through the use of intelligent tools;
- the possibility of obtaining realistic three-dimensional drawings achieving results that would otherwise be impossible to obtain with manual drawings;
- a fourth dimension which allows you to manage and set the time phases.
Revit offers a 30-day Trial version and an Educational version for students, teachers and educational institutions.
Archicad® allows architects to manage the entire building life cycle. The tools integrated in the Archicad® software enables architects to model faster and create an accurate model with wall partitions, doors, windows and furnishings. As a collaboration platform it allows technical experts to consult all the documents necessary for the implementation of a project. AEC professionals can also make changes immediately visible to the other team players. It is suitable for both small-scale construction projects and much more complex projects.
The main features offered by Archicad® are:
- files import and export in different formats for compatibility with other BIM architecture software
- remote connection from the latest Archicad® version
- object library (wall, slab, roof, window, door, furniture, etc.)
- advanced modelling tools
- centralization of all project documents such as plans, sections, 3D model
- 2D tools
- 3D modelling software
- possibility of working from an existing building data, in particular for building renovation projects
- team coordination
- reduced response time
- management of the attributes and of the label marking lines
- viewing angle settings.
You can use the free version of the software which is limited in some of its functions or purchase the full version.
Allplan Architecture® is a BIM solution for architects and engineers working in construction and infrastructure that focuses on interdisciplinary collaboration and 3D modelling. The new version helps architects to model stairs and roofs, but also complex shapes, thanks to the recent Visual Scripting integration.
Some main software features are:
- optimised project presentation: clear and intuitive floor plans,
- freedom in design: the powerful Parasolid 3D modeling engine from Siemens PLM Software integrated in Allplan offers great freedom in the creation of 3D models of any complexity,
- high level visualization: the Maxon CineRender engine integrated in Allplan allows you to create high quality visualizations intuitively and efficiently.
Allplan® offers a 30-day free trial and an educational version for students.
SketchUp® is not a software developed exclusively for designing buildings but, thanks to its simplicity, it has become a very popular 3D modelling tool among architects, being also intuitive and free to use.
The main advantages of SketchUp® are:
– the ability to model anything from a simple house to a more complex energy-efficient flat project
– a library (3D Warehouse), where you can download around 2.2 million models
– a considerable number of plug-ins that add numerous functionalities to the software according to your needs
– a large number of graphic styles that allow you to view the 3D model in different ways (hand sketches, watercolours, project drawings, photos, etc.) giving you all the expressive freedom you need to express yourself at your best.
There is a free basic version of SketchUp and a paid version (SketchUp Pro).
Discounts are available also for students and teachers.
How to choose the best BIM software for your work
It is difficult to determine which BIM software is the best, but you can choose the one that best suits your design needs by considering your purpose, the size of your projects and the team you are working with.
Edificius, for example, is a solution that is capable of meeting different needs. In particular, you can take advantage of this solution if:
- you are dealing with large projects and have to deal with different aspects of design: a single integrated solution such as Edificius prevents you from wasting time due to errors that can arise in the communication exchange between different software.
- you are a freelancer who collaborates with other professionals: only OPEN BIM software such as Edificius facilitates interoperability between the parties involved in a project thanks to the use of open standards such as the IFC.
- you have never used a BIM software before and you need to be efficient straight away: Edificius has an intuitive interface that allows you to fully use all the functions of the software right from the start. Although, if required, you can benefit from training and technical support already during the free trial period.
You can immediately try Edificius for a 30-day free test-run and find out all about the features of this 3D building design software and if you don’t have a project at hand but are curious and want to get started right away, I’ll provide you with a project to download!
Click here to download a single-family deatached home project.