There are many architectural software to choose from and we must choose wisely to achieve maximum efficiency for our workflow and avoid spending a lifetime trying to learn the architectural program. Each software from different developers offer unique features that make them stand out from the competition, which can immediately entice us to make a quick decision. On the contrary, there are many factors that need to be considered such as cost, support and learning curve.
In the architecture industry, there are many notable software that architects and design firms opt to use. This is not just because everyone’s using it but most importantly, they are able to assist the user and company to always move with their best foot forward. Utilising these architectural computer programs often lead to customer success. It increases staff productivity and encourages collaboration.
Keep reading as we look at the top 6 design software every architect must learn to stay ahead of the competition.
1. Autodesk AutoCAD
AutoCAD pros and cons:
⊕ It Includes features capable of managing very large projects
⊕ The keyboard shortcuts are efficient
⊕ It gives you the ability to coordinate the whole construction documentation
⊗ It requires specific training to be competent in using the tools
This Autodesk software only deals with architectural 2D lines and you may think of it as the digital format of pen and paper. It promotes collaboration at a very basic level using External Reference or what is commonly known as XREF. This tool also has a 3D functionality that comes with the full AutoCAD version for the advanced users. Subscribers also have access to specialised toolsets such as the Architecture toolset. In the past, this toolset was a separate product offering that provides more intelligence to drawings using tools and architectural specific contents.
2. Autodesk Revit
Revit pros and cons:
⊕ It’s a highly efficient architectural software
⊕ It draws everything in 3D. When working on a 2D model, it has the option to show the 3D version
⊗ It requires specific training to be competent in using the software
⊗ It’s computer-taxing. A powerful computer is required to run Revit smoothly
This software developed by Autodesk has attracted many AutoCAD users to transition into. The Revit software opens a whole new paradigm for Architects in terms of designing and documentation. This application offers much more tools and functionalities than traditional CAD software and programs (computer-aided design). Users primarily work in a 3D environment even if it looks to be a flat view. The Revit program also automate certain tasks that eliminate human error such as, when building a component and if you choose to modify it in one view, the Revit system will simultaneously update the components in all related views. Architects are no longer working on just 2D lines, they are building their models based on their physical, material and analytical information. This information can then be extracted into schedules to easily review project information. Architects can utilise this software from concept design to construction documentation.
3. Autodesk 3ds Max
3ds Max pros and cons:
⊕ It supports AutoCAD files
⊕ It can produce stunning renderings
⊕ Powerful plugins are available
⊗ It has a high learning curve
This 3D modelling and rendering software is designed to produce visualisations and animations. Its perfect for architects wanting to produce full architectural visualisations of their project to show to clients. Here you can create photorealistic renderings of the interior and exterior perspectives. If the project requires to further impress clients and investors, users can choose to create a walkthrough rendered animation which elevates the audience’s experience to a whole new level. Although the software requires a medium to high learning curve, the output will deliver outstanding results that often lead to winning more potential projects.
Image courtesy of Valentin Studio
4. Autodesk BIM 360
BIM 360 pros and cons:
⊕ It covers the whole project lifecycle
⊕ It offers streamlined collaboration
⊕ The interface is user-friendly
⊗ CAD file collaboration can be unstable
Softwares are great tools to produce deliverables such as drawings and reports. However, it is inevitable that architects need to collaborate with other consultants to deliver a holistic design supported by accurate drawings. It was a challenge to do so especially that the project team is typically in different locations. This would mean that companies must spend a huge amount for a secured IT infrastructure allowing external members to remotely access the network server and work on the same project files. By introducing Autodesk BIM 360, a construction management software, into your current workflow you’ll be able to efficiently manage your data by gaining access to several cloud collaboration feature depending on the product offering you choose.
- BIM 360 Docs – acts as an online repository of project files which is accessible to permitted project members anytime and anywhere. Files stored here are integrated with the other BIM 360 offerings thus making it a unified solution. With the era of data explosion, it’s becoming quite hard to keep up and find the correct information. This is especially true when it comes to design iterations. Multiple revisions lead to multiple files. In BIM 360 Docs, the same file will always stay up to date with the latest version and will keep a history of the previous versions in case there is a need to roll back.
- BIM 360 Design – multiple Revit users working on the same project are now able to collaborate in the cloud regardless of their geographical location. Teams can seamlessly share and consume packages which makes the entire workflow more efficient.
- BIM 360 Coordinate – this offering allow clashes to be detected using aggregated models from different teams
- BIM 360 Build – by integrating BIM 360 build, team members with access can streamline their way on submitting and reviewing RFI’s and submittals, and so much more!
5. Trimble SketchUp
SketchUp pros and cons:
⊕ Easy to learn and use
⊕ Doesn’t require significant ram enhancement
⊗ It has significant design limitations
SketchUp allows you to start the conceptual phase of your project in 3D quickly and easily. This popular software for students can be downloaded for free however, it lacks some features that other software such as Revit and AutoCAD offer. it still provides enough to assist you in creating professional 3D models and it’s one of the easiest architectural software to learn and understand. The program is very effective in conveying initial ideas and getting used to 3D modelling before moving onto more advanced architectural software. SketchUp is ideal for students and for those working with small budgets.
Image courtesy of Trimble Sketchup
6. Graphisoft ArchiCAD
ArchiCAD pros and cons:
⊕ It offers free-form modelling
⊕ It can create 2D and 3D views simultaneously
⊕ Other software such as V-Ray can be integrated
⊗ It requires a powerful computer
ArchiCAD effectively assists in creating 2D and 3D architectural models. It offers everything an architect needs in one software and you can further integrate other software packages into it. Integrating Twinmotion (a visualisation extension) into ArchiCAD allows you to create photorealistic renderings of architectural models. ArchiCAD’s main plus point is it’s user-friendliness and learning the basics require minimal effort. The software is efficient in building detailed models and is perfect for projects where time is a major factor. ArchiCAD is a popular choice for students and for those just starting in the field of architecture.
The Norde Jarlsberg Brygge project, by Delta Arkitekter AS
Each tool mentioned in this blog have the capabilities to assist architects achieve their visions. The most suitable tools are dependent on your requirements. On a typical level, architectural university students prefer to use Revit, SketchUp and ArchiCAD. These tools are readily available and are generally supplied by the university institution.
Working architects in architectural firms prefer to use design collaboration software such as BIM 360, and more established architectural software such as AutoCAD and Revit. Beyond this, 3ds Max is useful for those wanting to add the final touches. It provides photorealistic architecture visualisations; the client’s experience is enhanced as it helps them better understand the design intent.
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