Top BIM Construction Software Tools in 2021
- Vectorworks Architect
- midas Gen
- Autodesk BIM 360
- Trimble Connect
- Civil 3D
- BricsCAD BIM
- The Wild
- Allplan Architecture
- AECOsim Building Designer (OpenBuildings Designer)
- ActCAD BIM
- ArCADia BIM 11
- Tekla BIMsight
- BEXEL Manager
- PriMus IFC
- Free BIM solutions
It’s hard to imagine a construction project lifecycle without collaborations nowadays from contractors, engineers and architects all combining their efforts to achieve their goals from meeting client’s expectations, minimalizing the construction errors caused by miscommunication and so on. And, of course, while it is easy to do so with smaller projects – larger, more sophisticated construction projects would be having a hard time reaching the same level of cooperation without BIM software.
BIM – Building Information Modeling – is a complicated process that includes not only 3D modelling, but also planning, designing, constructing, collaboration, and more. The ability to share relevant data with all of the project’s participants makes BIM an excellent collaboration tool in general.
While 3D modeling is a part of BIM, and an important one, it is not just a replacement for previous types of 3D modeling like AutoCAD. A comprehensive BIM also includes maintenance data, project scheduling, costs information, and more.
The advantages of BIM can be seen with any project size, but it is most impactful when working with large construction projects, where you’ll be able to benefit heavily from clash detection, cost tracking, scheduling, and so on.
BIM itself operates with so-called BIM objects – components that can be added to the 3D models in question, like plumbing, electric components, doors, windows and other construction elements that can alter the final construction result.
The most significant tendency so far in the BIM industry is the attempt at unification and standardization. So far, there are still too many different interpretations of Public Available Specifications from different BIM companies to say that the industry is standardized, but there’s still progress that can be seen on a yearly basis.
Now we’ll attempt to create a BIM software list with 30 different BIM systems, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Since the industry of BIM specifically revolves around large structures with big budgets – it’s obvious that all of the participants of this list would be premium products as well as some more affordable options. We’ll also list some free software solutions with similar capabilities, but it’ll be in a separate list below.
Revit is a well-known BIM construction software that aims to solve different architectural and design problems. It was developed by Autodesk and is one of the most popular solutions in the industry. A lot of different specialists can take advantage of Revit’s feature list, including architects, designers, MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) specialists, contractors, and more. The software itself offers an intelligent approach to different stages of the construction process via models.
This software is Microsoft Windows-exclusive, and can significantly reduce the miscommunication troubles by managing different parts of the process within the same system. This same system also boosts overall coordination efforts, and you can even simulate different projects’ visuals with that. Since Revit is considered a 4D BIM – it can also track the entire lifecycle of a specific construction project, from first concepts down to the regular maintenance and/or demolition.
The prime use case for Revizto is to provide an integrated collaboration platform in the BIM environment for both 3D and 2D workflows, enabling users to communicate with all participants and stakeholders of the project in a collaborative environment. Revizto’s solutions can be leveraged throughout all stages of the construction process and includes features like clash management, issue tracker, synergy for 2D/3D models, and even the ability to explore your models in VR. This tool is a centralized, user-friendly platform to keep everything you need at hand. It enables accurate, critical data to be available to all stakeholders regardless of skill level, allowing them to make better, faster, and more efficient real-time decisions.
Navisworks is another BIM solution created by Autodesk. The main difference between Navisworks and Revit is that Navisworks is more about being a project review solution for AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) professionals. As with Revit, it is also capable of working with MS Windows, and it can also work together with other Autodesk 3D solutions to open and combine their models, review them and navigate through them with barely any difficulty.
Due to the nature of it, Navisworks is most important in the first stages of any project – namely, the pre-construction stage, controlling and predicting project outcome from the beginning. Both model coordination and clash detection are included to help with detecting any problems before the actual construction begins. There’s also model simulation, animation, data aggregation within a single model, and a plethora of other features.
ArchiCAD is a 3D BIM software with design and modeling as its primary purposes. Graphisoft developed it, and it can work with both MS Windows and Mac desktop systems. ArchiCAD is extremely popular in the field of urban planning, designing and architecture since it manages to improve the entire workflow for these professions. All of the features of ArchiCAD are meant to be as useful for visualization purposes as possible, including both aesthetics and technological parts of it.
ArchiCAD is also considered one of the first BIM implementations, and it can work with both 3D and 2D geometry if needed. A variety of visualization and BIM functions allows ArchiCAD to be useful for any construction or architectural firm, and this is why ArchiCAD is considered one of the most beginner-friendly examples of BIM software on the market.
Vectorworks Architect is a solution package that includes both CAD and BIM tools. Its main goal is to work with the design process, both 2D and 3D, without damaging the creative vision of the original model. You can use this package to improve your entire workflow, from conceptualization to the actual construction.
There are design-oriented capabilities, parametric objects, industry-leading BIM tools, and more – all of that to streamline the creation process of your virtual representation. It is not a replacement for a creative process, but an extension of it, helping creators to have much more versatile choices and tools – without forgetting about BIM models and complex construction papers.
Edificius is a unique BIM platform for architectural design. Capable of working in both 2D and 3D dimensions, architectural design is that much easier with all the new technologies and regulations in mind. There’s also garden and landscape visualization, static and real-time rendering, and more.
Some of the BIM features also include real-time cost estimating and structural engineering, a list of free interior resources via free catalogue, and more.
midas Gen is one of many products developed by midas. The primary purpose of midas Gen is building management with BIM features. It can be leveraged to perform structural analysis with different theories and functions in mind to have both practical and accurate results.
midas Gen can also be used to streamline various structures to be more convenient, efficient and versatile. CAD-like features are used to create an intuitive modeling experience with nodes and elements. Other features also include full analysis, auto-design, user-friendly interface, and more.
Autodesk BIM 360
Another creation of Autodesk is their BIM 360 software that works with construction management and project delivery. It unifies different processes of design, project and construction into one single process. At its core, it is a web service based on the cloud to avoid delays and improve decision-making by providing different teams access to relevant data.
The entire lifecycle of your project can be managed with Autodesk BIM 360. Some of the notable features are design review, BIM coordination, safety program checklist, issue management, deliverable coordination, and more.
SketchUp is an easy-to-use modeling tool that enables users to transform regular lines and shapes into various 3D forms. There’s no need to do everything from scratch thanks to the built-in collection of 3D models.
There are different tools that can be included in SketchUp. The regular free 3D modeling tool can be accessed from the web browser. A more comprehensive Pro solution has its own desktop client and can offer more versatile options for your 3D projects. And, at last, SketchUp Studio offers you to analyze your models and creations’ different parameters in real life before they’re built.
Buildertrend is a construction-stage BIM tools that is more suitable for remodelers and home builders. This cloud-based BIM product offers a plethora of different features including access to your project in real-time from anywhere, warranty management, change orders, and access to all of the subsequent data that is attached to the project like photos, documents, and so on.
This toolset makes it a popular pick for residential construction professionals. There’s also features like general project management, customer management, financial tools and pre-sale process. Each of these features includes a variety of functions and possibilities like plan mark-ups, budgets, and others.
Trimble Connect is an information exchange BIM cloud-based product. Its primary speciality is in delivering the right data to the right professionals at the right time. Some of the people that can take advantage of this technology are MEP professionals, subcontractors, architects, and others. A collaboration-focused environment is what Trimble attempts to create.
Delivering critical information in time might prove crucial for various stages of your workflow. Some of the main features are design coordination, on-site/off-site communication and project management. It can also integrate with a large number of construction tools to make your work easier.
BIMobject is one of the few free BIM content platforms. This solution is widely used by architects, contractors and designers to access industry-specific BIM objects. The only requirement to access this platform is a registration form that you can fill-out for free. There are thousands of different BIM objects sorted in different categories, based on type, size, region, file type, and more. Advanced filtering helps a lot with finding exactly what you need.
Civil 3D is another BIM product created by Autodesk focused on civil engineering, but also offers some BIM-related features and workflows. Civil 3D helps developing projects more accurately, with fewer errors and risks, and faster adaptation to project changes. Streamlining more difficult and time-consuming tasks is also possible with Civil 3D (intersection and corridor design, site grading, , and so on).
Another comprehensive BIM software is BricsCAD BIM – a versatile solution that can handle every process of your project, like adding details, sketching, and turn all of that into a fully functional building information model. You can freely control different elements and properties of your project, no matter the size of it.
Another way of specifying something within your model is to include additional information like definitions, layers, and so on. There are also smart structural-modeling capabilities that you can use to automatically classify linear solids.
Sefaira is a design analysis BIM program that works primarily on early stages of building and construction. Its main goal is to look for energy, daylight and comfort goals by studying HVAC and ventilation systems. It can interact easily with apps like SketchUp or Revit, and can offer a wide range of inputs and controls for its analysis process.
Another solution that handles specific BIM-related things is Hevacomp. This software is built specifically to perform building energy analysis, allowing you to construct energy-sufficient infrastructures with the predictions based on real-world performance.
The solution itself includes several different BIM tools like Dynamic Simulation, Electrical Designer, Mechanical Designer, etc. For example, Dynamic Simulation allows you to create building simulations based on UK building-related regulations. Building process streamlining is possible via a single standard building model.
In the current modern world, it’s only natural that someone would attempt to utilize the advantages of AI for the BIM’s benefit. This is where Kreo comes in, working as an intelligent planning cloud-based software and offers AI capabilities in its work. Kreo is split into two different parts: Kreo Plan and Kreo Design. Kreo Plan can analyze existing BIM models and attempt to fix them via detailed reporting, predictions and other necessary information. Kreo Design, on the other hand, is a tool that helps companies to create BIM models at the early stages.
VisualARQ is an on-premise BIM program with the main purpose of enhancing the usability of Rhinoceros 3D CAD application – widely used for both industrial and architectural designs. One of the main specialities of VisualARQ is freeform modeling, allowing users to convert any freeform geometry into complex shapes that can be filled with different unique geometries. It can also provide dynamic documentation, integrated object editor, and much more.
The Wild is another remote collaboration platform, but this one can use both virtual and augmented reality to allow for saved time, better decision making and fewer errors by actually visualizing your designs. Both SketchUp and Revit are supported from the get-go. The Wild strives to bring everyone to the virtual future of collaboration on an entirely different level than before.
As the name suggests, Allplan Architecture is a BIM solution built mainly for architects. You can easily use this software to create professional visualizations and drawings while having accurate costs and quantities of materials needed.
Working with only 3D or a combination of 2D and 3D is easily manageable with Allplan Architecture. At the same time, the user-friendly interface helps with the overall productivity of an architect, and you can easily exchange data with different planning partners for better teamwork and collaboration efforts.
AECOsim Building Designer (OpenBuildings Designer)
AECOsim Building Designer is an infrastructure designing BIM software created by Bentley Systems. It can work with multiple disciplines at once, including architectural, electrical, structural, mechanical, and others.
Recently there’s been an impressive increase in the overall productivity, speed, connectivity and other parameters when it comes to AECOsim Building Designer. It can also work with mesh modeling to create concepts and parametric BIM content with ease.
ActCAD BIM is an extension of ActCAD 2020, which is a 3D modeling software, but with additional BIM-related functions. For example, it works with DWG and DXF files natively and can open many others, as well. The base of ActCAD BIM is IntelliCAD 9.2 engine with ODA 4.3 libraries; you can add generic parts of construction to your model with simple commands. There’s also a number of BIM-related tabs available in the Tool Palettes menu, alongside your standard 3D modeling options.
BIMx is a multi-platform solution that allows users to present BIM models in both 3D and 2D, lessening the gap between the design table and the actual construction site. The list of supported platforms is as follows: MS Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.
The root of this software is a Hyper-model concept that allows you to quickly change 3D models in the form of drawing sheets. There are three main apps included: mobile viewer, desktop viewer and publisher. At the same time, 3D models themselves are presented in an interactive approach, making the entire interaction even more user-friendly.
Extensive workflow support and building information can be accessed at any point of the construction’s lifecycle with dRofus. It can freely integrate with popular BIM modeling software like Revit, ArchiCAD and IFC to be able to synchronize data in both ways. There’s also a plethora of other features available, like more accurate decision making, data conversion into a single standard format, heightened efficiency of project validation, significantly reduced risks, and so on.
Procore is another construction management platform that promotes extensive collaboration between all parts of the construction process. The technology itself is user-friendly and intuitive; it’s easy to use it to streamline your workflow. The overall user-friendliness makes it extremely valuable for people with insufficient skills with 3D models and such.
Procore is considered one of the best solutions on the market today, and it consists of 4 main parts: field productivity, construction financials, quality and safety, and also project management. Each part represents a specific field of the area within a project and they must work together to be even more effective when used by both professionals and regular people.
ArCADia BIM 11
ArCADia BIM 11 is a software that is capable of accelerating the design work via many useful solutions. For example, there’s an object library that you can use not to waste time modeling every window, and the entire design is object-oriented that way. There’s also some degree of BIM technology support, like document sharing and comparison, the usage of a native DWG format, precise drawing with the usage of coordinates, printing capabilities, and other useful features.
Another participant of the construction collaboration software is Tekla BIMsight, allowing you to combine models, identify clashes and fix issues with other participants of the process. The main purpose of this software is an advanced BIM system and structural engineering. Identifying and solving issues is even easier when you can find them at the design phase before construction begins.
There’s 3D navigation, mark-ups, IFC support, object transparency, multiple model viewing, and a plethora of other features. Additionally, now all of the features of Tekla BIMsight are available in Trimble Connect.
Another example of a comprehensive BIM software is BEXEL Manager, built by Bexel Consulting. It is a sophisticated solution that specializes in managing construction project activity. There’s also a plethora of integration opportunities, IFC certified standards, and general experience of more than a decade on the market. BEXEL Manager’s list of capabilities includes features like budgeting, schedule optimization, cost analysis, change management, progress tracking, and more.
The main purpose of PriMus IFC is to take the measurements from various 3D models and to generate the quantity bill automatically. This tool is a reference standard for a lot of BIM 3D solutions. You can easily stay on top of your estimates with this tool. It can also update itself whenever there are changes in the related 3D model, perform IFC file viewing, manage price lists, and more.
IrisVR is one of the few companies that offer immersive design review and collaboration by taking advantage of virtual reality capabilities. There’s a plethora of integration opportunities with software like Revit, Navisworks, SketchUp and others, allowing for an easy and immersive VR experience when presenting your projects. IrisVR is represented by a desktop app called Prospect that can operate with HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Microsoft MR headset. There’s also a mobile app available that supports Samsung GearVR, Google Daydream and Cardboard.
Free BIM solutions
In this BIM overview you’ve seen that the paid solutions are all vast and feature-rich, but there’s also a lot of free open source solutions that can do some of the similar functions with no price attached to help your team get started with BIM. To make it easier we’ll split our examples into five different categories: free BIM viewer, standard office BIM based on an application, BIM as an addition to CAD software, a complete BIM software toolkit, and an entire BIM right from the start.
As we’ve mentioned before, BIMx is an excellent free solution to view your BIM projects. Another alternative of that is BIM Vision, which can work with models from systems like Revit, ArchiCAD, Advance, Tekla, and others. This software is also IFC-standard, which means a set of standards that makes sure that the software can do the basic set of features in the sense of data visualization.
Our second example is, surprisingly enough, Microsoft Excel, and the initiative called COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange). COBie is a specific data format that aims to record the most important data about a particular project. This data can then be saved in a spreadsheet – Excel spreadsheet, for example. This initiative has also proven that BIM itself can easily exist without any drawings whatsoever and work based on data lines from a spreadsheet.
Our third example’s requirements is a compromise between CAD software and BIM software. A combination of the two is called FreeCAD. FreeCAD is a CAD program that offers BIM features to help users with BIM-related tasks. FreeCAD is also IFC-compatible and can be further developed with Python. It’s a good way for any user that is already familiar with CAD software to start using BIM, as well.
Another challenge in our next category is to make a connection between the software terminology and the practical solution. One of such examples is xBIM (eXtensive Building Information Modeling). Created initially as a software development toolkit, it can also offer practical examples of real-life building context. It might be tough to understand it in some cases, but the usability advantages are far greater than these little troubles.
BIM as a complete system is represented in the face of a B-processor. It was created as a BIM software from the get-go, not as an adaption of CAD software, which is why 3D modeling here is somewhat easier to get used to. Users can extend the information about specific models with “tags”, and these tags can then be used to provide such information as cost breakdown, carbon footprint data and other info.
As you can see, there’re plenty of BIM-related solutions of any shape or form, and it shouldn’t be that difficult to find the one that suits your company the best – while keeping the disadvantages to a minimum.