Choosing Best BIM Software for Your Project in 2021: Tips and Examples

Photo of Yevhen Surzhan

Yevhen Surzhan

COO & Co-founder

The Tower of Pisa would have never begun to lean if its creators had used top BIM construction software. With the right technology in place, the architects would have been able to take into account the fluctuating groundwater level, and we would have never seen countless pictures of individuals propping up the world’s greatest monument to insufficient calculations.

While technology has improved, even today, there are still myriad risks in architectural design. Luckily, you can mitigate these risks by making sure you and your team are using the best BIM architecture software on the market. In this article, we’ll take a look at the best BIM architecture software options on the market and explain what makes them so great.

What Is BIM Software?

Building information modeling software goes beyond a particular computer program. Rather, it’s a set of digital products that enables AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) professionals to put BIM into practice. Using BIM programs and tools, you can:

  • Generate, view, and manipulate an interactive 3D model that represents the physical and functional characteristics of a future facility
  • Share this 3D model with everyone involved in the building process — from architects and MEP engineers to supplies and clients — enabling them to work on it at the same time
  • Test your model under various conditions, such as predicting wind loads, ensuring pedestrian comfort, ensuring air quality, preventing contamination, etc.
  • Simulate the construction process to make exact estimations on time, materials, manpower and avoid clashes in processes

Please keep in mind that these are just a few examples of what BIM software can do. Still, some of these features, like 3D modeling and collaboration capabilities, are a must for the successful implementation of BIM practices.

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Which BIM Software to Choose

When it comes to choosing the best BIM software for your project, don’t focus on finding a product that incorporates all BIM features — you won’t find it on the market. So, your BIM coordinator should be prepared to look for several solutions that complement each other. To set up a perfect BIM workflow, you’ll need the following categories of tools:

  • Tools to create a common data environment (CDE) for storing all project data. If you are just testing the waters with BIM, creating a local disk on a computer and sharing it (the disk) with all the project’s participants will suffice. However, be prepared to move to the cloud. Luckily, there’s a wide variety of suitable offerings on the market, including BIM 360, Trimble Connect, Revizto, ALLPLAN Bimplus, Tekla BIMsight, and so on.
  • Document creation software. Notes, summaries, presentations, and descriptions are integral parts of any construction project. So don’t neglect tools for document creation, such as G-Suite or Microsoft 365.
  • Communication tools. Communication and collaboration are the cornerstones of BIM ideology. So, make sure your team knows how to use popular solutions like Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook, or Slack.
  • BIM coordination software. The BIM methodology entails collaboration between various project participants regardless of their disciplines. To facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration, you can use Navisworks Manage, Solibri Model Checker, Trimble, Autodesk Construction Cloud, Tekla BIMsight, BIM Track, and so on.
  • Issue management tools. Clashes — when two elements of your design take up the same space — are not uncommon in architecture. With reliable clash detection and collision management software in place, such as Navisworks or BIM Track, you can prevent these in the pre-construction stages.
  • BIM 4D tools One of the most valuable BIM software features is the simulation of the workflow on the construction site. You can generate these simulations using Synchro, Navisworks, etc.
  • 3D modeling software. 3D models are at the heart of BIM methodology and today’s construction industry in general. Revit, Archicad, and Vectorworks, are just a few examples. When classic 3D modeling tools don’t suffice, consider “unlimited” geometric tools, such as Dynamo, Grasshopper, etc.
  • AR and VR BIM solutions. Though AR and VR are not a must for BIM, tools like Fuzor, Revizto, or Iris VR can considerably improve your decision-making.
  • Supplementary tools. BIM is not just 2D and 3D modeling, project planning, and execution management. No BIM project is complete without document creation software, such as G-Suite or MMicrosoft 365, and communication tools, such as Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook, or Slack..

As you can see, most of these software categories, such as communication or document creation tools, are not meant exclusively for architectural design. But together, they will help you to create an ideal BIM workflow, allowing you to plan, design, and construct buildings and infrastructure more efficiently.

Best BIM Tools in 2021

In the previous section, we covered a range of BIM software categories with examples, which, together, represent a classic BIM software list. This means that choosing a set of BIM tools to suit your project needs might be a challenging task, given that most of the popular solutions (Navisworks, for example) for building information modeling belong to several categories at the same time.

Luckily, there’s a way to simplify the selection process. Every BIM stack is built around one technology with core functionalities, which is, in most cases, 3D modeling. So, the key is to first focus on finding your “core” technology and then, based on your project needs, complement it with other tools.

The software that will lie at the heart of your processes should be a reliable solution that aligns with your project requirements, budgetary constraints, level of BIM adoption, and other factors. Below are some best-on-the-market examples of the top BIM software for 2021.

  • Revit

    Revit working space

    Perhaps, no BIM software comparison can be made without mentioning Revit. Created by Autodesk, it’s a catch-all solution that covers the full spectrum of building construction activities, including planning, designing, implementation, and even further maintenance.

    According to many architects, “the capabilities of this software are exceptional,” and we cannot help but agree with this statement. But what makes Revit “exceptional”? Here are some examples:

    • It facilitates collaboration — one of the central BIM concepts. It incorporates all AEC-relevant disciplines, allowing everyone involved in the building process, from architects and structural engineers to electricians and plumbers, to communicate with each other and coordinate their processes more efficiently.
    • It creates models with interdependent components. This means that when you move, say, a wall, all the neighboring elements will update automatically.
    • Thanks to 4D simulation capabilities, Revit allows planning and tracking various stages of a building’s entire life cycle.
    • Due to Revit’s generative design functionalities, you can come up with numerous design alternatives of any LOD (Level of Detail) even when your project is in full swing.
    • It’s interoperable. You can easily extend Revit’s in-built functionalities with third-party plugins and add-ons.
  • Archicad

    Archicad working space

    Archicad is another popular 3D modeling software. Created for architects and interior architects in Hungary in 1984, it’s considered by some AEC professionals to be the first BIM software for architects. But the fascinating fact about Archicad is that despite being almost four decades old, it remains an industry leader — thanks to regular updates, such as:

    • BIMcloud — a collaboration environment for various project stakeholders, including an MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) engineer. Due to the inclusion of BIMcloud in 2020, Archicad is now considered a direct competitor to Revit.
    • EcoDesigner STAR — a sustainable design solution, which allows Archicad users to perform energy-evaluation analysis of their projects based on real-time weather data and BIM geometry analysis. With EcoDesigner STAR, architects can design energy-efficient buildings without the assistance of sustainability consultants.
    • BIMx — a visualization tool for mobile. It allows users to present and interact with 3D Archicad models and 2D documentation in a more intuitive format.

    Archicad is suitable for projects of varying size and complexity and is available for researchers, educators, and architecture students in its full functionality for free.

  • ALLPLAN

    ALLPLAN working space

    ALLPLAN is Nemetschek’s BIM software for object-oriented 3D design. Created for both architects and designers, it’s efficient in handling various construction challenges, including creation of the initial draft, finalization of working drawings, as well as cost optimization in the context of personnel shortage and increasing project complexity. It has the following features:

    • Multiple design options, including precise 2D and 3D modeling.
    • Bridge construction capabilities.
    • Centralizes all tasks, documents, and information related to the project.
    • Collaboration between everyone involved in the project.
    • Supports different data formats, enabling seamless data exchange.

    On top of that, ALLPLAN is known for its easy-to-use interface, making it an excellent option for everyone who’s just testing the waters ith BIM software.

  • Tekla Structures

    Tekla Structures working space

    Tekla Structures enables construction industry professionals to create and manage highly accurate 3D models complemented with comprehensive and detailed construction information. The best part is that you shouldn’t create all design elements from scratch—you can streamline the design process by using ready-made items designed and uploaded by the members of Tekla’s construction community.

    It’s also a perfect solution for collaboration with capabilities to merge and share 3D models, as well as to detect clashes in design. On top of that, being compatible with a variety of devices and screens, Tekla can be used at the construction site to collaborate on the live projects, enabling site engineers to plan daily schedules and even make onsite changes during the project execution.

  • MicroStation—Bentley Systems

    MicroStation—Bentley Systems working space

    Initiated as a 2D CAD software, MicroStation has evolved into a powerful parametric 3D modeling solution with intelligent drafting capabilities. It enables AEC professionals to collaborate on construction projects of varying size and complexity. MicroStation is suitable for hydraulic, hydrologic, transportation, and structural engineering. Its main features include:

    • 2D and 3D design modeling capabilities
    • Allows to generate plans for your production process, as well as to animate sequence of execution steps, create relations between objects for dynamic updating.
    • Enables multiple users to collaborate on one project.
    • Clash detection.

    In addition, Microstation is ideal for beginners. With its in-app learning capabilities, video tutorials, and truly helpful support, you can quickly get a handle on this software without doing additional research.

  • VectorWorks

    Navisworks working space

    Created in 1985 in the US, VectorWorks includes both BIM and CAD tools. As an end-to-end solution that can help you improve your entire workflow, VectorWorks can support you in any process and project stage, from conceptual design to coordinated BIM models, without the need for third-party software.

    Moreover, it allows you to run “what if” scenarios early in the project and integrates well with third-party tools, including SketchUp and Revit. On top of that, VectorWorks has a 30-day free trial and a free version for architecture researchers, teachers, and students.

  • Navisworks

    Navisworks working space

    Another Autodesk solution, Navisworks is a reliable project review tool with simulation, animation, and data aggregation capabilities.

    Due to its clash detection, visualization, and dynamic updating functionalities, Navisworks allows AEC professionals to predict project outcomes and to prevent risks before the construction begins. On top of that, it supports 4D and 5D simulations, which allow planning and controlling costs and implementation time frames in advance.

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Conclusion

Cost reduction, shorter time-to-market, higher product quality, flexibility, and gazillions of opportunities for innovation are just a few benefits of BIM. However, the mere fact that you apply BIM practices in your processes doesn’t mean that your project will succeed: it very much depends on which BIM technologies you use. That’s why our tips on choosing your perfect BIM stack and a list of best-in-class technologies help you get the most from BIM methodology.

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