Your Guide to Software Selection

The Top BIM Software: Features, Benefits and Recommendations

If you are part of the construction industry, you’ve most likely come across BIM software (Building Information Modeling) before, with its value in the world of construction management software becoming more apparent each day. In fact, a recent study by Dodge Data and Analytics shows how it is taking the market by storm.

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Top BIM Software List

 

Of the surveyed teams, 61% found that building information modeling software reduced project errors, 55% saw a decrease in time required for communication, and 52% reported higher quality projects. The numbers don’t lie; BIM software is rapidly becoming a must-have in the world of construction management.

Narrowing down the field of BIM software solution vendors can be daunting. Our comparison report can help put a spotlight on some of the top performing software packages.

In this guide, we’ll cover a range of topics to help better prepare you to find a perfect fit.

Here’s what we will go over:

What Is BIM Software?

While one of the primary functions of building information modeling software is CAD (computer-aided design), it helps in so many other ways. A properly implemented BIM solution can positively affect the entire lifecycle of a construction management project.

Primarily, BIM software provides 3-D modeling capabilities that aid AEC (architecture, engineering and design) and other construction professionals with a wide assortment of tools. Building information modeling software brings a variety of functionalities to the table that optimizes designing, planning, constructing and project management.

Pairing a strong construction scope of work with BIM construction software can turn a difficult construction project into a more manageable undertaking.

Now that we have an idea of what BIM programs are, let’s dig into some of the major benefits of implementing such a solution.

Key Benefits of BIM Modeling Software

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Even if you are on the fence about adding BIM software into your construction projects, you may not have a choice before too long!

In many countries across the globe, BIM solutions have become mandatory inclusions in construction projects. As the benefits of these solutions continue to bring efficiency and organization to construction projects, you can bet that the adoption of BIM systems will only continue to rise.

Do yourself a favor and jump on the bandwagon before building information modeling software becomes a global necessity.

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Managing Disputes

Believe it or not, having a fully represented 3D model of your construction project can head off some serious team disputes before they even start. If there is a debate raging about how a certain portion of the project needs to be done or how it should look, teams can quickly refer to a model.

Taking the guess-work out of a construction operation is vital when pushing for an efficient project lifecycle. Regardless of how one team feels about a certain build, the final design is available for viewing and keeping projects on track.

This benefit of BIM software also comes into play when clients are going over the final product. If a client raises a complaint about a portion of the project, both you and the client can refer to the agreed upon nature of the operation via a 3D model. If the client and construction manager agreed on the final layout of this model, there should be no customer-facing surprises when delivering the final project.

Error Avoidance

A construction project is bound to run into mistakes at some point; However, with the implementation of BIM software, you can prevent many of them before they happen.

As your project moves from deadline to deadline, construction professionals can leverage the functionalities of a BIM software suite to gain real-time visibility on the operation.

If small, or even drastic changes need to be made to the overall design, algorithms present in the building information modeling software can show the outcome of these choices. This way, there is an error catching buffer present preventing damaging changes from being put into practice.

This predictive benefit also extends into acquiring the correct materials for the construction project. If you were to implement changes to design in progress, BIM software could keep a list of needed materials up-to-date in real time. Fewer surprises mean fewer errors, which directly benefits the efficiency of your construction project.

These are only a few of the many benefits a BIM solution can provide. Next up, let’s dive into some of the major features of BIM software suites.

Top BIM Software Features

Architectural Modeling

It should come as no surprise that the modeling features of building information modeling software software make the top of the list. Construct and render your projects in incremental steps all the way until the final design.

Modeling can take place in both 3D and 2D, allowing for multiple viewpoints on all parts of a construction project. Compare the real-time construction of a project to your models to maintain a consistent vision of the final product.

Customer satisfaction can also receive a boost from this aspect of BIM software. After designing a 3D render of the final product, this model can give clients a taste of what to expect and answer any questions they may have about how your vision meets theirs.

Project Sharing

A construction project relies on the skilled hands of a variety of professionals. No project taps into one or two aspects of construction exclusively, and this can lead to difficulties with communication.

With project sharing functionality, team members from a wide array of specializations can work on one model and make design changes as needed. Instead of pulling every team together and go over potential changes, each team can readily access a project model, make changes and receive feedback from other members.

This feature further cements communication as a foundational necessity of construction projects and aims to strengthen it.

Cloud Presentations

This BIM software inclusion targets both customer satisfaction and communication for improvement.

After completing a full render of your construction project, translating it into a presentation for your client is easy. Clients will go crazy over fully-interactive 360-degree views of their upcoming projects.

Hammer out any last minute sticking points with your clients and work together to create a working vision of the project that can last throughout the entire lifecycle of the operation.

With cloud integration built in, clients from anywhere in the world can quickly view and enjoy your render of the envisioned final product.

Interoperability

The variability of professionals isn’t the only mixed bag you’ll contend with during a construction project.

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A variety of software suites are often utilized in any given operation. A software solution that can integrate with a variety of other programs is a critical feature for maximizing efficiency,

With everything in one place you can save time and money usually spent translating data from incompatible programs. Keep using your favorite construction management software without worrying about your files carrying over.

Report Generation

Maintaining a direct line of communication to your stakeholders helps keep the project moving at a quick pace.

As the operation moves from goal to goal, the real-time visibility provided by building information modeling software can auto-generate reports full of pertinent data. This, in turn, can be passed on to stakeholders and project owners.

Satisfying stakeholders allows the project to continue uninterrupted. If you can put any questions or worries to bed before they arise and keep the higher-ups happy, you can save a large amount of time toward finishing the operation.

How to Choose a BIM Software Package

Most BIM construction software packages come with respectable lists of features. This does not mean every software solution will include the same functionality. Keep this in mind when narrowing down the perfect choice for your individual needs.

In order to make the selection process as painless as possible, ask yourself a few questions to identify any specific requirements you need from a solution.

What pain points do you need to solve?

Before you begin looking over lists of vendors, you should get an idea of what problems your new building information modeling software needs to solve. Identify where your projects have been suffering and consult with vendors to make sure their products include functionality that benefits your operation.

A shiny new BIM software system that solves none of your issues isn’t going to get you very far.

Does the product fit your budget?

It’s human nature to see a big price tag and assume the product attached to it is the best. This is not always the case in the world of software. The cost of a BIM software suite often has to do with the complexity of its features, and some operations do not require complex solutions.

Think about what kind of projects you tackle, and how big your construction teams are. Smaller projects won’t require as much as a large-scale, multi-location operation would. Needlessly adding complexity where it isn’t needed is a recipe for project slow-down.

Does the vendor have a support system in place?

Finding a new BIM software suite is exciting, but before you go through with any final decisions be sure that your vendor has healthy support options. A few problems are commonplace when integrating new software, and having a way to quickly get help makes all the difference.

It is also worth mentioning that self-training materials are a great inclusion some vendors provide. This can help new users acclimate faster and get up to speed.

Top BIM Software List

Let’s get into detail about some of the top building information modeling software solutions. In order to make the selection process a little easier, we spoke to our analyst team to find out which vendors are the top performers in building information modeling.

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VectorWorks Architect

VectorWorks Architect suite provides a wealth of functionality that caters to a wide array of industries. While it is better suited for medium and small companies, this software package spans industries from architecture to entertainment.

VectorWorks Architect BIM Software

Create precise designs with VectorWorks.

VectorWorks Vision and VectorWorks Spotlight (included within) help automate previously tedious paperwork and aid in creating design documents. With a valuable family of products associated with it, VectorWorks Architect satisfies needs on multiple industry fronts. Aside from the expected 2D and 3D modeling capabilities, the Braceworks module adds design, production, and rigging support.

Here are some key benefits you can expect:

3-D Site Modelling: Use geometric and site model data to calculate change effects on a project. Generate accurate topography accounts through modifiers and reshape site models with precise sculpting features.

Cloud Presentations: Cloud functionality allows your design teams to share presentations from anywhere with a simple drag and drop. Create complex presentations with 360-degree rendering and share with clients.

IFC Mapping: VectorWorks Architect controls and maps IFC data for export to BIM models. Data pulled from IFC information can then assign special designations to non-IFC objects and create IFC parameters that are defined.

Streamlined Section Drawings: Create high-quality sectional drawings through an easy-to-use display without making repetitive adjustments. Use section elevation or orphaned section lines to directly create sectional drawings.

Price: $$$$$
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

Assemble Insight

Assemble Insight is a cloud-based solution by Autodesk perfect for companies of all sizes. Use this software to share your building models for analysis with pertinent members of the construction project.

Assemble Insight BIM Software

Annotate and design projects accurately.

Quick integration with Autodesk products gives Assemble Insight strong flexibility, along with its module support. Autodesk Navisworks functionality allows members to update models with critical information.

Using the central repository of Assemble Systems allows construction managers and other professionals to access data related to bid management, scheduling, site management and finance.

Let’s dive deeper into some more benefits:

Data Management: Improve project collaboration by sharing data between project members. Users can create precise data sets that can be used to drill down and provide beneficial views on project information.

LOD tracking: Get a better handle on the designing process with level of development tracking. Users can quickly access and edit the LOD to send to the modeling teams for visualization of objects.

Conceptual Estimation: While your project is in the designing phase, information related to unit costs can be studied and then used in the estimation or budgeting processes. Conceptual estimates are often combined with variance reporting to allow teams working on the project the ability to track trends and publish new models.

Design Trend and Budget Management: The Assemble connect add-in creates excel reports using data from the building information model. Generate project insight with automated data conditioning across multiple versions of a model.

Model Data and Variance Reporting: Validate data visually with Assemble Insight’s model viewer and quantify takeoffs, changes, and cost implications. Visual variance tools aid in model changes and tracks changes in cost, area, length or width.

Price: $$$$$
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

ArchiCAD

Designed for companies of all sizes, ArchiCAD provides a central model for designers to create while documenting construction objects. Element parameters can be used to create logical expressions, new properties and values.

ArchiCAD BIM Software

Design projects in 3-D that can be shared.

This BIM solution automates many workflows and comes with standard 2-D and 3-D modeling functions. Team members can create building designs, provide documentation, and generate cost estimates. Modular pattern capabilities allow users to develop hierarchical curtain wall systems with design workflows.

Open BIM capabilities use mathematical expressions to calculate property values.

Now for some more helpful benefits:

Design Capabilities: ArchiCAD’s Facade design workflow gives architects the power to design, develop and detail hierarchical curtain wall systems that adhere to local documentation and listing requirements.

Custom Profiles: The included Parametric Profile Editor assists in creating profiles for walls, beams and columns through defining parametric edges. Custom Geometry Modifiers enable architects to use one profile to describe different custom geometries.

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2-D Navigation: Experience no slow-down when panning or zooming through large project models. Robust 64-bit architecture assists in displaying large-scale models and predictive background processing enable future users actions to run in the background.

Workflows: ArchiCAD BIM software contains tools used to create models and calculate important measurements such as floor area. This can be beneficial when generating elevation, sections and schedules for projects. Design tools like Rhino and Grasshopper help transform basic geometric shapes into elements used in BIM.

Open BIM: Open BIM is an initiative of several leading vendors that acts as a collaborative platform for members in AEC industries. This platform contains open standards and workflows that are accessible to any users involved using the SMART Data Model.

Price: $$$$$
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

Revit

Revit, another member of the Autodesk family, is designed for companies of any size and MEP engineers, architects, designers, contractors and landscape artists. It’s model based for planning, designing and constructing infrastructure and buildings.

Revit BIM Software

Compare your 3-D and 2-D designs.

Professionals from multiple disciplines can collaborate on the designing process while capturing and analyzing design concepts and data. Revit is commonly used for designing place elements like floors and walls via photo-realistic renderings.

Structural engineers are able to create reinforcement designs by modeling in the BIM environment, conduct structural analysis and document steel and concrete designs. MEP engineers will find functionality that enables them to streamline the design process and conduct simulations while automating the fabrication model layout.

Next up, some more benefits:

Conceptual Design Environment: Revit’s conceptual design environment gives users the flexibility to express ideas and create parametric massing families that can integrate into BIM. Designs that are created in this conceptual space can use these massing families to create enhanced architecture and conduct spatial analysis.

Scheduling: Keep everything on track with Revit BIM’s ability to create schedules, quantities and material takeoffs. Schedules that are built into other projects can be placed in a current project while also exporting and annotating.

Collaboration: Collaborate through a shared central model that can be subdivided into work sets. As teams are split up to work on different sections, data can be aggregated in this central model and analyzed by the group.

Visualization: By accessing Autodesk’s Raytracer rendering engine, Revit provides 3D designs that assist in exploring, validating and communicating design concepts. Customize visual styles with options to affect model display, shadow, lighting, photographic exposure and background.

Price: $$$$$
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

SketchUp

SketchUp is a 3-D modeling BIM software suite geared toward small and medium-sized companies. Create models from imported drawings, CAD plans, photos, aerial imagery or any other data source.

SketchUp BIM Software

Create accurate models with SketchUp.

SketchUp provides many helpful modeling inclusions like high-quality animation, photo-realistic renders, shadow and daylight analysis and comparison between models and real-world objects.

There are also free 3-D models built into SketchUp that can be accessed with a monthly free, pro or education package.

Time to talk about our last block of benefits:

Integration: SketchUp API easily integrates with other applications like Sefaria and SimLab. Sefaria integration helps analyze energy usage, occupant thermal comfort, daylighting, and HVAC system size during conceptual modeling phases. SimLab converts SketchUp models into virtual reality that allows team members to walk through projects before they are completed.

Customization: Integration with Ruby API enables help for scripting new tools, menu items and plugins like automated component generators. Iterative saving allows you to drop back to older versions of a model when needed to avoid losing important design data.

Collaboration: SketchUp’s Pro provides teams the ability to transfer 3D information between users. The SketchUp Viewer’s collaborative features let groups of users experience designs through virtual or augmented reality devices.

Data Integration to Model: Using the Component tool, users can add information to models and analyze attributes therein. This tool also generates reports that provide a summary of attribute data in the current model.

Product Deployment: SketchUp is deployable on site as well as through the cloud. SketchUp Pro and Studio are also available in both deployment methods while Sketchup Shop is cloud-based only.

Price: $$$$$
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

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Final Thoughts

Your choice of BIM software holds the keys to the kingdom when it comes to designing a model for your construction project. Choosing the correct software suite is important — don’t make a rushed choice that will cause more headaches in the end. Gather your requirements and then head over to our comparison guide to size up your shortlist of vendors.

How has the inclusion of BIM software affected your construction projects? Let us know down below!

Hunter LoweThe Top BIM Software: Features, Benefits and Recommendations

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