Revit vs. ArchiCAD

There’s a big push to use Building Information Modelling (BIM) for submissions in Singapore. What this means is that all architectural, structural and mechanical & electrical (M&E) services will be modelled in 3D and combined in one file to make sure that they all fit together. This will then form an official submission to the Building Construction Authority (BCA) as part of the Building Plan submission which is the final submission prior to start of construction.

In theory this will reduce the occurrence of clashes that occur on site as problems can be visualised and highlighted prior to construction and BCA has now made BIM submissions mandatory for all large projects.

So far I’ve attended one course on Revit which is a BIM software produced by Autodesk. Now Autodesk is the 300 pound gorilla of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software companises as they also make the practically ubiquitous AutoCAD software that almost everyone I know uses. It seems almost logical to use Revit as there’s the benefit of compatibility between the two programs. But during my course I found Revit to be an extremely fiddly program to use. Too many buttons, too many options and creating custom architecture elements (e.g. doors, windows, walls) was cumbersome to say the least.

Now in my present company Revit has been chosen as the way forward but for myself I’m not so sure. AutoCAD itself has gotten more bloated with each revision and still lacks a user friendly interface such as simpler programs like Sketchup. From what I’ve heard Revit is also a nightmare when doing any large sized project as the file size can balloon into hundreds of megabytes. (Imagine panning and zooming into a large commercial development with all the archi, structure and M&E elements on!) The final nail in the coffin for Revit – for me at least – was that it’s now no longer offered at a fixed price. When you go to the Autodesk website you’ll see that it’s now bundled together with other related software and sold at a monthly or yearly subscription.

That really bothers me. It’s a clever business move on the part of Autodesk but that means that you can never outright own your individual license of Revit ever again. Once your subscription runs out it reverts back to trial mode and you have to pay again to use the software.  Large corporations might be able to subscribe to this mode of payment but what about little firms, like the one I’d like to set up in a couple of years time?

Some quick searching online revealed another option also supported in the Singapore industry: ArchiCAD.

I’d heard about ArchiCAD ages ago even before BIM became a hot topic in the industry. Why it didn’t catch on was because it wasn’t a dedicated drafting tool which is what Architects like myself were accustomed to (not that AutoCAD is THAT great but that’s a post for another time). Compared to Autodesk Revit, there is a fixed price for a single license for ArchiCAD and you can still purchase it.

But how does the software compare on other features?

Another search revealed this article online by BIM Equity, a consulting firm on BIM, which I found highly informative. It details some key differences between Revit and ArchiCAD when it comes down to the actual usage of the programs. The article describes a study where the same hypothetical building was drawn up with the 2 programs and whilst both were equally capable of generating a full set of models and drawings the difference in the of ease of use was telling. I won’t go into the details but it convinced me all the more that ArchiCAD is the tool for me.

I know nearly nothing about ArchiCAD but in the next months I want to learn as much as I can about it and in the event where I start my own firm and start afresh maybe it’s finally time to let go of AutoCAD and embrace this new future of building design.

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