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2018’s Best 3D Architecture/BIM Software (Many are Free)

Picture of Max von Übel
by Max von Übel
Apr 5, 2018

Looking for free 3D architecture software? Check out the best 3D architecture software and BIM software tools on the market right now. Many of them are free.

Until the middle of the nineties, architects had mainly drawn up their plans with a pencil and ink pencil. This has changed completely. The computer is an integral part of architecture offices, with 3D architecture software, the planning of projects became easier and faster. Drawing with computers allows faster changes. Masses and dimensions can automatically be generated from the plans and used in programs for calculation and billing. The possibilities of 3D architecture software spread from the visualization of a big building to a design study of a small chair.

What’s the technical difference between CAD and BIM?

Speaking plainly, a rectangle in AutoCAD could be anything from a fish tank to a helicopter-pad, the geometrical shape alone doesn’t tell you anything about its intended use.

BIM (Building Information Management) adds a layer of data to the drawings. When you draw a rectangle in the 3D architecture software ArchiCAD, you also specify whether it is a floor, a door, a window, etc. Because BIM software understands the intended use of each object, it will automatically assign industry standard measurements and materials.

The approach of BIM software makes it very easy to produce coherent architectural designs. Architectural software of this kind also enables to calculate the mass of a building, the number of materials needed in an instant, and its overall cost.

BIM software like Revit is designed not only for the architects, but also MEP, electrical, mechanical, and structural design teams. The shared program facilitates communication between the teams and ensures that conflicts between the different aspects of the project get noticed long before the first cut of the spade.

In our list, we feature mostly BIM software. However, we have also added CAD programs that are specifically geared towards architecture. We also compared the prices to each other and gave you a quick look at the possibility every 3D architecture software has.

Based on these different criteria, we presented the different 3D architecture software and BIM programs to help you ease the struggle of choosing one.

2018’s Best 3D Architecture/BIM Software (Many are Free)

Software Price OS
SketchUp Free / Commercial $695 Windows 7 and later, macOS
FreeCAD Arch Free Windows, macOS, Linux
Dynamo Free Windows 7 and later
B-processor Free Windows, macOS, Linux
TAD (The Architect's Desktop) Free Windows Vista or later
AutoCAD Architecture Free for Students / $1,575 Windows 7 and later
Revit Free Educational Licenses available / $2,200 Windows 7 and later
ArchiCAD Free version available / $300-$6800 Windows 7and later, macOS 10.9 or later
Vectorworks $2945 Windows 7 and later, macOS 10.10 and later
MicroStation Free Educational Licenses available / $5,234 Windows 7 and later (64 bit)
Allplan Educational Licenses available / $9,500 Windows 7 and later (64-bit)
Rhinoceros Educational $230 / Commercial $830 Windows 7 and later
BricsCAD BIM Free Educational Licenses available / $1,760 Windows 7 and later (32 and 64 bit), macOS 10.9 or higher, Linux

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software

1

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software SketchUp

Image of Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software: SketchUp

That’s right, we have included SketchUp in this list. Before you sneer and close the tab, hear us out. There is good reason to that SketchUp can be used as a 3D architecture software and even a BIM program.

To date, SketchUp has been a favorite to create architectural conceptual drawings. However, the stand-out feature that makes SketchUp a potential 3D architecture software, is its vast marketplace of extensions. A considerable number of these plugins add features found in BIM software to SketchUp.

In a manner of speaking, SketchUp allows you to compile your own BIM software that exactly fits your needs and a fraction of the cost of other 3D architecture! Here is a list of some of these plugins that caught our eye:

PlusSpec is a commercial plugin for SketchUp that enables comprehensive BIM features in the 3D architecture software. To give an example, this BIM plugin makes is easy to create a complete bill of quantities. The plugin can also output 2D construction plans in a snap.

Moreover, this BIM plugin comes with wizards tha help you create complex structures like roofs, handrails and more. The entire design made in this 3D architecture software is fully parametric, allowing you to move doors, windows and even walls without the need to redraw everything. For non-commercial work (homowners wanting to renovate, hobbyists etc.) there is a Lite version of PlusSpec available.

OpenStudio is a free plugin that has been developed by the US Department of Energy to help design energy efficient buildings. So, it offers support for a very specific BIM task. In SketchUp, you select from large array of building types and climate zones (these are geared towards the US). In addition, you assign functions to each room in the 3D architecture software – the program covers divers functions ranging between hotel banquet halls to delis.

Based on the information you provide in the 3D architecture software, the main program will then calculate the use of various kinds of energy over an entire year and broken down into months. The values are based on the US Department of Energy’s data. If you want to, you can refine the results by supplying additional information for each of the rooms – e.g. the kind of lighting used, the number of televisions.

4D Virtual Builder brings another aspect of BIM software to SketchUP. As the name gives away, this extension allows you to plan your project throughout the entire life-cycle from the various constructions phases to the eventual demolition.

In addition, the BIM plugin lets you create animations, diagrams and renders to communicate the different stages clearly to all involved teams. 4D Virtual Builder already has great credits to its name. For example, it helped build the port of Rotterdam.

Cost of the 3D Architectural Software SketchUp

The basic version of SketchUp is available free of charge. For more information click here.

SketchUp Pro costs $695. For more information click here.

Students and educators are eligible for discounts on this 3D architecture software. For more information see here.

Other Capabilities of the Architectural Software SketchUp:

  • SketchUp comes with its exchange repository integrated into the 3D architecture software itself: 3D Warehouse – a library where approximately 2.2 million SketchUp models can be downloaded directly into the program.

Animation/ Rendering

Users of th this 3D architecture software can benefit from its drawing layout and surface rendering functionality in a variety of “styles”.

These styles range from artistic drawings to photorealistic renders that can be used in promotional material. In short, there is something for everyone in this 3D architecture software.

If this is not enough, you can take your pick from a wide range of rendering engines available as extensions. Upgrade your 3D architecture software with options like Thea Render, Lumion, or V-Ray.

Requirements

  • Software SketchUp
  • Price Free / Commercial $695
  • OS Windows 7 and later, macOS
  • Processor minimum 1 GHz, recommended 2 GHz and more
  • RAM minimum 4 GB RAM, recommended 8 GB RAM and more
  • Graphics Card supports OpenGL and minimum 512 MB of memory, recommended 1 GB of memory
  • Screen Resolution N/A

For more information click here.

2

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software FreeCAD Arch

Image of Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software: FreeCAD Arch

Designed around parametric modeling, FreeCAD is a free CAD software. That has been developed to 3D design real-life objects of any size – including buildings. The FreeCAD software offers a modular architecture that allows workbenches dedicated to very specific fields to be mounted to the core application. Among these workbenches is one that enables fully fledged BIM software capabilities.

Although FreeCAD is only free BIM software, it has a few advantages over commercial alternatives. For instance, objects such as wall, floors etc. are not restricted to stereotypical shapes. Meaning you can create a floor slab curving up and becoming a wall. This sort of functionality comes in handy when designing cutting-edge architecture in the vein of Zaha Hadid and others.

The parametric modeling capability at the core of the 3D architecture software allows you to easily modify your component by going back into your model history and changing its dimensions. Another plus of this BIM software is that you can draw on the entire feature-set of FreeCAD’s other workbenches. Then you convert these components into architectural objects, while you preserve its entire modeling history. This is truly state-of-the-art tech!

The architecture workbench of FreeCAD is still under development. Hence, this 3D architecture software still suffers from some teething problems. Although the program can import IFC files via IfcOpenShell, exporting is still experimental. However, the developers expect full IFC support for the near future.

Tutorial: FreeCAD Tutorial for 3D Printing

Cost of the 3D Architectural Software FreeCAD ArchFreeCAD Arch

FreeCAD and all of its workbenches are available for download free of charge. Click here for more information.

Other Capabilities of the Architectural Software FreeCAD Arch

  • Like commercial 3D architecture software, FreeCAD includes wizards that facilitate creating windows, stairs and roofs. You can also extract quantities for all objects. These data can be viewed and exported in FreeCAD’s spreadsheet workbench.
  • Naturally, this BIM software can be used to create sections of your building along planes that you specify.

Animation/ Rendering

FreeCAD even allows you to create renders of your design. The dedicated Raytracing in this 3D architecture software workbench supports two rendering engines: PovRay and LuxRender. However, as this software was developed with BIM and other engineering purposes in mind, you should not expect photorealistic results.

Requirements

  • Software FreeCAD Arch
  • Price Free
  • OS Windows, macOS, Linux
  • Processor minimum Pentium IV and Intel Core2 Solo
  • RAM supports “modest computers”
  • Graphics Card OpenGL support
  • Screen Resolution N/A

For more information click here.

3

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software Dynamo

Image of Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software: Dynamo

Dynamo belongs to a new species of 3D architecture software that can produce designs based on a set of parameters. Since the program is spearheaded by Autodesk, although published under an open-source license, it ties in well with Revit.

Essentially, users design buildings in this 3D architecture software by progamming the relevant parameters. But don’t worry, you don’t need to write one line of code. Users combine nodes that represent the code in a graphical interface.

The overall technique is intuitive and easy to pick up allowing to create intricate facades with hundreds of different panels or complex infrastructure projects.

Cost of the 3D Architectural Software Dynamo

This 3D architecture software is available in a free and in a commercial version. The free BIM software is an extension to Autodesk Revit. For more information click here.

The commercial version, Dynamo Studio, is a stand-alone program that costs $305 per year. For more information click here.

Other Capabilities of the Architectural Software Dynamo

Dynamo is an amazing to tool that can used in various stages of the design process. In the beginning of planning, it is highly efficient to study various spatial configurations. Enter the space allocated to different functions in spreadsheet format into the 3D architecture software and then experiment with different algorithms to find the best solution for your project.

Another use case is that of Flanagan Lawrence architects who used Dynamo to explore the relationship between form and sound. Using algorithms that account for the acoustic effects different instruments and styles of music sucessfully modeled the best solution that combined excellent acoustics with a light-weight structure.

Requirements

  • Software Dynamo
  • Price Free
  • OS Windows 7 and later
  • Processor Intel Pentium, Xeon, or i-Series processor or AMD equivalent
  • RAM 4 GB RAM sufficient
  • Graphics Card DirectX 10 compatible
  • Screen Resolution 1,920 ✕ 1,080

For more information click here.

4

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software B-processor

Image of Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software: B-processor

B-processor is a free BIM software that is being developed by the Arhus School of Architecture (Denmark) in cooperation with the Alexandra Institute. Its name derives from the word for “building” in various languages and the second component in “word-processor”.

Since this free BIM software has been developed for architectural design from scratch the entire user interface and workflow are by far more intuitive than many commercial solutions that are essentially extensions of older CAD software.  In consequence, this 3D architecture software dispenses with 2D views altogether – all modeling is done in a 3D viewport that is better suited for the task.

All objects in this 3D architecture software adhere to a strict object structure describing either their function or properties. Designs can be enhanced with further details by subdividing spaces into element parts.

The developers of B-processor envision that their free BIM software will be adopted by the architectural industry. Their goal is to offer an open plattform of BIM modeling that the community can contribute to and modify to meet its own needs.

Cost of the 3D Architectural Software B-processor

This BIM software can be downloaded free of charge from this website.

Other Capabilities of the Architectural Software B-processor

  • Necessary repetetive tasks can be automated using so-called ’modellors’ which form the base for plug-in tools. Specifically, these modellors can be designed to create  elements like windows, doors, and stairs in this 3D architecture software.
  • For a free BIM software, B-processor is remarkebly comprehensive. Not only can architects claculate quantities and costs, but even perform energy efficiency simulations.

Requirements

  • Software B-processor
  • Price Free
  • OS Windows, macOS, Linux
  • Processor N/A
  • RAM N/A
  • Graphics Card N/A
  • Screen Resolution N/A
5

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software TAD (The Architect's Desktop)

Image of Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software: TAD (The Architect's Desktop)

Originating in an Indian architectural firm in 1989, TAD is a free BIM software that tries to improve on conventional solutions. The current version 6 is a closed source freeware, however the planned next release of this 3D architecture software will be open-source.

In essence, the developers of TAD believe that most of the BIM software that we have listed here adhere to the same time-proven and often trodden paths, since they are often based on other solutions that were not designed for architects. Therefore, these 3D architecture software over-emphasize the engineering aspect and neglect the conceptual side of architectural design.

As the name TAD (The Architect’s Desktop) gives away, this free BIM software attempts to offer a holistic solution to architectural design. TAD is  unique in that is supposed to be used from the earliest conceptual sketches and doodles. The 3D architecture software allows you to explore different between configurations of bodies and spaces before you procede to refine the design.

From this description it becomes clear that TAD is intended for use by senior architects who outline the concept of a building rather than designing it down to the last screw like other free BIM software. Hence, this 3D architecture software does not cover all of the design process. The details are filled in downstream in other solutions.

It is also fairly easy to pick up the 3D architecture software. The developers even claim that experienced architects can start working with this free BIM software in a productive manner within a day!

Cost of the 3D Architectural Software TAD

TAD can be downloaded for free. To run the free BIM software you need free registration that is available in the website’s chat system or in the TAD Community.

Other Capabilities of the Architectural Software TAD

  • As can be expected, TAD can perform common BIM operations like calculating quantities.
  • It is easy to implement your own features into TAD custom scripts.

Requirements

  • Software TAD (The Architect's Desktop)
  • Price Free
  • OS Windows Vista or later
  • Processor N/A
  • RAM minimum 2G RAM
  • Graphics Card N/A
  • Screen Resolution N/A

For more information click here.

Best Commercial 3D Architecture Software / BIM Software

What You Need To Know Before You Buy 3D Architecture Software

Whether you are having trouble choosing your first software to learn CAD or just want to learn about the features of other programs, we hope to give you a clear overview of the best 3D architecture software to choose from.

Since it can be a very challenging task to choose a 3D architecture software, often you follow the example of others and use the software that they are most familiar with. However, a closer look can be worth your while. Not because only the prices vary, but also the disciplines for which the respective systems have been developed. For example, if you want to design furniture, Rhino 3D would be the best choice. However, for the detailed planning of entire buildings, you’d want to resort to a comprehensive BIM suite like Vectorworks or ArchiCAD.

However, you can not generalize this: All of these computer programs can create all necessary plans for the most complicated architectural projects. The 3D architecture software packages, however, often differ in price, compatibility with different operating systems, and rendering capabilities.

6

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software AutoCAD Architecture

Image of Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software: AutoCAD Architecture

Available since 1982, AutoCAD is the most mature and stable CAD software on the market. As can be expected from a cutting-edge CAD program, this CAD software brings supports parametric modeling. For more than two decades architects had to work with the standard version of the CAD software until Autodesk published a version dedicated to the challenges of designing architecture.

Hate it or love it. Since this 3D architecture software is an Autodesk product, it integrates well with other tools from this publisher. This comes in handy especially in large projects that require several architectural, engineering teams and contractors to work with the same data-set. Autodesk has published tools that are designed with very specific tasks in mind but held together by excellent mutual compatibility. So, if you buy AutoCAD Architecture, you can be sure that your collaborators will be able to open your files without fuss.

If you choose AutoCAD Architecture, you don’t trade in with a subset of the original CAD software tool. The 3D architecture software includes the entire feature-set of AutoCAD software. It adds additional tools that are useful for drafting architectural construction plans.

For instance, these tools allow you to quickly draw walls, doors, and windows that behave like real-world objects and include the details necessary to construct them. You can also improve your productivity with a library of detail components, such as section views of beams and columns.

Although AutoCAD offers no BIM functionalities, it is still a popular tool used by many architects who

Cost of the 3D Architecture Software AutoCAD Architecture

Any interested user can get a one-month free trial version of AutoCAD Architecture from Autodesk’s website.

  1. Click DOWNLOAD AUTOCAD FOR FREE.
  2. Read the system requirements notice. Click NEXT.
  3. Choose “Individual or Business User” from the list. Choose your language. And click NEXT.
  4. Enter your personal information to create an Autodesk account. Alternatively, sign in to your existing Autodesk account.
  5. Enter your business information. And click NEXT.
  6. Read the Trial Notice and click BEGIN DOWNLOAD.
  7. Install, and start using the free trial.

Full version: A one-year subscription of AutoCAD Architecture costs $1,575. However, monthly and 3-year plans are also available. Order and download here.

Educational version: Students are eligible for free 3-year licenses of this 3D architecture software. Find out more here.

Other Capabilities of the 3D Architecture Software AutoCAD Architecture

  • Renovation Mode: Specify in a drop-down-menu which elements of your design are existing, to be demolished or to be built.
  • Roombook: Not only can you calculate the surfaces of your projects. This 3D architecture software automatically calculates the number of building materials needed in selected areas.
AutoCAD

Animation/ Rendering

You can generate photorealistic renders directly within this 3D architecture software. Choose from a selection of presets that have been tailored to different requirements such as quick low-resolution renders to communicate a design presentation quality renders that can be used in meetings with stakeholders. Because this 3D architecture software is an Autodesk product, it is easy to export projects into one of the professional 3D animations software like Maya and 3ds Max for creating jawdropping clips of your projects.

Requirements

  • Software AutoCAD Architecture
  • Price Free for Students / $1,575
  • OS Windows 7 and later
  • Processor 64 bit
  • RAM 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics Card DirectX11 Card
  • Screen Resolution minimum 1360 x 768, recommended 1920 x 1080, maximum 3840 x 2160

For more information click here.

7

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software Revit

Image of Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software: Revit

Autodesk offers its own take on BIM modeling with Revit. Although this 3D architecture software is younger than ArchiCAD, it is not merely following in its footsteps. Unlike 3D architecture software ArchiCAD, it is not only designed for architects but aims to incorporate all relevant disciplines of building design into one suite. The advantage of this approach is obvious; architects need to collaborate with MEP, electrical, mechanical, and structural design teams, so using the same tool eases the communication and coordination between the disciplines.

One of the key features of Revit is its implementation of parametric building modeling. Meaning that all the components of a building in this BIM software are interdependent. So by moving a wall in the design, the neighboring components like walls or floors are also updated to keep the design intent of the building consistent. This feature allows planners to make substantial changes without the need to redraw every component by hand.

As Revit is an Autodesk product, it integrates well with other tools from this publisher. Meaning that files can be loaded into this 3D architecture software without fuss.

How does Revit compare to its biggest rival, ArchiCAD? Many architectural firms in North America today prefer Revit, as the inclusion of MEP and engineering disciplines save a lot of time and money. However, this broad range of features takes its toll on the user who is at first overwhelmed by its massive libraries. Conversely, ArchiCAD users claim that this 3D architecture software is by far easier to learn.

The only downside of Revit is that it runs solely on Windows computers. macOS users in search of a premium class 3D architecture software should take a close look at ArchiCAD.

Cost of the 3D Architecture Software Revit

Any interested user can get a one-month free trial version of Revit from Autodesk’s website.

  1. Click DOWNLOAD REVIT FOR FREE FOR 30 DAYS.
  2. Read the system requirements notice. Click NEXT.
  3. Choose “Individual or Business User” from the list. Choose your language. And click NEXT.
  4. Enter your personal information to create an Autodesk account. Alternatively, sign in to your existing Autodesk account.
  5. Enter your business information. And click NEXT.
  6. Read the Trial Notice and click BEGIN DOWNLOAD.
  7. Install, and start using the free trial.

Full version: A one-year subscription of Revit costs $2,200 However, monthly and 3-year plans are also available. Order and download here.

Educational version: Students are eligible for free 3-year licenses of this 3D architecture software. Find out more here.

Other Capabilities of the 3D Architecture Software Revit

  • Revit is a 4D-capable BIM 3D architecture software. That means its tools are not only designed to plan the construction of a building, but also to track the various stages of the building’s entire lifecycle, including demolition. Using BIM software like Revit thus facilitates the design of more sustainable buildings.

Animation/ Rendering

Revit offers a large array of tools for rendering. These are capable of producing photorealistic renderings of interior and exterior scenes. The built-in Autodesk Raytracer is a rendering engine that employs realistic shading/lighting models to accurately represent real-world materials. Users of this BIM software can choose from a large library of predefined materials that can be modified to the project’s specific needs. For more advanced rendering, Revit models can also be imported into Autodesk 3ds Max.

Requirements

  • Software Revit
  • Price Free Educational Licenses available / $2,200
  • OS Windows 7 and later
  • Processor Intel Pentium, Xeon, or i-Series processor or AMD equivalent (up to 16 cores)
  • RAM minimum 4 GB RAM, recommended 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics Card DirectX 11 capable card
  • Screen Resolution minimum 1280 x 1024, up to 4K

For more information click here.

8

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software ArchiCAD

The name itself says everything, ArchiCAD is a 3D architecture software specially designed for architects and interior architects. Since the beginning, walls, doors, windows, ceilings, staircases, and roofs have been two and three-dimensional.

The integration of closed ones has always been self-evident. With the 3D architecture software ArchiCAD, architects receive all tools to plan buildings.

The BIM software has been continuously refined with annual updates. Also, different store heights and sloping walls are createdArchiCAD is suitable for small buildings and interiors as well as for very large building projects

With the possibility to work in a team, several employees can be involved in a project at the same time. BIM has been integrated into ArchiCAD for several years. Data exchange with the engineers takes place via the DWG and IFC interfaces. For this, however, the corresponding settings must be made, which is not necessary with Autocad.

With ArchiCAD, you can always create simple, realistic renderings with materials and shadows. The program is easy to learn and easy to use. At universities and colleges, it is very much used in architecture, the distribution in architecture offices is very high.

The great advantage of ArchiCAD is that it has been specially developed for a user group where the program is very successful in competitions, design planning and execution and detail planning. ArchiCAD, like Vectorworks and Allplan, is part of the Nemetschek Group, thus ensuring continuous improvement.

How does ArchiCAD compare to its biggest rival, Revit? Many architectural firms in North America today prefer the 3D architecture software Revit, as the inclusion of MEP and engineering disciplines save a lot of time and money. However, this broad range of features takes its toll on the user who is at first overwhelmed by the massive libraries of this BIM software. Conversely, ArchiCAD users claim that this 3D architecture software is by far easier to learn.

Cost of the 3D Architecture Software ArchiCAD

How to get the 3D architecture software for free:

  1. 1) Register here.
  2. 2) Download Archicad 21

Full version: Starting from 300 $ for beginning architects up to 6800$ for a yearly license, needs to be ordered from your local CAD Professionals. Get it here.

 Other Capabilities of the 3D Architecture Software ArchiCAD

  • DWG interface: Easy data exchange with engineers
  • BIM Server: fixed part of the 3D architecture software bundle

Animation/ Rendering

Architects have always been able to use the ArchiCAD shadows in their buildings, but through the integration of Cinema 4D it is possible to generate photorealistic rendering. With postprocessing on Photoshop, their projects can be even more realistic.

Requirements

  • Software ArchiCAD
  • Price Free version available / $300-$6800
  • OS Windows 7and later, macOS 10.9 or later
  • Processor 64-bit processor
  • RAM 2 GB
  • Graphics Card OpenGL 2.1 compatible graphics card, a dedicated graphics card is highly recommended. VRAM: 1GB (minimum), 2GB – 4GB (recommended)
  • Screen Resolution 1024 x 768 or higher is required

For more information click here.

9

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software Vectorworks

This 3D Architecture Software is very graphically oriented. Therefore, it is well suited for presentations and competitions. You are also able to create simple 2D and 3D CAD drawings.

Thanks to annual updates, the software has evolved at a steady pace. You are now able to plan from small to very large 3D projects and also use the BIM (Building information modeling) feature. Vectorworks consists of a basic module and extensions for architecture, interior design and landscape architecture.

The fact that Vectorworks is taught in many architectural schools means that many offices use this 3D architecture software today.

Great offices such as Bearth & Deplazes Architekten AG use the 3D architecture software Vectorworks and due to BIM the possibilities are endless.

By controlling CAM and CNC, it is also possible to prepare various parts for manufacturing in a machine. Furniture or complex structures can be created in that way.

A great advantage of Vectorworks is that among many large architectural offices, there are also carpenters, craftsmen and especially landscape architects using this 3D architecture software, which makes it a great interchangeable format to work with.

Cost of the 3D Architecture Software Vectorworks

Vectorworks offers a free 30 Day trial of its 3D architecture software: Get it here. 

How to get the 3D architecture software free:

  1. Register here and apply for Free Educational Software
  2. Download the latest version: Vectorworks 2017
  3. Install the 3D architecture software and add your license key sent to you by Email.

The full version of the 3D architecture software: In order to actually plan your building you need a license which cost $2945 a year. Click here to get your full version 3D architecture software license. Moreover, there is an annual update service for the 3D architecture software available.

Other Capabilities of  the 3D architecture software Vectorworks

  • Cloud Services: allows you to work on a project as a Team and for example continue working on a project your partner couldn’t complete.
  • Ease of use: Vectorworks is very easy to learn, either through the many online tutorial the company has or a workshop at your University
  • Easily create stairways.

Animation/ Rendering

Auer Weber: Hafenspitze Mainz

With the add-on 3D architecture software Renderworks, simple photorealistic rendering with materials and shadows can be created. The quality is very good as Vectorworks uses Cinema 4D’s excellent rendering engine. For more information: click here

Requirements

  • Software Vectorworks
  • Price $2945
  • OS Windows 7 and later, macOS 10.10 and later
  • Processor 64-bit Intel Core i5 (or AMD equivalent) clocked at 2Ghz or better
  • RAM 4GB minimum, 8 GB recommended, > 8GB – 16GB recommended for large files and complex renderings.
  • Graphics Card OpenGL 2.1 compatible graphics card. A dedicated graphics card is highly recommended. VRAM: 1GB (minimum), 2GB-4GB (recommended). For use of Vectorworks with Vision: OpenGL 3.0 compatible graphics card, a dedicated graphics card is required. VRAM: 1GB (minimum), 2GB – 4GB (recommended)
  • Screen Resolution 1440 x 900 minimum, 1920 x 1080 or higher recommended

For more information click here.

10

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software MicroStation

If you are looking for an 3D architecture software that offers a broad range of BIM tools you should take MicroStation by Bentley into consideration. The program ist designed to include the work of architects and engineers in one environment. Due to this universal approach to building design, project teams can communicate and collaborate quicker and more efficient than possible in separate applications.

The modeling tools of this 3D architecture software enable you to model almost any geometric shape. What is more, MicroStation is a fully fledged parametric modeler, allowing to reshape your design simply by changing the values that control the dimensions of its key components. Hence, you can re-use designs from earlier projects with the project’s parameters.

Due to its sophisticated collaborative features, this BIM tool is suitable for larger projects. ProjectWise enables teams to exchange project information quickly and safely. Also, it integrates well with CAD software tools, like AutoCAD thanks to the built-in RealD WG support.

Cost of the 3D Architecture Software Microstation

Bentley offers a 14-day free version of MicroStation for download.

  1. Choose your customer status.
  2. Enter your email-address and click SUBMIT.
  3. Fill in your personal information and click SUBMIT.
  4. Click DOWNLOAD NOW.
  5. Install the 3D architecture software.
  6. Open the email sent to you by Bentley and confirm to unlock the program.

Full version: One license of MicroStation costs $5,234. Order and download here.

Educational version: Students are eligible for free licenses of this 3D architecture software. Find out more here.

Other Capabilities of the 3D Architecture Software Microstation

  • MicroStation also brings considerable analytical tools to the table. Analyze your models to understand where interferences might occur to reduce cost.
  • The BIM-data model allows you to automate the generation of deliverables like construction sheets, renderings, spreadsheets and more.
  • This 3D architecture software also allows you to perform precise solar exposure analysis to optimize your projects topography.

Animation/ Rendering

Communicate with stakeholders by producing animations and renderings that bring the project to life before a single part is manufactured. The necessary tools include a library of realistic materials, lighting. Lastly, you can choose between keyframe and time-based animation.

Requirements

  • Software MicroStation
  • Price Free Educational Licenses available / $5,234
  • OS Windows 7 and later (64 bit)
  • Processor 64-bit processor
  • RAM minimum 4GB RAM, recommended 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics Card DirectX 11 capable card
  • Screen Resolution 1024 x 768 or higher

For more information click here.

11

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software Allplan

Allplan is a comprehensive suite of BIM tools that has been continually developed and refined by the architectural firm Nemetschek. Today, it is a staple in such offices as Wörner Traxler Richter, Zach + Zünd, or Vollack. This 3D architecture software is comprised of three components that work seamlessly together to ensure maximum efficiency in coordinating between planning teams of all disciplines.

First, Allplan Architecture is the tool designed for architects. Based on the powerful Parasolid modeling kernel from Siemens, this part of the 3D architecture software enables a high degree of freedom in the creation of 3D models. To create a BIM project associate the key physical and functional properties. This ensures efficient communication with your project partners.

The second component is Allplan Engineering Building. This part of the 3D architecture software was developed with the needs of structural engineers in mind. It uses the shared BIM model to generate shell and reinforcement plans including quantity determinations and bending schedules. Collisions between the reinforcements, fixtures and  prestressing  are avoided easily. The results of structural analysis can passed on to the architectural team working with Allplan Architecture.

The 3D architecture software suite is held together by Allplan BIMPlus, a cloud service that aggregates the data from the architecture and engineering tools. Members of the design teams can access the project files from any device to quickly discuss necessary changes, process data and even visualize the project’s status for stakeholders.

Cost of the 3D Architecture Software Allplan

Nemetschek offers a 30-day free version of the entire Allplan suite for download. Register on the Nemetschek website to download the free trial of this 3D architecture software.

Full version: One license of Allplan costs $9,500. Order and download here.

Educational version: Students are eligible for free licences of this 3D architecture software. Find out more here.

Other Capabilities of the 3D Architecture Software Allplan

  • The 3D architecture software includes a library of basic components, like walls, roofs and even complex structures like facades. Moreover, the program can import custom components that can be configured as wizards, allowing to establish a standard within projects and the office.
  • With Allplan BIMPlus, planners and builders can inspect a building in VR. This feature is useful for studying different simulations of the sun’s course and its effects on the lighting conditions within, or simply as a means to present the project in a manner that creates immediate engangement with the audience.

Animation/ Rendering

Create stunning visualization from your BIM-data directly inside Allplan. The 3D architecture software harnesses Maxon’s  CineRender engine to help you generate photorealistic render intuitively and efficiently. You need to integrate last-minute changes to your renders? Allplan automatically updates them.

Requirements

  • Software Allplan
  • Price Educational Licenses available / $9,500
  • OS Windows 7 and later (64-bit)
  • Processor minimum Intel Core 2, recommended Core i7, or Core i5
  • RAM minimum 4GB RAM, recommended 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics Card minimum OpenGL 3.3 compatible, recommended OpenGL 4.2 compatible
  • Screen Resolution minimum 1280 x 1024, recommended 2560 x 1600, 4K and higher supported

For more information click here.

12

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software Rhinoceros

Image of Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software: Rhinoceros

The 3D architecture software Rhino is particularly well known for the realization of complex structures. In addition, it is also able to visualize furniture, vehicles and many other items compared to other conventional ones. Structural design in an 3D architecture software can be used to combine the design of a building with a functioning construction.

Rhinoceros is used in a variety of work areas, whether it is machine builders or toy manufacturers. Thus, it can be an advantage to approach the 3D architecture software since it offers an enormous number of possibilities and is much more flexible than the conventional 3D architecture software.

Due to the many possibilities, this 3D architecture software is unfortunately not free for students.

For a guide to Rhino 5, check out this great handbook.

Cost of the 3D Architecture Software Rhinoceros

Rhino offers a free 90-day trial for their 3D architecture software. Although if you are at the university, ask the faculty whether there are any existing plans for 3D architecture software before buying anything new.

Educational Version: From $230, download here.

Full Version: From $830, download here. There is an annual service update available.

Possibilities

Rhino offers a big variety of render software. These 2 are the best for architectural designing:

Thanks to these extensions you can visualize your project. Although it is important to know that these two extensions can only run on Windows.

You should also take a close look at the plugin called Visual ARQ. This plugin adds BIM features like architectural object styling and dynamic documentation tools to the 3D architecture software.

Requirements

  • Software Rhinoceros
  • Price Educational $230 / Commercial $830
  • OS Windows 7 and later
  • Processor Intel Core i5 7400 Quad Core or AMD equivalent
  • RAM 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics Card Open GL Graphics Card
  • Screen Resolution 1440 x 900 minimum, 1920 x 1080 or higher recommended
13

Best Free 3D Architecture Software / Free BIM Software BricsCAD BIM

BricsCAD BIM is a 3D architecture software that aids in creating a rich digital representation of a building that includes all its in physical and functional properties. The rough silhouette of a building is blocked out using traditional surface modeling techniques known from 3D modeling software.

To help you turn your design into a building design, this 3D architecture software includes a few sophisticated tools. Complex structures like facade panels, stairs and much more can be created in a snap using parametric arrays. This also enables users to revise them without the need to redraw.

BricsCAD BIM’s structural tool can automatically classify linear solids as columns, railings and the like, helping engineers to quickly block out the basic building structure. The window command lets you create fully parametric windows based on any closed contour.

Due to its collaborative features, BricsCAD BIM is an ideal solution to work on large projects. The project files are stored in the cloud, making the most recent version accessible to all participants in an instant. Team members can view metadata and geometry in an online 3D viewer. By applying search filters individual components and groups can be found and reviewed quickly.

Also, this 3D architecture software is one of the few on the market that supports not only Windows but also runs on macOS and even Linux.

Cost of the 3D Architecture Software BricsCAD BIM

Full version: One license of BricsCAD BIM costs $1,760. Order and download here. In case you already own BricsCAD Platinum, you can upgrade for $650.

Educational version: Students are eligible for a one-year free license of this 3D architecture software. Find out more here.

Other Capabilities of the 3D Architecture Software BricsCAD BIM

  • To streamline the creating of connections, this 3D architecture software brings a machine intelligence tool to the table that helps to identify recurring connections between components.
  • Moving BIM data between different applications is enabled by the implementation of the IFC format. Imported components are both associative and parametric.

Requirements

  • Software BricsCAD BIM
  • Price Free Educational Licenses available / $1,760
  • OS Windows 7 and later (32 and 64 bit), macOS 10.9 or higher, Linux
  • Processor 1 GHz processor or faster
  • RAM minimum 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics Card RedSDK compatible
  • Screen Resolution minimum 1024 x 768

For more information click here.

Can I start drafting in SketchUp and then move to Revit and Co?

Some schools teach that you best start out modeling your design in a mass-modeling program like SketchUp and then draft the final construction documents in a BIM software like Revit or ArchiCAD. The idea is that SketchUp can be used more intuitively than Revit.

On the one hand, this certainly true with regard to the dedicated tools used for creating doors, floors and the like. These are designed to speed up the drafting process considerably. However, if the user is not intimately familiar with them and understands the rationale behind their preset values, he will inevitably end up with an inconsistent design.

On the other hand, the free modeling workflow of SketchUp is not so intuitive for everyone. It also means that you have to model everything by hand – although there are a number of plugins that bring BIM functionality to SketchUp.

Ultimately, it boils down to the question which tool suits your workflow best and how well prepared you are. If you know the tools in Revit or any other BIM software you prefer like the back of your hand, you can create complex designs at an astonishing speed. But this assumes that you already the basic dimensions of doors the space between floors etc.

What Computer do I need to run 3D Architecture Software?

It is also important to be aware that most 3D architecture software requires a certain system performance, which is especially necessary to know when thinking about buying a new computer. A certain system requirement also means that only certain laptops can cope with these. Here is a list of the best laptops for architects on the market:

Recommended Macintosh Laptops for 3D Architecture Software

If you really want an Apple computer but are afraid you can’t use some Windows programs you need for your work, there is always a way to run Windows on your Mac. Some say, running 3D architecture software on Windows will increase the speed and the possibilities of connecting your CAD Plan to other software:

Check out these different possibilities to get Windows on a Mac:

  1. Virtual Machine such as Parallels : allows you to run Windows in the background of Mac OS
  2. Boot Camp: on most of the Apple Computer it possible to run Windows, simply open Bootcamp Assistant on your Mac

Recommended Windows Laptops for 3D Architecture Software

If you want to run CAD on a Windows computer, you want some “punch” behind it. Here are Windows-based laptops which are great for 3D architecture software:

It’s not easy to choose the right 3D architecture software that suits your needs. Often, you are confronted with certain preferences. Also, price plays an important role for most students. Before you decide on one solution, you should check if other architects or colleagues have already chosen a particular software. The architecture schools also play an important role in the selection. Also, the optimal, smooth cooperation with specialists and BIM plays an increasingly important role.

If you can spare the time, you should have a look at all of the 3D architecture software and assess which one fits your needs. Good luck – and start building.

License: The text of "2018’s Best 3D Architecture/BIM Software (Many are Free)" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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