AutoCAD. vs AutoCAD Architecture vs. Revit vs. Sketchup

Most of us accept BIM and parametric design as the future over Computer Aided Design but, should it be our present? Many offices have made the attempt to implement Revit seduced by its benefits, only to go back to using AutoCAD, after spending time and money.

This is due mainly to the following reasons:

  1. Revit's rigidity when designing. Many people say it's not the right tool for competitions, but it's more than that: Revit is not drawing or modeling, but for building. It requires to create or achieve a library to cover our needs for every different element we use in our projects (frames, furniture, columns, page layoutts...), which is time consuming.
  2. Many non standard geometries and elements require you to use 'tricks' to build what you want, if it is at all possible. Looking for a way to deceive the software into drawing what you want takes a lot of your time.
  3. Drawing in Revit is slow compared to AutoCAD (unless ALL the library of your project has been prepared previously)

Why use Revit at all then? Well, because of all its benefits:

  1. You build in 3d
  2. You add information to the project 'in layers' to a collaborative database, in which both architects and engineers can work.
  3. All the project information is linked (with exceptions, like construction details) and in only one file, which prevents many mistakes.
  4. It allows automatic data extraction into schedules which update upon project changes (areas, framing, measurements, energy behaviour, structure calculation, etc.). Using these features correctly improves productivity, even at initial stages.

Despite this, I believe BIM's benefits are 'still' not worth the effort it requires for most Architecture offices. In time, software will turn more flexible and faster to use, and libraries will be more accessible, but today it is still too expensive.

BUT there is an alternative which is something in between, which is AutoCAD Architecture which, used correctly, allows to get the best of both worlds (especially in automatic tagging and scheduling, using AutoCAD files as a database, like BIM does).

I will explain this working method in future articles.

As a final note, AutoCAD Architecture also allows drawing directly in 3D, and it has significantly improved over the last few years, but I find it faster and more intuitive to use only its 2D capabilities and use Sketchup for 3D. Sketchup must not be taken lightly, some even say Sketchup has most of Revit's possibilities! This is not true, but Sketchup is a very powerful, inexpensive tool to consider.