6 Best Building Information Modeling Software for Designers and Builders

Building information modeling (BIM) has transformed the construction industry by enabling unprecedented collaboration, efficiency and insight across the entire project lifecycle. Both designers and builders can utilize BIM software to visualize and simulate real-world performance, resolve design issues before construction, and ultimately deliver higher quality buildings.

As BIM adoption accelerates globally, the market now offers a diverse range of solutions catering to specific disciplines and project needs. Here are 6 of the top options:

1. Autodesk Revit

Revit is one of the most widely used BIM platforms engineered specifically for architects, engineers and contractors. It provides a robust set of tools to author architectural, structural and MEP models with a high degree of accuracy.

Some major capabilities include:

  • Intuitive modeling environment for buildings and infrastructure
  • Tools for analysis, code compliance and quantification
  • Realistic visualization and high-quality renderings
  • Automatic generation of drawings, views and sheets
  • Seamless collaboration with automatic updates from linked models
  • Interoperability with leading CAD applications via export/import

With customizable templates and industry-specific toolsets, Revit empowers both small and large AEC firms to maximize productivity. It is available via desktop license or cloud subscription.

2. Graphisoft Archicad

As a dedicated BIM solution for architecture, Archicad is praised for its elegant interface, slick performance and best-in-class visualization. It is tailored to streamline design workflow from early concepts to final construction documents.

Standout features include:

  • Fast generation of floor plans, sections, elevations, 3D views
  • Photo-realistic rendering with integrated Artlantis engine
  • Algorithmic design via Grasshopper graphical scripting
  • Smooth collaboration across remote teams
  • Automated publishing of drawing sheets and PDF reports
  • Quantities takeoff, cost estimation and code compliance

Available for Windows and Mac, Archicad offers flexible options from monthly rental to perpetual license. It can export IFC models for partial openBIM workflows.

3. Autodesk Navisworks

As a dedicated BIM review tool, Navisworks shines for model aggregation, coordination and clash detection. It brings together models from various sources for consolidated 5D analysis.

Notable capabilities:

  • Combine native files from AutoCAD, Revit, SketchUp etc
  • Walkthrough/fly through navigation within federated model
  • Clash testing, clearance analysis and model review workflows
  • Animated construction sequencing with Gantt chart integration
  • Quantity takeoffs with export to Excel templates
  • Supports model-based scheduling via TimeLiner

Available via desktop license or cloud subscription, Navisworks is a must-have for major construction projects involving complex MEP and structural systems.

4. SketchUp Pro

Offering a unique blend of 3D modeling simplicity and advanced visualization capabilities, SketchUp caters to concept design as well as presentation needs.

Some key features include:

  • Intuitive push/pull surface modeling
  • Extensive 3D model library for jumpstarting designs
  • Photo matching and location context via geo-referenced maps
  • Photorealistic rendering with depth of field and light studies
  • AR/VR mode for interactive walkthroughs on mobile devices
  • Export STL models for 3D printing
  • Supports all major CAD/BIM formats for import/export

With a low learning curve and multi-platform availability, SketchUp can be utilized by non-expert stakeholders alongside pros using Revit and Archicad.

5. Bentley OpenBuildings Designer

As an integrated BIM solution for architectural and MEP professionals, OpenBuildings Designer consolidates all tools required for a building project.

Notable features:

  • High performance modeling for intelligent buildings
  • Architectural, structural and MEP model synchronization
  • Code compliance checking against various standards
  • Bi-directional data flow between BIM and analysis engines
  • Construction-ready fabrication drawings and asset tracking
  • Clash avoidance via coordination workflows
  • Multi-discipline deliverables automated via i-models

Available via subscription, OpenBuildings supports open standards like IFC along with tight integration across Bentley‘s infrastructure tools.

6. Procore BIM

While Procore is better known as a construction management platform, its BIM solution focuses on model coordination and field productivity. By connecting digital building models to tasks, issues and checklists, it closes the loop between planning and execution.

Key capabilities:

  • Real-time model markup and issue tracking
  • Clash detection workflows to highlight hard conflicts
  • Custom checklists for proactive quality planning
  • Construction-driven data sheets for prefab components
  • Model-based quantity takeoffs integrated with workflows
  • Accessible via mobile devices on the jobsite

As SaaS software designed for ease of use, Procore BIM brings the value of virtual design to builders and project managers with no prior BIM experience. It offers unlimited users under one enterprise license.

Choosing the Right BIM Software

When evaluating BIM solutions, start by identifying your use cases and prioritizing capabilities. Map key workflows to shortlist tools that can address the pain points experienced by your teams.

While solutions like Revit and Archicad specialize in authoring architectural BIM, Navisworks focuses purely on model aggregation, coordination and quantification. Tools like SketchUp cater more to concept design with presentation-ready visualization as the end goal.

Think about current software investments and need for open standards like IFC versus proprietary data formats. Cloud platforms offer maximum mobility while perpetual licenses don‘t require long term commitment.

Assigning weights to factors and scoring shortlisted options can help drive consensus across stakeholders from engineering, construction and IT leadership. Customized scripts can also help extend vanilla tools like Revit and feed data to/from organizational systems.

With the right BIM software underpinning workflows, engineering precision can permeate construction execution for better buildings, faster delivery and lower risk.