Software choice help required for builder



I’m a builder that runs a small design, build and development company in the UK. 

I’m looking to learn either a cad or bim software. I’ve searched the internet to death and I’m still unsure as to which software suits my particular situation best. So hoping for some advice please.

My work is small but high end residential projects. Typically renovations, extensions and single custom houses. I most often do all working drawings myself, upto now hand drafting. The drawings are kept in-house and just used for myself to have a thorough understanding of precisely what is to be built and to communicate this with sub-contractors and suppliers. 

My projects tend to be sleek/minimalist in nature so require meticulous detailing from the outset. A 3d software is certainly desirable to help avoid the mental gymnastics required to build a complex 3d object from  2d representation.

The software programs I’ve narrowed it down to are revit lt, archicad and vectorworks.

Revit and archicad obviously being dedicated bim programs. I’m not sure if this is suitable for small, bespoke projects and if it would be more effort than it is worth to build the model. 

Is building a bim model a very involved process because of all the detail design decisions that need to be made early on in the process? Or is it due to it being difficult to make the software do what you want it to? Or both? If it’s mostly the former then this wouldn’t be an issue as I’m building the building and all these decisions will need to be made by myself at some point anyway. I’d rather do it before we’re onsite.

Vectorworks from what I can tell is a good 2d software that has some bim capabilities. Would this be a good choice for me? 

Vectorworks has an add-on for interior cabinet/joinery construction called interiorcad. I would certainly welcome the ability to make cabinet fabrication drawings/cutting lists. Can revit or archicad do this with or without an add-on?

Cost concerns are not relevant as I don’t require file sharing capabilities and revit lt seems suitable enough. Future employment or using what everyone else uses again not a major concern.

Any help much appreciated. Thanks in advance.


Mar 13, 18 12:16 pm
Non Sequitur

AutoCAD and Sketchup Pro to be honest.  BIM takes a shit ton of work to make useful families of objects and if everything you're doing is custom and one of a kind, there is little use for BIM at that scale.

I don't trust extensions that claim to do detailing... and the few times I've used one (mostly Revit families), I've found myself spending just as much time fixing the details as if I had done them from scratch myself.

With that said, ArchiCAD is easier to learn than Revit if you're hung-up on BIM, but I've lost touch over the last 10 years since ArchiCAD has zero market share in my area.

Mar 13, 18 12:27 pm

Thanks for the advice. 

I’m aware of sketchup but not familiar with it. I always thought of it as something to model what the building looks like, not how it goes together.

Is it possible to completely model every element/component that goes in to a building so that you have a complete 3d model of the construction of the building? And to take measurements off of it?

If this is the case then this may be all that I need. Would certainly save a lot of expense/effort. Thanks again.

Mar 13, 18 1:55 pm
Non Sequitur

Possible to do all that in Sketchup? I'd say maybe, but the effort to do so would be equal to that of Revit or ArchiCAD. Each software has it's pratical limits. If you want 3D massing for graphic purposes, then Sketchup may very well be enough however, if you want to reliably cut sections and annotate, then BIM is the less painful way... but not without a steep learning curve. I know Autodesk has many training centres worldwide that can come into your office and give you personalize Revit training for 2-4 days. I assume ArchiCAD does the same.


Trying to model all of the systems, studs, trim, flashing, finishes, fixtures, etc. in Revit would not be something I'd suggest. The software is, in my experience, geared towards more traditional delivery methods. While it IS possible to model everything, the model gets heavy very quickly.

Non Sequitur

^ Yes, good point. I have full Revit models for my projects but I often use sketchup to fire off quick 3D sketches when I need to clarify studs, membrane, etc.

Your time is much more valuable doing what you're doing rather than learning how to grind out drawings in CAD. The learning curve is steep and attaining the kind of proficiency that I assume you have now is not easily achieved by putting a machine with an obscure, irrational command interface between your brain and the output.

If you really need that kind of output you're much better off hiring a CAD monkey™ to crank out your designs. They're cheap, fast and disposable.

* No offense intended to CAD monkeys™.

Mar 14, 18 10:47 pm

i started in bim in 1999, sketchup a couple of years later.   To this day, i believe that one of the shortcomings of cad management is that during the build up phase of a system,  we sometimes try to cover every eventuality in order to be completely prepared for every iteration of any scenario.)  As a small firm,  like yours,  performing bespoke one offs and remodels,  i think it would be absurd to try to set up a complete anything ready management package just to get started.  At the risk of over generalisation and being slightly biased,  I think it is perfectly acceptable to build up your system and library of "parts" one job at a time while you're working on individual projects.   This way,  you spread the commitment out over potentially long periods, lessening the impact,  and only building what you need,  when you need it.       Moreover,  it is dramatically easier in  2018, considering so much content is ready made.   If you choose the right elements, (for instance,  a window line from a manufacture that you can ad grids to with the check of a radio button and have one family in order to cover many scenarios),  you can really get allot of millage from your parts. And you also build into yoursystem and library only elements that are relevant to your projects, practice,  and preferences. Give me a shout if you would like to discuss further.   Best Wishes,  spreading the word "yes", one day at a time. 

Mar 20, 18 10:40 pm

I second the SkecthUp option.  All the other BIM stuff  is expensive, not super intuitive, and is really designed for coordination between disciplines (structural, mechanical, architectural), which doesn’t sound like you need.  Seems like overkill.  Compared to all the options you mentioned, SketchUp Pro is the cheapest, and has tons of extensions and plugins available.  SketchUp comes with a companion application called Layout, which links with your sketchup model, and allows annotating, dimensions, and labels.  

To give you a better sense, here is a small firm that is actually using Sketchup for their working drawings

Mar 27, 18 12:36 am

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