Today's blog comes from a question regarding a very contentious debate: ArchiCAD vs Revit.

"I'm wondering, whats your opinion on Revit vs ArchiCAD?
Having spoken with a number of local architects, it seems a lot of them are using Revit. I'm now a little confused as to why they seem to prefer it over ArchiCAD or is it just personal opinion?

I'm in two minds as to whether in my early stages of my career I should change to Revit or not. Any information would be greatly appreciated."

It would be rightly assumed that my opinion is biased, and you will find many differing recommendations online.

I chose to use ArchiCAD, not because it is the best program at any one function, but rather it is a quite good at performing all of the functions I require.

ArchiCAD is very good at 3D modelling, maybe with the exception of organic form (of which has greatly improved over the past few years through the use of the shell, morph, and curtain wall tools), but for true organic modelling you would include workflow out of Rhino 3D.  

Visualisation (rendering) in ArchiCAD is competent but time consuming and not very intuitive. While it can create a compelling visualisation; for photo-realism I would outsource to dedicated rendering software. 

2D documentation remains an essential part of my architectural services and ArchiCAD is great at blending it's 3D and 2D functionality.

Quantifying and scheduling is an area where ArchiCAD has enormous potential but a lot of these setting are not preset, and therefore need to be created or imported by a user with an advanced understanding of their functionality. 

Finally, many would argue that ArchiCAD is simply too complex to be used as a design tool and would instead opt for something like SketchUp. I would suggest that ArchiCAD can do anything SketchUp can, if suitably simplified for designing by adapting the workspace and template.

I would say there are multiple factors that come down to why an architect or company purchases a particular program:

  • marketing effectiveness
  • market position and saturation in the region
  • referrals from other users
  • cost
  • value added products
  • time
  • technical support/ customer service

These all have significant impact on choice. 

I would say the foremost question to ask your mentor is ‘what did they use when receiving their education?’ Now this would be an evolving answer for many experienced architects.

Most people don’t like change and don’t want to deviate from a path that they started upon, so unless they are entrepreneurial at heart, the program of choice was probably where they first received their Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) education. Most would have probably started with AutoCAD, a 2D program that has served many varying specialists of the built environment industry since 1977. 

Once BIM hit the scene, the new technology required a large change in workflow. After all, jumping from the drafting board to a computer screen and mouse was already a hurdle too tall for many. So some firms became late adaptors, only recently changing from a 2D to BIM system. 

The picture below shows the timeline of CAD, and how the architectural profession has evolved: 


(Credit: Central Innovation: from AI workshop at Design Build 2019) 

CAD and BIM are tools, just like a hammer. A tool is only as useful as the person wielding it. Like a nail gun, BIM is designed to automate the nailing process. At the end of the day, the nail still needs to end up in the right place. ArchiCAD (or any other BIM program) has the capability to automate most of our design and documentation. The quality of the architecture remains dictated by the designer, not the machine. Therefore, the education of architects is more fundamental than the choice of software used. Proficiency in the software is significant to representing the design accurately, efficiently and cost effectively. 

One of the main questions employers will asked a candidate is, 'What BIM program are you familiar with, and what is your level of competency?'

Testing proficiency is harder to prove in an interview, and many employers realise this far too late. This results in a revolving door of employees who may not have the level of skill needed to meet the organisational needs. With the fast-pace and volatile nature of the industry, dependent on economic factors; up-skilling yourself in these tools is something that you should do prior to walking into that interview, giving yourself a competitive advantage over other applicants and more chance for future advancement.

So, do you take time to learn both ArchiCAD and Revit (or a variety of programs) to be a fundamental user of the programs, or do you specialise in one? This depends on your career intentions and aspirations. 

If you are a student, both Graphisoft and Autodesk provides FREE educational versions for you to learn with, dependant on their terms and conditions. So if you are eligible for the educational software of ArchiCAD and Revit, then give both a go and find out which you prefer.

If you have landed here, hopefully it means you're pursuing ArchiCAD further, and if so, we are here to help you learn. 

One final comment:

Of the hundreds I've trained personally, and thousands I've influenced globally in ArchiCAD, very few have ever returned to Revit. 

All in hope to elevate architectural theory and practice. 

Robert Mann 

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