Which Software Is Best For Architecture

Architecture and Software: The Challenge of Finding the Best

Software packages designed for architecture and engineering range an incredibly wide spectrum. Some of the most widely known software is AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT drafts and faster 2D visulizations, while SketchUp offers compelling 3D modeling. Revit is the AEC industry leader for full 3D modeling, analysis and integration with other applications such as analysis.
What is the underlying question that should help decide which software is best for architecture? It’s two-fold. First, “What is the project needing to accomplish?” Second, “What kind of software will best help to accomplish this task?” The answers to these questions help determine which software package to use.
Just with any tool you plan to use, you must understand the capabilities and limitations of that tool. It is no different with software. Every software package has distinct advantages and disadvantages. More importantly, the answer to which is the best software for architecture and engineering lies in the hands of the user, including their experience and skills.
Those new to computer-aided design will likely find AutoCAD LT more comfortable, due to its intuitive interface. AutoCAD LT also has a lower upfront and annual commitment than other software. This can be a great application for basic CAD needs but lacks features found in more sophisticated software.
SketchUp is a possible choice for those looking to move beyond basic CAD. You can create much more detailed 3D models with SketchUp, but with its simplicity in 3D creation and editing, it can be difficult to create accurate drawings.
The industry leader, Revit, is a very powerful application. The key to Revit is understanding the BIM-Workflows and how each tool works with the modeling process. With Revit you can create intricate models and design documentation as well as do advanced analysis. The downside is that Revit is known for its slower-than-project-speed learning curve and the price tag.
The needs for the project and skills of the user are the deciding factors for which software to use. If you are new to CAD software and have a basic project to complete, AutoCAD LT would be the best choice. If you have some experience and have a more detailed project you’re looking to accomplish, then SketchUp could be the solution. And, if you’re looking to use the most powerful software for design, documentation and analysis of complex projects, Revit would be the one to use.

Other Factors to Consider

When selecting the best software for architecture, other factors should be taken into account such as user type, file compatibility and schedule.
User type refers to the role the user will fill in the project. Architects, engineers, contractors and facility managers are some of the user types that could use the software. The type of user informs which software best fits the project and the level of detail required when designing and documenting.
File compatibility is important when projects and models need to be shared between different software applications and software versions. This is important for projects that require collaboration from everyone involved.
Lastly, when making the decision, the schedule of the project needs to be taken into consideration. Some software is more time consuming than others to learn and use for the given task. Knowing the time requirements for each package helps determine what the best software is for the project.

Aesthetics of Software

Aesthetics plays a large role when selecting software for an architecture project. In this context, aesthetics refers to the look, feel and functionality of the user interface. Does the user find the interface easy to navigate and understand? Is the interface intuitive and logical? Instructions can be learned or disregarded based off user preference.
In the past, CAD software was thought of as “technical” only because of its programming language and interface. Now, modern software is designed with user experience in mind and the capabilities of the average computer user.
The aesthetics of the software should be considered when choosing a tool that allows the architecture project to be completed with the best results. A tool that is a pleasure to use and one that can be relied on to achieve the desired outcome is ideal.

Cost of Software

Cost is the most obvious factor when selecting software for architecture. While the cost of software varies depending on the package and features, it is an important factor to consider.
Open-source software is an option for those looking to keep the costs low – not only to the pocketbook, but to your computing resources. Open source allows users to build their own systems according to the project needs and not become bogged down with a one-size-fits-all solution.
When looking for a software package, the decision-maker must weigh the cost of the software versus the capabilities and limitations of the tool. A common issue for designers is choosing software that is good, but not the best for the project. Choosing the best software for architecture can save time, resources, and money.

Support & Education

Many software packages provide great support and education. Companies offer training centers to teach their software. Some companies also provide documentation, tutorials and video lessons to get users up to speed quickly. Supportive online forums, user groups, and issue tracking can be a great way to ensure help should a problem arise.
Education is the foundation of success when utilizing software for architecture and it cannot be understated. Understanding the software you’re using and how to use it is essential to getting the desired result.

Conclusion & Summary

The challenge of finding the best software for architecture lies with the project needs and the user’s experience, capabilities and willingness to learn. Software packages such as AutoCAD LT, SketchUp and Revit all provide great features to cater any project but the decision to which is best lies within the user.
Other factors such as aesthetics, user type, file compatibility and cost also play a large role when selecting software for architecture. Support and education provide the foundation to using the software successfully.
Ultimately, understanding the capabilities and limitations of each tool is essential in determining the best software for architecture.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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