So you’re finally moving from 2D to BIM. They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is now. Unfortunately, the old adage applies obstinately to BIM workflows, but that’s the way the market is moving – and if the tech industry’s taught me anything, it’s to roll with the punches and take the opportunities as they come. So if you're ready to tackle new software giants like when CAD first took over, then let’s get stuck into it.

​​The first decision you’ll have to make is what software to choose. This is going to be a tough decision to make, and your perspective is going to vary depending on what industry you’re in, what point of your career you’re at, how quick you are to adapt to new technology and so on, and so forth. First, let’s do a quick side-by-side spec comparison:

Conceptual Design

Revit’s conceptual design environment allows you to create quite complex and detailed conceptual “massing” by parametric components and sub-components which can be nested within a central project. Revit gives you the ability to link in these “families” into a single design environment, from which you can also tweak the elements directly.

Conceptual modeling in ArchiCAD is more intuitive with a push/pull method that makes it easier if you are new to 3D modelling. It’s much easier to start conceptual designs in ArchiCAD because it doesn’t need an external referencing piece. While it’s much quicker to start a conceptual design piece in ArchiCAD, it loses the degree of detail and referencing freedom of Revit. However, if you prefer to work loose and fast in the initial conceptual stages, you’re not alone - many architects prefer ArchiCAD’s Morph Tool for modeling over Revit’s finicky detailed massing."Revit more finicky also more powerful- once you work out all the crap"
WordOfMadness, 2017 post at ArchiCAD 21 has solved the pain of designing stairs with their new Stair Tool.
2017 post at

Visualization and Rendering

The only real difference between the two programs when it comes to visualization is that Revit allows you to apply views by category, filter or element whereas ArchiCAD is not as customization friendly.

On the rendering side, Revit uses Raytracer and ArchiCad uses CineRender, both of which have comparable lighting settings. ArchiCAD 21’s new CineRender adds Light Mapping and Secondary Global Illumination functionality in its new engine which it claims to deliver faster and more realistic models. Revit 2019 supports Physical Based Rendering (PBR) shaders which they call Advanced Materials.

ArchiCAD 21 - CineRender - Ambient Occlusion, Light Mapping, Secondary GI at
Revit 2019 - Raytracer - Physically-based Appearance Assets at

Visual Programming

Both software options have additional plugins to create more dynamic forms. For Revit your visual programming plugin is Dynamo and ArchiCAD has Grasshopper. Grasshopper has been reported to be the more stable of the two, resulting in fewer crashes.

Construction Documentation

To transform your project from a design into a building, you need to include MEP and construction details and this is the area where truly Revit shines. Revit is equipped with different environments for these professions and excels at capturing detailed information for each.

ArchiCAD requires additional plugins to achieve the integrations of each layer of construction information.


Revit 2018 is billed annually at a little over three thousand dollars per license. ArchiCAD 21 is licensed by quote, but is generally reported to be slightly less than Revit (although there are claims that Graphisoft has been raising it’s prices over the last few years). With ArchiCAD, it’s important to remember that multiple plugins are required to achieve the same functionality as Revit, but most of those plugins are free. But if you don’t need them, ArchiCAD is the better choice in term of cost to run.


So in 2018 should you learn Revit or ArchiCAD? Well… it depends. Which is why we talk about choosing a software that meets your needs in “Still haven’t made up your mind yet? Revit or ArchiCAD.”