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23 February 2018
Kuldeep Bwail

ArchiCAD or Revit for Homebuilding Models & Drawings?

Two stalwarts seem to tower over the rest of the available software platforms in the homebuilding industry, ArchiCAD by Graphisoft and Revit by Autodesk. Both are tailormade for architectural requirements and both have dedicated fans. Both offer innovative features for BIM modelling as ArchiCAD 3D modelling and residential Revit BIM modelling, as well as offering quality residential architectural renderings. We take a look at what each has to offer in terms of homebuilding projects and which one has the edge.

In general, the benefits of modelling and drafting can be broadly classified as follows:

Benefits of 3D Modelling
  • Enhanced design quality
  • Visualisation of entire structure with real-life simulation
  • Correct quantity estimation and identification of member collisions
  • Material estimation process showing items as they occur in the design
Benefits of 2D Drafting
  • Designs are drafted easily and quickly, without technical drawing instruments
  • Can be used to fine-tune concepts, detail site plans and create technical drawings
  • Ideas can be shared between employees and clients
  • Drawings and templates can be customised
  • Improved collaboration

So, what are the features of ArchiCAD and Revit specific to the homebuilding arena?


ArchiCAD’s claim to be a premier Building Information Modelling (BIM) software solution for architecture, engineering and construction ‘designed by architects, for architects’ is a catchy tagline that’s difficult to ignore. The entire design suite consists of 2D drafting, 3D modelling, visualisation and a variety of other BIM functions for architects, designers and planners. The latest version, ARCHICAD 21, saw the debut of the much-awaited Stair Tool, a predictive design technology. ARCHICAD 21 works fast. Views load quickly, as Graphisoft’s 64-bit and multi-processing technologies have been extended with background processing, resulting in faster response times. Furthermore, it has the ability to anticipate a user’s actions and prepares accordingly. The overall response is enhanced because of this. Improvements also include visualisation functions.

Currently, some of the significant functional features of ArchiCAD include the following:

  • Stair Tool – evaluates large numbers of stair designs and suggests optimal designs considering the type of building involved, while ensuring that the design follows global and local design standards
  • Railing Tool – creates detailed railings for stairs, slabs, walls, roofs and meshes, all configured specifically to the concerned project
  • Pro Visualisation – CineRender offers high quality, photorealistic rendering within the BIM environment, with Light Mapping and Secondary GI methods for fast delivery.
  • Element Classification – elements and spaces are classified for interoperability between project stakeholders
  • IFC Hotlinks – external model data created by structural or MEP engineers can be included as hotlinks for reference content, which can then be updated, facilitating streamlined collaboration with engineers
  • Collision Detection – permits the comparison of separate groups of elements through user-defined criteria sets when architects receive consultant information in a BIM format.
  • Teamwork – allows all stakeholders to work on the same project, not only as spectators but as performers

ArchiCAD can integrate the entire architectural process for homebuilders from the initial concept and sketch to documentation and detail. We examine how this works.

Each drawn element in ArchiCAD contains data, such as a line for example. The data includes important information about the element, its value, its thickness, etc., which can be used to create a model. Sketches need not be created. The 3D model can verify concepts, patterns, forms, etc. The model thus becomes an intelligent visual method to consider possibilities. It allows a concept to be developed with physical traits that can be studied, including dimensions.

Documentation delivered using ArchiCAD communicates considerable detail, including quantity take-offs. In the homebuilding industry, this is of substantial relevance, as it helps in the synchronisation of plans, sections and elevations. Without a model, this may be challenging. For example, windows correctly positioned in a floor plan may not necessarily be so in the elevation. In the context of large housing or homebuilding projects, this could be problematic.

Where in earlier times a graphic designer creates a model after receiving the first model, applying defined materials, placing cameras to find interesting views, with ArchiCAD, the virtual model is created with greater ease. Not only ease, ArchiCAD 3D modelling creates a BIM model for a homebuilder’s architectural design while simultaneously developing coordinated 2D construction documents.

ArchiCAD 3D modelling delineates views of actual homes before and after construction, so that homebuilders can visualise the structure for better decision-making, leasing, selling or renting the property. Floor plans, wall structures and elevations can be studied for clearer understanding, while the 3D overview is presented in a cost-effective and time-bound manner. These 3D views are taken from a variety of angles and with different light settings so that colour and light options can be considered. One of the most useful of several useful features of ArchiCAD for homebuilders is that, in addition to functional arrangements and site plans, clients visualise walking through a room and how sunlight falls on any given room at different times of the day. The 3D modelling thus delivers precise detail, which can then be transcribed to 2D format design documentation.

ArchiCAD residential drafting, or 2D CAD drafting, can be generated from the 3D ArchiCAD model. These drawings may show schematics, sections, single or multi-service plans in a simple manner, easily understood by draftsmen and engineers. Though scaled from original documents, these drawings are precise and clean. Building data is delivered to consultants in electronic format, regardless of the CAD platform they are working on, which they can make changes on without losing data. Schedules and bills of materials can be accessed by builders and contractors.

Some of the more useful applications enabled by ArchiCAD are the rendering and animation functions. These features can be put into action by creating a model and animation of the site. Earlier feasibility studies were executed to create 3D models and animation to concisely explain the complexities of a design and gain approvals. ArchiCAD’s 3D models and 3D animation can guide clients through and around the design. Extra storeys can be viewed and considered in a virtual world. This is useful for builders in the homebuilding sector to plan and document any point in a building’s construction or demolition. Developers can include photo-realistic renderings in building sales brochures to show prospective clients, all while the designing process is ongoing.


Increasingly popular worldwide, Revit is becoming the preferred option for residential design for its ease of use and features that help deliver construction documentation faster. Revit has all the features of ArchiCAD mentioned above and more besides. Construction documents created through Revit accurately represent building design. In Revit, it is important to have a comprehensive template and families that are created specifically for a project. An effective process must be developed to create the model. Different families and construction assemblies are required for different building designs.

Residential projects need designs for walls, doors, windows, roofs, railings, stairs, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, appliances, etc. Tags and schedules and other documentation tags must be created and inserted into templates so that the tags are easily used and tasks are automatically completed. It is key for stakeholders to know which families and processes are being used, which means that standards must be established. Residential designs may vary, but the families involved in a home design are consistent. Consistency leads to speed, and so does well-grounded training in the software.

How are home buyers impacted? They can view homes via a 3D model, visit a site and design their deck. Front elevations can be viewed and clients can log into a builder’s account to choose the preferred elevation and electronically position personalised elements.

In the BIM context, some of Revit’s features are unique and advantageous to homebuilding. They include:

Preview: Parametric modelling helps conceptual design. Designers can draw on a floor layout plan and make quick changes to designs and instantly show clients the result. This can be done early on, and 3D design ideas can be presented.

Saves Time: Residential architectural designing and drafting is fast and accurate. Changes in the design or model are automatically carried out in every related component and the entire building model, since plans, sections, elevations are connected intelligently.

Design Library & Error Corrections: Pre-installed with an entire set of parametric building components, modification to components is easily executed and stored, which can be used as references for future projects. Congestion and other clashes are identified and resolved through 3D modelling.

Accuracy & Coordination: Bill of quantities are generated, due to quantity take-outs from the model. This helps cut costs for clients and contractors. Overall coordination is improved, as design, drafting and related processes are unified.

Flexibility: An increasing number of tools are being integrated in Revit software and many add-ons are available to pair with it, different users from varied platforms can use it and store designs in a single file. Merging disciplines in a single file is possible, so that structural and MEP design services along with architectural files can be handled with ease.

Like ArchiCAD, Revit uses an intelligent model-based process to help plan all aspects of a building project, from design to construction. Generally, architects prefer its vast scope and extensive toolbox. Designed for collaboration between architectural, engineering and construction professionals, Revit takes a building project through its entire lifecycle, but which is actually better?

Architectural Features of Revit and ArchiCAD Compared:

Conceptual Design: Revit In the early stages of project design, Revit features great flexibility in its conceptual design environment. Conceptual masses and adaptive geometry can be integrated into the BIM environment later. Designs can be broken down into parametric components or subcomponents to fit into other models, reference the designs and modify them in the BIM environment. These components can then adapt to many different surfaces.

ArchiCAD Simple concept designs are possible, with push/pull modelling, instant geometry that can be customised and a smart multiple extrude tool. While it creates a concept, ArchiCAD lacks the complexity and referencing capabilities seen in Revit.

Visualisation: Revit Wireframe and transparent surface views enhance the model. Other view types allow full control over shading and light. Revit can provide any view, and each can display optimal views for specific tasks. Most can be assigned to an overall view/specified to a category, filter or element.

ArchiCAD Though possessing a similar suite of views to Revit, it lacks Revit’s ability to customise and apply views to specific components.

Rendering: Both Revit and ArchiCAD have wide-ranging rendering abilities. Each can deliver photorealistic exterior and interior images, and both possess a vast selection of tools.

Revit Has Raytracer, but allows users with Autodesk A360 to render, reducing stress

ArchiCAD Features CineRender, similar to Raytracer. Both allow alterations to light, shadow, texture, brightness, depth, diffusion and retraction.

User Interface: Revit Customisable user interface, not only for multiple disciplines, but caters to every architect or engineer and their individual approach to work.

ArchiCAD The user interface is clean and sleek and can be customised but is less flexible than Revit.

Interoperability: Both Revit and ArchiCAD feature a high level of interoperability. Both can import and export 3D models, 2D drawings and other CAD file types.

Pricing: ArchiCAD 21 is marginally cheaper than Revit 2018, but manual add-ons are required to match Revit’s functionality, so hidden costs may be involved. ArchiCAD may be less expensive initially, but Revit is value for money.

Ultimately, Revit supports a project from design stage to completed construction (and can be used for maintenance and demolition) and has edged past ArchiCAD in the key areas of being faster and offering greater flexibility. It is taught to young architects in the industry, offers great support and upgrades and improves itself with each new version. Clearly, Revit will be seen to be the leading software and the future of BIM in the homebuilding sector, as it reinforces today’s collaborative cloud-based needs through effective add-ons, and it is also part of a software group that allows other disciplines to be included more easily. A partner that delivers the entire gamut of 3D architectural visualisation using Revit, including efficient architectural rendering services, would be the effective path to progress in the industry.

XS CAD has valuable experience providing 3D visualisation services and 3D BIM modelling for large homebuilders, general contractors and design consultants. Our range of services for homebuilding firms across the world include building construction drawings, electrical design services, fire sprinkler design services, mechanical engineering design services, plumbing and drainage system design and various other BIM services, and we offer retained teams when required. We create these models, drawings and BIM services by using Revit, AutoCAD and BIM Collaborate Pro for cloud collaboration.