BIM for beginners

In an effort to illustrate the learning curve that comes with a BIM workflow, we decided to set a challenge: create our own CAD design and then assess its sustainability and efficiency using two of the most popular BIM tools – Nemetschek Vectorworks Architect and Autodesk Revit Architecture.

I’m the first person to admit that I know virtually nothing about BIM. And, although I’ve had a good deal of experience writing about our CAD and BIM offering over the last couple of years, I’m under no impression that that makes me an expert when it comes to using those applications. So, it ‘s safe to say I was a little cautious when accepting this challenge.

I’m not going to pretend that I am setting out on this alone. Though the project is very much mine and I’ll be left to my own devices, Sam Tomlinson, our CAD Business Manager, will be giving me a hand – and will likely find her inbox constantly filled with a barrage of emails crying for help.

The brief
Create a CAD drawing and then use it to demonstrate the usefulness of BIM tools in realising that final design as a viable building. The intention being to illustrate the key differences between two of the most popular BIM tools available, and give an idea of the learning curve involved in the workflow.

The tools
The following descriptions have been taken directly from the manufacturers’ websites:


Autodesk Revit Architecture – “Purpose-built for building information modeling (BIM), Autodesk Revit Architecture building design software helps architects and designers capture and analyze early concepts, and then better maintain designs through documentation and construction. Enjoy a more collaborative, integrated building design process by sharing essential BIM data with your partners, and use BIM workflows to help drive more efficient sustainable design analysis, clash detection, construction planning, and material fabrication.”


Nemetschek Vectorworks – “Vectorworks Architect is elegant architectural CAD software that offers BIM capabilities in a flexible, hybrid-design environment. With its superior 2D and 3D functionality, you’ll enjoy an ease-of-use not found in competing products. Vectorworks Architect’s approach to BIM lets you improve your existing design process instead of replacing it-making it easier for many firms to adopt a BIM workflow.”

Understandably, anyone with a background in architectural design will have a much better idea of the products than these brief snippets provide. My point in using them is to show that, by-and-large, blurbs and descriptions provided by manufacturers don’t really help you differentiate between competing products, making it difficult for anyone looking for the ‘right’ BIM product. Hopefully, this challenges will make these differences clearer.

As well as the tools mentioned above, I will be using a lot of other software (such as AutoCAD for Mac) and plug-ins that complement the design, construction and management of buildings perfectly.

The challenge
The challenge would initially be split into two steps: the first to create a model of a house; the second to model one of Sam’s previous CAD drawings.

You may think that the CAD drawing conversion is likely to be the easier task. Not the case. The chosen design – a visitor’s centre – had been originally completed using a range of new technologies. The result: the centre was made out of straw bales with curved walls. Trying to replicate this in different software wouldn’t be the easiest of tasks.

The house, on the other hand, would be a modest two-bedroom mid-terrace from the 1900s with straight walls – or reasonably straight walls.

Neither project will allow me to fully test the software’s capabilities, but what they will do is give me the chance to start with a fairly simple project and then build on that as I explore more of Revit and Vectorworks.

Getting started
Having chosen the initial project, the first thing I’ll be doing is drawing the base CAD model using AutoCAD for Mac – a relatively new tool from Autodesk. This will let me test interoperability between Revit and Vectorworks, as well as giving me an excuse to give AutoCAD for Mac (something I’ve found myself writing about quite a lot over the last few months) a test drive…

Alternatively, get in touch with the CAD team on 03332 409 306 or email You can also drop a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

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