Vectorworks and BIM

When we talk about BIM we instantly think of Revit and 3D models but in reality BIM is more than just a 3D model and there are a wide range of programmes that are also BIM compatible. Check our previous post comparing Revit to ArchiCad.

BIM, or Building Information Modelling, is a 3D modelling process that enables architects, engineers, and contractors to design, construct, and manage buildings more efficiently. There are 4 levels of BIM use and even drawing in 3D, you may only be doing so to BIM level 1. The level of collaboration between the design team is how you can use BIM to its fullest and may affect the programme used.

BIM Levels-1
BIM Levels-2

In this post, we will look at Vectorworks explore some of the main features, BIM capabilities, and pros and cons.

Vectorworks

Vectorworks was initially developed for MacOS although it has been available for PC since 2000, it is still a very popular option for Mac users. Revit is not available for Mac without compartmenting and is therefore rarely recommended. 

Unlike some programmes, it has transitioned well from the 2D world, to 3D and now BIM, with a user friendly interface that allows you to switch from 2D detail drafting or interior elevation design to multiple whole building massing views in one button. For this reason, it is very popular in residential, landscape and interior design practices, as well as the ease of line plotting and general attractiveness of the drawings with minimal process.

When using the polyline tool, a shape is created with a fill and line simultaneously, allowing the user to layer objects easily without having to use a fill function, wipeout function or trim lines. This also allows for ease of moving objects if there are changes made at a later stage. 

Drawings can also be rendered internally both in 3D and 2D, a great advantage of this is the sketch function which can allow drawings to look like they have been sketched, especially useful at the beginning stages of a project.

Vectorworks screenshot 4

Vectorworks image

Vectorworks features 

User-Friendly Interface: Vectorworks interface is designed to be intuitive, making it accessible to both newcomers and seasoned professionals. Its learning curve is gentle, allowing architects to focus on their designs without getting lost in technicalities.

2D Drafting and 3D Modelling: Vectorworks provides a wide array of drafting tools for creating precise 2D technical drawings, floor plans, and schematics. Its 3D modelling tools allow users to create complex 3D models, enabling them to visualise and present their designs in three dimensions.

BIM (Building Information Modeling): Vectorworks supports BIM workflows, enabling users to create intelligent models that include not only the physical aspects of a building but also data related to its construction, materials, and performance. 

Integrated Rendering: High-quality rendering capabilities integrated into the software, allowing users to create realistic visualisations of their designs as well as sketch, wireframe and other outputs without the need for third-party applications.

Cross-Platform Compatibility: Vectorworks is available for both Mac and Windows platforms, enabling seamless collaboration between users on different operating systems.

Vectorworks screenshot 5

Vectorworks image

Vectorworks Pros

1. User-Friendly Interface: Vectorworks has an intuitive and user-friendly interface. This can be particularly appealing to those who are new to BIM software or transitioning from other design tools.

2. Attractive 2D Drafting: Vectorworks makes it easy to add colour, textures to drawings whilst also being simple to amend plot line thicknesses as well as rendering lines as sketch lines. 

3. Versatile Design Tool: Vectorworks is versatile. It’s not limited to one specific industry or discipline. It caters to architects, landscape architects, interior designers, lighting designers, and more. This versatility makes it a one-stop solution for many professionals.

4. Integrated BIM Capabilities: Vectorworks has robust BIM capabilities, allowing users to create 3D models that contain both geometric and non-geometric data. This aids in design visualisation, clash detection, and construction documentation.

5. Collaboration Features: Vectorworks offers collaboration features that enable multiple team members to work on the same project simultaneously. This real-time collaboration can streamline the design and documentation process.

Vectorworks Cons

1. Limited User Base: Vectorworks has a smaller user base than Revit and is rarely taught at university, which can make finding support and resources more difficult.

2. Compatibility Issues: Although Vectorworks supports several file formats, exchanging of files between different programmes can sometimes be a challenge. 

3. Collaboration Capabilities: Vectorworks software has some collaboration features and allows for project sharing so multiple people can work at the same time, but this is not the level that you may need for BIM Level 3.  

4. Drawing curves: Vectorworks is not the most intuitive programme for fluid shapes.

Vectorworks screenshot

Vectorworks image

Vectorworks Comparisons

Vectorworks vs. Autodesk Revit

Vectorworks: Vectorworks is known for its versatility, offering a wide range of design and modelling tools suitable for various industries, including architecture, landscape design, and entertainment. Its user-friendly interface and flexibility make it an attractive choice for smaller firms and individual users.

Autodesk Revit: Revit is a powerhouse in the AEC industry and is often considered the gold standard for BIM software. It excels in complex parametric modelling and is preferred for large-scale architectural and construction projects. Revit’s strong suit lies in its robust collaboration features and comprehensive documentation capabilities.

Comparison: While both Vectorworks and Revit support BIM, they cater to different user bases. Vectorworks is a versatile all-in-one solution, suitable for a wide range of design disciplines. In contrast, Revit’s primary focus is on architectural design and construction, making it the go-to choice for large architectural firms and construction companies. The choice between the two depends on the scale and specialisation of the projects.

Vectorworks vs. ArchiCAD

Vectorworks: Vectorworks offers a user-friendly interface and advanced 2D drafting capabilities. It is praised for its adaptability to various design disciplines, including architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture.

ArchiCAD: ArchiCAD, like Revit, is dedicated to BIM and is highly regarded in the architectural community. It boasts advanced parametric modelling and collaboration features, making it a solid choice for architectural firms that prioritise BIM workflows.

Comparison: Both Vectorworks and ArchiCAD excel in BIM, but they have different strengths. Vectorworks is more versatile and easier for newcomers to grasp, making it suitable for smaller firms and designers working on a wide range of projects. ArchiCAD, on the other hand, is renowned for its advanced BIM capabilities, particularly in architectural design. Architects seeking a specialised BIM solution often prefer ArchiCAD.

Vectorworks vs. AutoCAD

Vectorworks: Vectorworks combines 2D and 3D design capabilities, making it a versatile option for architects, designers, and landscape architects. It’s known for its intuitive interface and is favoured by users who require both 2D drafting and 3D modelling.

AutoCAD: AutoCAD is an industry-standard 2D drafting and 3D modelling software known for its precision and extensive library of CAD blocks. It’s widely used in various industries, including architecture, engineering, and manufacturing.

Comparison: While both Vectorworks and AutoCAD offer 2D and 3D design capabilities, they serve slightly different purposes. AutoCAD is primarily a 2D drafting tool with 3D capabilities, ideal for professionals who require highly precise 2D drawings. Vectorworks, on the other hand, is a comprehensive design and BIM solution that combines both 2D and 3D design, making it suitable for a broader range of design disciplines.

Vectorworks 1
Vectorworks 2
Vectorworks 3
Vectorworks 4

Conclusion

In summary, Vectorworks is a robust and user-friendly design tool that caters to a range of professionals, from architects to interior designers. Its cross-platform compatibility makes it an excellent option for Mac users, while its transition from 2D to 3D and BIM capabilities make it versatile for various design tasks. 

The software offers intuitive features like a polyline tool that simplifies object layering, and integrated rendering options to enhance your designs. However, it’s essential to note its smaller user base and limitations in collaboration features, especially for higher levels of BIM. 

Overall, Vectorworks stands as a good alternative to more commonly used programs like Revit, particularly for those in residential, landscape, and interior design sectors.

Let us know your favourite!

What software do you use? Have you found another great alternative to Revit? What are the pros and cons that you have found? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below – we would love to hear from you!

Find out more about Vectorworks here.

Author

Written by Aida Rodriguez-Vega, architect and researcher. Aida keeps busy by carrying out technical research and drawing new details for the ever-growing library and construction detailing books.

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Image Credits

Vectorworks  https://www.vectorworks.net/en-GB

Catenda  https://catenda.com/

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you for the assessment.

    Reply
  2. Having used Revit as an architect for 5 years, Vectorworks is far superior. The ‘cons’ listed are no longer relevant under VWX 2024 as VWX has always imported end exported more formats that Revit. It’ll import and export Revit files but Revit cannot import and export VWX format. The fact means VWX is far more of a collaboration tool than Revit.
    Also drawing curbs curves etc. is far easier than with Revit 🙂
    AutoDesk software is only the ‘industry standard’ because of the heavy marketing and is no measure of the ability of their software, ‘the most popular’ doesn’t, and never did, mean ‘the best’.
    As VWX uses the OpenBIM IFC format federated model there is never an issue of copyright as there is with Revit.
    The review is clearly written by a ‘fan’ of Revit and therefore biased 🙁

    Reply
    • Hi John,
      Thank you for your comments, much appreciated. Aida is actually a Vectorworks user and not a Revit fan so it’s interesting the post appears biased. Not the intention.
      Thanks again 🙂

      Reply

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