One of the most common concerns of AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) professionals that are considering introducing BIM (building information modeling) techniques into their projects is the cost of acquiring licenses to and training employees on new software. Luckily for users, there is a wide variety of software and tools available online that require no licensing fees or have extensive free trials. These programs are also often open source, allowing you complete freedom of use. In today’s blog we’ll be going over some of today’s top free or open source BIM tools.
Before getting into the details, you may need a refresher on what BIM is. Building information modeling is not one single tool or technique. BIM can be more easily defined as a strategy, or collection of techniques that centers around creating a precisely-detailed model that is stored in cloud storage. This cloud storage allows all involved people to work on the same model in real-time that’s kept up to date at all times. A simple example of the difference between BIM and traditional methods is to compare it to computer aided design (CAD). A 3D model of a home created using traditional CAD will simply be a model with four walls, while a BIM model of a home will include information regarding materials, measurements, and other descriptions.
You may also wonder how you should choose which BIM program to try! It’s important to analyze your own needs when choosing a software to integrate into your business. Some programs focus more on model-creation, while others may focus on aspects of construction that remain in the office, like spreadsheets. Visit our Projects page to see what kind of projects BIM can be used for.
BIM 360 is a great choice for people looking to learn more about how BIM can improve their construction projects. BIM 360 is an Autodesk software and is intended for use mostly as an educational tool that combines a free trial for BIM, CAD, and CAM software with a mobile app and a free 3D license for students. This program integrates easily with other Autodesk programs and can be used for nearly all aspects of BIM: document handling, creating project preparations, scheduling, and project layout.
BIM Vision is another free software that’s primarily designed to help users view IFC (Industry Foundation Class) virtual models that have been created by a variety of other programs. BIM Vision can open models designed in Advance, Archicad, Revit, DDS CAD, and others. This program even allows for changes to be made to these models, such as changing colors and transparency of elements, creating cross-sections, comparing models, and more. Unfortunately, BIM Vision is only available for tablets running the operating systems of Windows 7 or newer, and is not available on Apple products.
TRIMBLE CONNECT & SKETCHUP
SketchUp and Trimble Connect are two free programs that work together very well. SketchUp is an intuitively designed modeling program perfect for 3D construction models. SketchUp includes features that allow for the addition of lighting effects, animations, layers, and more. Trimble Connect is a task management tool that provides a collaborative space for all project members to operate together. Using SketchUp in conjunction with Trimble Connect allows you to access a library of 3D assets to help speed up your model-making.