Every architecture company has a slightly different preferred working method, routine and style of tackling tasks. This method will certainly have evolved over time to allow your company’s unique architecture design process to be the best that it can be.
Using the right architecture design software is essential. Identifying the best match for your architectural graphic design process will ensure that your team’s work becomes more efficient, saving time and increasing output quality.
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What Is Architecture Design Software?
Architecture design software are online, web-based tools designed to simplify each phase of your architecture design process. These architectural graphic design tools provide users with key features and capabilities to make the design process simpler.
Architecture designing software come in a variety of different forms, offering users different options and specific features. Architects can choose one (or several) of the following types of software:
- Architectural layout software
- Architectural planning software
- Architectural modeling software
- Architectural drawing programs
- Architectural sketch software
- BIM software
- CAD software
- 2D and 3D modeling software
Each is designed with slightly different elements of the architectural design process in mind. We’ll be covering their specific uses in more detail below.
Why You Should Use an Architectural Design Software
This intuitive, innovative and detailed type of building information modeling (BIM) software provides architects and project managers the ability to transform their process in a variety of different ways.
It’s well worth exploring the different types of available software to design buildings and considering how they can be used to resolve weaker areas of your process.
The primary benefits that come with having a suitable architecture software implemented in your system include the following:
Having use-specific BIM creative tools, which are advanced, dependable and familiar, on hand through each step of the architecture design process will help you and your team work through these steps much faster. Additionally, if you are looking to improve efficiency, investigating different types of productivity software is always a good idea.
By creating a process with clear steps and one dedicated tool for the entire team, you are ensuring that the work produced is consistent. Thus, expert workflow management tools will not only reduce errors but will also showcase the sleek and professional visuals in a consistent style across the board. With this in mind, utilizing artwork and design approval software are essential if you wish to maintain professionalism across your projects.
Such software enables single architects or entire teams to achieve a more streamlined process, with clear steps and dedicated software to address outstanding work. Once familiarized with the tool, creating drawings and sketches will be far easier than sticking with pen and paper. As such, utilizing this intuitive technology will inevitably make the process simpler and far more user-friendly.
15+ Best Software for Architectural Design
We’ve discussed just how important it is that you choose the best software for architecture design that suits your unique business needs, operations and creative process. To help you make this decision, we’ve listed 15 top software for architects.
With this list of architecture software in hand, you’ll be sure to find the right fit for your operations. You’ll see some fantastic results in no time at all.
Filestage – review and approval of architectural designs
Filestage offers a centralized platform where designs, drawings and construction documents can be shared with clients and colleagues. The online proofing software allows clients to leave clear feedback on the document, making it easier for architects to understand clients’ wishes and adapt sketches accordingly.
Moreover, when drawings match clients’ requirements, clients can approve the file in just a single click. With easy-to-use features and an intuitive interface, Filestage simplifies the review and approval process for both the architect and the client. This efficient, collaborative tool replaces long email threads and reduces the need for in-person or even virtual meetings.
SketchUp – 3D building information modeling software
SketchUp enables architects to transfer the satisfaction of traditional drawing by hand to a smooth, easy to use BIM architecture software. This piece of 3D modelling software offers a huge variety of tools, including the ability to customize your 3D workspace and document your design process in 2D. Moreover, you can utilize virtual reality technology to take your colleagues and clients on a tour of the proposed building.
By creating sleek, highly professional 3D building layouts, concepts and ideas can be better understood by both designer and client.
Space Designer 3D – design advanced 3D floor plans
Space Designer 3D offers a sophisticated solution for floor plan drawings. This three dimensional home and interior design tool makes creating modern, detailed and highly realistic floor pans a breeze.
The creators of this architectural planning software pride themselves on its user-friendly layout, ease of use, and the speed at which impressive models can be created. It also provides a software solution to aid the design process of architects, interior designers, and homeowners alike.
It is highly interactive and can be thoroughly customized to suit the requirements and style of each unique project.
SmartDraw – intricate floor plans
SmartDraw’s Easy Architecture Software is a powerful piece of professional architecture software that makes designing clear, neat and accurate plans easy. With this tool, architects can select a design template from which to start, already a far more efficient beginning than starting out from scratch every time.
Each template can then be fully customized, thanks to SmartDraw’s library of thousands of pre-made symbols. The templates on offer are designed for the use of a wide range of architectural models, including house drawings, office spaces and landscapes.
Floorplanner – meticulous architectural planning software
Floorplanner offers architects and interior designers a far easier option for the creation of both 2D and 3D floor plans. By utilizing this architecture planning software to create floor plans, creators can ensure a sleek, highly professional finish for their projects. Moreover, the product is far neater and more impressive than a traditional hand drawing would be.
Rooms within the floor plan can even be decorated, a perfect feature for creators who want to give their projects a highly realistic effect. Designers can choose from Floorplanner’s vast library of over 150,000 intricately detailed and hyper-realistic 3D items.
RoomSketcher – create online floor plans and home designs
RoomSketcher is an online floor plan creator that provides individuals with little (or no) experience with architecture drawing programs that are easy to use yet still produce high-quality, sleek results.
This design tool is easy to master and offers interactive, accurate tools. There are options to add measurements if required, and the program can be used to create both 2D and 3D projects with ease.
The app enables users to drag and drop items and materials in order to create a customized, realistic plan. Better yet, RoomSketcher offers a free option, perfect for users who want to trial CAD software first.
Chief Architect – sophisticated home architecture and design software
Chief Architect is one of the industry’s top pieces of residential architectural home design software. This user-friendly software encompasses a wide variety of automated building tools that enable designers to efficiently make their construction drawings, elevations, and 3D models a reality. The program boasts computer-aided design (CAD) details and highly flexible, intuitive modeling features.
Chief Architect can be used to create floor plans, remodeling plans and interior designs alike, including detailed kitchen and bathroom designs. What’s more, as you draw, the home design software simultaneously creates a 3D, 360-degree panoramic rendering of your design.
Infurnia – web based architecture and interior design program
Infurnia provides the ultimate tool for collaborative architecture designs. This architecture and interior design platform facilitates cloud-based collaboration on design projects seamlessly. With this powerful web-based design collaboration tool, users can log in to their accounts to access their designs from anywhere in the world, with no need to worry about installation.
Additionally, users can even create custom product libraries, with a bespoke interior design catalog which features their own furniture and materials. These plans can then be easily shared online via the cloud, with clients and team members alike.
3D Studio Max by Autodesk – pro 3D modeling and rendering
3D Studio Max is a sophisticated, powerful tool that helps interior designers and architects create sleek, attractive and yet all-rights-reserved 3D models with ease. By adopting this architecture software into your process, you can ensure that consistency, professionalism and clarity are achieved in all of your designs.
The level of quality and artistry of 3D Studio Max software is unique to this particular tool. With its hyper-realistic visuals, textures and many details, 3D Studio Max allows you to provide walkthroughs of proposed building models at an entirely new level.
Cedreo – stylish 3D architectural drawing program
Cedreo enables designers to wow their clients with sleek, stylish and remarkably modern drawings. This 3D architectural drawing program prides itself on an efficient, user-friendly offering. In fact, Cedreo maintains that it is the only web-based home design program that allows designers to create a complete house plan in under two hours.
In terms of efficiency and team collaboration, Cedreo documents that users experience an average 60% savings in the cost of the pre-sales stage while witnessing a 40% increase in new home sales, as well as helping architects to close sales in half the time.
Substance by Adobe – create 3D sketches
Adobe’s Substance software is a powerful program that provides immensely detailed 3D textures. It allows users to create hyper-realistic textures and materials to bring their drawings to life.
Users can add these textures to drawings in real-time by utilizing a stunning, highly professional 3D materials library, which features over 1,800 fully customizable textures that have been created by Adobe’s own team of specialists and guest artists. With these textures on hand, you can bring a superb finish to your architectural designs.
V-Ray – architectural visualization
V-Ray is a 3D rendering software that provides state-of-the-art architectural visualization. The software provides users with intricate, photorealistic images of building plans brought to life and situated within real-world contexts.
This BIM software interfaces with a huge range of industry-leading online applications, including 3Ds Max, Revit, Rhino, SketchUp, and Unreal. Moreover, this software allows architects to transform their design processes across the board, with early massing models, photorealistic imagery, animation, and even VR presentations of final designs all at designers’ disposal. In fact, V-Ray is used by 95 of the world’s top 100 architecture firms.
CorelCAD – 2D and 3D modeling
CorelCAD was created by Corel Draw as a piece of professional yet user-friendly and affordable CAD software option. This time-saving architecture design software makes designing more efficient and improves both the productivity and professionalism of firms’ projects.
CorelCAD combines 2D drafting functionality with modeling tools that can provide a detailed 3D rendering of the building construction projects. Once the first drafting process has been completed, architects can quickly and easily bring their 2D and 3D designs to life with advanced computer graphics.
ArchiCAD – pro BIM software
Graphisoft’s Building Information Modeling (BIM), ArchiCAD, is an advanced, highly sophisticated piece of 3D architecture software. It provides designers with many tools and features, including data modeling, graphics overriding, and assistance with attribute management, plus virtual reality and rendering tools.
This detailed BIM model saves money for architect firms in the long run by ensuring that designs are fully understood by the client in the earliest stages of the project. The system is designed to be efficient, user-friendly and easy to navigate. Therefore, your team can adopt ArchiCAD without hassle or stress.
Revit by Autodesk – state-of-the-art BIM software
Revit is designed to provide architects with highly intricate visual renderings of their designs. This detailed piece of BIM design software can be used throughout the lifespan of a project – from the first initial concepts to the final design stages.
Using Revit, your concepts and design intent are communicated to clients in an absolutely clear and highly impressive manner. The software even offers sophisticated analysis features that enables users to create an optimized building process from the very first steps of the design process.
CATIA – cloud-based building information modeling software
CATIA provides architects with a cloud-based 3D building development tool. This BIM software is specifically designed with speed and efficiency in mind. Architects, facade designers and fabricators can all use this tool to break down conceptual models into components that best convey the intent behind the design to clients and team members.
Responsive to any identified problems, requested design changes, and on-site realities, CATIA’s intelligent environment enables automation to accommodate these changes.
Vectorworks Architect – from sketch to BIM
Vectorworks Architect is a remarkably advanced all-in-one piece of architecture software. This remarkable tool transforms the entire design process, taking architects from their first sketches to the final modeling stages, all through an innovative BIM workflow.
Users can take advantage of the vast range of versatile tools that the software offers, including 3D modeling enhancements, multiple drawing views, algorithmic design tools, access to the Vectorworks Graphics module cache and highly accurate dimensioning within the designs. In fact, Vectorworks Architect earned the title of most flexible 3D modeling engine on the market due to these capabilities.
Arcon Evo by elecosoft – flexible 2D & 3D home design CAD Software
Elecosoft’s Arcon Evo offers architects a powerful piece of CAD software. This all-in-one architectural CAD solution enables users to create everything from detailed plans to automated 3D models, elevations and section details with both ease and efficiency.
Alongside speed, Arcon Evo’s drawings are highly accurate, providing the flexibility and specificity needed by architects in 3D design. Additionally, users can simply enter the latitude and longitude of a selected location for the proposed building to provide this design with the exact variable daylight settings of any location in the world.
AutoCAD by Autodesk – advanced CAD software
Also from Autodesk, AutoCAD assists with the creation of 2D geometry and 3D models. The software features a wide variety of industry-specific tools. These include the ability to automate floor plans, draw technical additions like circuiting and piping, auto-generate annotations, and apply a rules-driven workflow.
These diverse features make AutoCAD one of the best architecture CAD programs on the market. What’s more, this advanced piece of CAD software for architects can be used as an online web browser app, or through a mobile app so that architects can access their designs whenever, wherever.
How to Find the Best Architecture Design Software for Your Needs
Now that we’ve taken you through some of the top architect’s design software that the industry has to offer, the next step is to find the products offering the right fit for your operations.
While each of these software products offers excellent and innovative features, every architecture firm has unique needs that need to be successfully met.
Determine which of these options is the right tool for you by asking yourself these key questions:
For which phases of the architecture design process do you need the tool?
Identify the specific areas of your design process that you are looking to upgrade. This will help you decide which features are essential and which although impressive, might be irrelevant to you. For example, VR renderings of 3D plans are an expensive and unnecessary feature if you are only looking to improve your floor plan process.
Can one tool serve multiple purposes?
You can secure the best value by looking at the intended user purpose behind each tool and finding one which covers a variety of bases. For example, rather than purchasing two separate precision drawing and graphics tools, look for a tool that effectively ticks both of these boxes.
What are the most important requirements the tools should meet?
While all of the above are good tools in their own right, it is essential that the piece of software that you choose exactly meets your individual requirements. Discuss these with your team, and identify the essential requirements for your choice of design software.
Create a list of your favorite tools to compare them.
Once you have narrowed down your search by considering the above questions, break down your final choices and do a direct comparison. List each tool, its details and its pros and cons. From there, you will be in a position to best assess the options in an organized, objective manner.
Which Architectural Design Software Can Be Used in Each Phase of the Design Process?
To help you see the potential ways in which these pieces of software can be directly applied to your process, we’ve created an example breakdown of the design process and explained how different types of architectural design software can be introduced in each phase.
1. Pre-Design Phase
In this step, clients’ requests are considered along with other key factors, such as the budget, timescale, proposed site, and site analysis. This phase will require regular discussions with the client(s), and it will ultimately lead to the creation of a brief for the project.
2. Schematic Design
The schematic design phase involves the creation of a rough, first sketch of the design plans based on the clients’ requirements and previous research conducted.
The pieces of software that can improve the overall efficiency of this phase include BIM modeling software (such as ArchiCAD and AutoCAD) and 2D drafting tools (like CorelCAD Revit).
Filestage is a fantastic tool to assist with the review and approval process of these first drawings. Clients can then leave their comments and discuss any further ideas directly on the sketch in Filestage.
This collaboration platform helps architects understand any required changes and keep the clients’ wishes in mind when creating the next drawing of the building.
3. Design Development
In this phase, the designer and their client(s) determine key details for the project. These may include elements such as interior finishings, materials, structural features, and a finalized plan for both the building’s interior and exterior.
To help architects improve this step, software such as Cedreo, V-Ray, AutoCAD, Chief Architect and Substance all offer features that will make this phase more professional and efficient, while bringing more clarity and style to the design’s visuals.
With Filestage, you can easily manage the second round of feedback and the receipt of final approval from the client. This online proofing platform makes it far easier for architects and clients to collaborate on building sketches and discuss ideas in a clear and organized way, ensuring the best possible end result. Beyond keeping clients in the loop, this ease of use will also save the team significant time.
4. Construction Drawings
At this point in the process, several design reviews between the architect and the client(s) are required. The design will ultimately be finalized and converted into drawings that can be used on the site to physically construct the building.
To help ensure that these real-world drawings are accurate, crisp, clear and professional, use architecture drawing software such as Arcon Evo, AutoCAD, Vectorworks Architect or CorelCAD.
Feedback and requests from the client(s) are especially vital to implement at this stage. These pieces of software for architects will help you get the best end result for your work.
With Filestage, architects can ensure that clients’ feedback from the final review and approval process is safely stored via the cloud, easily accessible and fully implemented into construction drawings.
Furthermore, if you’re looking to improve the level of security of your digital assets – particularly these final designs that you’ve spent hours perfecting – consider our recommendations for digital asset management software.
5. Construction Administration
In this final step of the project, the architect oversees the construction site. By keeping a close eye on the progression of the building, they can ensure that the project adheres to the finalized plans and the clients’ wishes.
Ready to take your architectural design to the next level?
With the addition of your chosen architectural computer software, your design process will be taken to a whole new level.
The available wide range of top architecture software programs encompasses a variety of tools, features, tricks and general wizardry, courtesy of some of the top industry innovators. We hope that we have successfully demonstrated what an incredible array of tools are available for architects today.
Whether you aim to make collaboration simpler, your floor plans sleeker, or your ability to access feedback more efficient, these innovative tools are exactly what you need to secure tremendous improvements to your operations. Be sure to make the most out of them!