Top 20 Construction Design Software Solutions
Construction design software, also known as building design software or building information modeling (BIM) software serves as a platform for digital design and redesign of architectural projects. Such software has become indispensable in today’s digital environment, making it easier to create, store, and print plans and concepts of new designs. Builders and architects utilize home building design software to obtain all the necessary design tools and symbols for any type of home construction or renovation project. Moreover, such software may be used to handle workflows and project management tasks.
Benefits of Construction Design Software:
- Visualization of all design possibilities, testing out concepts before actual construction work
- Professionally designed presentations
- Better-informed decisions and risk assessment
- Effective communication between team members
- Better task management and monitoring
- Easy document management
In this post, we’ll look at the 20 best construction design software on the market.
AutoCAD serves for computer-aided 3D and 2D design and drafting. The first version of the program was released back in 1982. Architects and drafters utilize AutoCAD to create blueprints for buildings, bridges, and roads. A comprehensive toolkit and pre-installed libraries with thousands of parts, objects, styles, a variety of colors and textures allow users to speed up their work on drawings. The possibility to animate created objects is also available: for example, with AutoCAD you can easily simulate a 3D virtual house tour.
In addition to the standard DWG format, AutoCAD allows you to export files to other graphic design applications such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. Moreover, it’s possible to operate in tandem with various third-party CAD applications. The only difficulty mentioned by AutoCAD users is its steep learning curve. AutoCAD also requires high RAM and computer graphics.
Key design features of AutoCAD:
- Modeling and visualization in 3D
- Photorealistic rendering
- Visual styles
- Import/Export/Underlay of PDF and DGN files
- Section planes
- Point clouds and 3D scanning
- Navigation in 3D
Pricing: A monthly AutoCAD subscription price is $220, while the annual subscription will cost you $1,775. The free trial is available for 30 days.
In the previous post, we’ve highlighted the benefits of 3D printing in construction.
SketchUp is a 3D modeling computer tool that may be used for architectural, interior, industrial, product design, landscape architecture, civil and mechanical engineering, and video game production. With SketchUp, it’s easy to create and edit 2D and 3D models by using the “Push and Pull” tool. The program is very popular among the creators of 3D models for use with 3D printers.
Everyone who uses SketchUp for the first time is surprised by the simplicity of the program: there is a minimum number of working panels and basic modeling functions. It mistakenly seems that this construction design software is suitable only for primitive tasks. But it is just the first impression. There are a lot of plugins from Extension Warehouse that can expand SketchUp’s possibilities and will make your work on construction projects faster and more efficient.
Key design features of SketchUp:
- Lighting effects
- 3D/2D models
- Layer manager
Pricing: There are several subscription plans for every need (professional, individual, and higher education) ranging from €109/yr to €639/yr. A limited package is available for free for 30 days.
3. VectorWorks Architect
VectorWorks Architect is BIM, 2D drawing, and 3D CAD software with improved drawing efficiency, easy modeling capabilities, rendering speed, and management tools that works on both Mac and Windows. Designers use VectorWorks building design software to create data-rich visual models without sacrificing the design process and collaborating effectively throughout the project life cycle. Architects and construction managers can quickly communicate and exchange numerous documents in one place thanks to such features as built-in energy analysis, automated schedules, spreadsheets, and data reports. Though VectorWorks software has a lot of positive reviews for being a quality and customizable tool, it has limited mobile functionality and is a bit overloaded.
Key design features of VectorWorks Architect:
- Modeling in 2D and 3D
- Modeling in BIM
- Scripting for graphics
- Surface subdivision modeling
- Tools for drafting and annotating
Pricing: It’s not a free building design software: to use a full version you will have to pay $3045 as a one-time payment. There is a free trial available.
MicroStation is a sophisticated parametric 3D modeling and intelligent sketching tool, enabling the infrastructure experts of many disciplines to collaborate on and deliver projects of any scale and complexity. The program supports BIM, allowing users to create models for use in construction, design, engineering, and infrastructure operations. With the help of MicroStation, it’s possible to produce virtual models of any geometric forms, comply with project and drawing requirements, as well as maintain effective collaboration between project participants. While having a user-friendly interface, this construction design software contains functionality that can be intimidating for beginners. Multiple versions of the program can be a confusing factor for large organizations to keep up with.
Key design features of MicroStation:
- Design visualization and analysis
- Collaborative design work
- Animations and renders
- Contextual design
- Layout drawings and annotations
- Parametric modeling
Pricing: There are different versions for small and medium business and global enterprises, starting from $1,208 for an annual subscription.
Being an all-in-one tool for construction management, Revit also features multidisciplinary parametric building design software that can realistically generate any building. Revit is not a genuine modeler, but rather an aggregator of construction components that follow a set of criteria. It provides excellent tools for the design phase, such as Schedules (used for estimation and listing quantities for every element), Curtain Walls (used to create walls with specific patterns), Color Fill Plans (used to create conceptual floor plan views). While Revit’s accuracy is one of its most notable features, it lacks some functionality in other aspects. For example, many other building design software packages provide more detailed models. This is because they have access to more broad design tools, such as commands and meshes, that aren’t included in the Revit package. Overall, Revit is a good tool for providing insight into a project and completing precise prototyping. To make your Revit models pop out, you may use additional rendering software.
Key design features of Revit:
- Generative design
- Parametric components
- Work sharing
- Extended functionality with API access, third-party solutions, add-ins
- WYSIWYG editing and features that let you control annotations
- Open-source graphical programming interface
Pricing: There are 3 payment plans: monthly subscription for $320, annual — $2,545, 3-year subscription — $6,870. There is a free trial.
6. Space Designer 3D
Space Designer 3D is an online floor plan software that allows designers and architects to easily create 3D homes and interior design projects. It’s a modular platform where users can add extensions, new tools, and their own custom catalog. Every project creates an inventory list that may be customized and contains different metrics (object dimensions, products, quantities). Ease of use, efficient visualization features, tools for transforming items into 3D objects, client collaboration functions, and cloud capabilities are among the main advantages of this software. However, for professional experts, the program has some technical limitations. For example, it’s not possible to work on several components of a building at the same time. Instead, the user must create each room separately and consecutively. This may hinder project completion, especially if there are multiple users involved in the project.
Key design features of Space Designer 3D:
- Smart wall technology
- Mobile devices optimization
- Immersive experience
- Visualization in 3D
- 3D models that are embeddable
- Inventory control
- Personalized development
Pricing: starting from $9.99 as a flat rate, per month. There is a free trial.
7. Chief Architect
Primarily created for residential designs, Chief Architects can be used to automatically produce floor plans and 360-degree panoramic renderings. The platform may also be used by builders to exchange 3D models with homeowners or subcontractors. In addition to building tools and features, Chief Architect assists you in creating a materials list. As a result, your clients will be able to quickly decide whether to proceed with the plan or adjust it to match their budget. This saves time for your presentation as you have a ready list of required items. You may also get a mobile 3D viewer from Chief Architect for your iOS or Android smartphone. This allows you to export 3D blueprints and share them at any moment.
Key design features of Chief Architect:
- 2D drawing
- 3D imaging
- BIM modeling
- Component library
- Landscape design
- Presentation tools
Pricing: There are Premier ($2,195) and Interiors ($1,595) plans as well as a software rental option for $199 per month. A free trial is available.
Being an open-source parametric 3D modeling solution, FreeCAD allows you to create real-life objects of any size. It provides good customization, sketching and rendering tools, as well as a 3D visualization. FreeCAD features a graphical user interface (GUI) built on the Qt framework, as well as an innovative 3D viewer that allows users to adjust rendering and scene graph representation. The program assists in the form of manuals and lessons. Among the software’s downsides are a complicated interface and limited functionalities. Python scripting takes some time to get used to, but it goes smoothly even for beginners once you catch on. The most appealing aspect is that FreeCAD is an absolutely free building design software with a lot of capabilities.
Key design features of FreeCAD:
- Geometry kernels
- Rendering and sketching tools
- Modular architecture
- Robot simulation
- Path mode
- Python interpreter and API for geometry representation, interface, and application
Pricing: This is free and open-source construction design software.
9. Smart Draw
This building design software is a simple alternative to more sophisticated CAD drawing applications. Using built-in templates and straightforward tools, you can create facility designs, building plans, office layouts, and quickly personalize them with hundreds of ready-made items and symbols. It’s possible to use SmartDraw on any device that has an internet connection. With a simple click, you can easily export your building design to Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. You and your team may collaborate on the same building design by saving it to a shared SmartDraw folder or using cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or OneDrive. You may easily share files with others who do not have SmartDraw by simply emailing them a link. SmartDraw will be a perfect option if you need to quickly organize concepts and represent them visually, create vehicle designs, electrical wiring diagrams, and software project plans. This program can be especially useful for interdisciplinary teams.
Key design features of SmartDraw
- Floor plan designer
- Quick-start floor plan templates
- Extensive floor plan symbol library
- Powerful floor plan making tools
- Different diagram types, including architectural and engineering diagrams
- AutoCAD-like annotation layer
Pricing: $9.95 per month, team subscription – $5.95 (for each user per month), annual site subscription – $2,995; a free 7-day trial is available.
DataCAD’s capabilities include drawing, design, 3D modeling, and document preparation. Photorealistic rendering and associative dimensioning allow architects to use DataCAD for production drawing. It aids contractors in visualizing the placement of doors and windows on construction projects. Three-dimensional models may be utilized to build plans and adjust elevations. The software can also be used in specific building processes such as log construction and pre-manufactured homes. DataCAD is an easy-to-use building design software for architecture construction document management. It’s one of the fastest 2D models creation programs. As for 3-D visualization, this software lags a little behind its competitors but could be a good option for a small company.
Key design features of DataCAD:
- Design tool
- Creation of construction drawings using an evolutionary process
- 3D modeling automation
- Framing in three dimensions
- Photorealistic rendering
- Insertion of doors and windows automatically
- Hatching and associative dimensioning
- Teigha-based DXF/DWG translators
Pricing: Depending on the features included, you can choose one of these subscription packages: LT First License Price: $395, Professional First License Price: $1295, Subscription First License Price: $1595. A free trial is also available.
Guided by the principle “work smarter, not harder”, Archicad software provides architects and designers with an extensive set of 2D and 3D drafting and visualization tools. Each software version includes a signature building that was created with the help of Archicad. Archicad 25 is the most recent version. It’s firmly linked with GRAPHISOFT’s ecosystem, which includes products such as BIMcloud and BIMx for more efficient work. According to many architects, Archicad provides a great design experience. The modeling interface is intuitive, similar to freehand drawing, with the ability to model at various degrees of complexity – whether you need a rapid design concept or a full Building Information Model. Archicad also offers a highly sophisticated 2D/3D interface that stores all project documentation: the 3D model along with the accompanying views, layouts, and camera path.
Key design features of Archicad:
- Simple to use, with straightforward design libraries
- Large models may be managed in a single file
- Strong 2D/3D interface
- Support for Open BIM/IFC
- Support for VR workflows
Pricing: Archicad Solo Version for individual use: $240 per month or $1800/year; Archicad Full Version best for teamwork: $280 per month or $2250/year; 30-day subscription trial.
Edificius provides its users with modern design tools and regular updates allowing it to comply with the most recent requirements and technologies. This construction design software has a real-time rendering engine that integrates smoothly with other capabilities such as 3D design, cost estimation, and others. Aside from that, Edificius gives you options for optimizing outdoor spaces for landscaping and gardening projects. Furthermore, you have access to a library of furniture and lighting components to help you build a compelling interior for your Edificius design. Edificius allows you to make realistic immersive designs. This becomes possible due to the software’s video renderings, which you can share with your customer to get them involved in the design process.
Key design features of Edificius:
- 3D architectural design
- Interior design
- Garden and landscape design
- Integration with Google Maps for terrain modeling
- Point cloud
- BIM modeling
- MEP system modeling
- Rendering with AI
- Immersive virtual reality
- Real-time rendering
Pricing: Starting from €48/monthly, you can use a free trial for 30 days.
It’s a metal building design software enabling you to create designs for steel, concrete, wood, aluminum, and cold-formed steel buildings anywhere in the globe utilizing over 90 international design codes. With STAAD Pro, construction specialists can perform comprehensive analysis and design for any size or type of building. The software lets you simplify your BIM workflow by using a physical model that is automatically converted into the analytical model for your structural analysis. These models can be safely and quickly shared within your team. There are 3 types of STAAD software to fit any business need: STAAD.Pro – a basic option, which includes FEM analysis and physical modeling; STAAD.Pro Advanced – with quicker, more advanced, and complicated analysis; and Structural Enterprise WorkSuite — includes the most popular structural apps in a single license.
Key design features of STAAD:
- Dynamic updating
Pricing: $2,791 – $4,076 for 12-month subscription license, 30-days trial.
It’s a structural and earthquake engineering design tool for building concrete floor and foundation systems. SAFE unites all components of the engineering design process in a single simple and straightforward environment, from frame layout to detail drawing creation. With its mix of broad capabilities and ease-of-use, SAFE is widely used by engineers. The software provides a unified user interface for modeling, analysis, design, and reporting. For easy access to objects, attributes, and forms, a new model explorer is now accessible. SAFE is an excellent tool for creating foundations, basements, and footings. It allows evaluating foundation systems inside bigger structures and imports data from CAD, ETABS, and SAP2000.
Key design features of SAFE:
- User-friendly interface to perform modeling, analysis, design, and reporting
- Code-based design features for reinforced concrete and PT beam, slab design, and composite steel beams
- Deformed geometry
- Design strips
Pricing: There are different license types to choose from ranging from $4000 to $7800. The trial version is limited to 30 days.
This is another popular metal building design software for creating general structures such as buildings, bridges, arenas, industrial construction, crane rails, and more. RISA offers an easy-to-use interface and integrates with a variety of other products, including RISA Floor and RISA Foundation. Furthermore, it includes the most up-to-date steel, cold-formed steel, concrete, aluminum, masonry, and timber design codes. With the help of batch printing of detailed reports and dynamic print preview, you can quickly present and analyze your project. As a result, you’ll have an all-in-one efficient tool to handle multi-material projects with ease.
Key design features of RISA:
- 2D and 3D drawing
- Intuitive interface and working environment
- Comprehensive presentation of the results
- Customizable templates
- Data visualization
- Modeling & simulation
Pricing: $1700 per year, a free trial with limited features is available.
SAP2000 is a structural analysis and design software by Csiamerica. It is an extremely powerful piece of software capable of designing practically any type of civil engineering structure. SAP2000 is solely used for beam and column design. The software provides a unified user interface for modeling, analysis, design, and reporting. Its interface is fully customizable, allowing users to specify window and toolbar layouts. Meshing capabilities include the ability to merge separate meshes among frame, shell, and solid objects as well as coordinate tessellation with object orientation. Engineers may handle models with considerable freedom by using dockable windows, floating forms, and numerous views.
Key design features of SAP2000:
- DirectX graphics with full 2D and 3D drafting and selection capability
- A wide range of design codes
- The intuitive 3D object-based modeling environment
- Sophisticated and efficient meshing techniques
- Interactive database editing, diaphragm and edge constraint assignment, section designer tools
Pricing: Subscription license starting from $2000 to $15600. A 30-days trial version is available.
17. CAD Pro
As stated by the CAD Pro creators, it’s the most cost-effective construction design software available on the market. CAD Pro is commonly used in home renovation, design, engineering, technical drawing, as well as landscaping. With the help of this software, you can easily create professional blueprints for architectural and mechanical drawings, electrical schematics, commercial buildings, restaurant designers, etc. The program includes tools to help in the production of any project. It also contains interactive features that allow users to enter photos, phrases, voice remarks, and audio recordings. CAD Pro allows you to create comprehensive drawings for patent applications. This user-friendly software offers smart dimension tools, photo plugins, auto-shape tools, precise fill patterns, and customized views.
Key design features of CAD Pro:
- Advanced 2D and 3D drafting
- Architectural symbol library
- 256 layers
- Automatic snap tools for precise alignment
- Associative dimensioning
- Modeling in BIM
- Design evaluation
- Templates for design
- Tools for presentation
Pricing: $99.95 per feature, as a one-time payment. CAD Pro does not offer a free trial.
18. MacDraft Professional
MacDraft Professional is a 2D CAD program for the Mac used in floor plan creation, architectural drawing, and illustration. With this drafting tool, you can create precise and professional drawings in seconds and put your imagination into reality. The software is best for classrooms, professional architects, and individual users that need to create a quality drawing, floor plan, garden design, mechanical drawing, or topography. Users can change the units of measurement and scale drawings as needed. They may utilize the layers tool to alter and add detail to particular parts of drawings without affecting other layers. MacDraft’s functionality also includes vector tools and Library Palette letting users save any drawn object and drag and drop it into new drawings. The software is easy to use, but in case you face some difficulties, you can get training from the company in the form of documentation, live online, or in person.
Key design features of MacDraft Professional:
- 2D drawing
- Architectural symbol library
- Automatic formatting
- Design templates
- Precise dimension system
- Building Information Modeling
- Presentation tools
Pricing: There are single and multiple licenses available starting from $399 one-time/ per person, there is a free trial.
Cedreo is cloud-based 3D architectural and construction design software that enables users to build and customize 2D and 3D floor plans, design house interior and exteriors, and materialize conceptual ideas with high-quality 3D renderings. With Cedreo, everyone with minimal experience and knowledge can create detailed sketches, add walls, doors, and windows by utilizing guides. Existing floor plans can also be imported and created in Cedreo for 3D visualization. Built-in layout helpers are here to streamline plan creation and minimize drawing time. Dimensions, color-coding for distinct room types, visual identification of wall types, room labeling, furniture symbols may all be added to 2D drawings. Cedreo provides a project management system that enables users to organize their designs by clients, save multiple versions of each project, search the database for all projects associated with a particular customer, see project history, and download 3D renderings and floor plans.
Key design features of Cedreo:
- 2D drawing
- 3D imaging
- Component library of materials and furniture items (7000+ customizable items available)
- Landscape design
- Modeling & simulation
- Presentation tools
Pricing: Pricing starts at $79.00 per user, per month. A free trial is not available. However, there is a limited free version allowing you to create one project in Cedreo with limited access to furnishings and materials and 5 realistic 3D renderings.
Rhino3D provides a lot of comprehensive 3D modeling tools to help you visualize almost any idea whether it’s a large building or a small construction object. This building design software is most commonly used in architectural trades, industrial and jewelry design. It includes a variety of annotation items, such as arrows, text blocks, dimensions, allowing you to make 2D drawings and illustrations. It also provides tools for creating models, framing intersection curves, managing layouts, blending edges, and capturing existing 3D data. Rhino3D is best for conveying concepts, but sometimes it lacks the precision that you would get with Revit or other CAD software. Overall, this software is more suitable for the design phase and is less appropriate in the construction phase.
Key design features of Rhino3D:
- Custom fixture modeling
- Space visualization
- 2D images
- 3D modeling of complex geometry
- Parametric design with Grasshopper
- Fashion illustrations
- Presentation tools
- Textile pattern design
- CAD tools
Pricing: $995.00 one-time, free trial available.
Construction Design Software: FAQs
- What is a formal design process, and how does it aid in the building?
A formal design process is a process of developing a description of a new facility, which is generally represented by comprehensive plans and specifications. It helps to get an idea of the future building, estimate the cost of needed materials and determine tasks and resources necessary for actual construction.
- What software is used to design and simulate a building?
Building design and simulation software is used for this purpose. CAD software allows the creation of realistic 3D design, parametric models that can be shared within the team. Building simulation software tools can provide a complete picture of the external environmental impact on complex heating and cooling system design. Using such software in construction allows architects to create more efficient and eco-friendly buildings.
- How detailed should design sketches be in building software?
Construction drawings should provide a detailed description of the geometric form of objects and their parts, whether it’s a residential building, bridge, tunnel, or factory. Design drawings are created to the level of detail required to create a clear visual representation of all components of the building. They should include major project elements such as the general layout, earthworks equipment, mechanical, electrical, structural, and water supply systems. There are different types of construction drawings: working drawing plans, elevations, sections, setting out plans, electrical plans, plumbing, and sanitation plans, structural drawings, HVAC drawings.
- What is construction design software?
Construction design software is commonly known as CAD (computer-aided design) software. Architects and designers of different industries use such software to create a technical design of a building with specifications that are used by a contractor to construct the actual building. Architects used to draw such blueprints by hand before the invention of computers.
- Which is the best construction design software?
Which construction design software is best depends on your needs: there are simple programs for beginners allowing you to create a simple drawing and presentation of the project, and there are also more comprehensive tools for professional construction firms and global enterprises that need super precise, detailing drawing and modeling capabilities.
Fortunately, there is a big choice of construction design software on the market for every need and budget. From the list above, you can choose the program that will help you successfully implement any construction project born from your imagination.