Quick, cost-efficient, quality drafting. Instead of translating multiple 2D drawings and plans into a designed structure, teams can work more efficiently together from 3D models.
Improved collaboration, scheduling and cost. By facilitating testing and analysis during the design phase, BIM is changing the way teams work together. It’s easier to identify and correct building errors during the design phase before too much time, effort or money has been lost.
Risk mitigation. Instead of just passing along information or models from one team to another, teams share information in real time while working through problems and conflicts to develop solutions in tandem.
Improved building life cycle maintenance. Models lay the virtual groundwork for the actual structure and can help inform management on proper maintenance and general upkeep over the lifetime of the building.
Whether you are a seasoned professional or student learning the ropes, BIM software provides 3D building work processes as well as data, change and operation management solutions.
There are a few products entirely free of cost; others offer free academic licenses to students and institutions. The remaining provide free trials for users to test and compare products.
Free BIM tools to consider in 2019
While I briefly touched on a quick list of free BIM tools up there at the top, let's take a deeper look into the products mentioned.
BIMobject is a cloud-based portal for AEC professionals to identify and use BIM objects in their 3D designs. BIMobject provides software tools, web solutions and services to help manufacturers create and publish BIM objects while providing a platform for AEC professionals to access them.
Free access available to view and download manufacturer-specific BIM objects
Customers can experience manufacturers’ products with virtual and augmented reality
Access available to more than 40 file formats to help build apps
Forum available for feedback and input
2. Tekla BIMsight
Tekla BIMsight is a free professional tool for construction project collaboration. By combining the workflow, teams working in separate locations can design models in tandem, check for inconsistencies and share real-time information.
Free of charge for Windows (64 and 32bit versions)
Mac users can download and run in a virtual Windows machine
Tekla BIMsight Note runs on Windows 7 and 8 tablets and is available for iOS and Android
Multiple model view
Model checking includes 3D navigation, measuring, markup, redline and more
Collaboration support including note creation and sharing and BCF support
Online support and online training material
Industry foundation classes (IFC) and SketchUp models support available
Available in Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Russian
SketchUp is a free and easy-to-learn 3D-modeling program. Add details, textures and glass to your models with dimensional accuracy. Finished models can be shared via Google Earth or printed into hard copies.
Free tool works in any web browser and is updated regularly
Engineering and construction project teams can share, view and access project information via desktop, mobile or the Trimble Connect's website. Team members can create projects, assign tasks, comment, create, define and export reports, store multiple images in a comment chain and more.
Free option for 1 personal project, 5 project members and 10 GB of space
Business plan option for $10 per user per month
Contact vendor for enterprise pricing including unlimited everything and enterprise integration
Accessible via desktop, mobile or web
3D markup, assign and comment on to-do’s, create projects, export reports, measure distances, grids and more
Integrations with Autodesk Revit, SketchUp, Tekla structures and Penmap for Android help users access, edit and publish drawings, schedules and models
Tutorials and forums available
Edificius, an ACCA software, provides 3D architectural design solutions combined with surveying and construction estimating tools. ACCA provides more than 90 software solutions for the AEC industries.
Free 30-day trial period
Free licenses for students and teachers
Monthly subscription for $70
Annual subscription for $704
Both subscriptions are valid for three PCs
3D architectural BIM design to generate floor plans, cross-sections, perspective views and more
Outdoor spaces and digital terrain helps you visually define different terrain materials
3D photo-realistic, interior design and exterior renderings
Real-time rendering capabilities to help designers choose materials, objects and lighting
Library of interior design objects
6. Autodesk BIM 360
Autodesk BIM 360 is used by project managers, virtual construction managers, subcontractors, project engineers and design teams to better prepare project development, reduce coordination time and advance project schedule.
Free software trials are available for BIM, CAD and CAM software
Free 3D student licenses
Free mobile apps
Contact Autodesk BIM 360 for pricing information
Integrates with Assemble Insight, Astralink and AutoHub for construction management
Integrates with BuildingConnected for bid management and Beck Technology for takeoff estimating
Apps available to publish docs, explore projects online or off, streamline the layout process, view and update work, create and update issues and more
7. Revit LT
Autodesk’s Revit LT BIM software helps users produce high-quality architectural designs and documentation in a 3D model-based environment.
Free 30-day trial
Students can use Revit free for 3 years
Free Revit Add-ons include product data access, project assignments, smart and intuitive view creator and schedule management
$50 per month
$410 per year
$1230 per 3 years
3D design and visualization
Photorealistic cloud-based rendering
8. Vectorworks Architect
Vectorworks Architect lets users work through ideas in 2D and 3D, refine construction details, increase energy efficiency and streamline costs, saving time, increasing accuracy and eliminating the need to enter space data manually every time construction drawings are revised
Free 30-day trial
Free BIM academic licenses for students and institutions
Contact Vectorworks Architect for pricing information
Integration with Bluebeam Revu allows users to import data-rich PDF files
BIM modeling tools
Photo-realistic and artistic rendering
Collaboration with other BIM software via industry foundation classes (IFC)
Parametric and push/pull modeling
Full suite of 2D drafting tools
Site information modeling (SIM) and design
TurboFloorPlan by TurboCAD helps novices to professionals plan all phases of home design — from foundation to furniture and appliances.
Free trials are available for many TurboCAD software products, including BIM and CAD solutions
Free mobile field reporting
Instant Architect offers drag-and-drop options for novices for $29.99
Professional Home Design with complete training for $129.99
Integrates with DroneScout for collecting and reporting
DataCAD is a professional-level CADD program developed by architects and software engineers for architectural design, presentation and construction document creation.
Free 30-day trial
DataCAD LT is a 2D/3D architectural CAD program for design professionals for $395
DataCAD is a professional-level AEC CADD program for architectural design, presentation and construction document creation for $1,295
Drafting, modeling and shading
Estimating and take-offs
Automated 3D framing for floors, walls and roofs
Unlimited icons per toolbar
ARCHICAD is used by architects, designers, engineers and builders to design, document and collaborate on building projects.
Free 30-day trial
Free BIMx desktop viewer to view and share models
Contact ARCHICAD for pricing information
Stair and railing tools
External industry foundation classes (IFC) model content created by consultants can be entered as hotlinks into design projects
Touch Bar support for Apple MacBook Pro
Virtual architectural projects created in ARCHICAD can be viewed with BIMx Desktop Viewer
Events and training available
Help center and community forums available
Building into the future
With so many free (or free trial) BIM tools available, there are several solutions to consider. Those researching new free BIM solutions can sift through hundreds of verified user reviews on G2 Crowd to find the best option for them.
Courtney is a former G2 senior research analyst for HR technologies, whose coverage areas include recruiting, employee engagement, and talent management. Her comprehensive research on employee engagement and HR trends has been quoted in TechRepublic, among other publications.