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By MikeD
Hello, I work for a mac-based office using vectorworks and we want to move to BIM/3D. I've been tasked with doing some initial research into the options and I was wondering if there is anybody here familiar with vectorworks and archicad? Do you have any advice regarding how they compare as BIM or VB applications? And can anybody point me to any resources comparing the two? Mostly we're just interested in producing working drawings and schedules from a model. Thanks.
Vectorworks Architect is (unfortunately) not a BIM competitor to ArchiCAD (or Revit, etc.). You'll be told it's a "BIM tool" but that's just a euphemism for admitting it doesn't compete with the likes of ArchiCAD.

ArchiCAD, first and foremost, is a dedicated building modeller so it needs to ship with a building modelling environment that allows one to model buildings. Vectorworks, on the other hand, while a very capable general modeller and presentation tool (catering to a number of industries) is hardly worth mentioning on the building modelling front.

This freeform modelling capability, on one hand a major advantage, is also an important reason why Vectorworks Architect is lagging it seems to me. It doesn't *need* to ship with a workable building modelling environment in order to model buildings; one can simply resort to freeform modelling. The problem, of course, is that modelling buildings in freeform is generally uneconomical (especially for businesses of more than one person) so you end up stuck in a 2D workflow, or semi-3D at best.

Another reason is that NNA appear to have dropped the ball in a major way with regard to their BIM strategy. As you'll see by this rather lovely thread NNA's main BIM strategist thinks "The primary component of BIM is interoperability…" (note that he's an engineer, not marketing!): ... ber=127462

It's mind-boggling that they actually believe the ability to share information is a more important than producing it. You can't just take a 3D CAD app, slap on IFC compatibility and call it a BIM competitor to ArchiCAD. I have a pretty good appreciation of the importance of IFC, interoperability and the ability to work in teams work but there's absolutely no point in any of it if the designer can't produce the information in the first place. Interoperability and building modelling have to be equal partners.

It could take them another 5 years to catch up, and then only if they realise they've dropped the ball.
Christiaan wrote:As you'll see by this rather lovely thread NNA's main BIM strategist thinks "The primary component of BIM is interoperability…" (note that he's an engineer, not marketing!): ... ber=127462
Very polite! :lol:

To save me from having to read countless vectorworks threads, can you briefly explain why you feel VW isn't a full/proper BIM application yet? What do you mean by its failings "on the building modelling front"? Do you feel there is a specific point at which a program becomes BIM rather than just a modeller?
Owen, he's just passionate and got caught up in the heat of the moment, I wouldn't read too much into that (or the sole operator VW cultists). What really interested me was his admission that they see interoperability as more important than building modelling. That for me was the point at which I realised if we stay with VWA we're probably still going to be struggling to get out of a 2D/semi-3D workflow in 3-5 years time.

Peter, NNA bills VWA as the designer's BIM app (a concept I love and buy into a great deal) but compared, at least in principle, to something like ArchiCAD it's more like a computer programmer's BIM app. VW may well provide the designer with great design presentation tools but it doesn't provide great building design tools. To be a designer's BIM app it needs to get out of the way so the designer can get on with designing and the only way I see this happening is for it to become a good building modeller (at least for the majority of architect's firms).

What they've done, it seems, is to put interoperability (or "big BIM") ahead of the ability to efficiently produce one's documentation from a single model (or "desktop BIM"). But desktop BIM should have been an equal priority (or even higher) so that VWA users could be getting on now with up-skilling and working in 3D while the industry bottoms out the issues of interoperability.
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By owen
I still haven't really got around to use Vectorworks .. something that has been sitting on my todo list for such a long time. So i'm not familiar with what you see as the modelling/documentation shortfalls - perhaps you could elaborate a little more?

A few points i seem to understand is:

- It supposedly has a better modeling engine (Parasolid) than ArchiCAD. Implementation of that into tools to actually model is a different issue.

- It has no Teamwork-like function. You basically have to split the building into Modules to divide it up into a team.

With regard to interoperability it is very important. Unless you are Autodesk noone thinks a whole team is going to be on the same software - so without interoperabilty each team member is working in an isolated building model, often duplicating the others work again themselves for coordination (something we often did with MEP as that was always where the stuffups occured).

The problem I have experienced directly with IFC is the software is always a few steps ahead of the various IFC implementations and also in relation to other BIM applications. The result is that the more advanced modelling features do not always convert back and forth well, or at all. One example when working with our engineeres was Microstations equivalents of SEO's not coming through into ArchiCAD. So modelling tools are all fine and well but if the support is not there in the IFC format for them, then you have no Interoperability really.
Parasolid was a great move and many 2D and 3D operations and representations are now far more accurate and quicker. It will be interesting to see where they take this. There are some great people at NNA so never say never.

The main problem with building modelling in VWA is the sorry state of parametric objects. Even with the introduction of Parasolid they're slow to insert and they're slow to edit. They almost never display what you need them to display and their interfaces are sometimes just a long list of textual options. And nothing talks to each other properly, it’s not a very dynamic environment. They're lacking a designer’s love and care. So you either end up doing a lot of manual freeform modelling or you revert to a 2D workflow, maybe with some use of parametric and 3D aspects as a design tool. A very simple example is the inability to offset the left and right hand handrails of the stair tool independently of each other (this lack of basic functionality precludes us from using the stair). Or how about if you change the build up of a wall you have to go around and manually redo all the joins (a nightmare on a large project).

Some of the problem may stem from the way VW is distributed too. Instead of producing a international base version which then gets localised in each respective market they produce a U.S. version which then gets localised for other markets. So VW is riddled with U.S. language and assumptions. Essentially if you’re a sole practitioner designing McMansions for the U.S. market, VWA is great.

The other problem is that VWA doesn't have an understanding of buildings or architect's documentation in the same way as ArchiCAD. ArchiCAD knows what storeys and elevations are etc. VWA doesn’t, at least not to the same depth. It abstracts these things because it needs to cater to other markets.

The upshot of this is that I was able to learn the bones of ArchiCAD over a long weekend and produce a model of a couple of blocks of flats I was working on at the time, out of the box.

VW’ advantage is said to be flexibility, but this comes at a cost: there's a lot of manual labour to do out of the box, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong and a lot of ways to workaround each problem. This is what amazed me about ArchiCAD, so much of the heavy lifting is automated. The obvious advantage is the ability to produce all your information from the model, but the collaboration and documentation tools also provide a huge boost.

Teamwork is another area where VW doesn't even begin to compete and there's no hint that this is going to change any time soon either. Workgroup Referencing, as it's called in VW, is a fine way to work in teams according to NNA. As you noted, it involves dividing the project up into individual files and referencing these to each other. The more control you want the more files you need to divide it into. It's an anachronism and a nightmare to manage. TW2 is basically what I've been trying to get out of NNA for years.

The main problem with ArchiCAD, for us, is what happens when you want to model something out of the ordinary? Well that and trying to sell to my Director what looks like a Windows program.
I first used ArchiCAD in 1994. In 2001 I started my own office and used Vectorworks because it was cheaper and I still wanted to do 3D CAD. I spent several years using Vectorworks because I knew it would turn my office upside down making the transition to ArchiCAD. Finally, a couple years ago, I did it.

ArchiCAD is a FAR superior product. Although it costs significantly more, it is a much better value.