11 Free BIM Tools to Consider in 2019

Courtney Moran
Courtney Moran  |  January 3, 2018

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the digital representation of the physical and functional properties of a built structure or environment.

Professionals working in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries can dig deeper into the design process together with this shared knowledge resource.

Building Design and Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools help professionals plan, design, schedule, manage and budget building and infrastructure projects.

Benefits to implementing BIM 

  • 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.

1. BIMobject

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 option
  • Free access available to view and download manufacturer-specific BIM objects
Features
  • BIMobject Apps are available for SketchUp, Revit, ArchiCAD and AutoCAD users to locate and upload 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 option
  • 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
Features
  • 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

3. SketchUP

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 option
  • Free tool works in any web browser and is updated regularly
Paid option
  • Pro and Layout non-expiring license for $695
Features
  • Integrates with IrisVR to collaborate in VR
  • Access 3D warehouse to store and share models
  • Beginner, intermediate and expert video tutorials available
  • SketchUp experts are available for consult in SketchUp forums
  • Knowledge center replete with 3D modeling encyclopedia
  • Chief Architect Premier users can access more than 800 free plugins from Sketchup that manage specific tasks

4. Trimble Connect

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
  • Free option for 1 personal project, 5 project members and 10 GB of space
Paid option
  • Business plan option for $10 per user per month
  • Contact vendor for enterprise pricing including unlimited everything and enterprise integration
Features
  • 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

5. Edificius

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 option
  • Free 30-day trial period
  • Free licenses for students and teachers
Paid option
  • Monthly subscription for $70
  • Annual subscription for $704
  • Both subscriptions are valid for three PCs
Features
  • 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 option
  • Free software trials are available for BIM, CAD and CAM software
  • Free 3D student licenses
  • Free mobile apps
Paid option
  • Contact Autodesk BIM 360 for pricing information
Features
  • 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 option
  • 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
Paid option
  • $50 per month
  • $410 per year
  • $1230 per 3 years
Features
  • 3D design and visualization
  • High-quality documentation
  • Photorealistic cloud-based rendering
  • Auto-generated schedules

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 option
  • Free 30-day trial
  • Free BIM academic licenses for students and institutions
Paid option
  • Contact Vectorworks Architect for pricing information
Features
  • 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)
  • Mobile solutions
  • Parametric and push/pull modeling
  • Full suite of 2D drafting tools
  • Site information modeling (SIM) and design

9. TurboFloorPlan

TurboFloorPlan by TurboCAD helps novices to professionals plan all phases of home design — from foundation to furniture and appliances.

Free option
  • Free trials are available for many TurboCAD software products, including BIM and CAD solutions
  • Free mobile field reporting
Paid option
  • Instant Architect offers drag-and-drop options for novices for $29.99
  • Professional Home Design with complete training for $129.99
Features
  • 2D/3D design with precise auto-dimensions
  • Automatic cost estimator
  • Design, landscape and building structure tools
  • Interior and exterior lighting simulations and fixtures
  • Multiple view
  • Scan and trace floor plans
  • Thousands of drag-and-drop symbols
  • TurboApps include plug-ins for AutoCAD and Revit
  • Integrates with DroneScout for collecting and reporting

10. DataCAD

DataCAD is a professional-level CADD program developed by architects and software engineers for architectural design, presentation and construction document creation.

Free option
  • Free 30-day trial
Paid option
  • 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
Features
  • Drafting, modeling and shading
  • Photorealistic rendering
  • Estimating and take-offs
  • Automated 3D framing for floors, walls and roofs
  • Unlimited icons per toolbar
  • Forum available

11. ARCHICAD

ARCHICAD is used by architects, designers, engineers and builders to design, document and collaborate on building projects.

Free option
  • Free 30-day trial
  • Free BIMx desktop viewer to view and share models
Paid option
  • Contact ARCHICAD for pricing information
Features
  • Stair and railing tools
  • Photorealistic rendering
  • 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.

And spend some time with the Building Design and Building Information Modeling (BIM) software category on G2 Crowd to find the best tools for your needs.

If you are not sure if you need BIM, general-purpose CAD or 3D modeling solutions, read up on the difference between 3D modeling, CAD and BIM.

If you’re in need of free CAD or construction solutions, check out our list of:

Courtney Moran
Author

Courtney Moran

Courtney Moran is a Senior Research Specialist at G2 concentrating on HR with a focus on employee engagement and diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI). She is interested in helping HR professionals understand the solutions available for creating a diverse, inclusive, and engaged workplace culture. Her varied work experiences — including pastry chef, farm hand, and research assistant — have been her biggest asset in understanding the value and struggles associated with myriad careers.