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VectorWorks vs ArchiCad vs. AutoCad

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My dear Sis is working on her 8th custom mansion as Owner,Designer, Contractor et al...

She hires top named Architects ( not me ! ) and employs skilled builders from around the world ...

she prides herself on producing a series of one-off unique non-standard homes for the elite California market .

Her motto... "Do whatever it takes..."

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You obviously are so convinced of your rightness that you're willing to jump to wild conclusions, without pausing to consider the merits of a differing viewpoint.

In the first place, I have been practicing commercial, civic, and residential architecture for 26 years in Canada, the US, Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei, Manila, and Quatar, so I am hardly a novice. (BTW, how many $500M projects have you overseen?)

In the second place, you clearly fail to understand the logical proposition known as a "conditional sentence," i.e.,If (x), then (y).[/i]

At no place in my post do I state or otherwise sugges that my practice is primarily, much less solely, residential architecture. The example of common non-standard conditions in residential architecture is an example and nothing more. I could just as easily have cited winder and multi-platform stairs in commercial construction, since they are as common there as in residential construction.

Thirdly, at no point do I assert or imply that efficiency and fitness for purpose require ready-made solutions. As ErichR observed:

In a $10M project, if there are 5% instances of unusual conditions (and believe me there are far more than 5%), it is the CADD app that can handle them without additional hours of frustrating trial and error that will engender confidence.

In other words, it's about using the right tool for the right job.

SketchUp is an example of a progam that is far more efficient and fit for conceptual modelling purposes than VW, Autocad, or Archicad, simply because it is designed to do one thing and to do it well, rather than to attempt to do all things simply adequately. Consequently, it is far less labor-intensive and time-consuming to create complex 3d objects in SketchUp and import them into VW than it is to create them in VW to begin with. Similarly, while it is possible to produce photorealistic renderings and animations in Renderworks, there are any number of alternatives that require far less effort to set up and far less rendering time to produce equivalent or better results, but If someone chooses to continue to limp along in RW, that's his/her privilege.

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You obviously are so convinced of your rightness that you're willing to jump to wild conclusions, without pausing to consider the merits of a differing viewpoint.

Well, I am right here - as I usually am. I do have a remote, somewhat hazy recollection of being wrong once or twice, but I can't be sure of that. It may or may not have happened.

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as a user of latest versions of both Vectorworks and ArchiCAD, here's what I suggest:

- prefer 2d drafting like the old days on tables... use Vectorworks

- prefer 3d drafting, properly coordinated drawings, design benefits of 3d modelling, saving time... use ArchiCAD

As an unbiased cad user, there is no comparison. Vectorworks is a good program, as is AutoCAD. ArchiCAD is a whole other level of drafting. I find drawings created in ArchiCAD are much more accurate. Since you are actually building the project as a model, all questions that arise during construction phase are answered in the design phase. Some users find this to be a pain, but as a technologist, I find this to be great... the ablilty to prepare a set of drawings and have the project built as per the drawings! The only downside to ArchiCAD that I've experienced is there are more changes during the design phase because you actually see what things will look before they are constructed. However, any client would appreciate this since it would reduce changes during the construction phase... we all know how painful those change order quotes are!

Edited by mjb
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mjb, VW will do everything you like about ArchiCAD - and in some cases, more (such as those I cited above regarding NURBS capability and multiple light sources in OpenGL). Are there any particular differences between the two that make you prefer ArchiCAD? From what you are saying, it almost sounds as though you haven't really explored the 3d modeling potential of VW, but perhaps I am making an incorrect assumption.

Edited by P Retondo
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Good points. I believe that the software is only as good as the user. I'm hoping this thread will at least give me some tricks and tips when using Vectorworks!

I don't think it makes sense for me to list things that I think are better developed in ArchiCAD vs. Vectorworks... this is a Vectorworks forum - I'll be assasinated!

I'm currently working for a firm that uses Vectorworks. It adequately gets the job done and I try to use it to it's fullest potential. However, in my experience, preparing architectural type drawings, I just find ArchiCAD a more enjoyable & superior product that is in a whole other league of cad products. Ideally, Vectorworks would borrow some great ArchiCAD ideas such as layer & class management, and their seamless publishing system. On the flipside, I wish ArchiCAD would be like Vectorworks and steal great ideas from Adobe products such as the simple Align tool!

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As a purely academic exercise I recently downloaded the Archicad 10 e-Guide PDF to get a handle on Archicad's current capabilities. (We have several Archicad and Revit using architects in the local Archicentre group who constantly go on about how great their program of choice is - it wears a bit thin after a while.)

I was surprised at how similar the two programs are in many respects, and I discovered that Archicad is not significantly ahead of where Vectorworks Architect is. My impressions are listed below.

VW's advantages are:

- In overall flexibility and adaptability.

- In being able to choose to work in 2D or 3D or both.

- In its built in 3D freeform modeling capability.

- In its much better 2D drawing capability.

Archicad's advantages are:

- In being able to change things interactively in 3D (such as stretching door and window elements).

- Having live 3D model section views that you can edit in.

- In having slicker and interactive door and window schedules (included elevation view and ability to make changes from the schedule).

- In having more intelligent drawing labels that recognise sheet numbers.

- The publishing process seems to be a little easier and more straightforward.

- Dimensioning (the automatic dimensioning works very well).

Most other things were on a par. The Archicad 2D view elevation and sectioning capability doesn't seem to be any better than VW's.

At an overall level modeling is a bit easier in Archicad, and therefore it has an advantage in the design stage. In terms of getting the whole project documented though I would have to say Vectorworks has a distinct advantage.

I don't know enough about Revit to be able to comment usefully on where Vectorworks stands in relation to it. I am optimistic though that VW will more than match it with both of them after a few more iterations.

PS - I have a licensed older version of Archicad and I am fairly capable with it as a program. I choose to use Vectorworks because I find it better on a whole of project basis.

Edited by mike m oz
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I don't think it makes sense for me to list things that I think are better developed in ArchiCAD vs. Vectorworks... this is a Vectorworks forum - I'll be assasinated!

Not necessarily assassinated. From my training experience (both ArchiCAD and VW) I know that many users do not know what their program can do. For many "better" features there may be an equivalent, perhaps slightly inferior or maybe a bit better, way of doing things.

The big mistake is to try to use program A as you would use program B.

On a very basic level - construction of geometry - ArchiCAD users (at least in my time) used lots of construction lines and "hot spots". These are, by and large, not needed in VW as one can construct very complex geometric systems of "difficult", non-cartesian coordinates with snaps and constraints.

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Seems to me this thread belongs in Architect forum...

Anyway,from what I've seen of Archicad it's narrowly targeted at designing buildings. If you use a CAD program for anything else it's pretty much useless.

That's a clear 'yes' vote for Vectorworks as the most versatile and customizable.

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Archicad has a bit more sex appeal at the front end, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty of getting the project done Vectorworks wins hands down.

There is also far too much basic functionality in Archicad which has to be purchased in the form of add ons. This translates into a much higher cost of ownership.

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I also appreciated Mike's breakdown of Archicad vs. VW. I've used both programs in reasonable depth - and thought I would add a few more:

Archicad benefits over VW:

-Parametric objects are superior and easier to adjust i.e. a couch can be 4', 6', 8' long and still retain its correct proportions in all other dimensions.

-Framing and layout is better tuned: beginning points can be specified, o.c. versus face to face, end conditions, etc...

-Walls are handled better: angled, battered, Intersections.

-File Structure - Breaking the file into sub files allows for better workgroup referencing and multiple project users.

VW over Archicad

- Artistically, the hand of VW's 2D drawings is much more elegant.

- I vastly prefer presentation sheets within the file rather than exported to a separate layout book in a separate program (I believe Archicad has recently revised this, however).

- In VW, there is a tool for everything ... and if there isn't, one of us had made one and is willing to share it. In Archicad, there probably isn't one, but if there is ... it'll cost you at least $500 (probably more).

- The customer service and attitude is much, much better.

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In some countries ArchiCAD is very widely used. Collaboration is not a problem; in fact, since ArchiCAD supports the object-based IFC-concept (Industry Foundation Classes), which NNA obviously has hardly heard of, the collaboration is much more efficient than between VW and AutoCAD.

Then in some countries clients are starting to require full Product Modeling via IFC and in these countries VW will be wiped out in architecture. This is the real world.

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Petri - can you please explain to us how you see IFC working and why it will make collaboration easier. I have looked at IFC a couple of times and I can't see how it will work unless everybody (and I mean everybody) adopts it as a standard. That is unlikely to happen in the near future.

Lachmi Khemlani makes some pertinent observations in her March 2004 AECbytes article: http://www.aecbytes.com/feature/2004/IFCmodel.html

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IFC works approximately like this:

All CAD-programs (and others, too) use objects based on IF-classes and therefore can see & (if applicable) manipulate them. All files are in the same format.

If a program cannot manipulate an object, it is still kept intact in the user's file and when file is transferred to another program, it can be manipulated. (Every object has certain universal properties, but some aspects may be "black boxes" to some programs.)

Different programs may have different abilities to manipulate, interrogate etc same objects, in effect, "see" the Product Model differently.

Khemlani's points are (as I recall, did not re-read the article) largely based on the practices and industry conditions of underdeveloped countries such as the USA and not applicable to the developed world.

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What you don't seem to understand is that Product Modeling is what the big clients and construction companies want and demand, for their own benefit.

Your Aussie mobile-and-4WD-and-a-few-mates "builders" doing carport extensions are something completely different.

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LOL, its called Aussie ingenuity and the principles are the same on bigger projects.

Only in places like Australia.

Some of us have moved beyond 3D modelling. The 3d Model is only a small part of the overall process, if at all required.

You don't get it, do you? While most product models will be 3D (in fact, 4D), to make things easier for everyone, theoretically the 3D component does not need to be graphically interpreted.

But the Archicad Dudes will have the clients believe it?s going to save the world? While it just adds cost, bureaucracy, wasted time, demarcation etc, etc...and in a competitive market you?ll get done like a dinner, the deals already done before the model is completed .

Nonsense. Stick to carport expensions.

What you have to realize is that the data takes many forms at different stages and its not as rigid as your IFC systems and 3D models imply.

Why do I think that I know much more about data structures, databases, mathematical & logical modeling, dynamic & cybernetic systems etc than you will ever know? The whole point of object-based systems is to enable data to be used in different ways.

Flexibility Dude , being able to move seamlessly from Sketch <-> 3DModel<-> CDs while the process is underpinned by real data and collaboration. In project Building you guys need good luck and mates to stay in business.

Yes. The real data is, at present, best modeled, exchanged, interpreted and collaborated with by IFC.

Heres a tip , Never limit yourself to only what you know.

Well, you definitely seem to reach well beyond what you know...

VW is now the choice amongst the professional disciplines for general applications.

Maybe. But in architectural design in developed countries it is reaching its use-by -date.

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Who doesn?t get what? Let me give you a lesson in Euclidean Space geometry

You?re the one that?s confused mate and needs math lessons

Look, you obviously don't know the first thing about the subject so why don't you go and put some lattice to your current carport extension project.

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LOL...Add "illusionist" to your mathematical credentials Walter.In the real world the builder owns the Data.

You don't obviously know anything about this aspect, either. The client owns the data.

Everything you have written is totally irrelevant, has nothing to do with Product Modeling or comparative capabilities of different CAD-programs, so it might be good for your reputation (if any) if you'd embarrass yourself in something else for a change.

You have so far managed to demonstrate a deep and profound ignorance on anything related to Product Modeling, collaboration, ownership of data, large clients and projects - but whatever, go on. I'm sure there are other areas you know nothing of.

No, you know little and little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing.

Edited by Petri
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This February 2006 Cadalyst article indicates that Vectorworks will become IFC compliant soon: http://www.cadalyst.com/cadalyst/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=304833&pageID=1

This 04 Architectural Record article also indicates NNA's intentions to become IFC compliant: http://archrecord.construction.com/features/digital/archives/0204da-2.asp

There is also a comment on IFC by Sean Flaherty in the April 06 eDispatch: http://www.nemetschek.net/edispatch/Vol50/index.php

Edited by mike m oz
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