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Big-name architects hit out at cost and performance of Revit

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A raft of big name practices have written to software supplier Autodesk, demanding a replacement for 3D-modelling tool Revit and an end to spiralling costs

Nearly 20 firms, including Zaha Hadid Architects and Allies and Morrison, sent a letter to the Californian giant to complain about rising prices and ageing software.

Autodesk recorded annualised recurring revenue from its subscription products of $3.4 billion (£2.6 billion) in the 12 months to 31 January 2020 – up 25 per cent from the previous year.

Its building information modelling (BIM) package Revit is used across the architecture industry but frustration has grown with the price and performance of the product.

A survey of practices in June found many had seen the cost of using Revit on projects soar by up to 70 per cent over the past five years.

‘Practices would be less worried by these cost increases if they were mirrored by productivity improvements and a progressive software development program,’ said the open letter published this week.

‘Where once Autodesk Revit was the industry enabler to smarter working, it increasingly finds itself a constraint and bottleneck. Practices find that they are paying more but using Revit less, because of its constraints.’

The letter called for ‘a vision, roadmap and investment strategy that targets adding value and performance for design-based organisations’. This should ‘prioritise the replacement of Revit from the ground up,’ said the practices, ’to reflect the functionality needed for a 21st century digital industry’.

They also demanded ‘a proposal for cost stability’ and a commitment to research and development ‘focused on the needs of the global design community’.

Engagement with architects to build ’a cultural partnership with all customers based on trust, empathy and respect’ was also requested.

Autodesk said it was ‘reviewing the letter’ before issuing a formal response.

Signatories to the open letter to Autodesk

  • AHMM
  • Allies and Morrison
  • Aukett Swanke
  • BVN Architectural Services
  • Corstorphine + Wright
  • Fletcher Priest Architects
  • Glenn Howells Architects
  • Grimshaw
  • PRP
  • Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners
  • Scott Brownrigg
  • Sheppard Robson
  • Simpson Haugh
  • Stephen George + Partners
  • TTSP
  • Wilkinson Eyre Architects
  • Zaha Hadid Architects

Eight other practices added their support but did not wish to make their names public


Readers' comments (9)

  • Ha! Should have bought ArchiCAD. Revit is the same as AutoCAD. The volume leader because it pushed itself through intense marketing, but not the best programme by far. Just as in 2D Microstation and GDS were far superior to AutoCAD yet lost out in the volume stakes, so it is with Revit. And once that toe hold is in, user numbers exponentially cascade upwards because of retraining impacts on recruitment. Then the market dictates the price and the big developers loose interest in quality and service because the market is hostage. Time to break the monopoly and work on cross-platform compatibility standards.

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  • ArchiCAD is perfectly capable of cross compatibility with IFC. The subscription model all these companies have gone to have killed the need for them to innovate - Revit is especially bad because there is no compatibility between different years, despite the software being virtually the same.

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  • Sounds like the same sort of avaricious price-gouging 'business model' as adopted by some large US pharmaceutical companies, and despite the costs of retraining etc isn't there a strong possibility of Autodesk losing out to a competitor - perhaps from China - with the financial resources and innovative skills to squash them on both price and performance?

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  • John Kellett

    Having entered the World of 3D architectural modelling software in the early 1990s with Architrion and then ArchiCAD, Revit before AutoDesk bought it was not bad. I have used Revit since but it is not the best for my workflow and I found Revit LT to be dangerous as it stripped any IFC information from the file. I now use Vectorworks because everything I need from SketchUp/Rhino modelling, energy modelling, graphic scripting and Cinema 4D quality CGIs etc can all be done within the software without needing additional software. AutoDesk’s marketing strategy is a prime example of ‘popular’ not ‘best’. Both Vectorworks and ArchiCAD were originally written by architects so have a tendency to ‘think’ the way architects think, not the way software engineers ‘think’.

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  • Philip Allsopp

    We've been using ARCHICAD for years because it operates on both Windows and macOS seamlessly, is affordable, and pioneered the concept of "OPEN BIM" years ago enabling live connections to be established with other important applications. These include but aren't limited to Rhino, Grasshopper, Unreal Engine (Twinmotion), Solibri and a host of other specialized engineering, analytic tools and high-end graphic rendering & modeling tools.

    And the other thing is Graphisoft are easy to work with and are staffed with very talented professionals who are actively engaged in the AEC field, which is reflected in their releases of each upgrade to the ARCHICAD BIM system. This means the company is thinking long and hard-with their users-about the future of the AEC industry, which will be quite different from the fragmented model employed today. This fractured model, based too frequently as it is on real estate speculation, is one in which architects in particular are severely marginalized into being little more than drafting services and whose real business, design and technological capabilities are rarely used. The consequences of this can, as we all know, be fatal.

    For us, ARCHICAD functions as a foundation block to our computational design, engineering and manufacturing ecosystem. This is important for us because our business model for making built environments is similar to those used extensively by aerospace and automotive companies, integrating design (in our case architecture & engineering) with manufacturing, fabrication and precision assembly.

    As John Kellet says, the folks at Graphisoft who wrote their BIM system starting in the early 1980s were architects in very much the same way that the folks at Applied Research of Cambridge, UK were and who wrote one of the earliest forms of BIM (OXSYS-BDS and later GDS) in the mid to late 1970s!

    BIM has been around for a while and from where I stand, there's a substantial and exciting wave of innovation and change building up that will transform for the better the role architects play. ARCHICAD is certainly one of those Open-BIM systems that when used to its fullest extent, will enable architects to regain captaincy over the shaping of human habitats whose design & construction and performance, safety and durability are based on a great deal more than guesswork and hope.

    I'm not, by the way on Graphisoft's payroll, just a long-time user of ARCHICAD BIM as both a sustainability scientist with Arizona State University and as an architect in charge of manufacturing and design systems for the company I'm with.

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  • The old adage that you can't be blamed for choosing IBM has gone wrong here : Revit is a poor product in comparison to ArchiCad, and those who have chosen it only have themselves to blame.

    They should plan how to switch ASAP, giving ArchiCad more income to make an even better product.

    ArchiCad user since V6.

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  • Great to see a stand being made for better software and investment in product development.
    Software is a serious investment and the effect on productivity and profitability of a job are huge when it fails to perform as it should.

    I hope the market opens up and more companies adopt alternative products because a major shake up is needed to drive development and push the cross platform comparability.
    The pricing structure has really put us off making the move to Revit and we are currently looking at alternatives like ArchiCad and BricsCad for this reason.

    If this was a faulty washing machine that kept breaking down a consumer watchdog like Which would be all over it - this should apply to software and digital providers to!

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  • Having been a user of various systems since early days in 1983 and worked with practices of various sizes and different systems I’ve been a sole practitioner since 2004 and now use… don’t laugh please… Sketchup Pro 2019 with a BIM plugin called Plusspec (soon to be Plusspec Design-Build), and a rendering program called Indigo. Plusspec is an Australian programme but formatted for UK use. The layer conventions need changing for UK compliance but what the combination of software does is amazing for the price and much easier and intuitive to use than Revit. It may not have some of the features of Archicad but for what I (and probably most other smaller practices) need the software for it’s ideal. (I’m not on sales commission) just putting an alternative out there.

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  • Hi everyone!
    The BIM software industry has been in ferment for a while now and I’ve heard of and tested tons of products, some of which are noteworthy for the innovation they’re bringing to the market, not to mention more and more services (training, support, development) constantly putting customers at the centre.
    I agree with many of the observations posted by John and Philip – that gave me even further perspectives to consider. Another really important point to highlight what Nick remarks well, that is if everyone decided to open up and get a wider perspective of the market, there would be the already mentioned shake up and – I add - they would find out many alternatives developed by solid realities.

    For example, I’ve recently found an article written by Martyn Day on AEC Magazine dealing with this topic and describing the hope to meet new startups in the BIM-Authoring market, sitting at the same table as the traditional players (Autodesk, Nemetschek, Trimble, Bentley Systems) in the digital construction world. He was surprisingly happy to find out that there is an Italian company, ACCA software, developing solutions for almost the entire category of AEC professionals for the last 30 years and a wide range of BIM-related products for the last decade (from BIM modelling with good rendering (photorealistic and real time) to standalone BIM viewing, from landscape and terrain modelling to MEP, structural and CDE tools, not to mention cost estimating and construction planning).
    Let me paste something that he said in his article: “One just doesn’t expect to find a ‘new company’ that has been around for almost as long - and one that has thrived, served on thousands of projects and developed a broad set of advanced building design and construction tools. In many respects my visit to ACCA reminded me of my first trips to see Graphisoft and its founder Gábor Bojár. ACCA was also an early pioneer of identifying the benefits of computing to the building industry in the 1980s. Both firms have spent decades building software companies. And because of that, have proud heritages in changing the industry. ACCA and Graphisoft also share strong beliefs in IFC and the OpenBIM movement at key industry fundamentals. Edificius, the company’s core BIM tool, cost just €599 a year, only a tad more than a yearly subscription for AutoCAD LT. And all that for something that is on a par with Revit in terms of functionality. This price point is obviously a key advantage for anyone looking to get into BIM or to change modeller.”

    Driven by these words, I’ve decided to take a look at ACCA Edificius and so far, so good, easy to use and definitely affordable. I suggest you give it a try!

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