Bentley Architecture vs Revit vs Archicad


I am a long time MicroStation user currently reviewing a number of the leading BIM platforms out there - namely Bentley Architecture, Revit, & Archicad.

Now I am not a 'die-hard' Bentley fan and so my remit is to simply try and evaluate each package on its own merits in order to get a fair comparison and to help inform our decision about which to use.

So far I have a good understanding of the pro's and con's of each but with regards to Bentley Architecture my initial experience is that it is incredibly complex and has unbelievably poor 'help' documentation (especially when compared to Bentley's competitors) making it very difficult to learn the software. To me this sounds like shear arrogance on Bentley's part or market share suicide - not sure which at the moment. Even once the software has been mastered it is my impression from reading the forum that Bentley are still way behind the likes of Revit and Archicad in terms of meeting user suggestions / feature requests?

Is this is a fair opinion of Bentley Architecture and if not why?

Also does anyone have experience of trialling / reviewing both Revit and Archicad?

Thanks in advance...

  • PBrooks:

    Since I am a Bentley colleague I will refrain from telling you which is the best BIM platform (I think you could guess what my answer would be), but I will try to address a couple of your concerns and share some things to consider in your BIM evaluation for your firm.  Obviously there is no software package in the world that is perfect, and Bentley does not claim to be exempt from that claim.  We recognize we have deficiencies and work hard to erase those and also respond to user feedback in a timely manner.  I would find it difficult to believe that you would hear claims from Revit users that they have the direct communication with Product Managers and developers like that occurs every day between Bentley and our clients.  While at times some of the comments and posts that occur in BE Communities forums seem critical of some tools or applications, I firmly believe that the users in these forums feel comfortable posting their opinions (good or bad), because they are heard by Bentley product managers, developers, support and even the Bentley executives.  Often times this result in a quick turn-around on a bug fix or additional features added to builds to meet a particular clients need.  On the other hand, I have been told by several dual-platform clients that Revit's feature list is frozen for the 2014 release already (and closing in on feature freeze for 2015), therefore any feature requests or complaints on an Autodesk forum would be done so in vain.  I really only mentioned that because I don't think that I have ever come across a person who confused Bentley with being arrogant, and I hope the users in this forum will reinforce this sentiment.

    Regarding your concerns about Bentley, I would encourage you to take a look at AECOsim Building Designer rather than Bentley Architecture.  Building Designer will be the next release (1-2 months away) of Bentley Architecture.  However, for me to say that Building Designer is just the next version of Bentley Architecture is a gross understatement.  Building Designer is a complete BIM solution in a single application that in addition to added architectural features includes full functionality for Structural, Mechanical, Plumbing, and Electrical design/documentation, a robust and intuitive clash detection engine, hyper-modeling, Dynamic Views, and additional feature enhancements.  This is what you should be using as your benchmark against other BIM vendors.

    If only looking at Bentley Architecture, I believe that your concern with poor 'help' documentation is valid, and as I stated above, Bentley has identified this as a shortcoming and invested in a thorough update to both the content and delivery methods of help/informational documentation that will ship with AECOsim Building Designer.  In addition to this, an even bigger effort was initiated to overhaul the Bentley delivered datasets to make Building Designer production-ready with little-to-no customization required by the end user.  This effort was guided by several of our BIM consultants with experience working everyday with our users from all over the world to capture the functional requirements of a vast user base and reflect the collective knowledge gained from this user collaboration into a workspace that everyone can leverage.  The dataset overhaul was in direct response to user comments that the applications were complex (as you observed) and aimed to set out to show users that the solutions and workflows can be simple, while still affording the ability to customize the applications, workspaces, and processes to support even the most complex organizations, which in my opinion has always been one of Bentley's greatest strengths.  

    In my architecture days before Bentley I was faced with the same choice, which BIM solution is best for me and my organization.  Given that I am now working for Bentley it is apparent which I chose, but I at time I was an more of an Autodesk user than Bentley if that indicates that I haven't been biased my entire BIM career.  In fact, still to this day I have nearly as much experience on Autodesk applications as on Bentley applications.  Full disclosure out of the way...  Below I will include a couple points that you should consider in your evaluation as they are often overlooked items.  At firms that I have worked for or consulted with, I have seen the workflow/staffing impact that oversight of these items has yielded and more importantly to a business the resultant hidden project and organizational costs, which are often substantial.  

    Interoperability - Bentley BIM solutions are all built on top of the DGN file format and thus there is no file export process required to move between 3D data-rich models and static 2D construction drawings that can be opened by clients, contractors, or reviewers that do not have Revit or Archicad.  Additionally, since BIM is an intra-disciplinary process that requires intense collaboration by all project stakeholders (architects, engineers, contractors, owners, and more), Building Designer, as a unified BIM application, enables live referencing of models from all disciplines with full data fidelity to offer an immense project savings on avoiding data/time loss on import/export/link processes that can stall the design process.  Bentley even provides a free plug-in that allows collaborators that might be working in Revit to publish i-Models (with precise geometry and BIM data) that can be referenced directly by MicroStation, Bentley BIM solutions, and even Navigator for Clash Detection and Design Review processes.  Don't be mislead by Autodesk's claim that they allow direct linking of DGN's in Revit 2012 as an interoperable solution.  Despite Autodesk having the DGN file format as part of the interoperability agreement between Autodesk and Bentley, they only allow a Revit link to a V7 DGN, which would require a Save As or Export, which disrupts live coordination and wastes project time and money on data exchange processes for your company.  

    BIM is a Collaborative Process.... Many people falsely assume that the main point of BIM from a design perspective is to simply have better coordinated 2D Construction documents, because they are extracted from the 3D model.  While this is a benefit of BIM, anyone that identifies this as the primary reason to adopt BIM is clearly missing the point of the BIM process and is likely to not benefit much, if any, when it comes to the bottom line after additional software, training, and related overhead costs are factored in.  BIM (as a process) should be utilized in conjunction with BIM software in order to produce a better designed (thoroughly coordinated across all disciplines & being free of costly, last minute coordination changes that compromise the overall design) & constructed built asset (reduced/eliminated change orders as a result of design phase coordination, among others) for the owner.  BIM applications that nearly force you to work through a building as though it was a set of 2D drawings rather than a 3D facility (which needs to be inhabited, operated, and maintained in a 3D world) seem to be missing this critical component to the success of BIM, and the primary reason that owners are starting to more frequently require BIM.  Personally, I have never physically experienced a building through plan, section, or elevation and as such can't understand how a designer would want to design a project in this manner when a 3D simulation model is being created. This is not something to be taken lightly, because as an architect or engineer you are not contracted to create pretty drawings that state it is someone else's problem, but instead you are to produce a coordinated design that will satisfy the functional requirements of the building program, codes, and owner's requirements.  Also, if collaborating across offices, make sure to examine the process for sharing data/models as well as communicating design coordination information.  Beware of being required to align software versions with all project consultants, which may result in users having to have multiple software versions on their machine at the same time in order to work on more than one project.  

    Infrastructure... Make sure to examine the system requirements carefully to avoid an unexpected overhaul of hardware in your office.  In addition to just the computer hardware look at network bandwidth.  I have seen a dual platform firm deploy Revit after doing a small pilot project (project approx. 20% of their normal project size), and as soon as they had a project of normal size they discovered they needed all new hardware and still the software had difficulty handling the complexity and size of the project. Upon bringing a second Revit project into the office the network was nearly crippled for most of the work day, and users had to begin to save to Central 30 minutes before they wanted to leave for the day.  This resulted in the company being forced to upgrade their entire network, which combined with the hardware upgrades resulted in hidden costs that were greater than the software licenses (not even quantifying lost productivity into that amount).  This experience is not intended to cut down Revit, just to warn you of what they won't tell you until after they have your money, if they tell you at all.  Historically, Bentley's federated approach to workspaces and model organization has allowed numerous firms to save substantially by not requiring hardware or network upgrades and I would recommend that be considered in your evaluation.  

    As a BIM consultant, I work with users every day, and I think that you will see that most of the time despite the fact that I am a Bentley colleague that I will side with the user on topics related to functionality change requests, but at the same time tirelessly respond to user's inquiries with software questions and workflows that make BIM teams more profitable.  It is with this experience in mind that I challenge you to look at a project's overall BIM workflow involving not just those that touch the BIM software, but the entire project team.  I will tell you that making the transition to BIM is a challenging and potentially expensive one that involves substantial workflow/cultural changes in order to be most successful and maximize your return.  Any software vendor that tries to sell a BIM solution without recognizing the need to interoperate with not only other disciplines, but also other vendors is not painting the entire picture for you and you will discover that cumbersome workflows for collaboration along with losses in time and data due to poor interoperability workflows are exponentially more costly with BIM than they are with CAD.

    Well despite what this lengthy post might make you believe, I am a professional services consultant and not a marketing or sales guy, but I too often see the marketplace get consumed by the marketing machine of Autodesk that fails to tell the BIM story.  I apologize if any comparisons seemed limited to Revit/Bentley that is only because I have limited experience with Archicad as most clients i work with are multi-disciplinary and mandate a BIM suite that includes capabilities for all engineering disciplines.  If you would like any additional information regarding AECOsim Building Designer (or any of our products, preferably somewhat related to buildings), or if you would like more information on the BIM process, feel free to send me an email.  

    Now I will let the rest of the community chime in with their less-biased opinions. ;)



  • Nice and very informative reply Travis.

    I have been a Microstation user for many years and have not found Bentley to be arrogant during that time by any means.  There is no other software that I am involved with that gives the users such direct interaction with their programmers and developers.  That said, we too are in the process of evaluating BIM systems here at my office.  Mind you we are very biased towards Bentley but to be honest there are two major factors holding us back.  The lack of parts/content in their BIM package and the lack of help/tutorials.  The content is the biggest issue to us by far but hopefully, when AecoSim is fully released, this will not be an issue at all.  We are an MEP outfit so the biggest selling point for us is the fact that AecoSim comes with multiple disciplines.  Very nice attribute.  Good luck in your decision process.

    John K.

  • I am a user of Bentley Architecture since it first release. (used to be called Triforma way back about 15 years ago).

    I have always thought Microstaion is the best Cad package around.

    I have used both ArchiCAD and ADT in previous employments along with Microstation.

    Microstation is the Number one CAD program in the world when It comes to the base package. It also has the best interoperability in the world, as its able to open anything from autocad files, to Google sketchup files inside microstation plus imports just about any type or dxf type translational cad data. IFC  etc.

    BUT! Bentley Architecture frankly is an archaic way of working that does not  help building professionals in using a 3d to 2d documentation path. The door tools or OK. but the windows and curtainwall tools are not very good when compared to Revit and ArchiCad. BA and microstaion are modelling programs. They have no intelligence. Very much the opposite of ArchiCad and Revit. IMHO Bentley Architecture is extemley lacking in development. It is stagnant and needs to be completley re-written to compete with Revit and Archicad. AECosim Building Designer does not even come close to acheiving this.

    IMHO I would persue Revit over Bentley Archiecture or AECOsim Building Designer.

    There are way too many cons in BA for anyone to actually prefer it over Revit. Revit is so much more user friendly, beter tutorials etc as others mentioned above.

  • For the sake of non duplication I refer you to my recent post a few weeks back.

    I am also a diehard microstation user.  I used it simultaneously with AutoCAD but eventually dropped using AutoCAD because I always felt that it was more graphically dynamic and flexible.  Besides that it used to be the case that one could get a lot more work and better pay because of the quality of projects and number of practices that used microstation.

    There is still a lot of indecision about BIM but I guess everyone has accepted that it is a change that is inevitable.  

    A lot of Architectural practices are not advocates of what is called the bottom up approach, (the opposite I have coined as being the “back to front approach” but is more commonly referred to as the Top down approach.) This is foreign ground to them  . . . “You don’t build a 3d model until you have got everything designed  . . .!!! “ you know the drill . . .plans . . .elevations . . sections . . .then model . .!!!.  The good thing about the BIM revolution is that it is forcing such decision makers gradually out of their comfort zone. Let’s not forget that a lot of  these practices still have directors and those who call the shots who started out with the T square and drawing board.  Such people are still coming to grips with CAD let alone BIM. Funny enough though , if you talk to some younger architects in the field they still have only a very vague idea of what Building information Modelling is.  The preference therefore is to stick with the tried and true.   The trend right now is to hold out for as long as possible doing things the way they have always been done, a sort of let’s wait and see approach.

    I recently heard that a couple of die hard microstation firms in the UK had  a few days ago employed Revit specialist to assist in the conversion of the practice from microstation to Revit BIM.  This should be very worrying for Bentley.  Granted Bentlley has a firm hold on the large players but this is purely because traditionally large infrastructure development was carried out on microstation as the chosen platform because of its better handling of Reference files and other reasons already mentioned by Travis above. The emanating problem however is that the majority of the medium sized contractors (and these will become the main drivres ) have never even heard of Bentley architecture let alone another Bentley release, with another fancy name, another goal post shift, more complications, another hill to climb (not that I don’t like a challenge) , and possibly help files that are purely descriptive with no examples and explained processes. I have really had to scratch and claw to build my knowledge up to its present capacity. Sorry to say Revit is fast becoming the GLOBALLY ADOPTED BIM Standard.

    I believe however Bentley have the resources to address this situation in a more aggressive manner. However having lost a lot of ground and continuing to lose it there is yet work to be done.  If not, I predict that it will become increasingly non cost effective to continue to use Bentley products for a variety of reasons.  However it is still early days.

  • As someone who fell for the marketing buzz and spent a lot adopting Revit only to dump and return to Bentley here are the main problems we found with Revit vs BA

    Design restrictions - Revit expects you to design the way it wants you to design. Revit is very much an component based application. By that I mean if you want to create a stair you only have the limited stair options. If these options aren't available in Bentley then you can use traditional modelling techniques like using tried and tested solids to get the design you want. You can then apply the information required by BIM to the object(s) after. Its a difficult concept to grasp. When people take up BA they expect the door, wall, stair, etc tools are the answer to everything. The reality is you have to be flexible and use the wide array of tools available. That's where Revit fails. This can kill a project

    Not Scalable - Because Revit uses the Single Model mentality it does have trouble with large projects with lots of people. Whilst Worksets is a nice concept, the reality it fails to deliver if the project gets beyond 4 people. Syncronisation issues, who has what, who owns what and so forth. Size is also an issue. You are looking at huge file sizes which have it's own hardware and networking issues. This can be catastrophic on a project.

    Not interoperable - The reality is architects don't use a single piece of software. Nothing talks to Revit therefore combining Revit with other design apps is difficult. We shelled out tonnes of money on Navisworks to do clash. I did not think for a second Navis couldn't read a Revit file. That was a harsh lesson. Autocad can't read a Revit file. Revit 2011 cannot read 2012 so if you expect working with a consultant on the same project using a different version of Revit would not be a problem. Think again. What I like about Bentley is they make an effort to be interoperable and it shows in the array of file formats that can be read. And going between 2D, 3D, BIM, Clash, visualisation, etc I can use a single formats and pull in files from others.

    Price - We got a good price going from Microstation to BA. Revit cost us a bomb. Not only in software but in training and hiring in a consultant to work with us on workflow. Whilst the initial interface of Revit might look friendly, when you try and get into the deep stuff, no video or tutorial can help. Like you do with BA, You need to train - simple.

    BA has its downfalls, theres no doubt about that, but we find we can always get a project, presentation, whatever it is, delivered in the Bentley stuff. We often failed miserably on Revit - perhaps it was just the way we were working. Who knows. Good luck.

  • Hi BrianJ

    I am also a Diehard Microstation user.

    However, I am a Revit user by my company's policy recently.

    Revit and Microstation will be mutually used for the time being for the cause which you showed.

    I approve of all your opinions. 

    However, the advantages of Bentley which you show is the advantages of Microstation, and is not the advantage of Bentley Building.

    Though regrettable, there is Bentley Building Solution in the middle of the pursued to Revit.

    Although AECOsimBD is pursuing Revit, a hand is full of it by improving processing of a view at most. Parametric does not reach.The system of grid which crosses a plane and section and elevation does not exist. I hope to complete a product carefully to the last.

    Revit will have a schedule with structure and MEP with Design from the next version.

    I continue waiting for Bentley's improvement eagerly.


  • Interesting links about adopting to Revit....which may or may not be useful to you.

    1. Parametrics:

    There are a lot of problems with the particular brand of parametrics that Revit uses... which is very history-based. Bentley has an opportunity to leapfrog this. Even in the MCAD world, there: is recognition that the history-based techniques have their limits, and moves to accommodate more flexible modeling techniques.

    I think that the new HUD dimensions are really cool and can be a lot more powerful. Driving dimensions and local rules-based constraints would be great productivity boosters. I think even Bentley realises that they can not rely on GC adoption alone i.e. a big increase on scripting amongst the user base for productivity gains. Maybe Bentley should get LEDAS to look at this. They seemed to have bolted this onto Sketchup and Rhino fairly quickly.

    2. Solids Modeling:

    This was the big differentiator for BA in the past. Revit's parametrics was/is powerful but restrictive. But 10 years on, the old Triforma stuff is looking pretty passe and needs a big refresh.  It seems that the Feature Solids stuff does not integrate with forms or BDD's Data Group System very well. Even GC isn't very well integrated, but that is easy enough to be a firm item on the roadmap... ?

    The TriForma Forms / DGS don't even integrate very well with Mstn platform tools like fence operations. Apps like EliteCAD, which is also Parasolids-based and very similar to BBD in its approach to modeling, highlights a lot of the lack of real updates to the tools.