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...
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.
BA Forms Tool is the quickest way of thrashing any building out ,something no other program has , the Mesh Tools are a bit lacking although one thing you might not know is that lofting in Rhino is limited to 2 rails whilst Mstn. can use an unlimited amount of profiles and rails just by pressing the ctrl button.
I was at school with Zaha and Rem and I know how they think - the only thing they touch is either a pencil or microphone , they have Rhino Grasshopper guys to configure the sketches but we have Generative Components.
Even the BA solid feature modelling is workable- there is a problem with thicken solids on some meshes but you can offset them just as Rhino does - it might be hard to emulate T-Splines in BA and that is why Autodesk bought it and cut off the link to Solid Works - something Bentley would never do.
Dgn and 3dm get along quite nicely but Rhino is just an A5 piece of paper compared to BA's huge canvas.
Well done Arkitron. Some real perspective. What amazes me when this topic rears it’s ugly head every few months are the Rhino, Revit, Archicad experts who profess to know everything and I just spend a lot of time shaking my head. Your point “whilst Bentley software could encompass the world and recreate every single building on it on one computer.” best sums up where we are right now.
Damon. Perhaps you should move over to Rhino. It’s a surface modeller and who needs solids anymore any way. The work-arounds one needs to adopt in Revit to get a project out are criminal so the odd work-around in BA is acceptable in my book. Just pop over to the Autodesk forums - every second thread is marked with the word “workaround”. I often forget about the BA interface you so vividly attack - probably because I moved all the tools around years ago to where I thought they were best suited. oh that’ right I can customize my interface. How wonderful is that? Yeah sure the developers should have designed to better and I’m an architect so why would I want to customize an interface and all that but really, do you want to be told how to have your screen layout? Not in my book. AECOsim is coming and that issue seems to be addressed - I don’ think I will need to move any buttons around now. I remember 10 years ago when the Bentley interface smashed anything that Autodesk could throw up. Then Autodesk put in a mammoth effort to clean up its act. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was next on Bentley’ hit list. If you look at any software out there, they typically stick with the same interface for 5, 6, 7 years. I remember being engrossed in Revit about the time the ribbon bar interface started to evolve. I was appalled and so were most other users. To be honest I’m still appalled that a CAD/BIM/Graphics/etc software would use a ribbon bar. It may look pretty but it’s terrible to use day in day out. And whilst I’m on it so many things in Revit upset me off no end. The move tool. It’s an extra button click to get started and once you finish the tool defaults back to neutral - so I go and select the tool again. Just plain awful. And 3D navigation - please - just atrocious.
Someone mentioned earlier that Bentley was hard to model in. Please. If it was any easier it would be called sketch up. Accudraw - use it - there is nothing you can’t model using Accudraw.
Now for the finale - The best one of all. Model your house over a weekend. Now I’ve heard it all as I pick myself up off the floor. Please spare me. How can a commercial architect judge the competency of a software by modelling their house. Where are the deadlines, where are the other members of staff who participate in the design, where is the network that hits the wall at 4pm when the backup kicks in, where is backup system, restoring your 500Mb revit file after it corrupted for the 5th time this week because worksharing decided not to play ball, where are the designer designed components going through design options. So many questions throw itself up here and really at the money end of the business it’s not about what you can knock up, with a beer in hand, at home on the weekend.
OK.... BrianJ .... what would you improve? Or is BA in your eyes perfect?
Far from it, but what software is. For starters the interface. One example is the Modification tools - they really don't need a place on screen. If I want to modify one thing, or a collection of things, I go to that object(s) and the relevant tools appear of which many of the exsiting tools could be bundled into a single tool. They kind of already do with building objects, but not with Microstation based objects which I use a lot. I really don't need to be flicking my wrist back and forth between objects and menus. That would be my number 1 for now. :)
If you don't have too many beers Skype is a very handy way to work at home and save petrol.
Rhino actually is a very good solids program because it is a specialist nurbs surfacing package that can turn things into solids - the addition of T-Splines makes it more the cat's pyjamas and the bee's knees- it is quite similar to Mstn. in many ways.
Rhino 5 is a revolutionary step up and can be downloaded free with all its add-ons till its rather belated release this summer.
Particularly like the Paneling Tools because it is a very quick way of getting your surface panels out to be fabricated
I even find Grasshopper easy to use because it is so quick.
Rhino BIM Structure is a very simple program with enormous potential - only it clogs up data quite easily but has Structural Analysis on par with the big boys.
Geometry Gym even has IFC BIM Structure import that allows Grasshopper to do the donkey work and can tie in with BA very well.
Why is this relevant to the topic - because ADesk has taken over T-Splines to connect it to Inventor as Alias was a failure - does that mean McNeel is next ?
Yea, Rhino 5 looks impressive.Lots of verticals as you mention. It seems to have a much more modern API, that has attracted T-Splines, RhinoParametrics and LEDAS/RhinoWorks. Combined with Grasshopper, there is plenty to choose from, from a modeling standpoint.
WIsh I could say the same for Mstn, at the moment. But, strategically.... it should be easier for Bentley to coordinate things because it is more of a closed shop. I would have thought that this is the only way it can keep up with the likes of AD who can sell 10x more licenses for the same number of lines of code? It's probably more like 50x for BA. Rhino, Nemetchek etc all have the same problem. I wonder what their strategy is.
Hopefully, Bentley will ensure tools developed for one app can be re-used in other markets without too much ado. Larger cross app teams brought to bear on critical common technologies. Bentley used to do multiple OS', and has hopefully learnt a few tricks trying to amalgamate Inroads, MX and Geopak. V9?
Be Together May 15th BR2LC1 New Efficiencies in Bridge Modeling Using PowerBridge Modeler
"This presentation will preview the PowerPlatform based, 3D parametric bridge modeling software called PowerBridge Modeler (PBM). The heart of Bentley bridge information modeling, PBM offers custom bridge definition tools as well as direct connections to GEOPAK, InRoads, and MXROAD for importing roadway information including horizontal alignment, vertical profile, and ground contours. Modeling can be done by assembling bridge objects in a free form way for signature bridges or using guided sequences and user created libraries of bridge components and assemblies. Parametric relationships among the various elements streamline the revision and update process. Utilities, ground, and existing structures can be referenced to provide the holistic view of the project for planning, clash detection, and coordination. The physical model of the bridge created with PBM can be interactively exchanged with LEAP Bridge Enterprise and RM Bridge for performing analysis and design"
Civil Geometry's geometric constraints solving, parametric relationships between objects... coming to BBD? Hey, already paid for, right? :-)
Also, I like the way Bentley's new Raceway + Cable Management app allows the user to add raceways to existing runs that 'stick'. It even has some routing code (rules based?) that could be adapted to intelligently join those TF forms. I can see this being a good way to handle multi layer walls or slabs.
2. GUI versus 'under the hood' engine-type advantages:
Yes, Mstn probably has a world beating engine... that has a huge palette of elements. It's part and parcel of its great cross-sector history that covers GIS/mapping, civils, plant, as well as building on one platform. But, I don't think this is really an excuse to put up with, or the reason behind, BA's really clunky and fragmented UX.
I suspect its really a computer science problem. Event-based CAD (not just dialog box-based) programming is pretty complex. Looking at the continuing debates on OO programming, dotNET, generics, async, UML and the latest C++ 11 changes, I can well understand why BA's tools are so simplistic and un-inspiring... since they are still dependent on a event programming framework put together 15+ years ago.
Sometimes Mstn's UX reminds me of 'Unix philosophy' and it's 'worse is better' approach... favoured by geeks-in-the-know and administrator-types. The problem is that it is too easy to argue that 'bad' UI is offset by all that extra 'under the hood' benefits with users. Worse, users just don't care and will inevitably vote with their feet in response. Admin types just find themselves arguing with themselves and having to learn R***t anyway....worse case. BA doesn't even follow the 'MIT Approach' contrasted in the link above, which still falls far below the more modern whizz-bang graphic, game-like or 'multi-touch' or 'Augmented Reality' type UX's we see these days.
Bentley has a great history of using pretty cutting edge tech. I am sure they will sort things out for the UI 'under the hood'. WIndows 8's WinRT?
Just tried out RhinoWorks and RhinoParametrics - absolute genial stuff , so simple along with all the other mouth watering verticals - if only they lived in much lighter, faster Mstn. along with all that Nurbs functionality - it's almost worth setting up a startup company to do just that.
My student builds up a few models in Rhino and passes it on to us to rationalize, thicken, add info to, and include in the main model but he always delivers surfaces.Just checked and Arkitron - you are right - it does solids and it comes into BA/MSTN beautifully. We'll have a surfaces v solids discussion on Monday.
nice ideas, but it seems to me I read the same every few years, last time with the same hope of GUI overhaul with coming Win7. Bentley definitely has great history, I wish I could say same in about 5 years again ...
For those of you interested I contacted Bentley Support on the same day I started this discussion (1st Feb) and today I finally received a response (please see extract below).
I did this for two reasons: firstly to ascertain Bentley’s own formal position on the anticipated development and support for Bentley Architecture in the near future but secondly to ascertain just how on-the-ball Bentley Support are in terms of responding to user queries (NB I haven’t done this before because we usually go to our UK reseller for technical support).
Anyway in my opinion I think it is absolutely shocking that it has taken 3 weeks to get a reply to a support ticket – for most other companies I use that are half the size you can expect a support reply within 48 hours and to me this speaks volumes about Bentley. In the same time period this forum discussion has grown to over 30 posts from experienced users and we’ve had just one response from a Bentley employee (thanks Travis but surely even you must admit this is pretty poor).
Please don’t get me wrong, and I will stress again, I am not trying to bash Bentley for fun – I am an experienced user who understands how powerful Bentley’s suite of products are (especially their approach to BIM) but at times I really do think that without all the die-hard fans out there promoting / propping Bentley up (e.g. those who don’t mind spending years getting used to the tools & workflows etc) that Bentley would be dead in the market in no time.
In addition, as you can see from the response below my nagging fears for BA and AECOSim appear to be coming true – in that there is no dedicated effort in the pipeline to try and improve the user interface or learning support for that matter. To be honest this I really do wonder if my original comment about Bentley being complacent / resting on their laurels is actually valid. However, I can’t believe for a minute that the sales of BA and AECOSim are driving this mentality?! Surely with the number of firms reportedly leaving Bentley for Autodesk there should be a lot of work going on at the moment in the basements at Bentley HQ!?
1. Are there any decent learning tutorials / videos available online that I am unaware of? By this I mean comparable learning material to the likes of Revit and Archicad (e.g. PDF / videos) rather than paid training courses?
As far as I now the only (Free material available) is the one provided in the help menu, also if you are seeking for extensive training material that will be better handled by the Bentley Institute and here is the contact information:
Bentley Institute 1-888-968-1000 http://www.bentley.com/en-US/Training/
2. Are there any major developments planned for Bentley Architecture that will improve the usability / accessibility of the software in the near future? I have heard rumours amongst other Bentley users that a new release with vast improvements is under development and scheduled for release in mid 2012. As it stands the complexity of the current user interface seems to have remained unchanged from 2009 meaning I currently agree wholeheartedly with this AECbytes review from 2009 (http://www.aecbytes.com/review/2009/BentleyArchV8i.html).
As for now that will be AECOsim Building Designer and it is schedule to be released sometime this year. Many changes and new features have been added to AECOsim, you can take a look at the product as a ‘Beta’ available in the Select Download page. With that said, the user interface of the product remains pretty much the same as the one we have today, except as I mentioned above new added features and enhancements . As far as I can tell there are no plans to make changes to the user interface any time soon.