Professional architecture software makes the processes of design and information management very efficient and fast. Thus, it helps architects increase output and improve productivity considerably.
Depending on the complexity of a software product and the number of features included in its toolkit, it may be pricy. However, some instruments are still available in the market at no charge. Here, we’ve collected a list of free architecture software that could be a great alternative to expensive 3D design, CAD and modeling software tools.
Blender is a free and open-source 3D-modeling solution. It supports all the steps of the model creation process: modeling, rigging, animation, rendering, motion tracking, and also includes video editing and game creation features. This is a flexible tool that should work well for both bigger design firms and self-employed professionals and students. It is highly customizable and can be enhanced with a variety of free community-developed extensions.
This multiplatform open-source solution is a parametric 3D modeler built for creating models of real-life objects. The tool allows you to make 2D sketches and use them to create 3D objects, and vice versa — create 2D drawings based on existing 3D models. It supports various file formats (STEP, IGES, STL, SVG, DXF, OBJ, IFC, DAE and more) so that users can process exported files in other software. FreeCAD is a great tool for both professionals and hobbyists and can be used in design, architecture, construction, mechanical engineering, and other fields.
LibreCAD is a free 2D-CAD multiplatform solution for Windows, Mac and Linux. It is essentially a community version of QCAD. It allows users to make different types of technical drawings, such as building and room plans, interior design schemes, mechanical part schematics, and diagrams. The main supported file format is DXF, but the tool also allows users to export files to SVG and PDF. LibreCAD should work well for professionals, students, hobbyists and enthusiasts.
OpenSCAD is an open-source solution for creating solid 3D CAD models and is available for Windows, Unix, and Mac. What makes it different from most 3D modeling applications is the fact that it does not focus on the artistic side of 3D modeling, but instead on the CAD aspects. It’s not an interactive modeling tool, and instead works more like a 3D compiler that renders 3D model based on the description of their properties in a script file, which gives the user full control over the modeling process.
My Virtual Home is a 3D home design app that was inspired by base-building video games: it includes a set of standard blocks and modifications that you can use to plan the space of your home, office or any other location.
It’s a simple app that is geared more towards beginners and people who are not very proficient in visual design. It’s easy to learn (getting the basics won’t take longer than 10 minutes) and allows users to create a full design in an hour or less. The tool also provides an accurate lighting model, where you can set up your latitude, longitude and season, to add realistic lighting effects to your virtual environment.
SmartDraw is an architectural design app with a strong focus on making the process as quick and simple as possible. It offers dozens of templates that you can modify and customize with the help of thousands of ready-made symbols, so you can easily make multiple design variations and pick the ones that meet your needs.
The app is available as both a cloud solution and a downloadable package for Windows. It supports integration with many popular tools like Trello and Jira, so you can optimize your workflow even further, and allows you to export your drawings and plans in different formats, so you can print them out or import them in other apps.
A simple and convenient open-source tool for beginners that’s great for designing interiors and drawing home or office plans that you can later review in 3D. You can create photorealistic images and videos based on your plans, and use different light sources to simulate how the environment would look in specific conditions.
The software allows you to import additional 3D models from other sources, and export your plans in various popular formats.
One of the oldest modeling applications that has been in active development for over 30 years. It’s an open-source cross-platform system designed for constructive solid geometry design (CSG). It allows you to create, analyze, and edit 3D models that you can later use in other tools and systems.
The tool supports interactive geometry editing, high-performance ray-tracing, a benchmark suite, and geometry libraries for application developers.
Sculptris is a simple and easy-to-learn tool available for Windows and Mac that is perfect for people who are trying to get into the 3D modeling world. It features a very straightforward interface that even someone with no experience in modeling can get started with relatively quickly, but its features are robust enough to build base models that can later be refined in more advanced applications.
Meshmixer is a powerful tool with a strong emphasis on the mechanical functionality of 3D design. It is primarily used to prepare meshes for 3D printing, allowing users to design 3D objects, or clean up their existing 3D scans.
Despite being a free tool, it offers some truly powerful features and techniques usually found in more sophisticated industrial grade software: mass optimization, hollowing, scaling and mesh simplification, making it an invaluable tool if you work with 3D printing. It’s best suited for more advanced users and is available for Windows and Mac.
Bonus tool: time tracking software actiTIME
Many architects — both solo and small teams — charge clients on an hourly basis. Therefore, they need to make sure that the working time is utilized as productively and efficiently as possible, and actiTIME is meant to help architects with that.
With the assistance of this simple-to-use time tracker, you can see how many hours are spent on projects and tasks and easily analyze individual and team productivity trends. Additionally, actiTIME streamlines client billing and allows for generating detailed invoices in just several clicks. In this way, it saves a ton of time while fostering an immense productivity boost.