An opinion on CAD & BIM pricing

In the table below is the comparison of some CAD & BIM products from Dassault Systems, AutoDesk & BricsSys, and a mention of Graphisoft who conceal their price.

Table Embedded Below- You can use the download button for copy of the file (14Kb)

Note you may need to scroll table to right to see programme and cost

There are other free CAD packages. See these articles:

2017 – Top 5 Free CAD Packages on the Market

14 Top Free CAD Packages to Download Scan2CAD

The 2nd article highlights 3 other free CAD packages that save to DWG. These are QCAD, LibreCAD and DrawIT.

In Building Design & Construction the two common tools are CAD and BIM. The mainstay 10 years ago was CAD. Designers generally have moved and some contractors are now moving to BIM in NZ.

About a week ago I came across this article about AutoDesk not being like Adobe as far as subscription went, called Autodesk Wasn’t Adobe, After All. In the article it mentioned Dassault Systems DraftSight package and about the same time I came across an article about BriscSys SHAPE . Both of these packages are offered free by their respective companies. Both saved to DWG format. The format I have used for a long time.

Points I would like to make about the software:

  1. There are conceptual modelling tools (shetchup, BricsCAD Shape), CAD documentation tools  & BIM. What tools do you need for your workflow?
  2. Why pay for AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT, there are free versions out there that do the same job.
  3. AutoCAD offer packages wrapped with others, but why pay for a BIM tool (Revit LT)  & for another $95 US/yr you get AutCad LT bundled with it. If you are paying for RevitLT save the extra money & use DraftSight or an equivalent free cad tool that saves to DWG.
  4. Same goers for the Full Revit Package, do you use the other tools? If so, then pay the extra for the Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection, but if you are using Revit then your not CADing , so you only need something simple to tweek the CAD files, save the extra money for some productivity ADD-IN’s in the app store.
  5. If you are in a CAD environment now and want to migrate to BIM then BricsCAD could be the gentle way to go. Although hopefully their BIM will get more powerful. Its a BOLT ON process at the moment.
  6. Networking and many working in the same project is an issue and that is where some of the upper end packages come into their own allowing for multiple users in the same model (BIM) or file (CAD).
  7. For 30 year old software (CAD) some of these companies need to justify what they are offering to charge the amounts that they do.

 I have used CAD since 1985  (30 years ago)

I have been using Autodesk CAD, sketch then AutoCad from 1985, so the programme being used in production mode has been going for over 30 years.

There have been a lot of iterations and enhancements over the years but there are a lot of look alike CAD programmes that have risen and submerged over time. Modelspace/PaperSpace, XRefs, Xclip, Lisp enhancements & Macros.

I remember when the other CAD companies were crowding Autodesk with DWG equivalents Autodesk changed the format of DWG so the competitors had to completely redesign their packages to meet the new format.

Now, taking a fresh look at CAD after BIM’ing for the last 5-6 years I see there are very few enhancements. It is pretty much a pretty stable platform for 2D document drafting.

So Why is this 30 year old software still so expensive?

Concerns would be:

1/In transferring information to another consultant in a standard format. As the DWG is pretty standard, that is not an issue.

2/Getting Free blocks/details off the Web from libraries on Cad products? All DWG so all the CAD programmes read DWG’s.

3/ Networking for teamwork on specific files/models. That one needs investigation as to what the more budget systems offer to meet this requirement.

Since there are tools that can do pretty much your day to day work (without API access for programming) for free with DraftSight or for $299USD with API access for a perpetual license for DraftSight Pro, why would you use:

1/ AutoCad LT for $350 US/Year?

I personally cannot see the sense in using AutoCad LT when there is a free CAD software that does pretty much the same.

There are a few nuances that are different, the commands are slightly different, but that is not a major. DraftSight is pretty much comparable with AutoCadLT.

So, would you then use full blown AutoCAD? At $1470US/Year! What are the benefits of this over DraftSight Pro for $299USD? Is this tool 4x better for payback in 1 year? Or 8 x better for payback in 2 years? I cannot see it.

The only reason I’d go to this product is if I am using an ADD-ON tool that only works with AutoCAD and it gives you great productivity enhancements in your workflow.

I met a friend of mine about 5 years ago in Engineering Consulting in Infrastructure. He still used AutoCAD. Both he & I wrote or butchered Lisp files for productivity enhancements in our time but he said anyone new coming on he just gave them AutoCAD out of the box and the only change was C for Copy (rather than Color) in the pgp file. A lot of the productivity tools ended up being incorporated into the programme itself. So unless you are in a specialised area with specialist ADD-ONs that only work in AutoCAD then I’d go for the DraftSight Pro product hands down.

2/BricsCAD for $590 for a perpetual license?

There may be two reasons to go down this track, but not immediately.

Reason 1. It is to do with the potentiality of upgrading your process to BIM.

Actually, I would not go to BricsCAD  but would consider going to the full BricsCAD Platinum with BIM but that is a jump up to $1760 US for the license.

And is BIM worth that to your operation?

I know one major consulting firm in NZ that works in CAD and BIM depending on the project. If there is leverage in using BIM, then they will, otherwise they will do it in CAD. What is appropriate is their motto. So this is the positive aspect of the BricSys process of adding BIM on the end.It would work very well in that company’s workflow.

Reason 2. BricsCAD SHAPE is a free conceptual tool, and the progression is to use BricsCAD for actual documentation, and you get continuity of same product line rather than using BricsCAD SHAPE & DraftSight or DraftSight Pro.

BricsCAD SHAPE draws in 3D so it would be good to be able to keep the integrity of the 3D building for documentation.



From AutoCAD to Revit. Not really, you bring AutoCAD in as an underlay and trace over it. So you have to learn BIM as a separate exercise and its not easy if you’ve been immersed in CAD for years.


That, I think is where the beauty of BricSys is that it has a logical progression from CAD to BIM, but I feel, from watching only one of their videos its a bit of a BOLT ON process after you’ve modeled the building in CAD.

I would Like to see the equivalent of the AutoCAD CLASSIC interface and the Newer Interface occur in BricSys’s BIM process where you can draw in CAD or have another interface that draws elements by categories such as WALLS, FLOORS, ROOFS etc.

I see this logical progression from CAD to BIM via the BRICSYS process as a journey that should have happened a long time ago. It allows for all your Legacy information to be utilised and slowly reused and modified into the BIM environment.

In New Zealand there would be a challenge to its uptake, especially for the young ones out of Uni who all breathe BIM. Going back to learn CAD would seem a step back into the dark ages. There is Revit & ArchiCAD. Revit for the big companies as they want integrated design of Structure & Services (better in one package) and the smaller design practices are in ArchiCAD mainly due to it costing about half of Revit. I understand that it is predominantly Revit in South Africa.

A colleague of mine was looking to possibly employ an Arch Grad who left shortly after as he only had CAD work at the time and the grad could not do it, and also was not that motivated to do it either.

There has been too much adoption of BIM in New Zealand for, in my opinion, for it to head back into the CAD environment, so I think BricsCAD SHAPE will be used here as a free tool but cannot see many people adopting the BricsCAD suite anytime soon. I do hope my prediction is wrong.

I personally would love to see BRICSYS offer an equivalent product to Autodesk that people would migrate to, but its not there yet. It is a lot of fish but not enough Fowl.


I know companies in NZ that went from the drawing board straight to Archicad, and have stayed there. All architectural firms. I personally have not seen the Structural or Building Services adopt the package at all, if there are those packages. This is sad, as this is where Revit has the dominance in the market due to the integration of the Structures & MEP packages.

I have only tinkered with the package. When I chose BIM , as an Architect, Building Services Designer & Structural Draughter the only BIM package that was A/Common and B/ Managed all 3 packages, to an extent, was Revit.

In CAD, you can do Roading/ Structures, Architecture, surveying . It has an open architecture so can be used by all. BIM is more narrow.

Productivity of BIM versus CAD

I regularly attend BIM/Revit user Group meetings.  An interesting insight came from one of the Architecture Lecturers at Victoria University Wellington, Mike Donn, who stated that he has not seen any conclusive research that shows that BIM is any more productive than any other documentation method.

I believe that to be the case. It is only when the Design/Construction information is pushed through into the Asset & Facility Management side of the process for whole of life management that the productivity benefits of BIM will be conclusive.

BIM is currently being used to do the same work as CAD. Because you are doing it in 3D does not make it anymore efficient.

It is great for front end visualisation and for modelling but the 2D details is still a big challenge and those details are the inter-connected bits that show how the building goes together. 2D draughting in BIM is SLOW.  So comparing BIM to CAD document production they both have strong and weak points.

I believe that BIM is the way forward, but it needs to jump that divide of showing good productivity value to the AM/FM teams for adoption in their arena, then it can be used for a whole of life product and show productivity efficiencies.

End Note

There are other CAD packages out there that are offering value, some free (see links at beginning of article)others not but for reasonable prices. If anyone would like to advise me of them I will add them to the list with the costs.

My question is , why are people still paying reasonable sums of money for something because of a brand? There are equally legitimate tools that will do the same job for less. Maybe its a time to re-evaluate which tools you are using and why.

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