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Know your building from the start.

Learn the difference between CAD vs BIM.

Generally the difference between each technology is less understood with our clients. Some don't care either.

On this page, we help explain the definitions, applications and practical uses of each technology in relation to your project.

Before hiring an architect, please read up and know the difference. Your project will thank you someday.


CAD is an acronym for “Computer Aided Design”. The predecessor to CAD for designing buildings was paper, and as the name states, the technology allows users to design with computers rather than what was used previously - hand drawn blueprints.

CAD can be used to produce 2 or 3 dimensional models of parts, materials or buildings. It is used in many industries today for drafting or creating digital conceptions. Every single drawing is created independently. 

There are a number of CAD programs on the market, though AutoCAD has dominated for years. These CAD files are denoted with the file type .dwg.

Key Takeaway: Many residential "designers", draftsman and architects use CAD software.


BIM is an acronym for “Building Information Modeling”. BIM is a process for working collaboratively in designing and building from one utilized database and model. BIM offers a real representation, digitally, of a facility and it’s systems. These systems include HVAC, electrical and aesthetics like walls, roofs and windows.

BIM is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to update and create building designs. BIM allows you to integrate space, asset and construction information in the same program.

The BIM market is dominated by Autodesk Revit.

Key Takeaway: Many commercial architects, engineers and contractors use BIM software.

Okay. Great...
What's the difference and why do I care?

We just need drawings and a permit.

Sure, some folks are not interested how we actually "produce the drawings". But hang on there... the difference is not only in the drawings - its how we design and present our findings. BIM also plays a big role in construction, quality and communication too. 

BIM not only benefits the architect, it helps design coordination with other subconsultants, engineers and contractors. Why would you hire an architect that uses otherwise? 


Each line in CAD is independent and must be adjusted manually. This means that each sheet or view is separate. There is no database in the background to interconnect the sheets. Extra work is required to maintain and update plans, which leads to more errors. Increased errors means increased rework in construction and maintenance or anything referenced in your drawings. Rework = more time and money.

BIM, on the other hand was created for the purpose of designing buildings. Buildings have a known set of rules or features regarding their design. For example, almost every facility has walls, windows, doors, floors, plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems. These features are represented as 3 dimensional objects in a BIM.

As BIM is represented in 3D, each view or sheet for a building is interconnected. If a user adjusts the outside wall of a building in BIM, the view and square footage of the first and second floor of the building will adjust. In CAD, each of these floor plans are independent and must be adjusted independently. Now, if a user drafts a BIM with 32 inch doors and later decides to replace every door with a 36 inch door instead, all the user has to do is adjust the door object. All of the doors and dimensions will adjust in the model automatically. Just two clicks and every door is updated.

BIM is smart and knows rules and limitations. Along with making adjustments to objects in a model, BIM tools help identify object clashes during the design of a building. A clash will be flagged if a plumbing pipe runs through an HVAC duct. This has saved the construction industry a tremendous amount of money in rework as a facility can literally be built virtually before a shovel ever breaks ground.

BIM is also one of the driving foundations towards the Virtual Reality movement and has unbelievable value in reducing the cost of construction and integrating valuable data for estimators and contractors. 

Key Takeaway: BIM software is smart, up-to-date, cost efficient and faster. CAD is dumb, time consuming, more prone to errors.

Motif Architects Lakeway Texas

Design Communication

Our tools help you easily understand the design intent. You will know what the building looks like from initial concept, thru design and at final completion.

We also provide our clients with virtual reality visualization in the BIM environment. This immersive form of visualization helps us all – designers, engineers, owners and investors – get a better understanding of the state of the project, existing conflicts, and unresolved issues. In projects requiring fundraising or marketing, we have been successful in providing tools for visual excitement and garnering investment support for projects.

Problem Solving

By using BIM management tools, including Revit, Enscape and Navisworks, our entire project team is working with the latest data and design solutions. This shared use of design and coordination tools eliminates potential clashes with other disciplines involved in the project completed – such as mechanical and electrical - and helps contractors develop accurate bids.

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Faster Production

A majority of small firms and residential designers, create drawings using dated 2D software, like AutoCad. Our team strongly believes removing redundancy in our practice - thus resulting in faster production times and less drafting errors by utilizing only 3D based software.

That's how we're able to lower our fee structure and delivery projects faster than most. We also have the ability to workshare with other design and engineer consultants, thus allowing some tasks to overlap. 

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Lower Construction Cost

We often utilize our sophisticated BIM model information to extract quantities and locations of building materials, such as electrical and lighting systems. With this, we can develop highly accurate cost estimates while allowing the contractor to procure the precise quantities of building materials and lower the overall project cost. 

Doing so, results in tighter bids from sub-contractors and provides the owner the opportunity to review purchase orders against our data. This is critical during times of inflation, shortage of labor and long lead items.

Why pay for 85 light switches, when you only need 59? Our schedules provide owners a level playing field and another level of confidence. 

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Better Construction &
Design Coordination

One of the main goals of BIM coordination is to reach more efficient collaboration results by combining the efforts of different disciplines within a particular construction project. As such, clash detection is an essential part of 3D BIM coordination that can locate issues between different designs and models to work out the most efficient way to fix them.

Clashes are bad. Like columns sticking thru air condition ducts, or light switches inside windows.

  • Easier location of design errors that would cost a lot of money to fix in the final project state.

  • Maximized utilization of the building space.

  • Real time construction scheduling 

  • BIM coordination makes it easier to collaborate between different consultants such as engineers, architects, contractors, and so on – improving the accuracy of the design as a whole and resolving issues before they’ve become much bigger down the road.

BIM coordination offers a great variety of benefits for the construction project as a whole, improving coordination between departments and stages of the project, helping with compatibility issues, excessive waste issues, and many others.

Ready for a free consultation? We'll show you a few samples of our tech in action.

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