Architecture can get expensive really fast, hardware and software cost adds up, especially now in a world where you have to pay annual licenses, the software is not yours, you’re renting it, you still get some companies that use the buy and it’s your’s model. This article is probably not for you if you run or is part of an established practice. Free open-source design software is more for the student, the individual Architect, or the small firm, there is something for everyone in this space, whether you’re into 2D architectural drafting or 3D architectural visualization.

UNREAL RENDER

I download each one of the free open-source architecture design software and then tested them to see if they are up to par with the daily task of a designer, we’ll also look at operating systems that are free on this list, but before we start let’s see Why we use architecture design software?

1. Accuracy 

Accuracy is one of the main reasons for using architecture design software, it makes it easy to communicate your Idea across different professions in a concise manner, keeps everyone on the same page.

2. Presentation

Its easy and less time consuming to create 3d visualizations, videos, Animations, or virtual reality

3. Collaboration

You don’t need to be in the same room to work together anymore, Architects in different parts of the world can work together to make a project reality.

4. Speed 

My speed keeps increasing with every iteration of the CAD software I use, I created templates to speed up work, this makes work faster, and faster means more clients, especially in the Residential space.

Free Open-source Architecture Design Software

1. Operating Systems

Most of us use windows and mac but there is this operating system called Linux with hundreds of distros, and its completely free I Can only attest to the ones I’ve used before and that’s ubuntu, Linux Mint, Zorin OS, and Elementary OS.

macos_catalina
windows 10
zorin os

Both Microsoft Windows and Apples Mac OS are free with the difference being that Mac OS is tied in with the hardware making it the most expensive at least at first purchase of the machine, after which each update is free, Windows, on the other hand, is free for use without activation, activation enables many functions that are not important for a small firms day to day work,

what do I advise, I would go with windows because 90% of the {Poeple you work with will be on a window machine, make things easy for yourself don’t follow the politics.

2. 2D and 3D Free Open Source Architecture Design Software

2.1. Sweet Home 3D 

Sweet Home 3D is an amazing piece of software, I was a bit skeptic on first use but it convinced me that it’s worth mentioning, Sweet Home 3D’s got an intuitive interface with everything in front of you, no need to go into extra tabs to view the 3D model or the object list, the only downside is with large projects, I will advise you to use it primarily to get an idea across to your client, I say this because of its speed and the ease of use. Get It Here

2.2. Blender

blender_logo

Blender is taking over the world of 3d modeling and rendering, Blender is completely free and it keeps on getting better every year, there’s a lot of Architects that are putting blender in their pipeline, it also helps to reduce the cost of outsourcing 3D modeling and Rendering, extra functionality is added with an addon called Atchipack for Blender, it reduces the time you would normally take to create architectural models, try it out at Blender.org you can also check out Archipack. Get it Here

2.3. FreeCAD

FreeCAD surprised me, it’s like using AutoCAD lite, to be honest, I moved away from 2D line based CAD tools a long time ago and the nostalgia was definitely appreciated, FreeCAD has a customizable interface and is great for someone that wants a free alternative of AutoCAD, get it Here

2.4. SketchUp – for web

sketchup

The moment I think that a piece of software is one-directional, it surprises me, SketchUp is one of those guys. I was skeptical when Trimble bought SketchUp, I thought they would do what other companies do, buy the competition and let it die, but no, it’s getting better every year, the modeling in SketchUp was always intuitive and surprisingly easy, and I’ve seen construction documents completed in SketchUp from beginning to end that looks good, now take that power and combine it with the models on the SketchUp warehouse and you get a powerful tool for your design practice or one-man army, try out SketchUp, the learning curve is not steep at all and you’ll have a huge community always ready to help you. Get it Here

2.5. LibreCAD

LibreCAD-logo1

LibreCAD is another amazing open-source CAD tool, its quite similar to FreeCAD, the difference is the user interface, it’s a great tool if you are used to AutoCAD and want to move to something that’s 100% free, you can try it out since you don’t pay anything for it at all. Get it Here

3. Free Architectural Render software

unreal
blender_logo
unity

Visual presentations are as much a part of architectural design just like construction drawings, you first need to sell the idea to your clients before they can approve it, and not every client can read construction drawings, but they certainly understand spaces, they understand what they see, 3D renders shows your client how everything in the building works and looks, one drawback of open source render software is that they are cumbersome, and that can be a problem especially when time is an issue, there are a few free good options out there, Blender is one of them with its cycles and eevee render engines, other great options are game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine, they not only produce beautiful renders but also gives you extra options like animations and Raytracing.

Conclusion

There seems to be a trend with a lot of these open-source software, some got horrible user interfaces that can confuse users from the get-go and others need to be simplified a little bit, it’s the simple things that normally drive people away from using them, but the reward is great once you get past these hurdles, it’s not like construction drawings changed over the past 50 years, so if you can use free open-source software in your pipeline, go for it

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