5 Differences Between BIM and 3D Modeling

BIM services and 3D modeling are often perceived as interchangeable. However, these are totally different processes, each having its purpose and characteristics. So to make the right choice for improving a certain sphere of the workflow, it’s vital to know the difference between the two.

An architectural company got a project from a remarkable organization whose representatives are hard to impress. That’s why Architects want to use more advanced assets in order to not lose such important clients to competitors. However, the architectural firm has used only CAD drawings before so they don’t know much about other digital tools. The quick Google search showed different modeling services for architectural projects but how to decide what to choose? And what exactly, 3D or BIM, is better for their case?         

As a CAD company providing both 3D modeling and BIM services, we know exactly for which purposes each technology is used. So to spare you a long search on Google, we’ve come up with an easy explanation of the differences between BIM and CGI. Read up and find out which solution can improve your workflow!

#1. Spheres of Application

IM for a Residential Building Project

3D modeling services allow to develop photorealistic models of absolutely any object, that’s why this technology is used in a wide range of mediums. The top industries include product design, filming, gaming, architecture, advertising and marketing, medicine, industrial design, geology, and science. These fields use 3D modeling technology for multiple purposes – to assess project potential, effectively integrate designs or solve potential technological problems.

BIM services are mostly used for construction projects, so it’s the primary choice for architecture, civil and structural engineering as well as mechanical, electrical and plumbing projects. These industries use BIM services to anticipate and solve issues connected with building processes. In particular, the technology is implemented to manage the design and construction of facilities, foster higher work efficiency, accelerate the process and improve collaboration throughout the project lifecycle.

#2. Major Characteristics

3D Modeling Services for a Building Complex

3D modeling implies using a collection of points in three-dimensional space that are connected by various geometric elements – triangles, lines, and curved surfaces. These are the main entities used to form a complete model. Therefore, geometry data is the only information that this type of modeling stores about the object. As well as that, 3D modeling services allow creating photorealistic 3D models of high polygon density with the help of texturing tools and shaders. These features enable to overlay the model surface with the realistic structure to convey the visual aspect of the object.

The main feature of BIM is that it holds accurate and detailed data about the structural properties of a building. Specifically, BIM contains information about facility’s wall systems, structural and electrical systems, heating, ventilation, air conditioning equipment, plumbing fixtures, door and window schedules, and square footage of every material specified in the project. In addition, BIM stores all technical information about individual building materials. For example, a BIM object of a wall can display its extended parameters, such as strength, heat, density, emissivity, permeability, porosity, reflectivity and electrical resistivity.

Want to know more about CAD services our studio provides? Check out this archive with projects examples and learn more.


#3. Practical Usage

BIM of a Building for an Architectural Project

3D modeling service is used for visualizing construction design and architectural objects. For instance, a 3D model can be used for presenting the final look of a building and evaluate the result before the construction phase begins. Apart from that, 3D models can be later used for creating digital visualization or animations for various commercial purposes – to get high-quality images for marketing materials or to create immersive project presentations for clients and stakeholders.

CAD for architecture has a strategically-oriented use in the sphere of construction. First of all, it’s often implemented at the pre-construction phase to calculate the amount of materials required for a facility. For instance, having an informational model of a building, contractors will always know how much plaster will be required for an overhaul of a house, and how much time is necessary to finish the work. BIM services can likewise be used to instruct facility operators on the process of construction to help better coordinate building operations. Finally, BIM is used to control and manage the lifecycle of the building, right from earliest conception to demolition.

#4. Advantages and Limitations

3D Modeling Services for an Architectural Project

One of the greatest advantages of 3D modeling services is that they allow to digitally display the object which doesn’t exist yet. This way, Architects and Designers can quickly and photorealistically visualize a completed building. In addition, 3D models can also reproduce and display the exact dimensions of any facility and each element of its design with utmost precision due to their accuracy. This feature allows spending less time on the design stage of their projects and devote more time to the actual completion of each task.

On the flip side, 3D modeling serves only as a digital version of the object under construction. Accordingly, it cannot be expanded for use as an intelligent facility operations system.

Meanwhile, a BIM model stores detailed information about how to best exploit the facility. For instance, CAD services can be used to trace changes in the building structure, track the current state of the building, calculate the required amount of materials, and take timely measures for the restoration if necessary. This feature of CAD modeling helps to significantly reduce construction time and costs. Plus, BIM services are used to pragmatically exploit existing facilities, both technologically and economically.

There is a risk that a contractor may accidentally change the BIM object after it has been created and distributed. Needless to say, such modifications might undermine communication between project members and disrupt the building process.

#5. Software

BIM Software for Different Types of Project

The most popular software for 3D modeling services includes 3Ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4D, ZBrush, Marvelous Designer. These programs help to develop photorealistic 3D models and refine them by applying different textures in order to achieve high-resolution results after rendering. All examples of 3D modeling software have different toolsets, learning curve, and functions so 3D Artists choose programs with the most suitable user interface for their workflow.  

As for BIM tools, the most widely used ones are Revit, Archicad, BIMobject, and SketchUp. The mentioned software can hardly produce such photorealistic effects as 3D modeling tools because their rendering functions are quite limited. However, they allow creating accurate and “intelligent” models capable of storing relevant object data, construction and engineering details, structural systems, etc. The main difference between BIM software is the range and complexity of user interface as some of them are used for easier construction models, whereas others recreate the smallest technical details of a BIM object.

In most cases, companies that provide CAD services have specialists that are trained solely in BIM software and have drafting skills. For instance, most CAD Artists that use Autodesk Revit also know how to work in AutoCAD. The reason for that is simple – many architectural projects require CAD drafts first and then BIM construction based on the drawings.        

BIM services and 3D Modeling are both excellent tools for Architectural, Construction and Design companies. They allow to optimize project workflow and client service, but have totally different purposes, tools, and capabilities – and therefore are not interchangeable. 3D modeling is the process of building a realistic representation of an object surface in three dimensions – a 3D model, and is therefore perfect for visualization of ideas and final results. Meanwhile, BIM services create a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of construction, facility or infrastructure. The product generated by this technology is called building information models. These are the files that can be shared and extracted to make better engineering decisions regarding a building, accelerate the construction process and enhance facility performance.

Wonder how much high-quality drafting services cost? Check out the examples of our real projects with pricing.


Want to enhance and speed up the working process on your projects? Use Revit BIM services of ArchiCGI and get high-quality 3D objects within a required deadline.

Chris Kostanets
Senior Project Manager, Mentor

Chris manages the work of 2 CGI teams and teaches Middle PMs. She loves Scottish landscapes, Ancient Greek culture, and Plein-air painting. At home, Chris is a caring parent for 3 cute chickens and a magnificent rooster.

2 replies
  1. Alia Parker
    Alia Parker says:

    Thank you for sharing with us this. A bim model is an amazing thing for every project. Building information modeling could be a handle bolstered by different devices, advances, and contracts including the era and administration of advanced representations of physical and useful characteristics of places.


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