Free Architecture Software

While hand-sketched designs certainly have a place in architecture, software programs make it easy for architects to create 3D models and renderings of their designs. However, much of the available software comes at a price that isn't always accessible for students, small architecture firms, or self-employed architects.


In this article, we will guide you through a few key factors to consider when researching architecture software. We will also break down the pros and cons of some of the most popular free architecture software programs.

To help you compare the software options we discuss below, here's an easy reference chart that outlines the pros and cons of each.

  Software type Benefits Drawbacks



Open-source CAD
  • Compatible with multiple operating systems
  • Create 3D from 2D and vice versa
  • Objects not restricted to stereotypical shapes
  • Substantial support resources
  • Difficulty in anchoring 3D objects
  • Challenging interface navigation
Blender Open-source CAD
  • Rapid development and responsiveness to user input
  • Time-saving pre-programmed keyboard shortcuts
  • Highly customizable menus and toolbars
  • Abundance of tutorials and community resources
  • Each design must be created from scratch
  • Steep learning curve to utilize its full capacity
  • Cluttered menus and toolbars
B-processor Open-source BIM
  • Intuitive interface and workflow with minimal learning curve
  • Automation of repetitive tasks
  • Calculation of quantities, costs, and energy efficiency
  • Lack of support for 2D views
  • Relatively more challenging to learn compared to CAD software
Revit BIM
  • Specifically designed for architects
  • Supports 2D drawing and 3D modeling
  • Offers design, documentation, visualization, and analysis capabilities
  • Free version only available to students and educators
  • Steep learning curve compared to some simpler software
SketchUp CAD
  • Easy creation of quick 3D designs
  • Minimal learning curve
  • Large component library
  • Free version is basic and lacks many export features
  • Limited rendering capabilities
LibreCAD Open-source CAD
  • Compatible with macOS, Windows, and Linux
  • Available in over 30 languages
  • Minimal learning curve and large global community for support
  • Range of features for creating complex 2D designs
  • Customizable interface
  • Exports in multiple file formats
  • Lacks 3D modeling capabilities
  • No design templates available


Selecting the right architecture software


Whether you are looking for free software or planning to purchase an architecture program, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the key features you will be using. These features may differ from one architect to another. For example, you may want to know the difference between computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM). You should also consider whether you want open-source or closed-source software and determine if you need 3D modeling capabilities for larger scale projects or if 2D will suffice for your current needs for smaller projects like a house. These factors should be taken into account before exploring your options for free architecture software.



Computer-aided design, commonly known as CAD, simply refers to the use of computer systems to support design. However, the term is most often used in reference to using a drafting tool to create lines and arcs in building designs. CAD primarily focuses on creating drawings.


BIM, or building information modeling, takes architectural design further by enabling architects to integrate workflows and store detailed information about the models, including floor plans, materials, and costs. While it can save time, BIM software is often more expensive and comes with a steep learning curve. It is not always necessary or recommended for architects early in their careers.


Open source vs. closed source

Open-source software allows users to freely access and modify the code, relying on mass collaboration for development and fixes. This means users can copy, modify, and delete code as desired. As long as the community remains active, open-source software can continue to progress with updates, new features, and support over a long period of time. However, open-source software is not always as user-friendly as closed-source options, and finding technical support can be challenging.


Closed-source software, on the other hand, keeps the code private, and the responsibility for introducing new features, providing fixes, and offering support lies with the software creators. Closed-source software may be more stable but is rarely available for free.


Design capabilities

While a 2D plan can accomplish a lot, the ability to create 2D designs is standard in every architecture software program. However, not every software allows the creation of 3D models from 2D designs. Software that only offers 2D drawing capabilities is an excellent starting point for architects before moving on to more advanced software.


Transitioning to software with 3D capabilities comes with a steeper learning curve, but it is a critical skill for architects to acquire. Software offering 3D CAD provides architects with greater precision and modeling capabilities, as well as the ability to deliver photorealistic renderings to clients.


6 free software options for architects


While the software options below are not exhaustive, they are popular architecture programs that provide excellent value, considering they are free. Some of these options have paid "upgrade" versions available, while others are open source and completely free at all times.


1. FreeCAD


FreeCAD is an open-source 3D parametric modeler that allows the design of real-life objects, including architecture. The software is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms and offers high customization. It supports a range of file formats, including STEP, IGES, STL, SVG, OBJ, and others, making it easy to integrate into existing workflows.


For a free software, FreeCAD offers several great benefits. It allows the creation of 3D models from 2D designs and vice versa. The software does not restrict the shapes of objects like walls and flooring, allowing architects maximum creativity in their designs (e.g., curved flooring into a wall). Resources such as a wiki with tutorials and a YouTube video library are available to help users master the software.


However, some users report difficulties in anchoring 3D objects, causing rotations to move the objects to unintended locations on the screen. The interface is not as user-friendly as some other software and can be somewhat difficult to navigate, especially for new users.


2. Blender


Blender is a free, open-source 3D modeling and design software that offers a wide range of features, albeit with a steep learning curve. Each design starts from scratch, requiring users to have a strong grasp of the software to achieve the best results. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to help architects master Blender and leverage all its features to the fullest.


As an open-source software, Blender develops rapidly and is responsive to user ideas and input. It provides pre-programmed keyboard shortcuts for almost everything, saving time for busy architects. The menus and toolbars are highly customizable to suit architect preferences.


3. B-processor


B-processor is a BIM software developed by Denmark's Arhus School of Architecture. As the platform was created from scratch and designed specifically for architectural purposes, the user interface and workflow are incredibly intuitive. The software offers only 3D views, with modeling done in a 3D viewport dedicated to this task. B-processor includes useful features that increase efficiency, such as the ability to automate repetitive tasks using "modellers," ideal for design elements like windows, doors, and stairs. It also enables users to calculate quantities and costs, as well as perform energy efficiency simulations.


4. Revit

Revit is not technically free software, but Autodesk offers it for free to students and educators. It was designed specifically for professionals like architects, engineers, contractors, and designers, relying on BIM technologies for the ultimate 3D design and visualization capabilities. The software supports a modeling workflow instead of a drafting one and automatically updates any changes to the model in the 3D image. In addition to design, documentation, and visualization capabilities, Revit allows users to optimize building performance, run cost estimates, and monitor performance changes over the project's lifetime.


5. SketchUp


SketchUp is a free, downloadable software that offers a fairly basic version for creating quick 2D and 3D designs. It is particularly useful during the conceptual phase of a project. SketchUp has an intuitive and user-friendly interface, making it easy to understand with minimal learning curve. However, the trade-off for its simplicity is limited rendering capabilities. It is best suited for providing clients with a walkthrough of the designs. Despite its limitations, SketchUp offers an impressive component library, and there are numerous plug-ins available to enhance designs, including the creation of photorealistic renderings.


6. LibreCAD


LibreCAD is a free, open-source software with a thriving global community of users who can provide support. It is compatible with macOS, Windows, and Linux, and is available in over 30 languages, making it highly accessible to users worldwide. LibreCAD is an excellent choice for architects seeking 2D CAD software, as it offers all the necessary features to create complex designs. While it lacks 3D capabilities, the software is straightforward to use, and the interface is customizable, allowing users to easily drag elements into the working area. Designs can be exported in multiple file formats for maximum versatility.


A brief overview


A final word

It's important to remember that you're not limited to just one architecture software throughout your career. Familiarizing yourself with different software programs can be beneficial. While the list above is not exhaustive, it provides an overview of some commonly used free software in the architecture field, allowing you to make an informed decision about which one might be best for you.


Regardless of the software you choose, make sure to download it from a secure source such as the official website. If you encounter any difficulties, don't hesitate to reach out to the community of users. Fellow architects are often willing to offer tips and tricks to help you out.


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