Vectorworks and ARCHICAD to Import Point Clouds


A point cloud in Vectorworks.

While attending the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Convention in Atlanta earlier this year I was surprised when two leading BIM programs, Nemetschek’s Vectorworks and Graphisoft’s ARCHICAD, announced that their users will soon be able to import laser scan point cloud data. Autodesk’s Revit was the first BIM platform to provide the ability to import point cloud data directly with its 2012 version. Now that there are more options available, what does this mean for users and how might this affect the industry?

To begin, this is great news for users of Vectorworks and ARCHICAD, since it will allow them to verify and model existing conditions more easily. Nadia Anis, Principal Architect with Ferrari-Moe, LLP Architects | Engineers in San Rafael, California uses Vectorworks in her practice and has been a big proponent of bringing laser scan data into her projects since the early days of the technology. “Having the ability to bring the point cloud directly into our modeling software will be a tremendous advantage for us,” she said. Ferrari Moe has extensive experience working on heritage projects as does Nadia who also serves as the Chairperson on the U.S. Institute of Building Documentation’s (USIBD),, Heritage Subcommittee. 

While at the AIA Convention, I had the opportunity to sit down with Nemetschek Vectorworks’ CEO, Sean Flaherty and CTO, Dr. Biplab Sarkar. They shared with me Nemetschek’s vision of the future of software development and how point cloud data fits into that vision. Mr. Flaherty stated that their strategy is to “bring back design to architects.” He noted how the manufacturing industry utilizes prefabrication for cost reduction and quality improvement. “This industry has to change by using the same technologies as manufacturing. Prefabrication favors software. Building a product that’s ready for this is the future.”

Dr. Sarkar went on to explain how being able to visualize point cloud data provides a real way for designers to model efficiently and affordably with more accuracy than ever before, making modeling, and referencing data easier. The upcoming release of Vectorworks 2016 is due out this September, and it will be their first version of software to support point cloud data.

In addition to Vectorworks’ new offering, Graphisoft’s latest version – ARCHICAD 19, will also have the ability to display point clouds. While the feature sets and tools provided in these first versions of point cloud compatible software appear to be limited, this is exciting news for those who may be looking for the ability to better capture, process and represent existing conditions without having to change to the Autodesk platform.


About Author

John Russo

John M. Russo, AIA, is an architect, technologist and entrepreneur with more than 30 years of professional experience. He founded Architectural Resource Consultants (ARC), a firm that has specialized in providing outsourced architectural services to the architectural, engineering, construction and facilities management communities since 1997. In 2011, ARC was selected amongst its peers to develop GSA’s Laser Scanning QA/QC Process for the Office of Design and Construction in which Mr. Russo played a pivotal role.


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