BIM in Landscape Design

January 7, 2022
bim in landscape design

Using building information modeling (BIM) is now a mainstream method for optimizing architectural project management and design. But in the realm of landscape design, it has yet to be widely used. A new trend is emerging, however. BIM is starting to gain traction as landscape pros discover it as an invaluable tool for their own domain.

Can Designers Use BIM in Landscape Architecture?

Yes. While BIM may traditionally be associated with the design and construction of buildings, more and more landscape architects are starting to use BIM to create intelligent, practical designs that are rich in useful information.

Even though landscape architects aren’t designing buildings, they are still designing development landscapes – work that requires full clarity when it comes to how a landscape will look once built, affect the surrounding buildings, and even evolve over time.

By taking advantage of the detailed data available via BIM, landscape architects are not only accomplishing project goals more successfully, but also making it easier to integrate their work with the rest of the project infrastructure. BIM-supported landscape design also allows for easier collaboration within a single model.


BIM Landscape Architecture Models vs. Standard 3D Models

One of the first questions that comes up when considering BIM in landscape architecture is: what is the difference between BIM models and the traditional 3D models landscape designers are used to working with?

The distinguishing factor lies in the data each model type can hold. With BIM, your model can be populated with information regarding every aspect of the design and the landscape model materials.

For example, a single tree placed in a BIM model could hold all of the information necessary for planting, anticipating its growth and bloom cycles, and planning its maintenance needs (water usage, etc.). It’s also possible to predict the amount of shade it would create, which could impact energy efficiency calculations in any architectural portions of the development. Other relevant details can additionally be set, such as root size, species name, or average cost per unit.

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Benefits of Adopting a BIM Workflow in Landscape Architecture

How can landscape architects benefit from adopting a BIM workflow?

Instead of producing only visual models for their contribution to developments, landscape designers can now deliver even more accurate and actionable data-filled models that can be easily converted into construction documents. BIM models can, when populated with the appropriate information by the designer, provide a breakdown of the landscape’s various elevations as well as details on the types, costs, and quantities of materials required.

This enables landscape designers to more efficiently coordinate with other project contributors. Architects can easily reference landscape data and assess how it fits in with their work, and project managers can have a clear and ready overview of everything pertaining to the landscaping phase. Moreover, their own BIM models can be combined with the landscape BIM model, leveraging the compatibility to create a master BIM model for the entire project.

Such clarity and integration paves the way for the entire team to intelligently make design adjustments and spot optimization opportunities. Projects can be held to a tighter schedule, and costly mistakes or rework can be avoided.


Transitioning to a BIM workflow: Barriers to Implementing BIM Over CAD for Landscape Design

Adopting BIM in your design process requires finding the right software and training your team in its fundamentals. But this can be a challenge when you’re used to working with CAD programs which do not have BIM-type functionality without installing plugins.

The transition is further complicated by the fact that some BIM modeling software is more adaptable for landscape architecture than others. Some of the most popular BIM programs on the market offer plenty of tools for general construction and design, but they lack the specific applications for landscape architecture. This means that designers often have to customize and retrofit existing BIM functions to work for their particular needs.

In order to have the best experience with BIM, you will need to do a thorough assessment of the software options available and which one best suits your workflow.


Comparing the Best BIM Software for Landscape Designers

There are currently three BIM software brands and one design tool that are attracting the attention of landscape designers. All are commonly used throughout the AEC sector, and each offers its own list of benefits for landscape applications.


At this time, Revit is the most popular BIM software among landscape designers. Revit allows landscape pros to organize elements by shared parameters, making it easy to manage their geometric appearance in Revit’s various views.  Revit’s landscape design capabilities can be further boosted by using the Dynamo extension, which enables geometry placement, Excel data extraction, task automation, and calculation processing.


Vectorworks offers their Landmark program, which has been specifically developed for landscape and site design workflows. It comes with its own pre-made database of plants, terrain models, and other landscape elements to streamline model creation. Slope analysis, sun/shade analysis, irrigation, stormwater drainage, arborist survey imports, and site photogrammetry are just some of the landscape-specific features found in Landmark. The program facilitates collaboration by supporting IFC, RVT, and other format exchanges.


Archicad is another widely-used software, popular for its functionality as much as its compatibility with other BIM applications. It fosters easy collaboration through its Teamwork system and various supported file types. The program is especially adept at making large projects more manageable. Archicad’s latest version has introduced a parametric design tool that enables custom object creation, making it simple to populate the library with unique landscape elements. Specialized add-ons do exist for Archicad as well. Land4, for example, expands terrain modeling capabilities with dynamic spot levels, fall lines, and more.


Rhino is a 3D modeling tool that facilitates easy free-form sculpting, making it particularly useful for constructing organic landscapes and their various elements. The Lands Design plugin introduces many additional landscaping tools pertaining to terrain sculpting, parametric design, and both natural and civil elements. It hosts an extensive library of vegetation alone, and quick documentation is enabled by rapid generation of 2D technical drawings.







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