Autodesk’s Revit Draws Ire of Nearly 100 Architecture Firms

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Close to 100 architecture firms have signed an open letter to Autodesk regarding its modeling software Revit amid a wave of criticism against the industry’s dominant software company. 

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The skirmish started in July, when 17 architecture firms in the United Kingdom drafted a letter to Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk’s president and CEO, criticizing the company’s development of Revit, the industry’s most widely-used Building Information Modeling software.

The letter argued that Revit, which turned 20 this year, hasn’t kept pace in terms of development, even as Autodesk keeps escalating fees for it and changing its increasingly complex licensing structure. But because of its widespread adoption, architecture firms have little choice but to keep paying the price. “Where once Autodesk Revit was the industry enabler to smarter working, it increasingly finds itself a constraint and bottleneck,” the letter states. 

The original signatories included Zaha Hadid Architecture, Grimshaw and Scott Brownrigg, and more companies signed on as the weeks passed. By mid-August, there were 84 architecture practices from over 10 countries who’d signed on, including 14 U.S. firms.

Anagnost responded with a blog post on Aug 17, after an earlier post from Amy Bunszel, the firm’s senior VP of product, failed to satisfy the critics. Anagnost said that Autodesk had focused much of its research and development on products other than Revit, including focus on its cloud product, BIM360. Nevertheless, he pushed back against the criticism of its pricing model and fee increases.

He made similar remarks in the company’s earnings call this week. “Let me just acknowledge something about the communications with the AEC industry,” Anagnost said. “They have legitimate concerns about the functionality in Revit, and we take those incredibly seriously. And the fact is that from an architectural aspect standpoint Revit hasn’t gotten a lot of incremental investment.”

Much of the investment, Anagost said, has focused on the construction industry. “We continue to make investments in construction where we expect technology adoption to keep growing, especially as we exit the pandemic.”

Still, many in the industry have their own complaints against Revit, even if they haven’t signed the letter.

“I agree with the letter that Autodesk doesn’t seem very focused on trying to help us out,” Peter Birkholz, a principal of San Francisco-based firm Page & Turnbull, told Commercial Observer. The 40-person firm has about 20 Revit licenses for the team, and will soon be adding Autodesk’s cloud option to its suite, which will require additional licensing fees on top of the existing ones. 

Part of the appeal of Revit is that it is one software that can be used for the full lifecycle of a project, and can facilitate everything from modeling to generating cost schedules and producing construction documentation. It can also be used by a variety of disciplines within architecture and construction, including structural engineers, landscape architects and interior designers, making it an ideal collaboration tool. 

But that also puts it in a unique position to dominate the industry. 

For larger projects, such as Page & Turnbull’s upcoming work at the state Capitol Annex in Sacramento, Revit is the default because it’s the best—and sometimes only—way for multiple companies to work together. “We’re on Revit, everyone has to be on Revit,” Birkholz said. “You’re beholden to what other people are doing too.”

Autodesk did not immediately reply to request for comment.