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3D Visualizer and SketchUp Pro

SketchUp Pro is worth every penny. Here’s why it’s a multi-faceted tool that might even replace the CAD and BIM models you’ve been using for years.

For the past 15 years SketchUp has transformed from a niche, stigma-ridden little 3D modeler that could into a visualization powerhouse. It did so with a user-friendly approach to 3D design, and an emphasis on speed and efficiency over complexity and capability. Architects were gradually swayed, and now you’d be hard-pressed to find a studio in the world that doesn’t have SketchUp installed on every machine in the office.

It’s a familiar story to those in the industry. However, what many people haven’t yet caught onto is the power hidden behind the Pro version of SketchUp. Architecture firms have been slow to adopt the cost-prohibitive version of the software, and have made due with the version that doesn’t require them to open their wallets.

But, I’m here to explain why opening your wallets means opening your workflow and visualization capabilities to a whole new world of fast, accurate, and efficient design. SketchUp Pro is the 3D visualizer the creators had in mind when they cobbled together the base program all those years ago. It’s easy to use, feature-rich, and worth every penny you invest in it.

Import CAD

If no other feature is worth shelling out for SketchUp Pro, the ability to import CAD and Revit files into the program is. For studios with a hierarchy in design professional, this lets lead designers hand their CAD plans over to a junior team member for them to start working up in three dimensions. It’s also useful for creating complicated topography or landscape models from a survey file.

More than this, though, is the capability to bring in a detailed Revit model for the purposes of 3D visualization out of SketchUp. With a few exporting tweaks, you can easily have a fully modeled SketchUp file that can then be manipulated and changed based on design feedback from the client or architect. This back and forth has lead to massive changes in workflow and design efficiency for a growing number of architecture firms.

Design and Documentation

SketchUp Pro comes packaged with a powerful construction document program called Layout. For many architects, the combination is replacing every hour of 2D CAD work in the entire office. This, perhaps, is the aspect of SketchUp that has had the hardest time overcoming the stigma that accompanies something so ‘simple.’

However, for those who dove in head first, Layout is proving to be a construction document tool that doubles as a high-end visualization tool. Designers have started creating detailed and accurate construction documents that fully represent the finished product. Drawings are colorful, artistic, and presented in 3D so that contractors and builders have an easier time understanding materiality and detail.

And while your skepticism is warranted, I implore you to try Layout and see for yourself how powerful it can be. There will be no more back and forth between CAD and SketchUp because everything will be contained in the same, central, detailed model. Feel free to rejoice.

Landscape Tools

Some of the trickiest aspects of an architectural visualization to master are how to model and represent organic terrain and landscape elements. SketchUp Pro comes with an exhaustive set of solid editing tools that allow you to push, pull, drape, and carve out a landscape model that accurately represents your building site.

Not only that, but with the use of SketchUp’s massive design warehouse, you’ll have access to a wide variety of ready-made 3D models. This allows you to populate your scenes with trees, people, cars, benches, traffic lights, or anything else that gives your visualization scale, realism, and a sense of humanity.

One Stop Shop

The base, free version of SketchUp is marketed towards hobbyists and design enthusiasts. However, it fall short on some of the things that make Pro a one-stop-shop for designing, documenting, visualizing, and in the end, creating good architecture. With a dedicated effort, you can rid your studio of any and all CAD and BIM programs in favor of something you never even knew existed.

Where SketchUp started and where it is today is a testament to how well it has worked. Take the next step and invest in a 3D visualizer that might even transform the way you do business as an architect. It’s never too late to reinvent your work flow, and how you translate your ideas into beautiful works of architecture.