For the past 15 years SketchUp has transformedfrom a niche, stigma-ridden little 3D modeler that could into a visualizationpowerhouse. It did so with a user-friendly approach to 3D design, and anemphasis on speed and efficiency over complexity and capability. Architectswere gradually swayed, and now you’d be hard-pressed to find a studio in theworld that doesn’t have SketchUp installed on every machine in the office.
It’s a familiar story to those in theindustry. However, what many people haven’t yet caught onto is the power hiddenbehind the Pro version of SketchUp. Architecture firms have been slow to adoptthe cost-prohibitive version of the software, and have made due with theversion that doesn’t require them to open their wallets.
But, I’m here to explain why opening yourwallets means opening your workflow and visualization capabilities to a wholenew world of fast, accurate, and efficient design. SketchUp Pro is the 3Dvisualizer the creators had in mind when they cobbled together the base programall those years ago. It’s easy to use, feature-rich, and worth every penny youinvest in it.
If no other feature is worth shelling out forSketchUp Pro, the ability to import CAD and Revit files into the program is.For studios with a hierarchy in design professional, this lets lead designershand their CAD plans over to a junior team member for them to start working upin three dimensions. It’s also useful for creating complicated topography orlandscape models from a survey file.
More than this, though, is the capability tobring in a detailed Revit model for the purposes of 3D visualization out ofSketchUp. With a few exporting tweaks, you can easily have a fully modeledSketchUp file that can then be manipulated and changed based on design feedbackfrom the client or architect. This back and forth has lead to massive changesin workflow and design efficiency for a growing number of architecture firms.
SketchUp Pro comes packaged with a powerfulconstruction document program called Layout. For many architects, thecombination 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 thestigma 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-endvisualization tool. Designers have started creating detailed and accurateconstruction documents that fully represent the finished product. Drawings arecolorful, artistic, and presented in 3D so that contractors and builders havean easier time understanding materiality and detail.
And while your skepticism is warranted, Iimplore you to try Layout and see for yourself how powerful it can be. Therewill be no more back and forth between CAD and SketchUp because everything willbe contained in the same, central, detailed model. Feel free to rejoice.
Some of the trickiest aspects of anarchitectural visualization to master are how to model and represent organicterrain and landscape elements. SketchUp Pro comes with an exhaustive set ofsolid editing tools that allow you to push, pull, drape, and carve out alandscape model that accurately represents your building site.
Not only that, but with the use of SketchUp’smassive design warehouse, you’ll have access to a wide variety of ready-made 3Dmodels. 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.
The base, free version of SketchUp is marketedtowards hobbyists and design enthusiasts. However, it fall short on some of thethings that make Pro a one-stop-shop for designing, documenting, visualizing,and in the end, creating good architecture. With a dedicated effort, you canrid your studio of any and all CAD and BIM programs in favor of something you nevereven knew existed.
Where SketchUp started and where it is todayis a testament to how well it has worked. Take the next step and invest in a 3Dvisualizer 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 yourideas into beautiful works of architecture.