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Announcing SketchUp Pro 2019 and LayOut Feature Updates

SketchUp has been improved with updates and enhancements that will impact your 3D projects and professional workflow. It’s the small changes that make the biggest workflow improvements. This latest update to SketchUp has made it more intuitive — and more fun to use. With more focus on improvements to imagery exports, usability, and a seamless LayOut connection — your professional workflow will thank you. Now really is a good time to upgrade/buy the latest version of SketchUp.

Professional output enhancements

Exporting images

Exporting 2D graphics, raster files, and animations just got better. You can now control the overall line thicknesses of exported images with our new line scale multiplier, found in the export options dialogs. 

Before this change, line weights stayed the same as the viewport which would make the line weight too small or too large. So, if you are experiencing line weights that are too thick, you can make those line weights thinner. Also, .png images now export with its transparency so you can see what is behind the material while compositing.

Customisable unit settings

Have you ever needed to use different unit measurements for a model? Now your model can be customised to show different unit measurements for area and volume. For example, in a model of a room, you can use millimetres for the wall and meters for volume. Available unit types: millimetres, centimetres, meters, inches and feet. 

Workflow improvements

Invert Selection

It really is the small things that help your workflow. This new feature will allow you to select anything, then invert the selection of objects. This makes it simple to select items and then perform actions on their inverse. The keyboard shortcut for this will be: CTRL + SHIFT + I (Windows)  or CMD + SHIFT + I (Mac).

Importing files

The days of picking out your import file format from a long list are over. You can now drag and drop ALL supported file types directly into your modelling window. By default, you’ll now see all supported file types available for import. Additionally, the DWG and DXF importers now bring in fewer duplicate and messy edges.

Eraser Tool

Have you ever accidentally erased too much in your model? To make your detailing workflow a little smoother and seamless, we added alt & cmd as modifier keys to remove any unnecessarily highlighted lines that you may have accidentally captured during your modelling efforts.

Section Planes

Cutting a model along a plane so that you can peer inside the model? We just made this way smoother. Section planes now ask the user to name them before placing them in the model. Simply place, then name.

Send to LayOut

You can now send your models directly to LayOut from the large toolset in the left-hand toolbar. If you haven’t used LayOut for 2D drawings before, start taking advantage of it now!

Large Area Imports for Add Location

You can now easily import large sites at full resolution. How can you take advantage of this new feature? Simply zoom out a bit, then select the level from which you want to import. Note that misusing this feature can adversely affect performance in your SketchUp model. Check out our help center to be sure you’re aware of how to best handle lots of data in your models.

New in LayOut

Professional output enhancements

Isometric dimensioning

It is now possible to make linear dimensions align with an isometric viewpoint. This one is huge! Since an isometric drawing is a primary type of drawing in LayOut, we wanted to make it smoother and more straightforward. You can now control extension lines, gap distance, and align dimensions with isometric angles.

Auto-text

Similar to “smart labels”, you can now add text to dimensions without breaking the automatic measurement. For example, let’s say you create a wall dimension. You can dimension a wall, add the word “wall”, and the dimension measurement will still update if the wall’s measurement changes. Pro tip: make sure your string has <> in it. For example, ‘Width <>’ will turn into ‘Wall 1.42m’.

Workflow enhancements

Rotating dimensions

Now, when you rotate your object, the bounding box is also rotated with so you can continue to scale in the right orientation. 

Quicker editing

Staying consistent with SketchUp usability, in LayOut you can now hit the return key to edit model views, groups, dimensions, or labels! Just select, press return, and start typing!

Ready to try? Browse our Trimble SketchUp collection and search for the appropriate license type to see for yourself how these updates can enhance your professional workflows. 


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“Chaos Cloud has saved me incredible amounts of time”

Architect Joël Legault creates his own studio-quality renders with V-Ray for Rhino and Chaos Cloud. Discover how he works, plus his tips for that lived-in look.

Architecture is adapting to new technology more quickly than any other field. VR and 360-degree renders are giving architects and their clients a sense of scale like never before, while advanced computer modelling and 3D printing are making it possible to experiment with new materials and forms. And on the site: AR is making it easy for construction managers to put all the pieces into the right places.

Increasingly powerful software has also led to the emergence of architects who can create their own renders. A perfect example of this is Joël Legault, a Vancouver-based architect who uses natural materials to design beautiful minimalist homes and creates his own photorealistic interior and exterior renders, which are worthy of a dedicated architectural visualisation studio.

Joël’s designs are created in Rhino and rendered with V-Ray for Rhino via Chaos Cloud. Here, he tells us his story, talks us through his work processes and reveals how Cloud rendering has transformed him into a master of multitasking.

Could you give us a little background on yourself and how you got started as an architect? 

I studied and practiced painting for quite a few years before really thinking about architecture. I  completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a focus in painting, here in Canada at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and then moved to London to do an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts.

While in London, I lived with fashion and graphic designers and realized I wanted to apply my creative skills to something more pragmatic, similar to what my friends were doing in their design work. Architecture had interested me since I was an adolescent, so it seemed like the next logical step. 

After London, I moved back to Canada and completed my architectural studies at the University of Toronto, which lead to work at The Ateliers Jean Nouvel in Paris and Saucier Perrotte Architectes in Montreal. Once I was licensed, I went out on my own and started my own practice, Joël Legault Architecture.

What types of projects do you work on? 

During the last few years, I’ve focused primarily on residential projects. I enjoy the scale as there are many opportunities to develop fine details both architecturally and through visualization. Projects of this type and size also can be highly detailed through 3D modeling and material textures. This, in turn, translates well when it is time to render and visualize them for clients and promotional work.

© Joël Legault Architecture Inc.

What are the advantages of creating your own renders versus outsourcing them to an arch viz firm? 

In some firms, renders are an afterthought and contracted out, but this is not the case for me. Renderings are a big part of not only communicating notions of materials, lighting and space to the client, but also a means for myself as an architect to fully understand what I’m designing. It is as important a tool as architectural drawings or physical models. I can use it in-house and develop very accurate ideas of what we are proposing.

Where do you look for inspiration? 

I usually model up what I’ve designed, set up the scene with materials and lighting, and then imagine what is going on in the scene. I think about who is living in the space, what books or art they might have, and what type of relationships might exist domestically. I don’t like to put people in the renderings but instead let the scene create a sense of drama or atmosphere for the viewer.

I’m an art and film aficionado and often look to these mediums as a source of inspiration. I’m especially drawn to how some painters and cinematographers treat lighting and compose a scene.

Visualization is the perfect marriage of my art background and practice as an architect today. The principles of composition and treatment of light and color are, at a basic level, the exact same in painting with a brush or rendering with a computer. Visualization is really a means of painting architecture.

© Joël Legault Architecture Inc.

 What made you choose V-Ray for Rhino? 

I have used a lot of different types of 3D modeling software over the years, but I always come back to Rhino 3D. For the type of architectural and visualization work I do, it just seems to be the Swiss Army knife of everything that is out there. It is great for detailed modeling and drawing, and can easily be used as a parametric modeler with the many plug-ins available.

While there are not as many options for rendering plug-ins for Rhino as other programs, there are more than there were in the past. With the advent of V-Ray 3.6, however, there is really nothing else on the market that comes close. The interface is amazing and it is apparent that it was developed with Rhino users in mind. The integration of a lot of features, like Grasshopper and V-Ray Fur, to render grass and whatnot are things that other rendering software developers have never made available in Rhino before.

Too often, a lot of the rendering plug-ins for Rhino seem to be rehashed versions of programs that were originally developed for 3ds Max or Cinema 4D. V-Ray for Rhino is the first rendering program that I have implemented in my work and felt as though it worked seamlessly with both Rhino’s limitations and strengths as a 3D modeling program.

What hardware did you use for rendering before Chaos Cloud? 

I’ve always stuck with my trusted 2012 iMac, but recently I was considering a new system that was going to cost several thousands of dollars. I was really on the fence about it, though, as it was a lot of money. One night, I was with a friend at a bar having a drink and we started talking to a computer scientist next to us. 

I mentioned to him what I was looking at putting together as a computer, and he laughed and said that it was a waste of money as cloud computing was just around the corner. I’m glad that I listened to him and canceled my computer order! I think the V-Ray Cloud beta was in its infancy and when I first heard about it, and I thought about what the guy at the bar had told me. So I’m still using that iMac, but I might treat myself to a MacBook Pro laptop soon.

© Joël Legault Architecture Inc.

How much time do you think Chaos Cloud has saved you? 

It has definitely saved me time, but it has also opened up creative possibilities in how I visualize my projects. My workflow has really changed. Before I might have spent a lot of time setting things up and then letting them tie up my computer for hours, but now I can continue to work on a project and send test images as we continue to develop ideas. It’s almost like having more people and resource power than I could have ever imagined.

Do you find it easy to use Chaos Cloud? 

I found it very intuitive and accessible right out of the gate. It was incredibly easy to sign up for, and the easy integration into V-Ray for Rhino meant that it became the main method I use for rendering. The notifications and easy ability to send and see images as they are being rendered from even your smartphone is amazing.

Are there any V-Ray tips or tricks you would like to share?

I always think it’s good practice to go into a new rendering with some idea of what I would like to do with the lighting. Where does the light source come from? How will I generate the shadows? Will I use an HDRI or a V-Ray Sun? Then I always do some quick renderings with low production settings using the V-Ray Material Override function. I set all the geometry to white except for the transparent materials. This allows for a faster process of trial and error with regard to testing different variables of how the lighting is set up in the scene. You are able to test ideas much faster this way.

Next, I turn everything back on and set up some different settings while sending the rendering to Chaos Cloud. These obviously take a little longer but I find that by sending multiple renderings at once and testing different settings, I’m able to see multiple variations of the same image almost simultaneously. I won’t fully render them, but I’ll do enough so that I can get an idea of the results.  

This type of workflow was impossible for me before Chaos Cloud. It was: try something, send the rendering, check what is wrong, modify it and repeat. Chaos Cloud has saved me incredible amounts of time as I can work exponentially faster.

The living world: Joël’s approach to level-of-detail 

A lot of times I find that architectural renderings can feel a bit cold or too slick. The way architecture is photographed sometimes can be this way as well. It can be a bit of a stretch for the viewer to get a sense of how the spaces might be used. I like to think of the buildings I have designed as a kind of stage and use the visualizations as a means of populating that stage with different scenarios.

By creating that “lived-in” feeling and purposely not including people in the renderings themselves, my goal is that the viewer can easily project themselves into the scenes I have created. My renderings display something that has transpired or is in the midst of transpiring. The level of detail with what might go into the space or how it might be used gives as much of a sense of how the building would be experienced as the materials and architecture itself. For me, the images are like little scenes in a movie or play.

From a technical standpoint, I usually start with modeling the building itself and try to add as much detail as possible. I’ll include things like outlets or air vents so that you get more of a sense that it is an actual building or space as opposed to just an idealized version of what is being proposed. 

After that, I add things like furniture and everyday elements such as books and art. I am very particular which books, art, or perhaps what is playing on the television if there is one in the scene. This can sometimes take a long time to find, and to place the right textures, but overall I think that in concert they add to the overall objective I’m after with my visualization work. 

Filling the scene with a lot of objects does require a large library of models. Fortunately, I have built mine up over the years. Sometimes if I don’t have something I will quickly model it myself and apply materials. I’ll isolate whatever I am working on in Rhino, render it with V-Ray interactive rendering, and that way I can be working on the object at hand and see how it will render at the same time.

What sort of post-production techniques do you use? 

My approach has changed quite a bit over time. Originally, when time and hardware restraints made it difficult to quickly produce high-quality renderings there was a lot of Photoshop work and whatnot. Today, I like to fine-tune and perfect things as much as I can with V-Ray. Chaos Cloud and V-Ray interactive rendering have really helped with this. It’s much easier now to quickly test lighting setups and material tweaks in real time.

© Joël Legault Architecture Inc.

What are you working on next? 

I’m currently working on a summer home located on one of the islands off the coast of British Columbia. We’re still in the initial design stages with the client but I am looking forward to doing some fairly detailed visualization work for the project. It is a beautiful site overlooking the ocean and it lends itself to some pretty phenomenal views. 

I’m also doing visualisation work for clients. I’m going to be doing some exterior renderings for a friend and his small office. It’s a house that won’t be completed for a while, but they were happy with the design and would like some fairly photo-realistic visualisations to promote it. The design is complex and the materials and form will really allow for some interesting exterior images to be produced. I’m looking forward to tackling the project!

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5 Questions with Brian Graham, Furniture Designer and SharkCAD Pro super user

Tell us a little about who you are, your background and experience with CAD:

I’m an interior designer that morphed into a furniture designer, and that informs everything that I do. Understanding the context of how various pieces of furniture come together in a space and how they work together are fundamental to what I do. I’m a native of Southern California that moved to San Francisco about 30 years ago, originally as an interior designer with Gensler. I broke off on my own in 1999 and have been running my own design studio since then. I work as an independent consultant, partnering with manufacturers to design, develop and market new designs under their brand. I’m fortunate to be associated with some of the best companies in the business, including Decca, Geiger, Halcon, Knoll, Martin Brattrud and OFS. At any one time I have 4-5 products that either are in schematic design, engineering development or about to be launched, so my days are pretty varied. I don’t fabricate anything and I don’t have a shop…although sometimes I wish I did. My computer set up consists of a 2017 15” MacBook Pro with a 3.1 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. That’s hooked up to a 27” LG Ultra HD Display with a nice built in USB-C powered hub so I can power my computer and get closer to my goal of being dongle-less…if that’s even a term.

What kind of products do you design?

My focus is primarily on the contract furniture market, which means I’m knee deep into everything from systems to casegoods, tables and seating. Recently I introduced a number of new designs at our industry’s annual trade show, NeoCon, which is held every June in Chicago. And I’m already and work on new designs for 2019 and 2020.

How long have you used Shark?

I’ve been using Shark since before it was called Shark! (So would that time stamping be BS and AS?) I was an Ashlar guy and the VAR I was connected to, Robert Hagemeister out of Saybrook, Connecticut, suggested I look at this newly launched product called Concepts Unlimited. That was somewhere around the Winter of 2001, I think. It was a really good platform, and I liked the direct connection with Tim and Todd and all of the knowledge of the users in the Forum. I’ve never looked back.

How does Shark fit into your work flow?

My work flow is very unique to me, because I came into this profession drawing by hand. For me, everything starts with a sketch. Once I have the germ of something in that sketch, I immediately take it into Shark and scale it up so I’m working with real dimensions. I’ll take that as far as I can, and then I’ll print out some views and sketch over those to refine the gesture, then back onto Shark. It’s kind of reading and reacting and working in iterations until I arrive at what I’m after…or I’m at my deadline! Whichever comes first!

What is a piece of advice you’d like to impart on an aspiring designer?

I’d say it’s all about finding your voice in the market that you’ve chosen to pursue. Once you’ve staked out your turf, so to speak, I think you need to come to a design problem with curiosity, empathy and a point of view. You should have a well developed sense of how things should work, how they should feel and of course how they should look.

Is there anything else you want to share?

At it’s essence, design is an optimistic act, and so with all of the turmoil in the world I think we as designers need to remember that we have a unique set of skills to adapt and shape things for the better.

If you are interested in seeing more of Brian’s designs, visit him at Graham Design or on Instagram @grahamdesignsf

This article originally appeared on the Punch!CAD website, April 2018 >> https://www.punchcad.com/blog/post/5-questions-with-brian-graham-furniture-designer

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“I bumped into SketchUp at version 5!”

Paul Hensey is a specialist in design, horticulture and construction techniques. He is the Principal at Green Zone Garden and Landscape Design, Midhurst, West Sussex. Paul is a Fellow of the Society of Garden Designers and former Vice Chair, Member Chartered Institute Horticulture, Member Garden Media Guild & a Technical Journalist and Author specialising in Construction techniques, materials and Computer Aided Design. A landscape & garden designer since 1999, with numerous awards, inc Gold & Best in show and Most Innovative Garden at RHS Tatton, Hampton Court and Chelsea and an SGD Award winner 2019. A frequent lecturer on construction detailing and an educator and trainer in SketchUp, he enjoys sharing his extensive knowledge of the world’s favourite 3D modeller and we’re delighted that he’s guest written an article for our Blog. You’ll also be able to come and see Paul in person at our upcoming SketchUp event at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge where he’ll be sharing valuable insights into his use of SketchUp, particularly LayOut.

His new book “Construction Detailing for Landscape and Garden Design Volume 2 – Water Features” is out now.

I bumped into SketchUp at version 5, shortly before Google acquired it. I was returning from living in Scandinavia and needed a cheap and simple software solution to support my new business as a landscape and garden designer. I had been used to high end 3D CAD systems, working as an industrial designer and I was struggling to make anything fit the way I worked, whilst being on a scale that I could manage as a one-man operation.

SketchUp was somewhat simplistic at that time, but then so were my designs, it was a good fit. I have been a loyal user, perhaps even an evangelist ever since.

I am now based in West Sussex, designing landscapes and garden schemes throughout the South of England. I work on intimate back yards, roof terraces through to large country estates. Because of my engineering background I have a passion for solving three dimensional problems and construction detailing is where I am happiest. Whilst I can visualise how everything fits, I need to communicate it to those who will actually do the work, so everything gets modelled. If two or more things come together then the has to be a drawing and for there to be a drawing there has to be a model. I do it well enough that I am employed by many other designers to do the detailing and problem solving on their projects and it now forms a significant portion of my business. Encountering so many aspects of construction inspired me to record the solutions to typical situations and I have two books published on construction, all of the illustrations were of course created in SketchUp.

I work almost exclusively in SketchUp and where I do step outside the software to develop images or presentations in particular; I am working on geometry that has been exported from SketchUp.

I have a pretty robust workflow. At the start of a project, data can arrive in several ways: whether as a .dwg plan of the site from an architect or surveyor, through to a doodle on a scrap of paper indicating a designer’s vision; many designers use CAD to capture their idea but have no wish or interest in driving the software to work out the details and anticipate problems. Its important to get an accurate representation of the existing site or space and so I always create a reference model of the space or terrain.

Early stage design work can be on paper or directly in SketchUp. I use whichever tool best facilitates quick exploration of ideas. Communication with clients and contractors is always through SketchUp models, even if they sometimes take a trip through Photoshop or one of the filter software plugins.  In the early stages these are always mass models, developing the space and helping visualise scale, proportion and positioning. Good quality textures help enormously. The design process is iterative, and I have found that going in too early with realistic images can close down design options and manoeuvrability as compromises and changes have to be considered and introduced as reality and budgets kick in. Once a design is approved the fun really begins. Whilst I thoroughly enjoy the creativity and development of concepts, I love the problem solving and detailing that comes with resolving the constructability of a design.

This requires new models. Each element, junction and assembled item is modelled from its constituent parts These are saved as separate models both within the project but also within a separate parts library. They now become an asset for future projects. Whilst the 3D models are created in SketchUp, Layout is the window through which I present images and drawings to clients and contractors. So long as a model has a logical layer structure then Layout will readily allow the composition of 2D and 3D diagrams. I add all dimensions and drawing labels here as well as importing reference images. So long as the project file structure is set up correctly, any changes made to the model are reflected across all associated drawings. This saves a lot of time and head scratching. I keep the Layout files updated and referenced to the parent SketchUp model and save out each up-issue as a PDF, giving me a record of the issue history.

Planting plan created in Layout

I learnt pretty early on that you need to name and store files in a consistent and methodical manor: A naming convention like: “Mr & Mrs Smith final site plan” is going to lead to problems when the approved plan ceases to have the finality you had hoped.

Layout isn’t just a subservient tool to SketchUp. I create a lot of original content within it (it’s a vector based drawing tool after all) from electrical and irrigation symbols, plant and tree icons to entire drawings of common details. The library within Layout (called Scrapbooks) is customisable and I add an ever-expanding collection of drawings that are immediately accessible and can be dragged onto project specific sheets. Layout is a seriously underused aspect of SketchUp. You can read about it, but nothing beats being shown. Professional looking drawings take practice but if your SketchUp model is good then you are almost there.

Top tips for Layout:

Save your layout file as soon as you create it, in the folder location you want. This will save references becoming “detached” later on.

Set up a range of templates (i.e. drawing sheets) to your design and with your logo etc. A3, A2, A1 etc

Create a custom Scrapbook of the symbols and graphics that you use all the time: plants, trees, scale bars, north etc. It will make creating drawings so much quicker and you will have a consistent style.  You can import “Cad-blocks” for a lot of line work (e.g. vehicles)

Before I start any detailed design, I story board what I want on each output sheet and how many sheets I want. This keeps me focussed and helps a lot when quoting for work.

Set up your Scenes in SketchUp to give you the best view/ representation. You can add graphics such as cross section hatching as an overlay in Layout if required.

Be consistent in your Layout style. Look at other people’s drawings. For example, I mostly use iso views for “engineering” drawings as perspective can be visually jarring sometimes.

When you have “sent to Layout”, set up your view with your preferred scene and scale. Copy and pasting the viewport means that you can add multiple views per page, even across pages and change to different scenes without having to go back and send each scene to Layout. This was a revelation to me when I first found it!

Come and see Paul and other esteemed SketchUp experts at Kettle’s Yard on Thursday 20th June. Space is limited and tickets are going fast, so don’t wait too long to get yours. Get your FREE ticket(s) here

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Would You Like SketchUp With That?

Cadsoft Solutions Limited in association with SketchUp UK invite you to join us for our first SketchUp showcase event here in Cambridge. If you’re a commercial, education or student user of SketchUp, this event is for you. Join us at the prestigious Kettle’s Yard for all things SketchUp. Beer and pizza is on us!

We’ll be meeting and greeting in the Clore Learning Space at Kettle’s Yard and have a schedule packed with all things SketchUp, including showcase demonstrations from guest speakers and an extensive opportunity for Q&A. If you have an issue or technical query relating to SketchUp, why not come along and seek the advice of one of the SketchUp experts in the room? This is a FREE event.

Who is this event for?

Does SketchUp feature in your day-to-day work? Are you an architect, work in commercial interiors, construction, landscape architecture, 3D printing, residential construction, urban planning, furniture making and design, woodworking, art, product design, set design, an art gallery or museum? Are you studying and using SketchUp? If the answer to any of the aforementioned is ‘yes’, then this event is for you.

What to expect

Hear from guest speakers, meet other SketchUp users, speak with SketchUp experts, talk projects, collaborate, learn some new tricks, find out about new extensions and much more. We’re providing beer, soft drinks, pizza and some freebies for guests.

Event schedule (subject to last minute changes. Timings for guidance)

  • Welcome and Introductions (4.10pm);
  • What’s new in the world of SketchUp;
  • Showcase, Stephanie Veanca Ho, University of Cambridge Department of Architecture, Paul Hensey of Green Zone Design Limited, Nick Johnson, Cadsoft Solutions Limited ; There will be demonstrations of SketchUp extension Modelur, Enscape, Kubity, LayOut & more; (4.30pm)
  • Beer and Pizza time! (5.45pm);
  • Q&A : Ask the experts (6.30);
  • Over to you for networking (and more beer & pizza) (from 7.15pm);
  • Event closes (9pm).

Space is limited and tickets are going fast, so don’t wait too long to get yours. Get your FREE ticket(s) here

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A Constructible Model with M Moser Associates

SketchUp spoke to Jason Li, Associate and Charles Corley, Director of Organisational Development at M Moser Associates about how virtual design and construction complements an integrated project design and delivery approach.

Over the past fifteen years, M Moser, a global AEC firm with an extensive track record in workplace design and construction, has used SketchUp and LayOut not only for design and conceptualisation but as a vital communication tool throughout the project delivery process.

What does the term “VDC” mean to M Moser?
Charles: It’s Virtual Design and Construction and by that we mean an entirely constructible 3D modelling workflow that empowers any stakeholder to understand and participate in a project. We can create a working virtual environment that makes everything clear to all project participants regardless of training or experience. Rather than relying on a highly coded or flat and disassembled, abstract set of documents, a visual reference is universal. A desk looks like a desk; a wall looks like a wall. You don’t need an expert interpreter of construction documents in order to understand fully and collaborate.

M Moser prefers to own as much of the responsibility on a project as possible. The best case scenario is we’re the designer, engineer, purchaser, and contractor. The deliverable, if you will, is the completed project. Throughout all of our offices worldwide, we use virtual design and construction out of a need to have everybody understand each other. We have an array of cultures, understandings, and backgrounds in construction. We want people to engage meaningfully and get the best out of each other’s contribution and expertise by constructing a project in SketchUp well before reaching the site. VDC is a communication tool that gets everybody on the path to the right result.

What types of projects do you focus on as a business?
Charles: We design and build workplaces. Not only corporate offices but corporate campuses, laboratories, private hospitals, private education facilities, and workplaces of all types. You name it, we’ve done it.

Using a nimble tool like SketchUp is also extremely important as these types of projects can be ever-changing. With more traditional building projects you have to nail down things well before construction for many reasons such as permitting, structural calculations, and ordering materials. But workplaces, even extremely large ones, can remain fluid in design. Even the size of the premises could change considerably. Departments can move around. Mergers and acquisitions could change the whole landscape of the office. The flexibility of SketchUp allows the entire team, including clients, specialists, and contractors to keep up.
Virtual construction starts to become tangible.


[Render; not just a pretty facade, the engineering can be equally eye-catching.

What is unique about the way you operate?
Charles: In some ways, we’re sort of the enfant terrible. We’re radical about change and are constantly evolving the way we think about construction information. Where many firms are steeped in more traditional documentation, we’re trying to make any record of construction information a by-product of the real collaboration and 3D work.

We don’t want to send out stacks of documents to people who have never seen it before and say, “Go read this and get back to us with a price.” We’d rather have them involved from the very beginning. This means, all the trades, contractors, suppliers, and the client working together in 3D, from concept to completion.

We’re trying to shake the tree where a lot of people don’t want to change. Jason and I have a lot of war stories about how people are incredibly stubborn to change and don’t wish to consider alternatives. We’ve broken down a lot of assumptions like, “You can’t use SketchUp for official documents to send to the government,” or “It’s not accurate enough,” or “We can’t collaborate with consultants using other programs.” These arguments have melted and fallen by the wayside.

Jason: M Moser could be considered quite unique in the industry because our focus is not just on the design. We have to consider the contractors and the build. For many companies, their role ends when they hand over the designs and completed documents, whereas we handover a complete result. And even beyond that, our role sometimes continues into operation and maintenance.

Construction detailing in LayOut can be templated for all projects in a region.

Your designers are charged with producing constructible models. Can they do this on the first pass?
Charles: Not every designer has the experience to really understand construction. They tend to draw the design intent, then they have to work with others to discover what’s possible.

As an example, just recently we had a team discussing an intricate reception counter. The contractor in the room pointed out: “If the table were four inches shorter, we could use off-the-shelf components and wouldn’t have to manufacture any custom pieces.” The designer made the change right then, rationalising that it wouldn’t really impact the overall look but offered a significant reduction in cost and lead-time. Thousands of collaborative discussions like this occur constantly, many of which wouldn’t be possible in 2D.

Jason: We collaborate on a daily basis; it’s not really like a factory where I do my job and pass to someone else, or “Here’s a stack of drawings, you go and do it.” Projects are realised through discussion and brainstorming. People have different backgrounds and this way we can truly avoid misinterpretations on what the designer intended.

Virtual construction sequencing can save months onsite.

People will always have differing opinions, so does it always go as planned?
Charles: What you would see in our meetings would be a group of people from very different professions, looking at a model being rotated on a large screen. The person leading the meeting is not coming up with all the answers, they’re the “chief question-asker.” The team answers the issues together, marking the live model and taking screen captures. They talk about what needs to change and sometimes even make these changes on-the-fly. It’s very much a team activity.

The notion of success mostly comes from the client but often there are multiple opinions. One might say, “I want to make sure I have the correct amount of meeting rooms;” another person says, “I want to make sure we finish on time;” another, “I want to make sure my boss coming from overseas is happy,” and so on. Those objectives blend together and form the definition of a successful project.

Jason: We’re using VDC as a methodology to ensure designers, engineers, professionals, specialists, and the client can communicate on an equal platform. Our goal is that everybody understands the project objectives to achieve results.

Collaboration throughout a project makes for a smooth delivery.


A slick reception area before, during, and after the build.

Building constructible 3D models looks to be a time-consuming exercise. Is it more efficient than it seems?
Charles: Many would say that you can do something in AutoCAD faster or easier than you can in SketchUp. We have found that is not the case if you use it intelligently. There is often a false understanding of time efficiency. Hand a project to a couple or draftsmen and they may spend hundreds of hours doing the drawings, not taking the time to understand construction. A senior stakeholder would then have to go through each page of the drawings to check them, applying the required 20 years of experience to effectively decipher it. Then there are the perspectives. Visualisers can spend an inordinate amount of time setting up beautiful—but only a limited number of—renders. All those hours really add up.

Jason: VDC forces the people who are doing the drawings to think about what they’re building, they can’t just draw lines. With our methodology, the modeller creates everything in SketchUp.
Then they split the model into different viewports in LayOut to see right away if something’s not working. The key difference is, any changes are immediately echoed through the entire set. Everybody’s job is faster and easier. The whole workflow is compressed and more evident to everybody at a glance. Errors are glaring, “Oh, look, this wall is not meeting the mullion correctly.” We can see where buildability is correct and where it is failing, and we can catch it early. There’s also less time spent on visualisations. We can use an extension to quickly do perspectives from any position in minutes instead of hours.


Finding a clash here, is one step closer to eliminating onsite issues.

Get everyone on the same page with exploded 3D fly-through animations.

What perspectives can your clients expect to see in the early design stages?
Jason: We do aim to deliver spectacular visuals to help convey our idea. At one time, we had a team of visualisation specialists dedicated to rendering, but it became a bottleneck because time had to be booked with the few 3D visualisers trained in that software.

We now have established ways to do as much as we can in SketchUp, which is the fastest way. There isn’t a steep learning curve. Everybody can have it and everybody can use it to develop gorgeous renderings with extensions. We don’t need so many specialists. In Shanghai and Singapore, we use renderers such as Enscape. In India, we lean more toward CPU-based renderers, including SU Podium.

Charles: We also had a problem with third-party drawn perspectives. A designer would freestyle to make something look better. In this process, they might have a detailed understanding of what the interior would look like, but would often leave out the air vents, access panels, joint lines, and sprinklers because they thought they were ugly. Even worse, they would enlarge or shrink objects to give a false impression of what one would experience.

By transitioning to the VDC methodology, we ensure that perspectives remain true to life. We can also deliver beautiful renders instantly, so you can quickly look at things from a different point of view. There’s a nimbleness that is lost when creating perspectives with other workflows where the same limited views are updated over and over again.


Render; a visually stunning workplace is a productive workplace.

Does your methodology transverse regions?
Charles: We developed our approach because we work with contractors trained in very different ways and to some extent that continues today. However, we think that the constructibility aspect of VDC is applicable anywhere. There’s a great deal of value in being able to do virtual mock-ups and say, “Are you sure this is what you want? Because look here, this could be improved.”

Constructible models eliminate wasted resources and materials and allow for an unprecedented attention to detail before reaching the site. If you think of everything in a project as separate systems that must come together, there’s a huge amount of coordination required in what was traditionally called the design development stage. We now choose to call this integrated development because we are essentially combining the power, lighting, partition, and furniture systems.

The integrated development stage is where much of the change occurs and decisions are made. Documentation for the record is memorialising what we had agreed during all this collaborative effort. Documents may be still necessary for now but they record what was already worked out and understood by all and don’t serve to gain that agreement. That was done through a highly constructible model—a virtual construction.


Photograph; the finished product, a clean and crisp space featuring natural materials.

About M Moser Associates
M Moser Associates has specialised in the design and delivery of workplace environments since 1981, with clients from the corporate, private healthcare, and education sectors. With over 900 staff in 16 offices on three continents, the company provides a holistic approach to physical and digital workplace environments of all scales.

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Making a door and window schedule in SketchUp

Let’s take a look at how you can combine Advanced Attributes and ‘Group By” aggregation in Generate Report to create door and window schedules.
To generate a schedule, we’ll start by adding a few attributes to the door and window components in my model. Specifically, we’ll add a Size using the new Advanced Attributes (access these through the “More” button in the Entity Info window). In addition to Size, there is a new attribute for Price, URL, Owner, and Status. These fields allow you to add information to any component, and they can also be called upon by LayOut labels (we’ll look at those a few paragraphs on)!

These attributes can be used to add data to components without creating Dynamic Components.
In addition to defining a Size for all components, we also want to make sure all components have an instance name. Instance Names are also defined in the Entity Info window, and are the data object we’ll use to create an aggregated schedule for our doors and windows.
In most cases, all instances of a door or window will have the same Instance Name, but in some cases (such as a door which can swing either left or right) a single component may end up having more than one Instance Name. In this example, we had one door component. Two of these doors swung left and were labeled D1. The third, a right swing, was labeled D2. Same component, but different real world thing: each real world thing should have a unique Instance Name!

The Instance Names will populate the labels once the model is in LayOut
Once the data is all set in the model, it’s time to run a report! In Generate Report, we’ll create a brand new template. Make sure to give your new template a name and save it (The guy who made the video below forgot this important step!).
The first step in creating the new report is to choose where the information will come from. In this example, we want to report upon the entire model and choose to report upon a specific nesting level. In this case, Level 3.
“What the heck is a nesting level?” you ask? Level 1 is the model, Level 2 is the buildings and loose components. Level 3 is the door and window components inside the buildings.

Now, we’ll  set the Group By value. This is the attribute by which Generate Report will aggregate components. In this case, we want all components with the same name to get consolidated together, so we will drag Instance Name into the Group By field. Finally, we can add any additional attributes that we would want on the schedule. In this example, we’ll add Quantity and Size to the Report Attributes list.

Saving a template allows you to run the same report on other jobs in the future.
Now we’ll Save and run the report. Once I run the report, it looks like a door and window schedule. Success! The final step in SketchUp is to export the report, so that we can load a .CSV into LayOut as a Table.

All the data you want, and nothing you don’t need!
Over in LayOut, the report comes in as a Table, which means it can be edited and styled (so we can change the column heading from Instance Name to Label). Even better, we can use the Label tool to add call-outs to the Model Window for the Instance Name of each door and window. Since the Instance Name was a standard attribute from SketchUp, we’ll simply choose it as an automatic label from the label dropdown (we could also use the Size or Component Name, if we wanted).

It’s just that simple!
There you have it: A little bit of pre-work in naming and organising components while modelling, and then you’re off to the races when it’s time to turn your model into a project. Happy sketching!
 

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From concept design to construction with SketchUp

Northpower Stålhallar is a construction company based in Stockholm, Sweden that specializes in warehouse construction. They build industrial warehouses using SketchUp from concept design all the way to the construction phase, including LayOut for construction documentation.

Tell us about  Northpower Stålhallar. What do you do?
Northpower Stålhallar was started in 2006 by two brothers from the northern part of Sweden. We were something completely different from the company you see today. Our founders were sitting in a small office by themselves. Since then, the company has grown to almost fifty employees. Fifteen people work in the office, five people weld in our manufacturing department, and the rest are on our work sites building the projects.

Northpower Stålhallar’s office building. This includes a manufacturing unit, where many SketchUp designs come to life.
What was the company’s first experience with SketchUp. When did you first use it and why?
In the beginning, the two brothers were looking at other construction companies working in 2D and thought, “We don’t want to use 2D, we want to use 3D because you can visualize designs so much better”. They started to look around to understand what types of tools were on the market.
A company delivered a staircase to them for a project and one of the founders noticed it was drawn in SketchUp. He thought, “If they can do it, I can do it.” So he downloaded SketchUp and tried it. He found it to be fantastic. The cost is much lower than some of the other programs, so that was great too!
Can you talk about the space you are sitting in and its design in SketchUp? We’d love to take a virtual tour.
When you walk through the entrance, you have a view of our manufacturing unit. Everything made there is designed in SketchUp. You can see the steel being welded together. Northpower Stålhallar builds steels halls so our building is, of course, built with a steel frame.

Steel hall designs are a signature from Northpower Stålhallar
From the lobby, you can access the saunas (it’s a must in Sweden). There’s also a lunchroom, where we all sit and have lunch together. You can take the elevator up and that’s where we have our offices. When you come up, you’ll see a big open lounge area with sofas and TVs where you can sit and relax while waiting for a meeting. We also have table tennis, billiards, and an exercise room.
We modelled the whole thing in SketchUp. The painters were painting the designs exactly from the model. All of the furniture is inside the model too. This office is exact to the millimetre of its SketchUp model.


A lunchroom scene from the model of Northpower Stålhallar’s office
Walk us through a project lifecycle. How does SketchUp impact this?
In a typical project, our customer will have some idea of what they want to build. We sit with customers and discuss their needs. Our team will draw an initial idea live in SketchUp. We get a sense of the size of the space and we say, “Do you want a wall here or here? Do you need a window here or here?” That’s the best thing you can do with SketchUp—we decide everything directly and very quickly. If the client has a good sense of what they want, you can draw and deliver this initial idea in a couple of hours. It’s super.


A 3D SketchUp model allows the Northpower Stålhallar team to visualise what they want to build
It’s always interesting when you start working with a customer and they see the 3D models. In the beginning, they see how much you can model and how quickly. They are accustomed to doing sketches on paper and they have to erase, draw it again, and do it that way. And when they see how much we do in SketchUp they say, “Ah! I have to learn this too”.
Once we finish the initial design, we have to do the drawings. We use LayOut to present drawings to our customers. It’s easy to update our documentation with LayOut as we make adjustments to the model.
Our clients normally need to submit architectural drawings to the government for planning approval. These help the government understand our design. From these, we get permission to build. When a client gets that permission, we begin the construction drawings. Our engineers take another week or so to work on the construction documents. In the meantime, we order and begin sourcing materials from our suppliers.

A construction drawing created in LayOut
Can you talk about how you collaborate with your suppliers using SketchUp?
We always push our manufacturers to deliver everything to us in 3D. If you can’t draw it in 3D, we won’t buy from you. We’ve done this for a couple of years and almost everyone has followed. So today, when we order something, we send them our model and show them what we need. They look at it and can say, “We can deliver these parts for this price”.

For Northpower Stålhallar, everything is designed in 3D, including the screws and bolts
Once we agree, they send us the 3D model for specific parts, normally as IFC files. Then we’ll import the IFC file into our SketchUp model to see if there are any clashes. It’s much easier to look around a 3D model than 2D drawings with measurements, for example. All of this is checked in SketchUp directly.  
When you start a new project in SketchUp, do you start from scratch? Do you have any workflows that save time when working on a new project?
We implemented standard measurements that we apply to models as much as we can. It’s much easier for us to use SketchUp this way, like a grid system. We push customers to use these standards so that we can design it and build it more easily.


Northpower Stålhallar takes this design all the way to finished project using SketchUp
We also start most projects from a standard model. From there, we like to take solutions from previous 3D models. We copy solutions from project to project. When you’re designing in 3D, it’s so easy to pull these things in. We started a library in SketchUp to help with this where we collect the solutions that we’ve come up with before. Now, you can just drag it directly from the library to the model.

Copying solutions from project to project allows Northpower Stålhallar to save time when iterating through designs
As a company that uses SketchUp from concept design all the way to construction phase, can you share your take on using SketchUp to build a constructible model?
Before I started at Northpower Stålhallar, all I heard was people using SketchUp to design an idea of what something would look like; the outer shell let’s say. However, I learned that you can use it to design exactly what and how you will build. As engineers, if something is 3 millimetres wrong, it won’t fit. So for us, we draw everything down to the millimetre precision. We order components from our suppliers to the millimetre. For us, SketchUp does this perfectly.

This scene focuses on a warehouse’s steel frame; finding a clash here eliminates issues on-site
How do you use SketchUp models to work with your construction staff on site?
We share models with our construction workers. This way, they can look at them on-site using their laptops or phones. Every time we update something important, they see those updates to the model. We know they’ll look at the model, so it’s important for it to be up-to-date and accurate. We’ve noticed that the more our construction staff use the product, the fewer questions we get.

A construction team member navigates through a SketchUp model
Before, they would have questions about the measurement on a beam for example. Now, they’ll look at the model themselves and answer their own questions. For them, it’s easier to be able to access the information directly from the design.
Some of our construction teams have no prior experience with SketchUp. One advantage of SketchUp is how easy it is to learn compared to other programs. We sit with our staff, even just two hours, and they understand how to look around a model and access the important information.

Get everyone on the same page; collaboration makes for a smooth project delivery
What’s next for how your team uses SketchUp?
We’re trying to expand our use of ‘generate report’ to get more information from our models. We’re also trying to get more information into the models. What we want is as much information as we can get into our 3D models so that the model is the only thing we have to work from.
Extensions you can’t live without?
IRender, CleanUp, Cutlist, Auto-Invisible Layer

The Northpower Stålhallar team in SketchUp

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Tom Kaneko Design & Architecture: Sketch, Design / Build in Practice


Tom Kaneko is an architectural designer and SketchUp ninja specialising in bespoke residential retrofits and extensions in the United Kingdom. In this conversation, we delve into his workflow and how he uses SketchUp to deliver value to his clients within the constraints of a tight budget. For Tom, ‘SketchUp makes the means of design & communication, with client and contractor, one and the same’.
Tell us about your background as an architect and how this influences your approach to design.
I’m drawn to the technical aspects of the profession and the site. Luckily I had a very hands-on experience at the University of Edinburgh that has served me well in practice. As a designer, you have to know your craft… knowledge gaps become apparent when you transition from design to construction, particularly when engaging in conversations with builders and subcontractors.
What was the “Aha!” moment for you with SketchUp?
It came in 2011 when I was working on Jemima’s House, an extension to a terraced Victorian house with big ambitions and a tight budget.

SketchUp model and photo of completed project showing view from dining area into garden at Jemima’s House, London.
To manage the budget, keep my fees down and still deliver value to my client, I had to be very efficient with my time. We wanted to create an interesting and functional space, using inexpensive materials in a considered way. This meant I had to rapidly iterate to test and discuss ideas with Jemima. Modelling the concept in SketchUp helped immensely during our conversations as I could quickly communicate my intent in 3D and also reflect changes easily.
For the retrofit and extension projects that I’ve specialised in, minute details like insulation thickness can affect the final usable floor area. Communicating these details clearly to builders is very important so that the client gets the most value.
In SketchUp, I create all the detail drawings we need, and virtually construct the entire building before we go on site. By doing this, I’m able to spot every mistake. Once I saw that I could go from concept design to construction details in SketchUp on this project, I stopped exporting my sections or details to other CAD software. Now I know that what I’ve drawn is what the builders will have.

3D details of extension frame construction.
The smooth transition from concept to the site is crucial for a successful building – How do you ensure this and how does SketchUp support your workflow?
I start every concept with hand drawn sketches. I focus on getting the flow of the plan right, whilst incorporating the client’s requirements and desires within the limitations of a typical London terrace.

Hand drawn early concept plan.
At the schematic design stage, I get a survey of the existing building done, and turn that into a SketchUp model. In terms of my model structure, each floor is its own component, walls and floors are separate, and furniture and people are on individual layers. Having a well organised model makes it easy for me to make changes or remove elements. I also set up all my key scenes and sheets early on in SketchUp Pro and LayOut… floor plans, sections, main elevations and perspective views of the main spaces.
One typical design challenge I have is to achieve a great sense of space in the interior with a higher roof line, whilst considering the shadows cast on neighbours. At this point, testing out ideas in section and 3D helps me arrive at a unique, contextually appropriate response.

Early concept model showing 3D image & sectional test of context responsive roof pitch.
The output from the model can be used for sunlight studies which might be submitted as part of the planning application documents.

Early sunlight studies showing the positive impact of a context responsive roof pitch. Shadows cast by the proposal do not negatively impact the neighbouring building
Once the plans and sections are agreed, I create a separate construction model to really drill down into the details. Some of the angles in the roofline mean we have very bespoke junctions and I have to be able to clearly communicate the construction and design intent to the builders.

Construction drawing sheet created in SketchUp’s LayOut showing an exploded perspective of a bespoke oak frame end wall and details of key junctions.
As the design progresses, I usually create a separate model for each key stage. A simple schematic model will have several iterations… changes can take five minutes or forty minutes depending on how big a leap we’re making. A big win is that I can quickly update the section views using Skalp for SketchUp, and LayOut automatically picks up the changes. The final proposal from LayOut is what I use for the planning application.
Next, I create a detailed construction model that takes us on-site. Instead of hollow walls, the technical construction model articulates wall and roof details.
I’ve found that showing builders assemblies and perspectives in 3D helps them really get behind the design intent. They have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve and why. In my experience, clear information leads to great relationships on the building site. Some really experienced builders on previous projects have told me my construction drawings from LayOut are some of the best details they’ve ever seen!

Image showing construction sequence. Dangan Road Project by Tom Kaneko Design.
What drawing standards and style templates do you use most in SketchUp and why?
My LayOut template is very pared back and simple. I usually place drawings on an A3 sheet, as it’s a good size to view things on the computer and in print. I use the font Helvetica for annotations and keep all sheets simple, legible and scalable. Over time I’ve developed my own set of revision clouds and drawing title blocks but my principle is to keep the graphics minimal so that the design can take centre stage.
What is your approach to rendering and visualisations?
I use Thea for renderings because it’s simple and embedded in SketchUp. It’s also a great design tool for lighting.
What keyboard shortcut could you not live without?
Hide rest of model without a doubt! “Ctrl + H” allows me to edit a tiny component within a vast space. Ed. note: Ctrl + H is a custom shortcut set by Tom. Make your own custom shortcuts, too!

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Make (even) better drawings with LayOut

There’s more to SketchUp than 3D modelling. Let’s take a look under the hood and explore one of the built-in features that make SketchUp so versatile and powerful.
For presenting work to clients, planning boards, contractors — whomever — we still use 2D drawings to convey design and detail. That’s pretty clear.
And if you read this blog you’ve seen that LayOut is the most efficient way to turn SketchUp models into diagrams, drawings, CD sets, presentations, or even just scaled prints.

We have to say it… if you aren’t using LayOut, you’re missing out! Page courtesy of Dan Tyree

SketchUp Pro and LayOut are designed together to help you make phenomenal drawings. So why not take the next step and learn LayOut? We think you should.
Of course, you’re welcome to download SketchUp Pro 2019 to give LayOut a try. But if you are already working in LayOut, we invite you to read on and learn how to make even better drawings.

Create Scaled Drawings
A SketchUp model is not the only entity that has a scale in LayOut. LayOut’s tools to draw to scale in 2D. Sketch a detail from scratch or add scaled linework over your SketchUp models — directly in LayOut. Gone are the days when you’d have to go back into SketchUp to create a 2D drawing or eyeball the position of a dashed line to show an overhead cabinet.
Once you’ve created a scaled drawing, you’re free to re-set scales as you wish; your work will resize as necessary. And as you would expect, your scaled drawings are fully supported by LayOut’s Dimension tool.

Complement or sketch over SketchUp viewports with line-work that can be drawn (and dimensioned) at scale.

For all the ways you draw…
Drawing heuristics are what we do. LayOut’s tool-set makes drawing details easier. Here are three of our favorites:
Use the 2 Point Arc tool to find tangent inferences. You can also use it to create chamfers and fillets with a specified radius.

When editing a line, you can select multiple segments and points while adding and subtracting entities to your selection.

Don’t want LayOut to automatically join new line segments with existing ones while you’re drawing? There’s a right-click menu item to toggle that off.

Group Edit and Entity Locking
To support scaled drawings, editing grouped entities in LayOut works just like it does in SketchUp. That means it’s way easier to modify grouped entities and thus, it’s much easier to keep your documents well organised. Bonus: you can also control “rest of document” visibility while editing groups.
Similar to group editing, locking entities is fundamental to how many people organise and navigate projects (both models and documents). In addition to locking layers, you can easily lock individual LayOut entities to cut down on accidental selections — just like in SketchUp.
Draw to the .000001”
Accurate dimensions are an obvious requirement for any drawing set. LayOut displays dimensions as precisely as SketchUp can model: up to 0.000001 centimetres.
By happy coincidence, this precision also allows you to dimension across distinct SketchUp viewports in order to create an excellent section detail like this…

Two SketchUp viewports with clipping masks; one accurate dimension string.

LayOut: A+, plays well with others.
Finally, we understand that not everyone works in LayOut. Your colleagues may use other CAD applications. You may use other CAD applications. So we introduced a DWG/DXF importer to LayOut. You can import files from your colleagues and your own existing CAD content — title blocks, blocks, pages, and geometry — all to a scale that fits within your LayOut paper size.
Because however you work — in and out of SketchUp — LayOut is here to help you make great drawings.