Based heavily on user feedback, the team at SketchUp polished up a few features that will keep your workflow humming along smoothly!
Freshening up SketchUp Pro
Scenes Panel. Now that you’ve had some time to enjoy better toggling visibility with hidden geometry and objects, this feature just got even better. Hidden geometry and hidden objects are now split up so you can select and save them separately on a Scene-by-Scene basis. You will see a new checkbox in the Scenes panel that lets you save the visibility state of hidden objects, not just hidden geometry. This gives you better visibility control per Scene.
Section Planes & Scenes. In the new version of SketchUp, you can save Section Plane visibility in every Scene. Since Section Planes are grouped with objects, we want to make sure they behave like objects. What’s the value here? Before this change, only top-level visibility could be saved per Scene. Again, more control in your Scenes — and consistency across functionality.
Hidden objects are now editable. Editing invisible things might sound like a superpower, but it’s really just a great new feature in SketchUp Pro. When you select a hidden object in Outliner, it will now appear as a mesh. This means that you can make more precise edits to hidden objects with ease. Check out this Quick Win to see how it’s done.
Side note:Did you notice how much faster it is to work in SketchUp when Outliner is open? SketchUp 2020.1 includes a few performance improvements to speed up your workflow that we think you’ll like.
Improvements to Grips. You can now cycle through ALL Grips of an object when using the Rotate tool — just like the Move tool! This provides a more instinctive modeling experience while switching in between the tools.
Check out this Quick Win from our 2020 release to help you understand Grips.
Empty object. Picture this: you are working up a new table design and quickly model a lamp to make it look more realistic — but oops! — you did it too fast and forgot to group your lamp and table separately. Now, everything is glued together, creating editing reworks and wasted time.
The solution? Now, you can create a grouped object or component by right-clicking on an empty space. No more triple-clicking to select and then group, or drawing it elsewhere just to place it where you want it. Pro tip: you can also use the ‘G‘ shortcut to create a new component and speed up your workflow. (Shortcut win!)
One last added bonus! When you create a new component from scratch, a window will immediately pop up allowing you to name it. Say hello to better model organization.
This release focused on improving LayOut’s deletion and selection capabilities. Read as: they’re much faster now!
Improved Select Tool
Make intentional — not accidental — moves with your crossing and window-selection workflows. Now, when you click-drag to create a crossing or window selection, you won’t mistakenly move anything. If you’ve encountered this, you know what we’re talking about… and you’re welcome!
If you’re wondering, “how do I move an object now?” — just pre-select an entity and move from there. Also, selections and moves now occur when clicking on the actual object, rather than the object’s bounding box, strengthening that intentional workflow.
Download the new version, play with the latest improvements and let us know what you think. As always, we will be there listening, responding, and getting great ideas for new updates. See you on the Axis!
All of the 2020.1 features are available to Classic license users with active Maintenance & Support, and active SketchUp Pro and SketchUp Studio subscription users. Upgrade today to start using new features!
When asked, why SketchUp, Director of Bedfordshire based Solutions4Gardens Mark Woodman’s answer was emphatic; using SketchUp drives efficiency, provides flexibility, and enables the company to communicate a vision and scope of work achieving a common understanding of a project. With a supporting cast including SU Podium and Mind.Sight.Studios’ Profile Builder, Quantifier and Bool Tools, we talked to Mark about subscriptions, plug-ins and his company’s projects and design processes.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your company Solutions4Gardens
Landscape gardening is my second career. I’m fortunate enough to have a good sized garden, so gardening and landscaping started for me as a necessity which turned into a passion, and then into a career.
We have three small teams that work on a variety of projects from small patios to complete garden redesigns.
Although a much over-quoted phrase, quality is really our number one motivator. If we wouldn’t be content having something in our garden, we wouldn’t be happy to deliver it to a client. That extends to the products we use, the suppliers we work with, the work we do and the people who work for us. We’re proud to have been recognised for the quality of our installations by a number of trade organisations.
It is a huge privilege to be asked to design and build a complete space in someone’s house, but one that gives me a great sense of satisfaction.
Initially we were looking for a piece of software that could help us with garden design. We evaluated several, but whilst some were more focused on landscaping than SketchUp, SketchUp provided a basic set of tools that (with investment) gave us the complete flexibility to do what we wanted to do.
Your company provides a huge range of professional services and this many projects must present all sorts of challenges when working with clients. Does SketchUp help you solve any of these?
We use SketchUp to help us with two main aspects of our work. The first is to help us communicate a design with clients. Some of our clients know broadly what they want to achieve with their outdoor space, and others come to us with a much more open brief. For each, we are able to produce designs that enable us to communicate a vision and scope of work that helps the client visualise the outcome and for us both to achieve a common understanding of the project.
The second significant benefit we gain from using SketchUp is purely internal. We now digitise every site survey, regardless of whether we are producing a client design. Doing so gives us three benefits. One, we have an easily readable digital version of the site survey for future reference (even allowing us to digitally measure parts of the site we perhaps didn’t capture during the actual visit). Two, we can produce really accurate material quantity calculations, and third, we can produce detailed build plans that we can take to site or share with suppliers. The second two of these allow us to be more efficient with materials, and to collaborate with suppliers, which in turn means we are more effective when we are on site (saving the client time and money).
Is there any specific feature or functionality that really stands out?
There are loads, but I suppose what I lean on the most is the “Object Inspector”, or perhaps more specifically the ability to compose elements within the model into a hierarchy. We use that to divide the model into many logical units, such as areas of the space (Terrace, Water Feature, etc), or build layer (Groundworks, sub base, finished surface). Using the object model we can keep all the relevant pieces of the model grouped together, work on individual pieces, or show / hide elements.
What’s your workflow look like and how do you keep it streamlined?
We start with a site survey. We measure every aspect of the existing garden, and we take lots of pictures. As quickly as possible on returning to the office, we digitise that data in SketchUp, even if we’re not planning on working on the design for a while. The sketched elements of that initial outline goes into its own group in the Object Hierarchy and is locked. We can then copy it to create the future design iterations.
Depending on the complexity of the brief, we’ll then add additional details from the existing space which will show the garden “as is”. We then send that model to Layout, and use it to create a “Customer Brief”. This is used to play back and confirm with the client that we have understood what they want to achieve from the design project. Again, depending on complexity we may create one or more lower fidelity design treatments for the client, building each as a separate set of objects and creating separate views. We then again send that to Layout to share with the client. We’ll then take the chosen design, create a new file (to keep the model size manageable) and work up the final design, produce several client views / renders and send to the customer for final approval. Once we have settled on a design, we then switch gears and work up any construction plans and quantity models based on that design, again, creating views and sending the results to Layout for use on site. We use the data from SketchUp to build our quotes (more on that below)
Over the years we’ve definitely gotten much more efficient at this process. Big “step ups” for us were (probably in order), making our own object / component library, material library, leveraging the object inspector / model, using Layout for output, creating our own SketchUp / Layout document templates, and finally using the Mind.Sight.Studios components.
Now an annual subscription, what are thoughts as a commercial user?
I like the subscription model and it is what we use. The success or otherwise of the subscription model needs to be based on good service and regular, meaningful product updates. A software company that understands its users and is committed to delivering and developing the best product they can is a good candidate for a subscription service. A software company that believes it can move an existing business based on static or legacy products, and sees the model as a cash-cow will not succeed. The model gives me the option to move products if I don’t feel as though my subscription £ is getting value.
What extensions do you use and why those particular plug-ins? 3D models of plants, cost control plug-ins, renderers?
We use the Mind.Sight.Studios plugins extensively. Most of our constructions (decking, fencing, etc) are modelled in ProfileBuilder. Before, if I needed to draw a fence line I’d need to have a set of components that I would construct into a fence. With ProfileBuilder, I just draw the fence line and it puts all the posts, rails and panels in. We also use BoolTools, which helps us cut components into shapes, for example when modelling a terrace that isn’t an exact number of paving slabs. Finally, we use Quantifier. Once we’ve built our model we click a button and SketchUp / Quantifier will export for us all our materials, equipment and labour requirements. We can then import that into our quoting software. This last component has significantly improved our material ordering accuracy.
We have also recently moved to SUPodium for rendering. We produce renders for some of our design work to help client visualisation and to help sell the proposition. We are by no means experts at this, and so the attraction of SUPodium over our previous render engine is that it makes a “passable” image possible without a massive investment in time. I also like the fact that version 2.6 now ships with their extensive object and material library.
Are there any other extensions you have your eye on and would like to try in the future?
As a Landscape designer I’m always on the lookout for a great plant library. One gap with SketchUp is that I haven’t figured out a way to easily produce useful planting plans. When we use planting in our models the plants are “representative” of what we might plant, but mostly the plants we use are a selection of the best (least polygon intensive) ones available on the SketchUp Library. A great plant library with a good selection of UK species, along with 2D and 3D representations would be great. I’m looking forward to trying the plant library that ships with SUPodium v2.6.
Is there a project that you’re particularly proud of? A project that just came together perfectly?
Corny, but true, I am proud of everything we’ve done, just ask my family. They have to sit through the endless pictures. But to single something out, would be the design I’ve shared with you for this article. It’s a few years ago, so our SketchUp skills have improved and we’ve changed our presentation style, but this really captures what SketchUp does for us. We completely ripped out an existing garden and completely changed the layout. There were challenging levels and entry / exit requirements, as well as material mixes. SketchUp allowed us to communicate and sell the design, and provided us with the accurate build and material plan. The client loves the garden, we enjoyed building it, and the end result is just as we planned it.
And finally, thanks for talking to us about your work and projects. You’ve been a valued Cadsoft Solutions Limited customer for a while and we’ve never asked the question, what brought you to us?
We started by trying SketchUp through the “free” version along with other products. When we decided to go with SketchUp I looked for resellers, and found you guys in Cambridge. As a small business owner, I know the value of supporting similar businesses, so I reached out. I like your question, but perhaps the most interesting one for you and potential new clients is what keeps me with you when I could easily buy my renewal licenses from a nameless website. That would be support. I know I can email or call you and you will respond, and be able to offer me sensible advice. I appreciate you may not always be able to instantly fix issues in third party products, but you don’t dodge issues and recognise that, like any tool in our business, we rely on our software to be successful.
Thank you, Mark for a fantastic customer case study. We’re pleased that you’re happy with the service we provide and appreciate the comments.
Customer satisfaction is important. We recognise that when you purchase software customers are making an investment, and investments require support and even an honest appraisal of the ongoing suitability of that product or application, particularly if circumstances or business focus shifts over time.
Louise Booyens Interiors specialises in residential projects in and around Cambridge. CAD system convert now Sketchup Pro user, Louise has embraced the world’s favourite 3D modeller with open arms. Possessing an instinctive ability to see the potential of a space and creating a timeless, bespoke and comfortable look for a wide ranging clientele, Louise took some time out to talk to us about the important role SketchUp plays in her business.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background.
Hello, I’m Louise Booyens and from a very young age, I’ve had a passion for all things interior and an instinctive ability to see the potential of a space.
After obtaining a law degree in my native South Africa, I moved to the UK and completed a Diploma in Interior Design as well as a Diploma in Curtains and Soft Furnishings. I set up my interior design practice about a year ago after having completed a degree in Heritage Interior Design.
Where did your journey start with Sketchup?
I was taught Sketchup and Autocad during my interior design studies and, although I worked with Autocad while studying, I found Sketchup more affordable when I set up my own practice. I also found Sketchup much easier to navigate. After I made the switch, I got used to working in the program fairly quickly.
People are always interested in learning about the creative challenges faced bydesigners, so how does SketchUp help you solve those challenges?
One of the challenges I face as an interior designer is to get my ideas across to the client. Clients sometimes find it hard to imagine what a space will look like with the walls in a different place or the furniture moved around, so Sketchup is a fantastic tool to quickly visualise any interior space and present my ideas.
As an interior designer, it is important to be able draw floor plans quickly and accurately. Sketchup makes this easy and I love the dimension tool in Layout.
Does SketchUp help you showcase the different stages of a design? Assuming a lotof the time you’re starting with 2D technical drawings and plans, then turning theseinto models and presenting, have you a typical workflow?
I always start with 2D floor plans and technical drawings. These are then turned into 3D models with wall finishes, furniture accessories etc. after which it’s all sent to LayOut.
Is there a particular feature of SketchUp that you couldn’t do without?
Probably Layout! I find it invaluable to create professional looking drawings almost instantly.
We’d have to agree with Louise. We still think LayOut is underused and undervalued. LayOut really does make it simple to take your 3D model in to a 2D space enabling you to show your client or partner that you’ve captured what you have discussed, and move the project forward with confidence. You can easily call out materials, lengths and details explaining the intricate detail of one model, and show real-world scale… all on one page.
Most used shortcuts?
I still only use a few basic shortcuts such as scale, move, tape measure, SHIFT Z Eraser, Circle.
And don’t forget these useful and frequently used custom shortcuts: M = Materials, C = Components, L= Layers.
Do you use any plug-ins or make use of pre-constructed models found in the 3DWarehouse?
At the moment I don’t use any other plug-ins., but I would definitely like to look into SU Podium for photorealistic rendering.
I do find the 3D Warehouse very useful, especially to show furniture layout in a 3D Model. It’s particularly useful if you need to make quick changes to textures, colours or other elements
Thanks, Louise. SketchUp is 3D interior design software that really does bring your ideas to life. Making the switch to SketchUp really has paid off for Louise, enabling her to create beautiful documents that get her clients excited, gaining their buy-in and winning business. Louise’s journey also illustrates how accessible SketchUp is whether your starting point is a hand sketch or a floor plan, for Louise, SketchUp just lets her get on with bringing these exquisite spaces to life.
If like Louise Booyens Interiors you’re a Cadsoft Solutions customer and would like to be featured as a case study, John Quinn in our marketing team would love to hear from you. We’re particularly keen to hear from our SU Podium/Walker, Rhinoceros and SketchUp customers.
In part 1 of this series, we revealed how to create winning interior design options in SketchUp. Now that you’re finished modelling, what’s next? We show you how to present your vision to customers and blow them away with your designs. And don’t forget to sign up to watch a live demo of this workflow in our upcoming webinar.
Adding your personal style is an important part of showcasing designs. StyleBuilder allows you to create customised line styles using imported digital or hand drawn strokes. Think crisp pen lines, wavy pencil marks or marks from a fat stick of graphite. Combine line styles with unique textures, colours and watermarks to inject your creative flair into models, renders and animations.
In SketchUp, you can create and edit styles. Apply your preferred style settings with a single click.
Create stunning 2D drawings and branded presentation documents
Now that you’ve added a style, it’s time to insert the model into LayOut. When you import a 3D model, a viewport is placed on the page. Good news, the scenes you set up in your SketchUp file are ready to use in LayOut.
Combine model views with text and 2D vector illustration to present design details, materials and design options. Many of the tools in LayOut work as they do in SketchUp. That means you can quickly get to drawing, resizing, adding details, making copies and changing styles and scale.
Present your ideas with SketchUp Viewer
Are printed drawings or a pdf the only way to showcase your work? Of course not! SketchUp Viewer for Mobile gives you the power to view and share your portfolio on iOS and Android devices. Take advantage of Augmented Reality to evaluate design options in real-world scale. Switch between scenes to showcase designs on the go while retaining your model’s style.
Model on the go with SketchUp for Web
Not all CAD tools are fully editable on the web, SketchUp is! Handy if you need to make on-the-fly changes when you’re away from your desktop computer. Let’s say you’re in a meeting at a client’s office and they want to see a project with a revised furniture layout. Open a model to SketchUp for Web directly from Trimble Connect on any web device to make the changes in real-time. Save the file to Trimble Connect for easy access back at the office.
Create rendered images with Trimble Connect visualiser
We’ll wrap this up with something that we are very excited about. Rendering! With a SketchUp Pro Subscription, you can create simplified renders using Trimble Connect for Desktop and the brand new Trimble Connect Visualiser. Note: this feature is currently available for Windows only.
Step into AR/VR to experience designs before they’re built
Do you have access to a VR or Mixed Reality device? If your answer is yes, you can bring 3D models to life in mixed or virtual reality. Step into a powerful new way to explore, understand, and share your work. The best part? It’s part of a SketchUp Pro Subscription.
Are you using a SketchUp Pro Perpetual license that has expired or is soon to expire? Want to get on to subscription and take advantage of all the new additional features the new plan offers? Email us firstname.lastname@example.org and we can advise you.
Remember to sign up to watch a step-by-step demo of this workflow in our upcoming webinar on December 11th, 4pm UTC.
Whether you’re interested in learning about new features and enhancements, tips and tricks from assembled experts and specialists or keen to see some of SketchUp’s most powerful and dynamic plug-ins in action, you need to come along to our next FREE SketchUp beer & pizza event! Last time out we were in Cambridge at the prestigious Kettle’s Yard. This time we’re at Anomalous Space, Pentonville Road, London.
Uniquely located between London’s Angel Islington, Kings Cross, Clerkenwell & Old Street, Anomalous Space is a multi-use environment situated within a converted Georgian town house. Boasting original Art Deco features and contemporary technology Anomalous Space seamlessly blends the comfort of the old with the innovation of the new. Angel tube station is only a 2 minute walk from the venue.
Paul Hensey, Principal of Green Zone Design Limited, will be sharing knowledge and insights on the usefulness and power behind SketchUp’s brilliant, yet underused, LayOut.
The Elmtec team will be on hand with tips and tricks to up your SketchUp game as we demo and showcase a range of extensions and visualisation software from Enscape to Placemaker.
There’ll be a Q & A Session – An opportunity to quiz the assembled team of SketchUp experts on shortcuts, quick wins, or simply to ask if you can do this (or that) in SketchUp and find out how.
‘Would you like SketchUp with That?’ is on Wednesday 9th October, 4-7pm. The event is FREE however entry is via ticket available from Eventbrite
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, we’re sure you’ll find this event helpful for any way you use SketchUp. Grab yourself some beer, pizza and get ready for all things SketchUp.
SketchUp has been improved with updates and enhancements that will impact your 3D projects and professional workflow. If you’re in the market for a new CAD rental solution, then now really is a good time to upgrade/rent the latest version of SketchUp. 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.
Professional output enhancements
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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’.
Now, when you rotate your object, the bounding box is also rotated with so you can continue to scale in the right orientation.
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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.