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3D Construction Details for Communication

Traditional 2D construction details are inherently difficult to understand. Why? Because they are not a natural way of viewing the world. Until now, they were simply the only way to represent complex ideas, in a way that could be deciphered.

When I first started out in construction I was overwhelmed by 2D plans, let alone 2D details – and it took me years before I acquired the skill set and became confident in my ability to read and draw them.

3D construction details are the future – and now that I can easily produce and communicate with them, I hope that I never see another 2D detail again.

With the advent of new technology, it is now possible to even create 3D details that animate the construction sequencing and step by step instructions. You will see an examples of such 3D construction details on the RubySketch library. If you download the models, you are able to simply click on the scenes at the top of the page inside of SketchUp. PlusSpec for SketchUp is the perfect balance between design and construction. It allows the user to use the PlusSpec parametric framing and structure, which dramatically reduces the time to draw, and then use the native SketchUp tools to free-form model the custom details. This is Virtual Design and Construction at its best.

3d construction detail for BIM VDC in Sketchup Plusspec

This is an example of a construction detail that I drew last week. If you would like to view the model, you can download it, and others, from the RubySketch library, by typing in Pronto in the search:
PlusSpec and Sketchup VDC BIM detail of pronto panel

Creating 3D details like the ones shown in this post can be a time consuming process. However, one model can contain dozens (or more) of individual construction details. And once you have created a 3D detail, they can be used on future jobs, and can be quickly and easily adjusted to suit the requirements of each project – saving countless time and money.

However, there are still builders, from all over the world, that are spending tens of thousands of dollars to create real ‘mock-ups’, with real products – simply to explain to their trades how a project is to be constructed. The thought-process behind this is to mitigate future onsite error, by gaining understanding of the potential issues, clashes, and implementation strategies. However, it is my belief that physical mock-ups are no longer necessary, if everyone has access to a 3D model and 3D details. Comprehensive 3D details would save these companies a fortune!

3D details are the catalyst for Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Building Information Modelling, and I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the 3D details on RubySketch, that have created with PlusSpec for SketchUp. I would also love to see any examples, if anyone would like to share any work that they have done.

Click Here to see a YouTube Video of one of our 3D construction details.

The Design and Construction Industries are changing rapidly via the use of 3D technology and new innovation. 2D plans are antiquated; they are slow, and dramatically increase the chance of error. 2016 is a year that should be all about efficiency and communication via BIM and VDC. I urge everyone in the design and construction industry to embrace 3D details (not just 3D modelling) as quickly as possible. Don’t get left behind.


This will be my last post for 2015. We hope you have enjoyed our blog, which will only get bigger and better in 2016.

Have a happy Christmas and a safe New Year.

See you in 2016!

10 Tips to Becoming Successful as a Design & Construction Company

successful design construction for builder architects effective
I have been designing and building for 24 years. Integrated Design & Build firms are a different animal to the traditional Client + Architect + Builder scenario. They are more profitable, but they usually have a larger staff ratio, which can be a bit of a handful and a trap for ‘inexperienced’ players. Essentially the responsibility of a project, from start to finish, resides solely with one company alone – and the blame game does not come into play for clients. This is why reputable design build firms are much sought after.

Not everyone can design, yet most of us can, and the longer you have been in the industry, the better you get at it. There is real job satisfaction to be gained when you build your own designs. I recommend it highly.

It took me some time to get used to the in-house design and in-house build workflow, and there were many things that I needed to do to flourish and become profitable. When I look back and ask myself what the key ingredient to success was, I always come to the same conclusion: Communication.

Here are 10 steps that I took to make my design & build company more successful. After implementing these simple rules and improvements, I reduced waste by over 20% I am not just talking about leftover materials, I am talking about time by becoming efficiency. The end result was clearly displayed in profit margins.

The 10 Steps to success:

  1. Employ youth straight out of School as apprentices. Once they become qualified pay them what they are worth, and reward them when they do the right thing. Young brains can be trained to do things the way you like them, so spend the time needed to train them correctly. Start small, as the biggest killer for new companies is too much work. However, most think it is not enough work.
  2. Concentrate on communication with the client. We all know that out of every 10 people you meet, you are inevitably going to clash with one. That is life. Try and ‘pick and choose’ customers. If it feels bad, gracefully decline the job. Life is too short! It is easy to keep clients onboard when you explain what you are doing, and in a way they understand. Clients do not understand 2D drawings, but they do understand 3D. We were all born seeing the world in 3D, and we only learned 2D because that was the best way to communicate before the advent of modern technology (like 3d CAD software & iphones).
  3. Get with the times! Technology can be a distraction, so take my advice and delete LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter from your phone. These are social apps that the marketing people in your business should use. I am not saying that you shouldn’t use them, just use them at the right time and place, as they can be very distracting. You need to get the technology that works for your business, not the other way around. Checkout PlusSpec was made for what we do – nothing else!
  4. Never employ friends or relatives, and try not to do their work either. Christmas will be so much more enjoyable. Believe me.
  5. Insist on quality. Good enough is not considered good in my book! If you would not have it in your house, do not put it in one of your clients. You will find that your clients will tell their friends when they are happy. I found that for every 1 happy client, they told 5 friends. Recommendation is the best way to get more work. It cuts down on marketing expenses, and more often than not, the client will not bother seeking another quote. People trust their friends, and what they can see firsthand.
  6. Make sure your office is close to home. An hour each way in traffic is 2 hours out of each day that you could be doing something productive (or dare I say relaxing?).
  7. Buy Cheap, buy twice! We have all been guilty of going to the local hardware and buying the $40 drill. If you will use it more than twice, then you should buy quality gear that is reliable. This is the same for every facet of your business, including computers, chairs and desks. If you only need it once, then rent it.
  8. Do not rent equipment. Buy everything that you need, as soon as you can afford it. If you are buying specialised machinery, you should charge it out to your clients at the same rate that you would pay to rent it.
  9. If it looks and sounds too good to be true it is! 95% of the time unbelievable deals are unbelievable. Trust your instinct, not the sales person. Their only job is to get your hard earned cash by selling you their goods. Unfortunately, integrity is becoming a thing of the past for many salespeople, which I find disappointing. Get used to negotiating better buy prices from the people that are trying hard to sell to you.
  10. The biggest advantage I gained was by using 3D modeling and PlusSpec. It sounds difficult yet it is not. I created PlusSpec, and as I developed it, I improved it with the profits I gained from the results. At first, I never told a soul; it was my secret, my advantage, and I kept it to myself. Now PlusSpec is in over 80 countries around the world. Yep word of mouth did the trick.  These days, I really only design and build 1 or 2 homes per year, and the prerequisite for doing the job is that the project must be with 15 minutes from my home.

Take the time to work on your business, and not in it. Do this as soon as you can. Learn better things that will actually help you grow. Technology will boost your sales through communication, decrease your errors via clear plan interpretation, lower your design time, increase accuracy of your quotes for design, and quotes for build.

If you want to know more about PlusSpec, you can check it out here. I am very proud of the achievement, and the improvement it is making to businesses small and large. It is the pinnacle of design and construction technology to date. Yes, it is subscription based, yet the truth is you stay up to date with the latest technology, every minute of the day. And for less than $20 per week you will never look back! I guarantee it.

That is it from me, I look forward to hearing your stories of success.

SketchUp 2016 Review

What’s New in SketchUp 2016

SketchUp 2016 is here, but ‘What does it all mean, Basil?’

It means that there is plenty to get excited about!

SketchUp 2016

Let’s take a look at some of the best new features from the Release Notes…




  • The improvements to the Move, Protractor, Offset and Rotate tools are minor, but they have improved their overall user-friendliness. We particularly like the improved rotate tool, which has been combined within the move tool, so that you can now more easily locate and pick an axis. This will save novice users a lot of frustration, and provide a faster workflow for experienced users.
  • We dig the new and improved higher resolution Icons. All icons have now been rendered from vector graphics, meaning that they will look better, size better, and read better on High DPI screens. Although this will not affect most users in the slightest, the team at PlusSpec are looking forward to now being able to create high resolution icons for the PlusSpec tools. Look out for them in PlusSpec 2016!
  • The new Customizable  Utility Trays on Window machines is an addition that may take some getting used to. However, once you have played with it enough, you will probably find the added flexibility to your liking. This allows users to fully customize their workflow, by now being able to organize and group all of the various utility dialog’s, so that they either stand alone, or stack inside customizable and collapsible trays.
  • The ability to now easily inference circle and arc centrepoint’s is going to drastically reduce the amount of swearing in the office. Say goodbye to centrepoint location struggle-ville! Just ensure that you inference an edge prior to searching for the centrepoint.
  • The Textures have been revisited, and now offer a bigger and better list of textures and categories. Check out the latest grass texture, it looks pretty good.
  • The parallel and perpendicular inference display has been improved, which is particularly useful for extending edges on off axis planes.
  • SketchUp 2016 will now recognize intersection points with hidden section planes, with the ability to snap to elements of a SketchUp model in LayOut also.
  • SketchUp 2016 now allows you to Generate Reports, either from the entire model, or from a selected Component. Personally, we find this tool a bit ‘meh’. However, you may get some use from it. We have just finished testing it with PlusSpec and have found that when creating a moderately detailed model, there is an extensive delay. If you want a comprehensive report completed in seconds, we suggest using the PlusSpec Take-off tool.

SketchUp Layout

SketchUp Layout

  • The new Layer improvements are by far our favourite improvement in the 2016 release!
  1. Now when you copy and paste something, it will maintain all of the layers from the original copy. This is a Godsend!
  2. The new PDF export has been optimized, and we can now all breathe a collective sigh of relief! Finally, you will be able to produce smaller PDF exports that still have a very high output resolution. And the difference is mind-blowingly huge. For example, the new enhancements have reduced a 40mb PDF, created with Layout 2015, to a 3mb PDF created with 2016 – with no drop in quality!
  3. Assigning entities to a specific layer has become a lot easier. You can now right click and assign entities to any of your current layers. Previously, you only had the option of assigning it to the current selected layer. This is a big time saver.
  4. You can now group objects on different layers, whilst maintaining your layer management.
  • Layout references are now cloud-friendly. That means your LayOut projects can reference and update files that are stored and synced with services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Trimble Connect Sync, which makes collaboration far more powerful.
  • The ability to differentiate between shared/nonshared layers is very useful. Shared layers are any layer that you assign to be automatically generated on every page. In order to help users understand when they are creating or manipulating entities on a shared layer, it will be highlighted red when you are drawing or selecting elements on a shared layer.
  • The new small dimension leaders is a nifty little improvement, and ensures that text will never interfere with arrows or extension lines.
  • Last but not least, we are very happy to report that Layout appears to run a lot faster! It is still not ‘lightning’ quick (particularly for very information-dense pages), but it is definitely a big leap in the right direction – and will make everyone happy.
  • It is also worth noting that if you do dimension inside of the SketchUp model, the dimensions (lines and numbers) are now displayed nicely (on vector/hybrid). However, due to lack of control, we still suggest that you use Layout to dimension your projects.


3D Warehouse

3D Warehouse
The ability to reload or swap out a component with an alternative component from the 3D warehouse is an incredibly powerful feature. If you reload or swap out a component with another component (or an updated version of that component), every instance of that component in your model will be updated, in every file that is open. This is awesome, and once we have integrated it, it will greatly benefit PlusSpec users with the RubySketch FREE online library also (



Trimble Connect

  • Trimble Connect has been fully integrated into SketchUp 2016 – and is a tremendous addition! This will allow users to upload, update and remove your SketchUp files from Trimble Connect Project folders. As you’re modeling you can even pull in and update reference SketchUp models, as if they were locally hosted components. With this addition, SketchUp has become more connected than ever before, so that you can more easily communicate, collaborate and interact with models with collaborators and clients, from anywhere in the world.

SketchUp Layout API

Although this does not affect standard users, Layout has now been opened up for API. This is what the team at PlusSpec have been waiting for with baited breath, and we are super excited to roll back our sleeves and get stuck into it. We can’t wait to show you what we can do!


PlusSpec for SketchUp logo

Our two-cents

Although this release may appear to focus predominantly on the enhancement of shared collaboration, existing tools, and speed/processing power (Layout in particular), these improvements will definitely make your workflow more efficient. And for that reason alone, it is 100% worth upgrading to SketchUp 2016.

Although the SketchUp tool/function improvements are nice, we see the biggest improvements in Layout – which is exactly what the vast majority of users were wanting anyway. If the intent was to fix the key frustrations that users of Layout were having, then this release is definitely a step in the right direction. Any doubt about SketchUp Layout being a powerful tool for professionals is long gone, and with this release it has become faster, more intelligent, and easier to use.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts.


SketchUp keeps getting better, but how much is your time worth?

Learn how PlusSpec will enable you to draw 50 times faster than with SketchUp alone + automatically generate structure, BOQ’s, Estimates & Specifications – all at the click of a button!


Click here if you want to know more


Please note that the SketchUp 2016 Release incorporates a lot of General fixes and improvements, which we have not outlined in our review. For the Full Release Notes, see the SketchUp Website.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out the Official SketchUp 2016 Video Here!

Revit Imports How to use a Sketchup Model in Revit

This is the easiest way to get a Sketchup model into Revit

Many architects and building designers use Sketchup for mass modelling and concept work and then export the Sketchup model and import it into Revit. Up until the release of Sketchup 14, 15 and 16 there was an issue with triangulating. I won’t go into the reason for this all you really need to know is it looked terrible  and was difficult to work with.

This is how to Export to Revit from Sketchup without any bother.

Select File menu top RHS of Sketchup, hover over Export  in the menu, select 3D model, go to the bottom of the dialogue box and click the drop down next to save File As,  you will see IFC File (*.IFC) and a list of other export formats. Select IFC and then click export.  Remember to save the file in a location you can easily find.  NOTE This option is only available is Sketchup Pro. Sketchup has 2 versions, Sketchup Make and Sketchup Pro. You can download them both for free here

Select File export 3D model IFC for Revit import

Select File export 3D model IFC to Revit

Once you export your IFC model you can import in Revit

This is what it looks like in Sketchup Pro 15


Sketchup pro has a free 30 day trial so you will be able to export IFC, DWG and many other file formats that come with the pro version.

IFC is by far  the most accurate method although the textures you use will not come out in Revit.

If you want to test or find a Sketchup model that is low in poly count you can get a good quality model from RubySketch here Get a Sketchup model here these models are also free.

Once you open your model in Sketchup  you can simply go to File export 3D model IFC and then import the IFC model into Revit. Depending on the version of Revit you are suing you can also import Sketchup files.

You can also find more information here

There are also Sketchup Plugins that can automate the IFC classification

You may also be happy to know that Sketchup has Plugins. I am not sure if you are aware of PlusSpec? PlusSpec it is a parametric modeller that automatically attributes individual items, walls, roofs, stairs, windows and structure so that when you bring your model in to Revit it will automatically be classified which essentially means you can extract vital information that will optimise your workflow.



8 reasons residential builders are Implementing 3D BIM and VDC software

What are the benefits to the residential industry when it comes to Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC)?

  1. Plan interpretation:
  2. waste reduction 30%
  3. collaboration communication: Clients, trades, management, suppliers, engineers
  4. time saving 50%
  5. client interpretation 70%
  6. problem solving at concept stage 50%
  7. estimating from a model
  8. on going maintenance


To date it has been the tier one builders who have actively been pursuing the BIM path, larger companies have the budget and resources to be able to afford the down time, research, training and software costs that can be associated with BIMplimenttaion. It is understandable that the residential industry has not followed in the traditional implementation methods.

So how does a residential builder or designer get involved without taking 9 months off work learning complex software.

Well first it needs to be ascertained if BIM or VDC is the correct path to go down. If and architect or designer has no intention of sharing a model then teh answer is more likely a no. SOm eof the rela benefits of BIM and VDC is the ability for all to understand design intent, structure, product selection. I am a big believer of INtegrated Project deliver as the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Sure there need to be different contracts in place and the industry or the actual participants need to agree on the best path forward ( I will touch on contract is another post) yet the liability to the designer woudl surely be reduced. the best thing about having early interaction with a builder and an engineer is they cna quickly comment form experience or make suggestions that aid the designer in creating a project that is more buildable and as a side effect feasible.

Not all designers and or architects like to have their work comment on at an early stage yet we have to take a pragmatic approach in this instance. Over the 24 years I have been in construction teh #1 reason for a job not to go ahead is wholly and solely comes down to cost. This is not the archietcts faulat, many customers want a palace for the price of the servants quarters that they also cna not afford.  I have seen it time and time again, where the client requested a 5 bedroom 4 bathroom home with cinema , play room, office  and two living areas and they have calculated the cost on a floor place square ratio. The truth is that it is not possible to calculate the price of any dwelling at this rate other than say a deck or a concrete slab on flat ground.

This is where BIM and VDC really start to come into play especially when IPD is the chosen design construction method. From my experience I have been able to tell client on the first day  of design that their requests are not realistic. 9 out of 10 client thank me and reduce the size or complexity of the design and we move forward. 1 out of 10 think that I am too expensive and then go and se another designer or builder for a second opinion. I actually have a client now who though this was the best way forward and cma back some 18 months later after wasting countless monts of builders and esigners time trying to get blood out of a bone.

So what is about BIM , VDc that actullay saves teh cost. It has been sia dthat 1 in every $3 is thrown in the bin and when you look at it in depth you cna quickly see why. Architects and designers ar enot builders or engineers, sur ethy aunderstand the basic principles that are related to logic yet they have no concept of how far a joust will span or hwo par a rafter cna canterlever. I have seen some brilliant deisgns comee across my desl that woudl never in a amillion year fit the clients budget. Howver tehy woudl lokk great on teh architects forn t page of tehir website. ATthe end of teh dya it was simply wa ste of time. So can modern day software allow a uswr to draw and point out areas where money can be saved. The anser mostly yes, I think that teh engineering side is less likely yet quantities, clash detatection and communictaion cater for this down fall 10 times over.  By now most know that I created PlusSpec and yes I hav ebeen testing it real tim enow for over 8 years. I like the ability to know where I am at at concept stage and the ability to go back and make changes when I see the costs strting to encrouch budget. I am fortunate to have the experience of building and problem solving an dseeing where costs blow out. I have  absic understanding of teh capcity of structural ellements and I ususally put in compoenets that I have woudl think woudl b eadeqaute. This is where sharing teh modle is invaluable. Ihave never specified a steel beam with out running it pats teh engineer. Thi sis is a cost saving in itself, teh engineer no longer has to decipher my 2d plans as I simoly steer him or her to teh loctaion of concern. I add in a parmatric beam and ask teh engineer to change the size according to his claculation. If teh beam is too large fr teh earea and is creating a bulkhead I will change mydesign to suit the span of teh beam so to achiev eth desired design out come. Mostly I deisgn to suit materials as I do not like to change hours or day sof design work and 3D software allows me to amke suggestions.  I can not tell  how many times I have come across issues on a plan by drawing teh architects plan in 3D. I woudl have easily saved over 10 million dollars in waste and mistakes.  I beilve that plan interpretation via a 3d model is the number one reason to use VDC BIM and 3d modelling. In sayin that that is not the only way these methids save money. I tell this story regularly as it comes up a lot. Good quality bricklayers are hard to come by, when you find one make sure you look after him. The hardware must be onsite ontime, teh portable toilet must be clean and the quantity of bricks and sand must be correct.  I di hve a bricklayer that I use and look after he is a smart guy and always is nervous when he gets toward the en of a job. He regulalry calls me to ask if there are enough bricks onsite. I can check very quickly using my model and i can cross check the delevery records that are supplied by  teh manuafcturer. many jobs that I have done in the past have had as little as 30 bricks left over. This si is  abig cost saver to any builder, it is a common occurance that builders over order in the efforst to keep jobs running on time an keeping valuable trades happy. The prbelm with over ordering is ususally teh builder pays teh bricklayer acording to the amount of bricks they had delivered and it is not un common to either have to throw the left overs in a skip bin or ven have to pick them up and use them on teh next job. zthe cost of doin this is a 100% dead loss never mind paying the bricklayer for bricks that they did not lay.

SO waste plays a big part in savings yet materila waste is not the prime reason for 1 in 3 waste. Design time aproval time redraw time , plan interpretation time in it self plays a big part. I am not sure if you have had teh displeasure of sifting through a set of plans on large project? I have and I must say it is a real pain in teh arse. Corss referencing plans and ellevetaion and tehn associating them to teh engineers plans is a recipy for disater. It takes an experinced person to do this well. I cnanot sau how much of an advanatge it is to everyone involved to look the through a modle designed with PlsuSPec. being able to turn all o fth pretty parts off in one click and interogating a model is easy. Seeing how rooves work toether and where water will flow is a huge advatage. odering teh correct flashing and guttering form a modle instread of driving to site to measur is another huge saving. Communictaing with clients with having them come to em or me going to tehm save weeks on a job in manhours alone. communictaing with trades via a 3d model is invlauable. time is where we all lose money an dthat time coudl be better spent on new jobs and futire projects.

I talk with many building companies large and small. one in particular had me come to their office and do a demonstrtaion on what PlusSPec does. As I looked up half way through y presentation I coudl se ethat half of teh room were smiling with excitment. I could hear tehir toes wriggling in their shoes with glee, yet the disapointing thing was that teh other hals of teh room were looking with fear in teir eyes, this is not the firts time I have encountered this. So what wa sthe problem? the problem was is that many larger residential construction companuies invest in staff to do all of teh jobs that PlusSPec has just atomated. Estimators look at plusspleec and quickly bury their heads in the sand. It is an understandbale reaction as we all nee dto a job to put food on teh table yetthe fears are not foundered. When henry ford create dthe first constrcution line, did blacksmoths all starve? the answer is no. blacksmiths became mechanics and teh world moved on..  When I finished my talk I always give plenty of time to ask questions, in this case the firts person to pipe up was teh estimator and he did his best to discredit PlusSpec. he was worried about losing his job. the reality is if the company can do things more effieicnty with tless staff they woudl be crazy to put them off instead they shoudl look at taking on more work. Doing more work more efficiently raises profits and goves a competitive edge. In a perfect world this should relay to apy rises for teh workers, is this happening I am sur eit is yet I am yet to get an email thanking me for aiding a pay rise. I will not hold my breath.


The New Ultimate software update: PlusSpec V 1.3.5

Reduce your workflow with this amazing update!
What is new in Version 1.3.5?:

This update includes the following:

  • Multi-Skin Wall, which allows plasterboard thickness & has the option for cavity insulation
  • Solid Wall, which includes concrete walls
  • Skirting in the Flooring Tool
  • Block & Beam option in the Joist Tool
  • Tag Tool, which gives you the ability to point out areas in your project for easier collaboration & communication
  • More image types able to be used when creating materials
  • Ability to switch between material libraries (AUS, US & UK – with more coming soon)
  • Water Tank, Corner Brick Sill & Round Window components added to the Component Tool
  • Updates to Take Off / Estimation Tool
  • Updates for scenes including the new Presentation scene
  • Updates to tool dialogues
  • Bug fixes

We believe that PlusSpec for SketchUp is revolutionizing BIM/VDC (particularly within Residential construction). But, we are committed to making it even better.

At PlusSpec, we take the time to listen to what our customers want. We value your feedback, and we would like to thank the PlusSpec community for your ongoing support, ideas, and suggestions.

The best thing about being part of the PlusSpec community is that you can influence the future of PlusSpec. So please, keep sending us your ideas and suggestions.

We love hearing from you. So, please continue to help us, help you.

The team at PlusSpec have been working hard to capture everything that you have asked for, and we are trying to incorporate each suggestion as quickly as possible. However, we also have some remarkable, game-changing plans for the future. We have no doubt that you are going to love each and every update.

PlusSpec 16 coming soon:

  • Composite Walls
  • Composite Material Drag & Drop
  • Batten Out feature
  • Paint feature
  • Updated dialogues
  • Updated Splash Screen and more!!!

Check out the images below to see just a few of the new features in PlusSpec V 1.3.5


Multi-Skin Wall

Multi-Skin Wall


Solid Walls

Solid Walls





Block & Beam

Block & Beam


Round Window

Round Window

PlusSpec 16 for Sketchup 2016

Hi Guys, as promised we are continuing to further develop PlusSpec and we a. We are not interested in falling into the trap of adding functionality by adding complexity.  PlusSpec must be intuitive functional and easy to use.

As you would be aware we are continuously releasing updates yet PlusSpec 2016 will come  with a whole lot of extra functionality. Here are just a few

  • Sun and shadow simulation
  • Composite materials
  • North point and location driven axis alignment
  • Automated scene creation for Sketchup pro users and in model 2d representation automation
  • composite walls
  • composite materials
  • more dynamic components that will blow your mind
  • Design set out tools
  • and yes like always more intuitive tutorials so you can get with the job at hand.

So what is coming in Sketchup 16? We can only hypothesize yet there have been whispers around the campfire in regards to extra functionality in Layout, happy days I say. 2D documentation with a 3d model is paramount to getting jobs through the authorities and having the simplicity of Sketchup driving these 2D plans is why we all us Skethcup Pro, right?  Well not exactly, Sketchup pro has Dynamic components and IFC so we can all collaborate between other programs like Revit and ArchiCad. I look forward to seeing what comes up next.

yet I must say I can not wait until the day when we can all submit a 3D model for development applications and construction certificates.


Behind The Eight Ball: Architects and Builders/Contractors need to communicate with more 3D & less 2D

Behind the Eight Ball

What is going on with the design and construction industry?  It’s time to start talking the same language!

Residential design and construction are two ‘peas in a pod’, yet the communication between them is rudimentary at best. Coordinating a project that runs on time and on budget is a rare occurrence. But where does the breakdown occur?

Let’s first ascertain the key stakeholders that get a project from concept to completion:

  1. Client/End User (Catalyst)
  2. Architect/Designer (Communicator)
  3. Builder/Contractor (Constructor)
  4. Engineers/Consultants (Technical communicator)
  5. Manufacturers of construction products (Contributor)
  6. Authorities (Approvals and regulatory bodies)

In a perfect world the 6 main stakeholders would have a clear understanding of what is involved in each aspect of a project, and be aware of exactly what needs to be communicated. They should understand the client’s needs and expectations, the design intent, the constructability of the design, the cost associated with the design, the products that are required to enable the successful construction of the design, the regulatory conditions on the land, as well as the costs associated with putting all of the pieces together, within a reasonable time frame.

We all know we don’t  live in a perfect world, but improving communication across the 6 main stakeholders is the key to better design, better planning, waste reduction, cost reduction, time reduction, and better built outcomes.

Communication breakdown is perhaps the leading cause of all Project failures. We NEED to improve the way that Design Professionals, Consultants and the Construction Industry communicate and coordinate with each other. To put it simply, the most important ingredient of a successful project is communication.

The Architect: The architect needs to understand the client’s requirements, and then clearly convey the design intent to the client. Subsequently, they must communicate the design along with the constructability aspects of the project in a clear and concise way, by producing detailed drawings, such as: plans, elevations, sections, and details.

The Consultants: Consultants, such as Structural Engineers, need to decipher the architect’s intent and determine what structural elements need to be associated and calculated according to the relevant authorities, standards, and building codes.

Manufacturers/Suppliers: Manufacturers need to ensure that the Architect, Client and Builder/Contractor all understand their products, so that they are used in the correct manner.

Regulatory Authorities: Regulatory Authorities need to decipher the architect’s intent and understand how the project will fit into the landscape and how the design will impact the environment and neighbouring properties.

The Builder/Contractor: Builders/Contractors have to decipher the architect’s and client’s intent, and translate these drawings into the built form, on time and on budget.

The flaws of 2D Plans

The problem resides in the fact that a majority of projects are no longer simple. Complexity and architectural expression is a good thing, yet the communication of these designs can quickly become cumbersome. Even small residential projects can blow out to A1 paper format and/or have 15 or more sheets to sift through. It is easy for the builder to miss details or annotations if the plans are not studied thoroughly, or executed in a concise and easily understood manner.

Believe me when I tell you that twenty (20) A1 plans are difficult to quote from. If the builder/contractor misses one detail, this oversight has the potential to drastically impact the builder’s profits, or even make the job completely unprofitable. This kind of error, as well as inadequately explained elements of the design, forces the budget to be blown out further, with the builder having to recoup costs by charging the client for over-inflated extras.

Many would simply say that the builder should study the plans properly. However, we all make mistakes, no matter how diligent, or how much experience we may have. Moreover, Builders/Contractors do not typically charge for a quote. Imagine spending 40 to 80 hours going through a large 2D documentation set and compiling quantities, liaising with subcontractors and putting a quote together – and at completion, all that they have to show for all of this work is a couple of pages with a dollar figure on the last page.

Understandably the first thing the client wants to see is the dollar figure. They have no concept of the time involved to quote, and will happily send the plans out to ten builders. This equates to approximately 400 – 800 hours of unpaid work! Unpaid work is not good practice for anyone in any business, and it is evident that this part of the system is broken and in a big way.

Better communication between the stakeholders

2D plans are fast becoming antiquated. They are cumbersome, they get damaged, and they are not easily interpreted. If you give a comprehensive set of plans to multiple highly skilled and experienced Builders/Contractors, you will inevitably get a different built interpretation from each Builder/Contractor. Why? Because 2D plans require deciphering and interpretation. Cross referencing a large set of plans is ludicrous. And don’t get me started on the notion of viewing 2D PDF plans on a screen, as this is actually worse! Have you ever tried to take in every aspect of a building, or search for design errors from an A1 plan on a computer screen? I have, and it simply is not possible to do it correctly or efficiently.

Furthermore, not only is it difficult for a Builder/Contractor to accurately decipher 2D plans, but it actually costs Architects ludicrous amounts of time and money to create acceptable 2D plans. The process is a tedious waste of resources and efficiency, and a single page alone usually goes through dozens of iterations and countless hours before the line-weights and readability are adequate.

On top of this, the simple truth is that the majority of clients do not understand 2D drawings.

3D models need to be utilized to a fuller extent: less 2D and better 3D. In saying this, there is a lot to be done to change accepted standards, and governmental policies. However, there is no time like the present. I recently met with a  local politician to demonstrate the benefits of 3D software, and he enthusiastically espoused the advantages that 3D models would offer the government/regulatory authorities, before I even had a the chance to open my laptop.

3D is the key to better communication.

I am not talking about the 3D PDF’s, as they are cumbersome, and simply do not have the resolution, or the ability to interact and change from finished view to structural view (which is  where the majority of mistakes happen). Changing from 2D view to 3D perspective, in colour, with textures, is the pinnacle of communication. Associating information with the textures and the components is paramount. Adding 3D models into a 3D plan allows visual interpretation, clash detection and clear communication. I scratch my head every time I see a set of 2D drawings, even though I have over 24 years within the Construction Industry. Honestly, 2D plans are the bane of my existence.

Why do Architects spend so long in the 3D model, but present in 2D? The advantages of a 3D model are immense, as the client has a far greater understanding of 3D CAD drawings over 2D CAD drawings. I could not tell you how many times I have heard the client say ‘If I only knew that was the way it was going to look before we started construction’. As iterated above, 2D drawings require each individual to interpret them in their own way.

3D models also allow for better collaboration with Manufacturers. Imagine if Architects were able to design with real products from real manufacturers, and Builders/Contractors could send out purchase orders directly from the 3D model?

Even though we already have this 3D technology, it is being grossly underutilized. Because of this, I started asking the following question to my architect and designer friends: ‘Why don’t you deliver plans in 3D format?’ To my dismay, the following answers were espoused time, and time again: ‘It has to be in 2D’, and ‘You can’t deliver a project purely in 3D; it is not doable or possible yet’.

Design Professionals and the Construction Industry NEED to understand that it CAN 100% be done, and that it is easy to do. 2D plans are useless in comparison to a 3D model, which has all associated information, details, and 2D orthogonal on-screen plan generation capabilities.

If 2D plans were softer, I could think of a far better use for them (if you get my drift)! I recently conducted an experiment on a mildly detailed job, where I refused to provide my trades with 2D plans. I gave them a low-end computer, a BIM/VDC 3D model and a bill of quantities. And it worked better than I could have ever imagined! The feedback from the foreman was that they were very happy without the 2D plans, but the lack of paper meant that they had nothing to scribble on, or do calculations. This summary essentially reduced 2D plans from being a comprehensive document, to a mere source of on-site paper that they could doodle on.

How was the execution of the job you ask? The interpretation of the plans was brilliant, the execution of the job was above average, and the profit margin was 10% greater than estimated. Furthermore, the wastage on the job was almost nil (we had 25 bricks left over).

How would less 2D and more 3D impact the Industry?

Maximisation of 3D Virtual Design and Construction models would dramatically increase the speed of design and project deliverables, increase profits, and reduce error, for all stakeholders involved within a project. Why? A shared, comprehensive 3D model facilitates better understanding among all of the main stakeholders, and completely eliminates any deciphering/interpretation of a project.

Comprehensive 3D communication, in place of antiquated 2D, is the way of the future. Architects are not from Mars, Builders/Contractors are not from Venus, Engineers are not from Saturn, Authorities are not from Jupiter, Manufacturers don’t distribute from Pluto,  and Clients do not come from Uranus. We are all from the same planet, people. We have the capacity to communicate better.. And, the technology already exists!










If you want to know more about the technology to which I refer, see HERE. If you already have the software, and would like to be trained in how to maximise your 3D output, whilst minimising your 2D output, please see HERE.