10 years of using Sketchup and LayOut for Architectural and Construction Documentation

It’s interesting that you mention FormZ which has been around for a long time; the only thing is, as far as I know, it doesn’t have any ifc / BIM functions, so in today & tomorrow’s world, it’s even less ready than SU !

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Hi paddyclown,
That’s an interesting point, I guess AutoDesSys doesn’t consider the need for Form.Z to have BIM tools yet, as very good at what it does now. Perhaps BIM is really meant for other proper true high end CAD programmes where collaboration is required for larger projects !

I guess if you undertake small domestic projects, would you really require BIM ! A good set of detailed construction hard copy plans with a construction notes document should be more than adequate for small/medium sized builders.

I wonder how high up on the list is BIM when people buy SU ! that may be a good discussion point on another existing topic, as per below:-

I have been using SU since version 8 (2010) it is a good program and allows creative use.
Of course, improvements are always welcomed. Sketchup’s strength is its large community of good developers.
BIM is a tool, it does not allow you to do architecture and create architectural forms.
I currently do BIM with Revit and I’m learning Blender Bim which has a native IFC language. I think it’s interesting even if I find it difficult. Unfortunately it is still at an Alfa version

I would add that, in my opinion, BIM is useless for small projects. It would be like shooting birds with a cannon.

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Are there price differences among locations (both for Sketch and ArchiCAD)? In Brazil, the price difference is striking. SketchUp Pro costs around R$ 2,100.00, while ArchiCAD (full version) costs around R$ 8,000.00. Even SketchUp Studio is still much lower, costing around R$ 4,800.00. I don’t think it’s fair to compare SketchUp Pro with ArchiCAD Solo. SketchUp Pro provides access to collaboration tools and file management with Trimble Connect, which is not available in ArchiCAD Solo. (In fact, I find Trimble Connect to be an unjustifiably overlooked tool in this comparison. The storage space is unlimited and allows for consolidating a CDE and BCF manager in a single platform. Yes, there are issues with clash and verification tools, but still, including this tool with SketchUp for this price is unprecedented). Lastly, ArchiCAD Solo is basically a Lite version of Revit. It’s very limited and hinders or makes the workflow for projects with multiple floors or towers much more difficult.

Furthermore, I understand the frustration with SketchUp in general. For me, what weighs the most is the workflow oriented towards OpenBIM. Since the optimization of dynamic components was abandoned, it’s been difficult to see an improvement in task automation with native tools. Yes, plugins help a lot, but would it be too much to ask for IFC classes, types, etc. to be implemented as dynamic properties? How about the possibility of natively associating IFC classes and types with tags? Or even tools for automating boolean operations via components? Or the addition of dynamic IFC quantities? etc. The export modules do not support basic IFC relationships (such as Void Elements) or even automatic identification of floor levels. Today, most information must be added via plugins or by editing the IFC in external OpenBIM software (such as BlenderBIM, for example).

In this regard, lately, what has seemed to me to be the most solid alternative to SketchUp is FreeCAD. Yorik has developed several (and excellent) BIM tools for FreeCAD, including a native IFC editing module. Yes, FreeCAD does not have online collaboration tools like Trimble, but this can be replaced by free and open-source alternatives like Speckle. (Although Speckle doesn’t fully support FreeCAD yet, the fact that you can work in OpenBIM and bring FreeCAD models to Blender allows for easy integration of tools, as well as “unlocking” Blender as a rendering tool). In the office where I work, BlenderBIM has already become a daily tool for checking and editing IFC (coming from various software, including Revit and ArchiCAD). In fact, we have already started making monthly donations to IFCOpenShell as a financial standard. This year, we will begin implementing FreeCAD as an alternative tool for small projects to develop the new workflow.

However, as much as FreeCAD is an extremely interesting alternative, restructuring a workflow takes time, and I don’t see our workflow switching from SketchUp for another 2 or 3 years. The flexibility and “intuitiveness” of Sketch are incomparable and greatly aid in the agility of processes. Moreover, backward compatibility cannot be ignored. What to do when a client requests changes to a project that is only in .skp format? At least one license will need to be purchased for a few years. That said, if new features are implemented, I don’t see any reason to abandon SketchUp. But given that OpenBIM is central to our work, and this aspect has not been important to Trimble in the development of SketchUp, there doesn’t seem to be another alternative for our office.

I also work as an architecture professor, so I renew my personal educational license annually for use in educational tasks. I don’t see myself stopping using Sketch any time soon. For small personal projects and general teaching, I don’t see another tool that can replace Sketch. But in terms of professional use, especially in a workflow based on open and interoperable standards, Sketch has left much to be desired.


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Hi @CJT1963 - simple answer Yes: here in France & I think in most of Europe, a BIM workflow is becoming very important, even in smaller to medium projects; I know this as it’s what i do all year 'round !
This is particularly true when doing timber construction as the very first people we started collaborating with were the carpenters and their engineers. Very quickly the Hvac people got on board & now that masonry guys are coming on stream… So for many of us, it’s crucial. That’s how I discovered formZ doesn’t yet “do BIM”, because I was looking for an alternative to SU that wasn’t a blunderbuss like Revit…

@archzag That’s your opinion & you’re entitled to it ! However, I beg to differ.
We do small/medium projects for a living and have adopted a BIM workflow, albeit a simplified one, since about 2016 & we see the benefits every single day. BIM is not a tool, it’s a workflow & it’s all about better anticipation for better quality construction !

Totally agree with you. Bim increase control and productivity and also reduce errors. I don’t know anyone who started to work with Bim workflow and returned ot Cad workflow.

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Here in the UK for domestic projects – internal alterations, extensions, loft conversions – I can’t see BIM for these projects in the near to medium term if at all.

As Clayton says

@RichardLins +1 everything you say ! & I’m intrigued that you’re trying out Freecad BIM workbench: i’ve tried it too, but have been a bit stumped by it as it has a very different modelling approach to SU, so now that I’m no longer a young person, I’m finding it hard ! Have you any tips ?

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@PaulMcAlenan I’m very surprised by this as the UK is seen as a pioneer in the BIM world (I’m part of the normalisation process at European level & I see the Brits on there being very active) but maybe the great divide between small/medium & large projects is greater in the UK than here in France (I’ve been away a looong time :smiley: )

I’m just a small provider whose projects get undertaken by small builders.

Whenever I look into BIM and read all the blurb about it, I don’t recognise what I do in that blurb.

I don’t know — BIM must surely be there on the the larger residential and commercial developments here in the UK…

Hi paddyclown & others,

I thought this subject was getting off topic, so might be better to discuss further on the link below:-

Sketchup, BIM and return on investment - #43 by CJT1963 :thinking:

Sarebbe fantastico!

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Bim is undoubtedly a workflow and also a working method. In small projects it can be excessively expensive. You would have the cost of a Bim Manager and a Bim coordinator, managing an Acdat (BCE) etc…

@archzag Well, that’s not our experience. We keep it very lo-spec and tailored to our needs as a design team & then in our interactions with contractors. It’s all about getting the right Level Of Information Need (which is currently being “normalised”).
I agree, there’s no sense in creating a complicated & over-bearing administrative nightmare for small projects…
It’s just so much more comfortable exchanging informed 3d models than all the uncertainty of paper or .dwg 2d work, but that’s just our point of view based on our context/ecosystem here in semi-rural France :wink:

@archzag @RichardLins - well, @rtches has kindly made an interesting resource that helps with some of those issues: SketchUp BIM Workflow

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i in BIM means information, the amount of information needed is not specified. The point is to get started. There are minimums set by Building Smart, but it is easy to meet them…

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Exactly… The whole LOIN (Level Of Information Need) things is being codified at EN & soon ISO level as we speak…
In practice, for smaller projects, it’s still worth writing a sort of “charter” at the start to codify between stakeholders exactly what one is trying to achieve, and how one goes about it, but based upon a realistic evaluation of what is really necessary and indeed attainable given the tools that each stakeholder has !

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