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

I’ve looked at the IFC stuff and Revit and honestly when it comes to residential construction is all of this complexity needed? Let’s take a look at one of the most basic elements in a typical framed house, the studs. What does the contractor need to know? Dimensions and ultimately the quantity and cost. That’s pretty much it, that’s all the BIM he needs.

Now the engineer might want to come along and specify a certain grade and species, especially where high point loads exist in the structure. The architect or designer usually doesn’t even care about the studs, they are simply a means to an end for him. The only thing the homeowner cares about is his energy bill every month, so makes sure the studs can accommodate at least R-21 insulation in the stud bays (ie. 2x6 studs).

The lumber yard who is quoting the job needs the same information as the contractor, so he can put a price tag on it. What other stakeholders are there? The building dept. will take a cursory glance at the plans and primarily based on experience give it a green light or not, they don’t need BIM.

I guess what I am trying to say is that most residential construction doesn’t need or want BIM, at least not in the overly complicated form that is offered by programs such as Revit and others. And that is why you don’t see Revit dominating the residential design marketplace. What we need is a simple practical solution that gives us easy to use tools with the basic information that we actually do need.

I’ve spoken with many designers who use various workflows within SketchUp and Layout and the recurring theme seems to be the deficiencies of Layout. Improve Layout, that is the first step. With an improved Layout the SketchUp ecosystem would become unstoppable.

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@medeek Well, the answer for me is here : Sketchup, BIM and return on investment - #47 by paddyclown

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You need more information than you realize. Obviously if you don’t add information the end customer will never see it.

Imagine having a model in a standard exchange format such as IFC that you can access to see the RAL of your aluminum or PVC windows, the
boiler brand, pipe diameters, etc.
Also when you collaborate with more people, engineers and calculators and each one does a part of the project, BIM is necessary.

Anyway, there are many ways to build and not everything is made with wood. In Europe, concrete and steel are used, residential buildings are made and not only single-family houses.

BIM is time and cost saving and if you don’t start using it you will never know how much you will save.


I’m not saying NO to BIM, what I am saying is that the incarnation that BIM is often presented as (ie. IFC, Revit etc…) is not the be all and end all of BIM.

We need a better, simpler BIM.

Yes, BiM bricolage (DIY):rofl::blush:


Nice Skup + Layout workflow. We should talk. I agree you on the Trimble price hike with little to no value. The new interface is unusable for me as a purist (no plugins) and seems to be moving away from a professional design tool.

I’ve worked for some coffee table architects, all of them employ BIM. Revit and most recently ArchiCAD. They’ve all talked a big game of BIM as ‘The standard’ however I’ve never experienced anyone use BIM the seamless way it’s always described. I imagine someone exists somewhere out there, but I’ve never met them. Nothing on par with the work in your Facebook portfolio.

The industry is paralyzed by BIM and it shows in the architecture. Decisions to standardize BIM were made by and older generation of Principals that never learned the software. Productivity has tanked, labor costs are up. It now takes a team of staff to design a building and it’s every bit as clunky as the BIM interface and algorithms used to design it.

I pick up projects regularly from disgruntled Owners who employed a BIM based architect and ended up with a bad building. I saved a historic renovation project that would have never been built if the architect continued using Archicad. Their eyes are wide open now about SketchUp.

There’s something to be said for working solely in a 2D Ortho mindset to design a building, rather than a humanistic 3D world that Sketchup absolutely crushes at. Let’s be honest, ortho and axonometric modeling is only useful to document and dimension building, not for design. There’s something to be said for the headspace of the creator as they work through a structure to see how it will actually feel in the space. Perhaps that’s a conversation for another thread.

With all that said there are some powerful features of Archicad like teamwork and the documentation tools that Skup + Layout are not as proficient in. If you move to Archicad you’ll come back. Archicad is clunky and cumbersome. You don’t need a button for every function, and the setting boxes inside of setting boxes inside of setting boxes will make you crazy. Who needs a curtain wall tool when you can _Just_Draw_It. It’s not that hard.

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I agree with you on this.

But IFC is a standard for collaboration and Revit is a modeling software.
If you work with IFC files, everyone can model with the software they prefer.
BIM is “information” not Revit as people think…

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Initially, I had a lot of difficulty with using FreeCAD. I remember seeing a lecture by Yorik on open-source software in architecture in 2018. He introduced us to the websites and free courses he offers. At the time, when I tried to use it, I spent two days trying to draw some walls. It was so frustrating that I gave up on the software and only remembered its existence at the end of 2022. At that time (in 2018), there were not mature enough tools in the architectural workspace to make the process minimally intuitive, and FreeCAD also had problems with structuring final sheets. Today, many of these limitations have been overcome. The wall, window, slab, floor, and ceiling tools are working very well and intuitively. Additionally, everything already comes out with the correct basic IFC classes. There is still a lot to be done. The user needs to understand the IFC structure to work in OpenBIM (something that is also necessary with SketchUp). Additionally, the modules for more “organic” modeling are still very limited compared to SketchUp. And the lack of a richer block library (in short, the lack of a Warehouse) makes adaptation difficult. In our workflow for now, we are only using the FreeCAD sketching bench (Sketcher Workbench) to carry out feasibility studies. It allows for quick and parametric drawing, as well as enabling the creation of relationships between faces and volumes, which helps with statistics. We only use the architectural bench for basic plant conception. We haven’t generated advanced documentation yet. For now, it has been working. The idea is to gradually implement software into the workflow.

@RichardLins Thanks for the feedback on FreeCad; like you I found it so non intuitive that after a couple of hours of trying to build just a simple model, I gave it up, but it sounds as if I should persevere one of these days when I 've got some spare time…
For the moment we’re trying to keep going with Su+layout…

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