ArchiCAD to SketchUp - Best Practices

Hello everyone! I am a longtime user (@last days) however I am not familiar with importing ArchiCAD(AC) models into SketchUp(SU). I have searched around the forums but I cant seem to find good strategies for exporting files from AC into SU. My hope is that someone on the forums has some tried and true strategies for bringing AC models into SU.

Here is our workflow issue: We are an architectural firm. We have 1 schematic designer that only designs in ArchiCAD. The designer exports out a model for our department (ArchViz) to render out. We import his model into SketchUp and prepare the model for rendering out to either Vray or Lumion.

The problem starts when we have to tweak his models (98% of the time). We have tried having him export to several formats (skp, dwg, ifc) So far the cleanest is dwg but we lose a lot of the functionality of components as they are all unique.

We would love some advice on this process. Thanks!

This is not primarily an Archicad forum, but according to their website, Lumion has an export plugin that works directly from Archicad. Have you tried that?

I would perhaps prefer to export directly to .skp if I had to get things from Archicad to SU, even if I have found in my trials that it tends to create, for some obscure reason, a lot of overlapping/z-fighting faces.

I have found .ifc to be currently the best format for getting SketchUp files imported into Archicad. Again, for some reason that I don’t understand, curved surfaces imported via .ifc are smoothed while those imported via .skp show all their edges so in plans and sections they look a mess.

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Thanks Anssi. However in our office we currently have only one person using ArchiCAD and we are trying to get him out of it and into SketchUp full time. In the meantime we are stuck with only exports from ArchiCAD into Sketchup. So our workflow must be from ArchiCad the import to SketchUp. So I am looking for a solution to that. Unfortunately the exports we are getting from ArchiCAD as skp files are total fails as everything in the model seems to be basically exploded. This means that making changes or even small tweaks end up taking us hours.

I was about to ask a similar question, except for me it’s not a routine process, but a one off gig, at least at the moment. The AC model is from probably version 8 or so, but I don’t know yet. I’m probably going to need help from someone who can open the file and export it for me as the last version I had of AC was 8.

Is your model saved as an archive (.pla) or only as a .pln file? In the latter case, you will also need to locate and load the object libraries that were used when the model was created. Very old library objects may not work with recent versions of Archicad.

ArchiCad - SketchUp connection is bi-directional, and one of the best in the industry.
All you have to do, is save directly to .skp - from 3D Archicad window.
You can also import .skp to ArchiCad (almost) without any loss of colors/materials, etc. (The only problem is that Sketchup model in ArchiCad becomes a single object). See: SketchUp Archicad interface
Lumion (LumenRt and Twinmotion) has direct Archicad import and it’s working.
You can also export from ArchiCad directly to .3ds, if you need to.
By the way, trying to force ArchiCad architectural designer to switch from ArchiCad to Sketchup, because of rendering staff overhead is “wagging the dog”.
He will face 50-60% more time drag, trying to build/manage early design model in SketchUp. (He can also effectively render inside ArchiCad, as long as he has rel. 18, or newer).

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I’d love to hear if you find anything helpful on this topic. I’m currently looking for good workflow practices for importing archicad into su so I can do interiors. - add furniture, finishes, etc. I’d love help figuring out how to save to groups/scenes or how to use section cuts to work with separate floors. It’s a huge file I’m working with currently and very frustrating.

Why don’t you do your interiors within Archicad? It has much better tools than SketchUp for managing interior layouts, with schedules and quantities built in. And even a decent built-in rendering engine.

uhg. I decided I hate Archicad for Interiors. Sketchup is MUCH easier to understand and has better furniture models. The firm where I work is very heavy Archicad and I like how much more creative I feel I can be with SU - without worrying about BIM or what’s inside the walls, etc.

Can you advise how to deal with all the Groups that Archicad exports create?

Im looking at a mode with bunch of houses which have all their internal parts broken into Sketchup Groups.

My problem is that common elements (e.g. a stair tread, of which there are 100s of identical treads) are all in individual, unique groups.
Basically every single part of every house is a unique group. Because they are unique, there’s no way to select them together, or convert them into components (usually I would use Selection Toys for this).

Thanks if you can help!

Hello AK_SAM,

I wish I could give you a good solution. We are also stuck in that workflow. We have recently adopted the ConDocTool layer system and we have also asked our lone ArchiCad user to adopt the same layering system so that we can then organize his export into a usable model inside sketchup.

I have used the OUTLINER tool inside SketchUp to some success in trying to simplify the file a bit.
Also you may want to try the extension by Natale Zappia called nz_ConvertMe.
It will convert groups to components which you can then extract the property from and copy to others.
So for example if you convert the first stair tread into a component, you can then extract its properties and copy to the other treads so that they then all become similar components.

I have tried that with the window components and has worked out great so far.
I hope that helps. Please keep me updated as we are also in a similar situation as you.

Thanks for your reply.

So does the nz_ConvertMe extension actually enable you to convert a lot of identical groups into one component (with many instances)?

I’m finding the same problems with information exported from Vectorworks now as well - it makes lots of Groups (identical in geometry but SketchUp doesn’t view them as identical)

And the same happens too with imports from Revit, either through DWG or IFC. BIM apps export all objects as unique.

Yes, this is a big problem, especially when importing, Sketchup generates thumbnails for each component as well. The importer should be clever enough to recognise identical geometry, convert it to one component definition, and then give the instance an unique name. That way, the number of unique components can be reduced dramatically.

There must be an extension to do this already?
Or one could easily be made?

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If the source file format supports instancing the same object over and over (which it does) I think it’s strange that the importer doesn’t handle this already. The importer doesn’t even have to be “clever” in the sense that it looks at two things and ask itself if they look the same, their relation should be explicit in the file.

the main differences between SU comps and the imported comps is the component axis…

in SU the component instances all use the same ‘local’ insertion point, but other applications use the ‘global’ origin of the building or the site making each ‘unique’…

when trying to convert using ruby you can compare ‘edge counts’, the ‘face area’ and sometimes layers or materials, but which direction does each window reveal or stair tread face…

when the entire building is ‘off’ axis or odd shaped the time to process can be exceptionally long…

another issue in my own importer attempts were inconsistent export settings, the same building from different sources could yield different results…

I concluded that .skp exporters from the source applications would be the only reliable, commercially viable solution…


I started working on an extension some years ago for finding similar component definitions and “merging” them. I got it to work for component definitions with different scaling but otherwise the same geometry, and had the code laid out for getting it to work on definitions where the rotation differs by multiple of 90 degrees (each such rotation would have to be tested separately, hence arbitrary angles wouldn’t be supported). I also experimented with this much due to curiosity without having much of a real use for it.

Anyhow, that would be a slow process for large models as a lot of comparison are needed, and would need to be triggered manually after import. I agree the real solution would be to have an ArchiCad SketchUp exporter (or SketchUp ArchiCad importer) that doesn’t just toss out this valuable information.

BIM applications in general have very proprietary file formats and no SDK:s so IFC seems to be the only available option to get data in and out of them.
I understand that the SKP exporter from Archicad is (or used to be) mostly written by the SketchUp team so a more intelligent exporter as an Archicad add-on might be possible.

OK I understand the Axis thing being an issue.

But what about a different tactic: Write an extension that simply searches for and selects all the groups of geometry that have the same (or similar) properties (eg same total edge length & face area).

This would at least allow us to move them to our own layer, colour them, explode them, name them ( then filter using Outliner) etc.

Right now I’m struggling to manage a model of modest size and complexity, but which has 89,000 unique groups (louvers, stairs, furniture, roof tiles, etc).