SketchUp 2D/ Construction Drawings: An existential reason for SketchUp Pro?

One of the primary reasons for the existence of LayOut is the ability to create technical drawings. There are several great exponents in this area. Notably Mike Brightman, Nick Sonder, and Matt Donley. There are also excellent tools such as Skalp which help to shortcut/ automate the process.

I have created my own approach called “Construction Documents using SketchUp Pro & LayOut” which documents the relationship between scenes, layers, groups and section cuts, and shows how to organise your model into neatly organised parts for creation of drawings. Though this publication illustrates how to create plans, sections and elevations of a table, the technique provides a workflow for any kind of technical 2D documentation.

I have always championed the cause of 2D in SketchUp because I feel it’s really important. I don’t think it can be overstated.

This is not a question.

It is an advertisement. :-1:

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And I have always championed the cause that using a 3D modeling program to create 2D drawings is missing the point.



OK I can see how you can call this an advert but it does contain information that is beneficial to all interested in the topic, even so-called “competitors”.

As I have a vested interest in the subject, I think it is more honest of me to post a link to my book than talk around it. I invite others to post their links in this discussion, as commercial (but relevant) as they wish to be.

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Hi Gully,

I agree that getting away entirely from 2D is desirable. I altered my own approach to illustrating details when I looked at Nick Sonder’s work. I realised that details should probably never be in 2D.

However, when dealing with large and/ or restricted objects like buildings there will always need to be the abstraction of 2D.

Buildings will always need plans. Anyone who deals with construction whether a builder/ architect/ engineer I’m sure will agree with this point. If not, then I am all ears : )

I’ve had this discussion with my architecture buddies a lot (who mostly seem to chant “3D + perspective or die!” (I forget the exact chant). I subscribe to 2D + parallel projection primarily because of my landscape architecture background. LA and site planning is always about layers of visual information that needs to align but also be worked on independently i.e., contours, hardscape plane (sidewalks), structure plane (buildings), groundcover vegetation, canopy vegetation, etc. 3D is great for the final presentation but the workflow requires a lot of visual analysis between these layers which are each individually complicated enough on their own. In other words, looking top-down and seeing how everything aligns is helpful.

You never know Paul

An open mind to new possibilities is interesting, is it not?

As you said CAD rip

A dynamic 3D model is an inherently superior medium to a static 2D drawing, even for Matt’s situation. Is that even subject to debate? Matt, you can look at a 3D model in a parallel projection top view if you want to, but you can look at a static 2D drawing in only one way, no matter what you want.

The absense of portable viewers may have been a good argument at one time, or at least an unavoidable argument, but in the era of mobile computing devices, that’s no longer true.

The argument that the downstream industry (manufacturing, construction, whatever) is not ready to work that way is much like the arguments that were offered against Geometric Tolerancing in the sixties: “naturally, we engineers are smart enough to understand it, but they’ll never figure it out in the shop.” Nowadays, there are no engineering firms or manufacturers of national stature who would dare claim not to savvy GD&T.

It’s a chicken-or-egg proposition. The longer architects and engineers continue to perpetuate the system of static 2D documentation, the longer it will persist. Eventually, the harsh edge of the bottom line will decide the matter, but I would not bet on 20th Century technology prevailing in the 21st.



Gully I reckon my viewpoint is closer to yours than you realize.

2D information in a 3D dynamic context (like a plan Scene in a Sketchup
model) is just as relevant to a discussion about 2D Sketchup as "flat "

We require technical descriptions of things for practical purposes. You
need to know how wide or tall a room is. Can you walk up a stairs you
designed without hitting your head? Such information cannot be dispensed

I recently tried to carefully put dimensions on a Sketchup plan view
without creating a 2D wireframe of the model (just to save money for a

When I checked, my dimensions were all wrong. I was reminded again of a
central reason for why i wrote my book- The wireframe is the only way to
reliably dimension in Sketchup. I naturally insisted that I do the drawings
properly but that he had to pay me to do them. The job is now done
On Dec 4, 2014 9:31 PM, “Gully Foyle”

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I would be the first to agree that SU (SU Pro, if you wish) as presently constituted is not ready to support the communication of complete design and fabrication requirements through the dynamic 3D interface. That’s why I view the development effort spent on LayOut with such dismay. In my opinion it represents the pursuit of an objective that will sooner or later (but not that much later) be overtaken and rendered irrelevant by technology.

I would much prefer to see SU’s development move in the direction of making the annotation and real-time interrogation of 3D models for dimensional and other attribute data flexible, straightforward, and reliable so that SU models are able to take the burden of communication off the stooped shoulders of the poor, tired, old 2D drawing.



By the way, Paul, I certainly agree that this is indispensible information, but please notice: it’s all 3D information. Why, then, do you think it depends in any way on a 2D medium?


the weird thing is (at least as i see it) that it’s the architects (generally) who are perpetuating the ‘problem’.

the contractors etc (ie- the people who will be using the CDs) aren’t the ones sitting around going “we need better 2D drawings”… what they want and need is better communication of the design… clearly (imo) an interactive 3D representation of a 3D object is much better communication than a book full of 2D slices with abstracted symbols etc.

not to mention, making a set of construction docs is often more work than making the 3D model itself… the architects are demanding easier ways to draw on a computer the methods which were in use 50 years ago out of necessity…

but those methods aren’t necessary anymore.

(ok, in many circumstances, they are still necessary but we’re on the verge of them no longer being necessary… a few more advances in tablet interaction and we’ll pretty much be there… just give the builders an ipad with the model (in simple terms)

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It sounds strange to argue against the premise of my own book, but I
actually agree- My preference is for getting away without "drawings"
altogether, whether they are digitally published or on paper.

At the same time we do need to be able to cut through a model to understand
it’s technical characteristics. (For example, when you are 3D concrete
printing your house in the future, you will want to check that the rooms
are actually in it!) This can be done “inside” the model. Again, this kind
of leads back towards my construction “drawings” methodology- without the
use of LayOut. The skalp plugin takes care of a lot of this complexity.
(Note: I have no connection to Skalp other than I know the guys and I
really like what they’re doing.)

I have a huge preference for a single file containing everything- I dislike
having to look for things and look forward to the day when I can go to a
building site with a tablet containing all the project documentation in a
single BIM model. Its not far off, but we’re not there yet.

Thanks for a great discussion : )

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Good Discussion all!

I can’t help bu think it boils down to a balance of a high level of communication vs. minimal level of work to communicate. I use a combination of SketchUp for consultations with clients as they would never understand a construction document, but need plans for everyone in the field, subs, vendors and lastly for permits. (i could never submit a 3D model for permits.)
My intention when creating a model is to express to the client, the look, feel and function of a project. However the field personnel, subs, vendors, and municipalities want to know refined details.
If one day software, be it SketchUp or otherwise, will allow me to communicate all these things to all these parties with less effort, I’ll be a happy man. Until then I’m left to put in the hours. Then again I’m paid by the hour, so maybe I’m better off this way.


There’s nothing like a good solid heart and hard push approach and long hours and dedication to meet that all too familiar deadline but
After creating the any piece of work , you need to look at the value given to the project and the professionalism around that.

We see many designers invest in Ott apps and certainly I see many workflows to create working documents , concepts , visuals Etc and I’m alarmed at the amount of hours spent and fees that are charged for less than I recall when I was in Architecture . There is never a one butting click and it’s all done scenario but I do beleive that a new workflow around 3D is nearly upon us (flashpoint) and when that appears it will be all from full 3D. It will then be interested parties to decide what they wish to extract and use.
That will force designers to focus more on creativity but will it effect your fee scales ?

How many designers want to see new improved technology but are convened about working faster , better but for less fee ?

i know it’s a lot harder to place monetary value on creativity as opposed to $/hour but that’s how i do it… i rarely ever charge per hour for work i’ve done on a computer unless it’s a rare (for me) case of simply doing drawings for someone else’s designs.

i’ll sometimes have a new idea in one second… and i’ll charge for that single second… then whatever amount of time i spend modeling/developing into something more tangible is done for free*
(i mean, in retrospect, that’s how it usually plays out)

*well lately, i also have a base figure which is applied to computer work for any given project… this fee is what i use to keep my computers up to date, buy software, etc which in the past, i would pay for out of pocket.

i guess my point is i’m not concerned with improved technology taking away from my design fee… in fact, it sort of works the opposite for me… improved technology is aiding creativity and allowing fresh ideas…

as in-- people like hadid and f. gehry’s designs are only possible because of computers and improved technology… and they’re making more money for their designs because of it… not less.

I wish there was a market for design in Ireland (where I live) but people
expect it for nothing which is why I no longer do design for others. I sell
books and ideas internationally instead.

Paul Lee

CEO Viewsion Virtual Environments Ltd.
Founder DesignerDojo

i guess it depends on what context you’re talking… if you were ,say, a design/build firm doing retail space (or whatever), the design fee is included in the price you quote… it’s not like the clients will (always) see:
labor- $8500

i imagine that scenario is surely happening in ireland.

Design build is very rare here but I am following a potential lead that
might go somewhere. It’s very functional- not much imagination involved-
but it’s work.

Although this appears to be stating the obvious, the prevalent culture of design (including contractors, suppliers, and governmental reviewing authorities) cannot abandon reliance on 2D documentation, because those entities tasked with the responsibility of physically putting the built environment together must receive the necessary information on sheets of paper. Until we become technologically sufficient to support the complete elimination of flat reproducible documents in the building/manufacturing process, the sole use of digital media at the construction/manufacturing site remains an anomaly. Yes, the technology is pretty close, but it remains to be seen whether society is prepared to accept the quantum mind shift required to fully embrace working only in 3D.

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