SketchUp in Building Information Modelling (BIM)



There are a few workflows to use when working collaboratively inside Sketchup, and Trimble connect is one.
If you could define the roles of the collaborators I can create a video on how I would collaborate with these genres. I assume when you say collaborate you mean with different areas of the design and construction phases? EG architect, color consultant, engineer, MEP, builder, interior designer and client? Can you give me an example of how you’d like to utilize Sketchup to collaborate?
I have been doing some training in this area for several large design build companies and I believe these workflows could provides the answer.


It looks promising but we haven’t settled on a collab tool cos it requires a lot of time and agreement with all those
involved on a project - and we work with so many different teams/consultants that prob wont happen soon.
often clients dictate the format for design review and they are the “lowest common denominator” in terms of technical proficiency…Or council staff - its a close race.


Hi andrew, im typing while holding a baby so excuse the spelling and lack of grammer!!

Yes all those disciplines. A lot of civil engineer,s surveyors etc (surveyors for example have very strict technical parameters that sketchup cannot interface with - the base point of a model being 100 km away, for example)

Each discipline uses their industry preferred software - architects use archicad or revit, civil engineers use Civil3d, Surveyors use 12D, etc.
The sketchup model can import geometry and faces from all of these formats (with some difficulty at times) and once imported is the best way to help visualise the entire project in 3d. This becomes the coordination model.
Landscape architects urban designer,s architects and some other professionals can design directly in sketchup (using their own plugins and layering/referencing systems mind you).
Collaborating means establishing parameters for digital document transferal with the aim of the sketchup user being able to import, update and visualise the incoming geometry. So everyone sends an export to the Sketchup modeller (coordinator) who import s it, uses the model as a visualization aid to present at project meetings, generates plans for client approval (records) and adds markups (in 3d via annotations) that are sent back to the specialist teams.
So all teams have sketchup installed and can open and view the coordinated model.

A few issues i face with this process::

  • not everyone has or wants sketchup installed (especially clients)
  • 2d plans are still necessary for documentation (eg to show Council) and sketchup is terrible at documentation.
  • Sketchup can’t see everything that comes through (civil 3d objects for example) so these have to be exploded etc and that adds extra work.
  • Layers, component and group heirarchies, mateirals etc are a total mess - there’s no good way to organise these -
  • Scenes are too limiting to save views (eg if you hae alarge site and make 100 annotations and want a scene to show them all.
  • basepoint/\coordination is terrible (no coordinate system other than WGS means massive risk in misaligning imported geometry and the need to work using a number of locked reference points (snapping points).
  • the links between Sketchup and Layout and between Sketchup and the imported geometry are not stored using Windows (eg the xref system shows you where each reference came from but sketchup just imports it without showing the source or allowing that soure to be updated!- very frustrating!. This is a major barrier to “true collbaroation”
  • Other sketchup users can use their own components to keeep their information seperate (eg a landscape architect can create a component called “vegetation”, place all their vegetation into the model and update that component periodically - very easy - howeve,r they are not able to do the same if the vegetation elements also needs to belong to other components (eg building A - patio). .This is where the abolity to update components using an Xref manager would be ideal… it would give the ability too “merge and update” models.

trimble connect doesnt seem to be able to manipulate any o the data so by the time you’ve made a big effort to get everything into the Sketchup model it’s not easy to change anything.
The Holy Grail is to be able to load everything into Sketchup have the team sit together an update layers, elements etc and then send that data BACK to the original format.

I get really sad when i see specialists import and trace over PDFs or 2d DWGs because sketchup is unable to export geometry in a suitble format.

all that said, there is no better collaboation tool - the navigation, shading, quick edits and general capability and accessuility of Sketchup are far superior to all other modelling programs.


Congrats on the baby mate, I hope he/she enjoyed the first of many Christmases!, I type pourly with two perfectly good hands yet most get the idea :grinning:… I hope.

These are all Good points Sam and yes there is a certain amount of extra work to collaborate efficiently, especially when it comes to who did what and i guess that is where Connect comes into play.

I think the most notable item you mention is organisation: layers, nested groups and components and navigation to individual items via the use of scenes. You are probably aware that it is possible with some plugins and I will keep you posted on a new release that we have been working on for some time that incorporates 4d, 5d and 6d into Sketchup.

I must agree Sketchup excels in some areas and lacks in others, however, I do not know of a program that does not, I would not have the time to write out out all of my grievances with Revit.

Considering the type and scale of work you do, specific workflows would need be used to simply to keep the model liquid and usable. Would I do Sydney Airport with Sketchup? Nahh it is just too big, yet I would do Auckland… There is a point where Sketchup simply will not handle everything inside the one model and utilizing different files for one project may not be an option for some.

Standardising geometry creation is the key to efficient collaboration yet very hard to control, If the team at SketchUp forced people to utilise a schema there would be an outcry from users as the userbase is so diverse. once again this is where third-party applications come in and I must give a big thanks to the Sketchup team for enabling third-party developers to create plugins for specific genres of industry.

It sounds as though you have a pretty thorough understanding of the ins and out, yet, if you would like some coaching or advice feel free to PM me, if multiple do I may even do a webinar on collaboration inside of Sketchup utilising third-party tools/plugins.

All the Best Sam, have a great 2019.