Sketchup instead of R*V*T a plea for user friendly BIM

I would like to start a conversation about using Sketchup for BIM. I searched the forum and there is little here.

  • What would differentiate it from using the 800lbs gorilla RVT. Ease of use…
  • Could it be a RVT lite for sub $20M projects that don’t have the fee to support RVT?
  • What are the core features that are really needed to produce quality construction documents?
  • Can this be done open source, community based? Wouldn’t it be great to sever the annual RVT subsciption?

I have registered a domain name for this conversation. Lets start an alternative to the way we work here:


You should take a look at PlusSpec. I don’t want to discourage you from exploring using SketchUp for BIM as a unique idea but PlusSpec has already put a lot of resources into their product. Would you treat or want to explore using SketchUp for BIM in a manner different (or better) than what they have done?


I think the discussion should be what do we want sketchup and BIM to be, before looking at solutions already created and that cost money.

Consider that your workstation is where you live for a large part of the day. If you are sitting there, producing construction documents, how can can the experience be improved. Look at the process RVT has for producing Families. Why is it call Families - should it be called Objects? The experience is like being in Excel. Sketchup is like breathing fresh air in comparison.

Right now we could just use some brain storming. Later we can have structure and finally know what is possible.

In defence of Revit I would say that while the Family editor (They are called families because often a lot of different component types can be created from one family) is not the most intuitive of applications, it allows you to produce parameter-driven components with graphical tools, without needing to write computer programs. In Archicad (the BIM market leader here in Finland) you need to write GDL code (an old programming language based on Basic) to create objects that stretch parametrically. The Main Revit interface I consider rather powerful under the apparent simplicity, especially the Properties dialog, even if lacking in glitz and icons. BIM objects tend to be complex, and it is by no means certain that introducing them into SketchUp could keep the application as delightfully simple as it is today ( I would love to sketch walls, roofs etc. using the Pen tool, though).


I agree, this is one issue that started my consideration if SketchUp could be used for production of construction documents. For the type of projects I produce, I don’t need parametric objects at all. If I have 10 different window types it is easy enough to produce 10 different window “objects”. So I think the conversation I want to have about SketchUp and BIM is what do we real need? I have the feeling that software is becoming complex for the justification of the annual upgrade/subscription. Why do we need software that is similar to what Boeing uses to produce a four story wood building? We recently had a BIM coordination effort between subcontractors on a project. At the end of the day it wasn’t used, they just sketched everything out on the subfloor.

I’m listening- I think this is an important discussion. People seem to have quite different sets of requirements in mind when they speak about using SketchUp as a BIM tool. And you guys have seen us release many features, particularly in the last two years, that speak to various of those requirements. But apart from simply duplicating the characteristics of the “Big BIM” applications (like Revit), what are the things that really make a difference in your work?



Hi John,
some ideas

  1. usable and much friendlier lists / reports, I would like to have options to which attributes are passed to the report. Perhaps it can be an option on the details dialogue of the component or group.

  2. This can also be the point at which you can decide the default smart label for layout, to save having to pick from the list.

  3. Have a attribute reporter / writer that shows items selected and gives one the ability to change one or more common attributes without effecting all, like I might have selected Stud#4, plate#1, beam#8, and each have a common attribute “size” where I can change the value and only that value is changed.then a redraw of DCs

  4. any improvements to DCs,
    like being able to change the order rather than using alphabetic / numeric names for attributes
    the observer responding to scale measures, so as not requiring a redraw

  5. Swapping should be promoted rather than hiding various alternatives, like the ability to swap all the door components (where ever nested) in a kitchen in one or two clicks, like a find and replace dialogue



When this discussion arises, I always remind of Fat Faces - a feature that I saw demoed on a video from the very first SketchUp Basecamp held in the @Last days. An easily modifiable wall/slab/roof tool (perhaps with structure layers) that can create clean junctions and be pierced with components would fulfill most BIM modelling needs. Flexible object/attribute tables and listings (with bidirectional links to the model) would complete a basic and infinitely expandable system.

The existing BIM systems still have mostly their basic philosophy based on a traditional floor plan.

I have often thought that a 3D modeler’s ideal BIM would have a sort of “sticks, stones and cardboard” approach. That is what buildings are made of: long objects with a profile make up beams, columns, tubes, trim etc, roofs, slabs, walls, countertops etc. are boards with a thickness, and the rest of what is needed can be conceived as pieces of material sculpted to fit a purpose.


Hi Chamberz, thanks for the introduction. We have spent 7 years getting Sketchup to a point where it is exactly what Stumpy is requesting. enter link description here

Hi Guys, a quick intro on me before I attempt to answer your questions.
I Started with Sketchup back in the @last days and have been to every Basecamp in the USA bar one. I have been in design & construction now for 24 years and I run my own design build business in Sydney Australia. I have no interest in building hospitals or rebuilding the twin towers my business is housing and medium density residential design and construction > $10 million.

My first introduction to 3d software was Revit and at this time and found the ability to design with freedom to be lacking, then a customer of mine introduced me to Sketchup and it stuck like glue. Sure I missed out on the parametrics yet I gained the freedom to design as I saw fit. Sketchup is essentially an extension of your arm that is just as easy to use as your arm is. It is possible to get quantities from Sketchup via entity info and by the export functionality provided yet as we all know there is a lot more to construction than square measure calculation and component counting.
I fully understand why the folks at Sketchup do not add parametric functionality along the lines of Revit or Archicad. Sketchup’s best attributes are the ease of use and freedom with design, after all that is why more than 40 million people use it.
Unfortunately that did not help me as I needed the all important BIM information that you refer to, I need to be able to move walls, change windows and alter rooves and I did not have time to go back and select every face to get quantities or manufacturer info.
Seven years ago I decided to start to figure out what it was I needed from a model and set my task to figure out how I could make it so new employees could pick it up and help me do more in less time, it had to be as easy as Sketchup yet parametric.
We created a Plugin called Plusspec, it does what Revit and Archicad does and it is easier to use. It has a one click prepare for Layout button, it will do a full material take off, adds windows to multilayer walls and much more. Everything is parametric which works well and is easy to SketchUp just like Sketchup. I no longer see the point in exporting to Revit or to CAD as Layout 15 is so much better. If your office insists on Revit or Archicad simply export the IFC and hit your boss up for a pay rise as you will get your work done 10 times faster. 

1 Like

I believe that comparing PlusSpec with Sketchup is like comparing Revit with AutoCad.
I think what is required is for Sketchup to build up infrastructure to deal with the numerous variations which specific solutions may not cater for.
So improving report writers , having component readers/writers. improved dynamic objects, to be able to explode an object to its components, or lay it out…

So I can build a toy train, have Sketchup place all the parts with auto-labels in layout and give a list customised as I required, and/or send it to be 3D printed or machined

Not quiet, Revit is far harder to use than CAD, PlusSpec is as easy to use as Sketchup.
We’ll take that as a compliment, thanks. :smile:

BIM is a reasonable simple concept yet to create an easy to use platform that includes all of the variables is a time consuming episode, 7+ years so far and we are still improving every day. Different people have different interpretations of what BIM is and how it should work for them, it is a very broad acronym.

I don’t think this is true. After 28 years I think I know AutoCad inside out but I still think that many things important in architectural design are easier to achieve in a BIM tool like Revit or Archicad - especially making modifications.


1 Like

Maybe on a a flat sight with a standard hip or Skillion roof. Parametric modelling is ideal for doing adjustments to walls and windows. It is when things become a little more complex is where 2d cad helps with Revit.
In my opinion both have a lot to answer for.
Any how lets try and stick to the topic of BIM in Sketchup.

Both Mike Brightman’s book “The Sketchup Workflow for Architecture” and his ConDoc Tools plug-in has really contributed to SU/LO becoming a great construction document tool. PlusSpec has helped hugely. I’m a home builder/remodeler, not an architect, but have found the last couple of years to be very exciting with the advancements that SU and plug-ins (ie:BuildEdge, Scalp, Visualizer) have made.

As I stated earlier in this thread, we’re actively working on this topic and have released relevant features in SU2013,14 and 15. The most exciting thing we’ve launched recently for BIM practitioners, though, has to be Trimble Connect.

Using SketchUp with Trimble Connect gives you a surprisingly capable information modeling system, especially if you have taken the time to add detailed classifications and attribute data to your models. Have you guys given that a close look yet?


honestly, i haven’t.
i don’t need BIM (i don’t think i do)…
what i would like is the ability to add estimated costs to components or groups (or maybe some sort of tag that’s not necessarily only usable per component or instance), vendor contact, color coded state of model (like- green for purchased, blue for xxxxx, red for back ordered, or whatever else-- finished, incomplete, not yet started, etc)…
estimate vs actual price (budget tracking)

this type of stuff, you know? will classifications help me with things along these lines?

fwiw, i currently do all of this via my spreadsheet app (numbers) and honestly, i like my current setup… mainly because of the integration with my phone… i can update my job tracking while walking to the car after a home depot run :smile_cat:
(and besides that, i like using anyway… maybe weird but i do have fun at times with it)

i just think it could be an even better setup if the model and the spreadsheet talked to each other better as currently, i have to do the translation myself (count components then enter into numbers etc.)

in your (or you all’s) opinion, is this something i should be looking for in my modeling package or am i probably better off continuing to fine tune my multi application approach?
(i’m a designer/builder…ie- sales, designs, estimates, purchasing, project manager, lead carpenter, etc)

1 Like

I’m gonna look at Trimble a Connect this weekend … Interesting

Attributes like costs, vendor contact and construction process state are all very commonly tracked in BIM. In fact, that’s a pretty decent baseline definition of the benefit that BIM promises to folks who implement it. My feeling is that this stuff doesn’t have to be wildly complicated, though. Classifier is a tool that allows you to tackle information modeling at whatever level of complexity you find useful.


hey @jbacus , thanks for the info / followup

i’m trying some things with classifier now to see where it’ll be helpful with my work (as well as just learn more about the .app)… probably the best way for me to figure out what’s going on with them :wink:

on more of an off-topic note:
have you guys ever considered making sketchup scriptable via applescript?

i get it that it wouldn’t be too smart a move considering it would only work on mac so probably lots of effort for a small % of user base… so on that note, i’m not making a feature request “hey, add applescript!!”… i was just curious if the idea ever came up in the meetings etc.

i don’t even know the true possibilities but i’m imagining a way to sync info between, which is scriptable, with sketchup…

if that type of communication were available, i think i’d want my BIM solution to be along those lines… like-> let sketchup keep doing what it’s doing and not bring a bunch of spreadsheet stuff into it… but let it talk to spreadsheet applications more readily… which, in turn, can talk to our phones/tablets.

1 Like