Why isn't SketchUp the industry standard in architecture?

Would I be disadvantaging myself by choosing to use SketchUp while Autodesk software is the industry standard for architecture? Personally, I prefer SketchUp over AutoCAD. I know that SketchUp is capable of getting professional work done and it’s easier to learn, so why is Autodesk the industry standard? I feel like I’d be disadvantaging myself by making AutoCAD my primary software because it’s so difficult to learn, yet its output capabilities are similar to SketchUp’s. SketchUp and AutoCAD can make 3D models, plans, and renders (with 3rd party software), yet SketchUp is so much simpler to use. I’ve read that some people think AutoCAD is easy if you have great typing skills and learn the shortcuts, but I feel like AutoCAD is unreasonably difficult to use. I’ve read that many other people feel the same way about AutoCAD being overly difficult to use, yet AutoCAD remains the industry standard. Why is AutoCAD the industry standard? Is it because it has more tools than SketchUp before the addition of extensions, potential unreliability of extensions, or something to do with a preference of NURBS surfaces over polygon meshes? I don’t know. Feel free to tell me your opinions.


I think this has to do with the fact that AutoCad predates SketchUp and many other technical software programs. When CAD initially became prevalent, sometime during the late 1980’s, there were a significant total of alternate CAD softwares from which to choose. Most were outlandishly expensive while the less expensive offerings were considered little more than toys by professional users. AutoCad was one of the offerings that fell within the higher end of those programs that were considered “middle range” in affordability according to many of the design industry publications of that era. The bulk of the very expensive programs were largely reserved for the aerospace industry initially and most of these disappeared as AutoCAD developed more features and became more in line with expected cost.

By the early 1990’s AutoCAD had evolved into the more widely used design package and I suspect its overwhelming popularity generated its position as the de facto industry standard until this day.


Even though I’m very young to compare this, I agree with @jvleearchitects . Autocad born around at 1982 and SketchUp at 2000, you can ‘see’ the big development & experience difference between those.

In short:
Yes, Autocad is diffucult to learn but it’s much more capable and precise than SketchUp (especially in 2D). A lot of features are already built-in for Autocad but you’ll need some plugins for SketchUp. On the other hand SketchUp is much easier to learn & use and capable in 3D modelling.

Also this comparison results looks quite fair to me:


I started with Autocad when i’m student and struggled a lot (couple of years ago). Then i moved to SketchUp later years. After a couple of months I realized i was much faster because i draw in 3D and i get all plans, sections & perspective scenes at the same time, while my friends were just trying to finalise their plans.

So, i suggest sticking with SketchUp for now and know the capabilities of the similar features in Autocad.

1 Like

I think you’re right on AutoCAD being more precise in 2D. From my experience, the tangents are more accurate in AutoCAD. I have an extension for drawing circles from tangents, but it’s not 100% accurate because the circles are made of edges. The extension usually leaves a really tiny gap between the circle and the tangent. In AutoCAD, the tangents were really accurate. I wonder if there’s a better extension for tangents in SketchUp.

As a building designer who was keen to get into using CAD at a time when it was still fairly costly (late 1980s), I think I started with TurboCad, moved on to RoboCad, and finally migrated to AutoCad when LT suddenly made it a much more affordable option.

As others have said, AC was one of the first out of the blocks and got the widest circulation. The market dominance that gave them persists to this day. What is not often acknowledged is that far more engineers use AC than architects and a lot of the features of AC are focused accordingly (ie things that you might have thought architects would want aren’t there and things that you wouldn’t think they would need are).

I wouldn’t say that AC was all that difficult to learn but SU is more fun. I also wouldn’t say that AC is more accurate except where it comes to curves. That is the big technical difference for me and can affect setting out quite seriously.

One great advantage of SU is that you can produce standard 2D output that looks like any other set of architectural drawings from a 3D model. Everything is connected. In traditional 2D CAD you could draw two elevations with different roof pitches for the same building. You can’t do that with SU.

Here in the UK, I suspect you would still be more valuable as a draftsman if you had AC skills rather than SU skills. It’s more transferable. And being able to exchange drawings is easier if everyone uses the same file format. That may change over time but it is not imminent.

The choice would depend on what you want to learn the skill for. For home use, SU is the way to go. For professional use working for yourself (as I do), SU is also fine. In the job market, AC may currently be the better bet.


There are extensions such as @TIG’s True Tangents, but no extension can overcome the fact that SketchUp does not have true circles. Except in specific cases such as tangent at a vertex of the polygon SketchUp uses, there will always be glitches such as you describe.

1 Like

AutoCad’s “industry standard” status has somewhat waned lately. At least in our parts, I would say that today the field is divided, with Revit and Archicad as the “standard” tools. Autodesk’s DWG lingers on as a 2D drawing exchange format, but fewer and fewer things are actually designed in AutoCad. Today skills in either of the BIM packages are required when new personnel is recruited.


As others have said, it depends on what you are trying to achieve.

If you are going into university to gain a degree in architecture - Master Sketchup for it’s speed and versatility. (unless you are interested in parametric blob style architecture than rhino is what you want).

If you are working for yourself than its up to you! But it is still advisable to have knowledge of the other software so that you can work with other consultants more effectively (file sharing etc).

If you want to work for someone else than you should have a good understanding of the most common software used in your area. For me that is Revit, ArchiCAD, AutoCAD.

I do believe that sketchup has the ability to become industry standard for small to medium sized firms, however it is not there yet. At a minimum it needs to:

  • Fix the performance issues on complex files in sketchup and layout,
  • Improve the workflow between sketchup and layout for 2D drawings (scene functionality is not great),
  • Allow effective control over line weights and line types for individual sketchup elements in layout,
  • Change the layout UI functionality to match sketchup, i.e move, rotate, copy commands, components,
  • Integrate something like Skalp into the pro version.

I think at that point it will be more than adequate for most architects.
Architects need to output drawings, which at the moment is more difficult than clicking a single button. Creating a simple floor plan requires more knowledge than the other programmes and that is why sketchup is where it is.

Simple, efficient, effective, is what they need to achieve to take over the world.

This topic was automatically closed 91 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.