Thursday, May 31, 2012

Designing in 3D

One of the challenges designers and architects face has always been how to give their clients a true feeling for the spaces they are designing. It's difficult for most people to envision a house and its rooms from flat images on a screen or paper. To show them the spaces in 3D is much more meaningful.

In the past, that meant real scale models--beautiful handcrafted representations of the proposed house made of wood, metal, and plastic. Architectural models are an artwork all to themselves--but very time intensive. They simply aren't feasible for the average renovation or even practical on a multi-million dollar custom house.

For years, there have been programs (AutoCAD architectural desktop, Revit, etc.) that could be used to generate accurate and meaningful computerized models of spaces. But those programs are relatively complex, and again, the time required to use them properly is prohibitively expensive on most residential projects.

Enter Sketch Up, a Google product that has relatively quickly become an indispensable tool for designers. A free version that offers most of the programs capabilities can be downloaded by anyone. Relatively intuitive, with online guides that easily explain the more complex commands, the program offers the benefits of 3-D design in a fraction of the time other methods take. The professional version is very reasonably priced, and offers added goodies and compatibility with autoCAD (the standard program for design and drafting). Users of either version can take advantage of Google's 3D Warehouse--where virtually any item you might find in a home is available for download.

The uses of Sketch Up are many--the entire house can be drawn in 3D, right down to the door casings and sink faucets, or it can be used to quickly explore massing, or to figure out a tricky roof intersection. Here are some examples of how I've used it:

A fully detailed Sketch Up model, complete with all the trimwork and landscaping.
The real house for comparison.

3D image of my foyer

and the real foyer, from a slightly different angle.

Here, I wanted to get a feel for what a few changes to a set of plans I was working on was going to do to the "look" of the house. A few hours time gave me this "quick and dirty" 3D model. No interior on this one, and the other sides of the house aren't detailed, but this was a great tool for getting the scale of a few features right.

Here's a fully detailed interior space. While not useful for deciding between subtly different shades, models like these are perfect for getting a feel for the general direction of a color scheme.
And thanks to the library of items in the 3D Warehouse, rooms can be quickly furnished.

Look intriguing? Well head over to Google and download your free version of Sketch's easy to learn, fun to play with, and will prove itself useful for a variety of projects around the house.

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