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In a previous post, Firm Advice, I offered up advice for those of you contemplating starting your own architectural firm. That post covered more of the legality and visions for your firm, long range planning if you will. In this post I’d like to offer up what I believe are five critical things every architect should be competent at to have a fighting chance at running a successful practice… I even offer up a bonus tip, whoo hoo! If you’re a potential client, consider this a list of a few things you should expect your architect to provide as part of their services.

Prelim Site

This is not meant as all-encompassing nor are they the only things you need to be able to do, but they are a solid >** insert pun here**< foundation that you will typically use on a daily basis. It’s also worth noting that this is primarily geared to single family residential projects and will differ slightly based on other project types. Without any disrespect to Vladimir John Ondrasik III (google it), I present my Five for Architect’in:

Contracts

Write/edit your contracts. Sounds simple and it can be. However, many architects aren’t exposed to this if they have been working for others at a firm. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on this blog. Whether you use AIA contracts, author your own, seek the advice of a lawyer, etc. is a decision you need to reach yourself. The Purpose of a Contract is simple; defines scope, responsibilities, relationships, and compensation. My advice, have contract templates at your disposal for editing. I have templates for New Single Family Residential, Renovation/Addition Single Family Residential, New Multi-Family Residential, Commercial Tenant Fit-Up, Conceptual Design, Schematic Design, as well as several others, you get the idea. You want good contracts that you can edit quickly per project specifics.

2013-05-20_blog_image_disconnect jSketching

Free hand sketching that is. This isn’t a CAD/BIM issue/debate; it’s about communication on the fly. You need the ability to quickly get your point across; more often than not your point will rely on visuals and sketches not notes and definitions. You need to be able to sketch at a dinner table, coffee shop, swim meet, PTA meeting, airport etc. and you need to be able to sketch on paper, cardboard, skin, wood, drywall, etc. and be able to sketch with a pencil, pen, marker, chocolate bar, blood, etc. The point is you need to be able to sketch anywhere on almost anything with almost everything. This isn’t sketching to produce art; it’s sketching to communicate visually. We architects use visuals until the visual is reality.

1 FullSizeRenderModeling

I’m not talking about runway modeling, I mean build an architectural model. Not virtual models, as these inherently have a disconnect with the client and the process. Virtual modeling does have its place, and I often model in SketchUp, as you can read about here- SketchUp 101. However, I am talking about Real, Physical, Touchable, MODELS! The importance of physically crafting a model is every bit as important to the design process as the idea itself. This is a ‘touchy’ topic and some architects won’t agree on the value of actually building architectural models. However, for me, it’s part of the design process and I suggest all architects give it a try if they don’t already. An architect needs to be able to craft form to the idea. More of my thoughts on physical modeling- Architect’s Next Top Model. Another great read on the value of physical architectural models ‘Why We Still Model…By Hand’ by Build LLC.

2 FullSizeRenderConstruction

Converse intelligently about construction means/methods. To be a Credible Architect, you need to instill trust in your clients and contractors that you know what you’re talking about. It’s hard to get projects built, it’s extremely difficult to get projects built the way you want them built. If you’re taken for your word, and are knowledgeable, your project has a better chance of being successful. You need to know the what and why of everything contained in your Construction Documents… if you don’t, find out or remove it. Most importantly, visit your projects during construction. This will afford you the construction knowledge. However, this gets to be a ‘gray area’ if you’re not contractually obligated for Construction Observation services. Which leads to my final point, you should have at a minimum (ideally full construction observation services) the following six key points of construction observation in your contract- Foundation and Footings, Substantial Completion of Framing, Pre-Electrical, just prior to Drywall, Trim work approximately 50%, and at Substantial Completion. I rarely engage in a project without those minimum construction observation services, if you do, be sure to have a contract clause addressing the Limited Construction Contract Observation Services.

IMG_1935Messenger

Own up to errors and bad news. This is a tough one but you need to be able to own up to your mistakes and be the bearer of bad news. Clients expect their architect to give them good news. Good news is, well it’s good. Usually no big hooray from the client when it’s delivered, that’s what they want, and expect, to hear from the architect. Bad news is… well… it’s bad and most are uncomfortable addressing. However, to be a successful architect, you need to be comfortable with bad news. Construction is a complicated process and bad stuff will happen, best if the client hears it directly from you, along with solutions as to how to remedy the situation. You need the ability to have open and honest conversations, especially when it’s a difficult issue/situation.

2013-04-02_blog_image_PMT 2 conc**BONUS** Learn

Learn how to learn. Sounds simple, but it’s easy to get set in your ways. Things/means/methods/etc. are constantly in flux. Embrace learning new… well just about everything. Each project you do should be a learning experience about something. As one of my college professors was fond of saying, “Your next project is your best project… always will be.” It’ll be your best because you’re constantly learning.

 

So as a new or seasoned architect running your own firm, what advice do you have to offer up? Post ‘em up in the comments below!

 

Design Business On,

** Learn to know when you don’t know and ask for advice.

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Ideally I would provide full architectural design services for every project. Let’s be honest, that’s the want of every architect for every project. However, for several reasons, I realize this is not always an option, nor is it always necessary. Cost is typically a primary issue on every project, and usually the first thing to be eliminated is professional design services of an architect. However, as a client you need to be aware of options that do not eliminate the services of an architect.

The primary means of reducing the design fee is to reduce the level of service provided. However, that in turn will result in more responsibility for you and it becomes crucial (even more so) to have a competent contractor. Obviously, the greater amount of detail included in the drawings, the clearer the procedure for construction. The design drawings are vital in assuring you that your house is built the way you want it. The more detail in the drawings the more control you have over the resultant house. Anything not included in the drawings is at the discretion of the contractor. You’ll have less control over the final outcome of the house because you have given the contractor fewer instructions/information to follow.

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In this installment of the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series, I address typical levels of service available from an architect. Keep in mind not all architects are willing to work on a project where their services are limited- and there are some projects I won’t either. However, it does afford potential options to a client who is not in a position to hire an architect for full services, but does realize the value of an architect in the design of their home. Outlined below are differing Levels of design service available to you:

LEVEL 1: SCHEMATIC DESIGN DRAWINGS

This level uses an architect’s special training to problem solve, but the task of producing drawings for permitting and construction is the responsibility of others and is hired by you. This level is appropriate for simple designs. This level of service is appropriate if you want a house designed for your particular needs, but want to either draw the plans yourself or to have the builder, or a drafting service perform the drafting.

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These drawings are by no means enough for permitting or actual construction. The drawings indicate the design intent of your home. Prior to building, you will need to hire someone to think through how the house will be constructed, and to document those decisions in a set of drawings, suitable for obtaining the permit and building the house. This approach is appropriate if you wish to have standard finishes and details. Services typically include the following phase and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD)

Schematic Design Drawings provided. Room sizes will be indicated but not dimensioned. The Schematic Design Drawings will be formatted at a size of 11×17, hand drawn, and consist of the following:

– Floor Plan(s)

– Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations- at each exterior façade

LEVEL 2: SCHEMATIC DESIGN + SCHEMATIC DESIGN RESOLUTION PACKAGE

This level of service is appropriate for those seeking a house with standard construction and finishing details. Like Level 1, this level of service is recommended for simple designs, where everything is straight forward. This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 1. However, once a design is agreed upon, a Schematic Design Resolution Package is provided.

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The Schematic Design Resolution Package contains additional information to lessen the burden on someone else completing the drawings. Even though you will still need to hire someone else to complete a set of drawings, suitable for obtaining the permit and construction, major dimensions will have been determined to aid in the creation of drawings. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD) + Schematic Design Resolution Package

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 1 , in addition, a  Schematic Design Resolution Package is provided. The Schematic Design Resolution Package will be formatted at a size of 24×36, created via AutoCAD/BIM software, and consist of the following:

               –  Floor Plan(s)

               –   Roof Plan(s)

               –   Exterior Elevations- at each exterior facade

               –   Two (2) Building Sections

               –   One (1) Wall Section

LEVEL 3: SCHEMATIC DESIGN + DESIGN DEVELOPMENT DRAWINGS

This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 2. However, once a design is agreed upon, a set of Design Development Drawings is created. The Schematic Design is developed so it more precisely fits your desires and needs. Preliminary materials are indicated/selected for your house.

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The Design Development drawings illustrate and describe the refinement of the design of your house. They establish the scope, relationships, forms, size, function, and aesthetic character of the house. These documents will outline the major materials and the building systems proposed. While these drawings are still not suitable for permitting and construction, they do start indicating additional information that assists in alleviating the contractor making assumptions. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD) + Design Development (DD)

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 2, in addition, Design Development Drawings will be created. The Design Development Drawings will be formatted at a size of 24×36, created via AutoCAD/BIM software, and typically consist of the following:

– Preliminary Architectural Site Plan in CAD (plot plan provided by Owner)

– Floor Plan(s)

– Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations- as needed

– Building Section(s)

– Preliminary Wall Sections and Details

– Preliminary Electrical Plans- locating outlets, telephone and cable only

– Preliminary Ceiling/Lighting Plans- locating lighting and switching only

– Preliminary Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, interior finish schedule and interior elevations as required

– Preliminary General Specification Sheet- major materials and systems and establish their quality levels

 

LEVEL 4: FULL SCOPE OF ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES (psst… psst…this is the one you want)

This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 3. However, once Design Development is complete, a set of Construction Documents is created. These drawings are also used for obtaining a building permit and for construction of your house. All of the information obtained throughout the previous phases of work are incorporated and coordinated to create a set of drawings and documents that set forth in detail requirements for the construction of your house. This also includes structural engineering of your house.

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This level of service offers you the greatest amount of specificity regarding your house, and consequently the greatest amount of control over the end ‘product.’ The resultant home will reflect who you are and how you live. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Construction Document (CD)

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 3 , in addition, Construction Documents consisting of Drawings and Specifications setting forth in detail the requirements for your house, including Drawings and Specifications that establish the quality levels of materials and systems required for your house, will be created. A typical Construction Document set will include:

– Cover Sheet

– General Specification Sheet(s) or Book Specifications

– Architectural Site Plan

– Foundation, Floor, and Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations

– Building Sections, Wall Sections, and Details

– Electrical Plans- locating outlets, telephone and cable only (circuitry by electrical subcontractor)

– Ceiling/Lighting Plans- locating lighting and switching only (circuitry by electrical subcontractor)

– Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, interior finish schedule and interior elevations as required

– Selection sheets indicating what fixtures, appliances, lights, etc. that you need to select.

– Structural Framing Plans and Details as required (services provided by a structural engineer)

CONSTRUCTION OBSERVATION

This is the construction phase of your project. Basically, we are involved during this process to see that the builder is following the Construction Documents during construction. Ideally, at a minimum, visits to the site would occur at; Foundation and Footings, Substantial Completion of Framing, Pre-Electrical, Before Drywall, Trim work approximately 50%, and Substantial Completion. This service is only provided if Level 4 is selected. There are far too many liabilities to be involved with the construction unless we are the author of the Construction Documents.

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HOURLY CONSULTING

For any other services not indicated, and for any situation where our experience in residential design and construction would be of value, we are available on an hourly basis.

 

Ideally you would select Level 4. However, even limiting design services, there remains inherent value in employing the services of an architect. As a future client, you need to be aware of the options available such that you can realize your dream home. If you are considering/making such an investment, why not hire an architect to assist you in getting what you want? If you want your home to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is something you cannot afford not to do.

All of the previous posts in the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series can be found here:

Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search

Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself

Hiring an Architect: Part 3- Ask the Architect

Hiring an Architect: Part 4- A is for ‘Architect’

Hiring an Architect: Part 5- “What? Me, hire an architect?”

Armed with this series, a residential client should feel at ease about hiring and working with an architect. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your budget, your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle. If you still have reservations or questions fell free to comment below or send me an email!

 

Design On,

** Even limiting services an architect will bring value to your home, it won’t come with large fries or a super size drink, but it will be value.

Anyone that reads this blog will know that I am a firm believer in actual physical models. However, I also realize the benefit of virtual models- a chipboard model is tough to attach to an email. I use SketchUp quite a lot. While BIM is the final presentation model, SketchUp is the down and dirty study model. I equate SketchUp to the electronic version of chipboard. In a previous post I covered the basics of SketchUp, you can read that here Sketchup 101.

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Since that post, I’ve had numerous requests to provide more info on using SketchUp. As such, I thought it would be a good idea to go over a few of the basics in a bit more detail. I know some may be saying, “What the heck, this is basic info who needs a post on this?” There are plenty of resources/manuals available for SketchUp, however, I believe my perspective affords insight into real world implementation as an architect (whoa, settle down, those were big words). Keep in mind, there are people learning the software for the first time every day, so if I can make it a bit easier for them than I’ve done my part helping the world visualize in the third dimension!

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With any luck I’ll continually add to my SketchUp resource and hope that others can benefit from it. Note that this post is based upon Trimble SketchUp version 8.0.16846 and may differ slightly from the most current version; it is also not meant as all encompassing, but rather a broad overview of some general tips and information.

With that I bring you SketchUp 102, Groups and Components! When modeling in SketchUp, make use of Groups and Components, they will become your friend. Go back and read that sentence again. SketchUp is inefficient if Groups/Components are not used, especially when trying to select entities. So what is a Group vs. a Component:

Group: a combination of several objects together into one ‘piece.’  For example you can create a window that is comprised of a frame and a piece of glass. You can than make a group out of the two ‘pieces’ which than makes it easier to edit and move it within the model. Groups can be copied and edited.

Component: a type of group that when copied and repeated, if one component is edited all of the other components will change as well. This is useful for windows that are used repeatedly and is very helpful when creating units for multi-family buildings. For instance, you could create a Double Hung window unit and place it 40 times in your model, if you than edit one component to be a casement window, the other 39 update as well- however, there is the option to make any one, or several of the components ‘unique’ such that their editing does not alter the other copies- perhaps a future post on that topic. Components can also be mirrored using the Flip command. The mirrored components retain their definitions, and are updated whenever an un-mirrored version is updated.

Creating/Editing:

1. To create a Group or Component, select all the objects that you want included, right-click the mouse and select Make Component or Make Group, it’s also found under the Edit drop-down menu at the top of the screen. You’ll also have the option of naming the Group/Component.

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2. Groups and Components can be edited by double clicking them. If you have Groups/Components nested within each other, you’ll have to double click the appropriate amount of times to get to the Group/Component you wish to edit.

 

Window Assembly Example:

Window 1:   I’ve created a window frame and sheet of glass, each of which is composed of separate faces and planes. Notice when you try and select it only one line or plane is highlighted (keep in mind you could hold the shift key to make more than one selection, however that’s not the point of this example).

Window 2:   The window frame and sheet of glass have each been made into separate Components. Notice when you try and select it the entire frame/glass is highlighted.

Window 3:   The window frame and sheet of glass have been composed into a single unit and a Component created out of the two pieces. Notice when you try and select it the entire assembly is highlighted. Materials have also been applied to each of the window assembly Components.

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Group Example: Edit a Group and all copies of that Group remain as they were.

The window Group (the window on the ground) has been copied and placed within a wall. Note that the window Group has also been copied and flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis for one of the windows. This example is comprised of 4 copies of the window Group:

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I’d like to see what it would look like if the windows had a ‘window box’ surround. If I edit the window Group on the ground- for simplicity I’ll just extrude the frame- you’ll notice that only that window Group is updated, none of the Group copies update:

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Component Example: Edit a Component and all copies of that component update, regardless of flipping the copy about the horizontal/vertical axis, or mirroring the copy. Keep in mind, any copy of a Component can be edited and all copies of it will update.

The window Component (the window on the ground) has been copied and placed within a wall. Note that the window Component has also been copied and flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis for one of the windows. This example is comprised of 4 copies of the window Component:

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 bI’d like to see what it would look like if the windows had a ‘window box’ surround. If I edit the window component on the ground- for simplicity I’ll just extrude the frame- you’ll notice that all copies of the window component update automatically, even the window that was flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis:

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While this window is a simple example of Groups/Components, it’s evident that this is a powerful feature for modeling in SketchUp. For example, I’ve worked on numerous Multi-Family projects and my method is to create the individual units off to one side and then assemble the building from the units, which are Components. This makes it much easier to work on, units are able to be flipped and mirrored as need be and I only need to create one of each unit type:

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Armed with this information one should feel comfortable using Groups/Components while modeling with SketchUp. For regular users, hopefully this serves as a refresher. Once you start using SketchUp on a consistent basis, you’ll realize that there is a lot more you can do with Groups/Components- i.e. you can nest Groups/Components within each other, you can make Groups/Component unique, etc. However, you’ll also realize how efficient using Groups/Components will make your modeling. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and should be in the ‘toolbox’ of every designer.

So what tips/advice do you have for using Groups/Components in SketchUp? Post them in the comment section, I’d love to learn some new tips and read how others use Groups/Components SketchUp.

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Design On,

** go download SketchUp and get your 3d on!

2014-05-13_blog_image_competitions 1Within the architecture profession, design competitions have a love hate relationship. Many architects either love them or hate them. Me, I don’t cut it so black and white, I prefer an off gray stance. I don’t enter many design competitions, perhaps a future post as to why. However, when I do, I look at them from my own ** insert pun ** perspective and I win every competition I enter.

Every.

Single.

One.

How? Simple, I enter them with a specific challenge for myself to achieve. I don’t care about ‘winning’ in terms of Charlie Sheen, or the competitions definition of winning. Sure, it’d be great to win and receive the accolades from peers, or a quart of tiger’s blood, but I’m in it for more than that. I win by using competitions as exercises to further my knowledge of the architecture profession and/or add new design tools to my arsenal. There are two, and only two criteria to meet if you want to guarantee a win- and in reality one of them is optional.

The two critical tips to win every competition you enter:

1. There needs to be an entry fee. It’ll force upon you responsibility and commitment. If you’re anything like me, you expect to get something out of the monies you pay- I’m looking right at you AIA, sorry, that’s another post.

2. You need to commit to learning a new technique, trying new software, testing a new concept, investigating a new material or new usage of a typical material, etc. the key here is ‘new’ as the only way to win is doing something new.

You can win without meeting tip number 1. However, your winnings will be greater if you do. Keep in mind, there is no way to win if you don’t adhere to tip number 2

2014-05-13_blog_image_competitions 3One of my most recent projects was the design of a new residential house. The clients are great and it’s been a fun project. The design was done via SketchUp and the design package was presented via renders right out of SketchUp. The graphic results for the schematic proposal were good. At the schematic stage, I try not to get caught up in materials and color selections- I want clients to focus on form, massing, and layout. I’ve used SketchUp for several years, the renders are good but a bit cartoonish. If you’d like to learn the basics of using SketchUp, check out my post SketchUp 101. I’ve tried a few other rendering plug-ins with Sketchup in the past, while the results were better than the standard Sketchup, they were cumbersome to achieve. I knew there were better Sketchup plug-ins. Time to go win a design competition.

My local chapter of the AIA was having their annual design awards competition, a perfect one to enter. As previously mentioned, there was an entry fee and the new software I was going to learn was Maxwell Render. I wanted to learn a new software to enhance the Sketchup renders. In addition, I was looking for a technique to better render grass, and Maxwell fit the bill on both counts. The free version of Maxwell is a plug-in that runs within Sketchup. While you’re limited to certain functions and output resolutions, it greatly enhances renderings of your Sketchup models. I chose Maxwell because Evan Troxel raves about it and if he does, trust me it’s got to be good. So Maxwell it was. I won’t go into specifics about the usage of Maxwell, perhaps a future post, but honestly you’re better off checking out Evan’s get Method site.

Here are some of the images created- the original SketchUp image is followed  with the Maxwell Render below. Keep in mind these were created from one SketchUp model with minor tweaking in Maxwell. The people, trees, and sky were done in Photoshop:

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So there you go, my latest win at a design competition. I won by learning a new software and technique. I was extremely happy with the results and haven’t even begun experimenting with Maxwell materials… maybe I’ll save that for my next winning entry. If you care to forgo an entry fee, be sure to check out Bob Borson’s Life of an Architect annual Playhouse Design Competition, its for a great cause.

So go out there and win yourself a design competition, you’ll be happy you did!

 

 

Design On,

** Seriously… you’ll win… do it!

The New Year always brings with it resolutions, goals, renewed passions, reflections, and resumes… lots of resumes inquiring about employment. I try to respond to every inquiry I can- sorry to those I haven’t. This year has been no different. However, lately the resumes I’ve been receiving have a reoccurring ‘theme,’ one which is quite disturbing. Inquiries such as this:

“I’ve been out of work for a while and I’m just looking to gain experience, I’m willing to work for no compensation”

Or

 “My employment proposal would consist of me actually working in your office without being paid. I know that sounds crazy, but I think your firm and I could benefit greatly.”

 
Yes, it is crazy. No, neither I nor you will benefit. Unless you’re independently wealthy or all your bills are allowed to be paid via Monopoly money… wait… no. Under no circumstances should you work for no payment (pro bono work is a different post). The message you’re sending is that you don’t value your skills/experience and that they’re of no value to someone else. If you have no value, you’re of no benefit to me. If you’re just looking to gain experience by not being paid, you’re on the path to a bad experience. You may as well state “I want you to teach me for free so some other firm can benefit.” You’ll leave as soon as a firm offers to pay you. Benefit to me, I don’t think so.

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There is no benefit to me. If I’m not paying you what obligations do you have to me for valuing your work? What incentive do I have to teach you anything, I’m not investing in you or your skill set. You have no obligations to me. If you’re not compensated for work you do, what does that say about how you value yourself? Why would you ever work for free? What’s in it for you? An employer who allows you to work for no compensation is not invested in you, they’re using you. I don’t see any benefit for you. I don’t care how much experience you think you’ll gain, don’t do it. Do you really want experience from an employer who doesn’t value you? The answer is no. You want a firm that is willing to invest in you. When you invest a return is expected, a return with interest- interest in you.

It’s still a tough economy for the AEC profession, however, if you can’t find employment use your time to enhance your marketability. Learn new software, brush up on current building codes, enhance your knowledge of software you already know, etc. Follow firms you like via social media- join in the conversations, express interest in their work, and ask questions. If you’ve been out of work, what have you been doing and figure out how to take those experiences and market them as a valuable asset. Have you started a blog, learned a new skill, have a new hobby, etc. Market your skills and experiences as valuable, and to their fullest extent. Because honestly, the inquiry’s I receive about working for free don’t get considered by me. You don’t value yourself so what value should I have for you, harsh, but it’s true. Get out there and sell yourself, and by sell I mean you expect to be paid to play.

 

Design On,

** No, I’m not hiring… but hope to soon.

I use SketchUp quite a lot. While BIM is the final presentation model, SketchUp is the down and dirty study model. I equate SketchUp as the electronic version of chipboard and BIM as electronic basswood. Anyone that reads this blog will know that I am a firm believer in actual physical models. However, I also realize the benefit of virtual models- a chipboard model is tough to attach to an email. Typically I’ll create Schematic Design entirely in SketchUp, except for the floor plans which I’ll hand draw or use 2d CAD. You can create the floor plans in SketchUp, however, I’ve never been satisfied with how long it takes to achieve a decent ‘graphic.’ With the SketchUp model, I’ll generate elevations, roof plans, sections, and various perspective views. It’s a quick and a great tool for visualizing in three dimensions. I’ve been using SketchUp since, well… um… let’s just leave it at beta.

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I’m often asked about how to use SketchUp, or more typical, part of a discussion about the fear of learning SketchUp. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and one of the easiest programs to learn. As such, I’m offering up some tips and general information for those looking to get started in SketchUp or those who want a brief refresher. Note that this post is based upon Google SketchUp version 8.0.14346 and may differ slightly from the most current Trimble version; it is also not meant as all encompassing, but rather a broad overview of some general tips and information.

The Basics

1. Resources:

a. There are numerous resources online to learn SketchUp, Start at the Help Center, here you’ll find numerous tutorials and information: http://help.SketchUp.com/en

b. From within SketchUp, Instructor teaches how to use a tool when you select it- Go To: Window>Instructor

c. Click here to download a PDF-> Quick Reference Card for SketchUp

2. Toolbars- these are the basic toolbars that should be in your workspace:

a. Getting Started- Go To: View>Toolbars>Getting Started

b. Large Tool Set- Go To: View>Toolbars>Large Tool Set

c. Styles- Go To: View>Toolbars>Styles

d. Layers- Go To: View>Toolbars>Layers

e. Shadows- Go To: View>Toolbars>Shadows

f.  Standards- Go To: View>Toolbars>Standards

g. Views- Go To: View>Toolbars>Views

3. Large Buttons, makes toolbars easier to read- Go To: View>Toolbars>Large Buttons

4. Axis- each axis has a solid line on one side of the origin and a dotted line on the other, the axis lines orientation is:

a. Solid Blue line extends up from the origin

b. Dotted Blue line extends down from the origin

c. Solid Red line extends East from the origin

d. Dotted Red line extends West from the origin

e. Solid Green line extends North from the origin

f. Dotted Green line extends South from the origin

5. Shortcut keys- when using the drop-down menus at the top, pay attention to commands that have a letter to the right, those are shortcut keys that you can use from the keyboard.

Setting Defaults and Saving Your Own Template

1. Open a new file and set all settings below to your own liking.

a. Setting the location and solar orientation

i. Go to: Window>Model Info>Geo-location * You’ll have the option to geolocate or manually locate the model, geo-locating is more precise. Also note, location should be updated per a specific project location.

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b. Styles

i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the first box Edge Settings, confirm the Display Edges box is checked, turn off all other options.

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c. Face

i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the second box Face Settings, confirm the Front color and Back color are set to white. Confirm the Enable transparency box is checked and set to ‘Nicer.’

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d. Background

 i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the third box Background Settings, set the Sky and Ground colors to your liking.

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 2. Saving your own template

a. After selecting the settings above, save the drawing.

b. Go to: Windows >Preferences>Template and Browse to find the file you just saved. Once this is set, whenever you open a new file, your settings will automatically be set in the model!

Modeling Basics

1. Always use the axis to draw Everything. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to lock directions. The up and down arrows will lock the blue axis. The right arrow key locks the red axis and the left arrow key locks the green axis.

2. Make use of Groups and Components.

a. Creating a Group is simply a way to combine several objects together, into one ‘piece.’  For instance you can create a window that is comprised of an upper and lower sash as well as glass. You can than make a group out of the ‘pieces’ which than makes it easier to edit and move it within the model. Groups can be copied and edited.

b. A Component is a type of group that when copied and repeated, if one component is edited all of the other components will change as well. This is useful for windows that are used repeatedly and is very helpful when creating units for multi-family buildings. For instance, you could create a Double Hung window unit and place it 40 times in your model, if you than edit one component to be a casement window, the other 39 update as well. Components can also be mirrored using the Flip command. The mirrored components retain their definitions, and are updated whenever an un-mirrored version is updated.

c. To create a Group or Component, select all the objects that you want included, right-click the mouse and select Make Component or Make Group, it’s also found under the Edit drop-down menu at the top of the screen.

d. Groups and components can be edited by double clicking them.

3. When drawing shapes and lines, you can key in actual dimensions, look at the bottom right of the screen for the dimensions dialogue box.

4. The basics of modeling are to draw shapes, select from the toolbars or Go to: Draw drop-down menu. Than you manipulate the shapes by the Push/Pull tool and various others selected from the toolbars or the drop-down menus.

5. Linear Arrays create multiple copies of entities or geometries (use it for posts at an on-center spacing, siding, beams, etc.) To create an array:

a. Select the entity to be copied

b. Select the Move tool, press and release the CTRL (PC) or Option (MAC) key, the Move tool icon should now have a ‘+’ sign.

c. Click on the selected entities to copy and move your mouse to copy, easiest if you key in dimension spacing, click destination point.

d. Type a multiplier to create additional copies, i.e. typing 4x will create a total of 5 copies, the original entity and the 4 copies.

e. There are several other ways to create linear arrays, as well as radial arrays, search online or use the SketchUp help forums.

6. Use Layers, they make it easier to control the visibility with-in the model and group similar ‘pieces.’ From with-in the Layers dialogue box select the ‘+’ sign to create a new layer and name it as you wish. From this box you can also select which layer is ‘current’ and all modeling is currently being placed in.

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7. Use the Tape Measure tool to create drawing guidelines, it can be accessed either from the toolbar button, Go to: Tools>Tape Measure, or by pressing ‘T’ on the keyboard. After a while your model may have a lot of guidelines, you can delete them by, Go to: Edit>Delete Guides

8. You can import files to use as site plan or floor plan references, Go to: File>Import and select the type of file to import. You can scale the imported file by using the measuring tool to measure a known dimension and scale accordingly using the Scale tool.

9. The Follow Me tool is a great time saver for creating moldings. The tool will take any multi-sided plane (e.g., a section through a piece of molding) and extrude it along a line or curve. Draw the shape you want to extrude. Then select the Follow Me tool, click on the shape and drag it along the path you want it to follow.

Draw the shape you wish to extrude:

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Select the Follow Me tool, click on the shape and drag along path of extrusion:

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Complete the paths loop:

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10. A lot of time can be saved by using models/components others have created. Go to: File>3D Warehouse>Get Models and search for what you want. Once imported into your model, they can be edited as you like. You can also share models/components you create, Go to: File>3D Warehouse>Share Model

11. To apply a material, Go to: File>Window>Materials, the Select button should be highlighted,  from this dialogue box numerous standard materials can be applied by selecting a material and then using the paint bucket to select the model pieces to receive the material. Be sure to select the Shaded With Texture button in the Styles toolbar or you won’t see the material.

a. Once a material is placed it can be edited, Go to: File>Window>Materials, the Edit button should be highlighted, from here you can edit the color, scale, and opacity of the material. You can also use your own images to create materials or images from a manufacturer’s website.  

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b. After placing materials, you can edit them in the model by right-clicking on the material and selecting Texture>Position (if you right-click again there are some additional options). Four colored ‘pin’ tools appear that allow you to modify the position and scale of the material. The two most commonly used are the Green ‘pin’ which allows scaling and rotating of the material and Red ‘pin’ which allows moving of the material. Using these ‘pins’ allows scaling of the material to match a known dimension and placing the material at a ‘starting’ point.

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Views and Animations

1. Once you determine vantage points that highlight your model, you’ll want to save the views (called ‘Scenes’) for printing, exporting, or creating animations. To create a scene, Go to: View>Animation>Add Scene, a new tab will be created at the top of the work area. Right clicking the tab allows you to update the scene to the current view. Right clicking a Scene tab also allows you to open the Scene Manager, from here you can rename your Scene and choose which properties are to be saved in the Scene. You also select if the selected Scene is included in an animation or not.

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2. Animations can be created from a selection of Scenes, Go to: View>Animation>Settings to set the Scene Transition and Scene Delay times. To play the Animation, Go to: View>Animation>Play or right-click a Scene tab and select Play Animation. Note, Animations will play the Scenes from Left-to-Right. If need be Scenes can be re-organized by either right-clicking a Scene tab and selecting Move Right or Move Left, or from within the Scene Manager Dialogue Box.

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Plugins and Scripts

1. There are several plugins/scripts that can be downloaded to enhance the use of SketchUp. A few of my favorites are:

a. Windowizer- allows you to create windows from a shape.

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b. Stairs- there are several available to quickly create stairs

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c. Roof- allows you to create various roof configurations

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d. Joists- creates floor or roof joists

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Styles

1. Styles apply filters to your model to give them various looks, such as a hand-drawn look. To apply a style, Go to: Window>Styles> select the left tab Select, now you can view various styles and apply them to your model. From here you can also create your own Style. With a slight bit of research, you can find numerous Styles to download for your use.

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Original Model:

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Model After Applying Style:

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Armed with this information one should feel comfortable using SketchUp, even if you’ve never used it before. For regular users, hopefully this serves as a refresher of the SketchUp basics. Once you start using SketchUp on a consistent basis, you’ll realize that there is a lot more you can do with SketchUp and a lot more tools/ information to learn. You’ll also realize that there is almost nothing that you can’t model in SketchUp. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and should be in the ‘toolbox’ of every designer.

So what tips/advice do you have for SketchUp? Post them in the comment section, I’d love to learn some new tips and read how others use SketchUp.

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Design On,

** go download SketchUp and get your 3d on!

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I’ve been involved with client based single family residential design for over nineteen years. I’ve worked on single room additions, five million dollar+ custom houses, and everything in-between. Each house has its own unique set of circumstances that need to be resolved or addressed. No two clients have the same set of circumstances or needs for their house. However, one issue is always prevalent- value. Usually value is associated with a monetary amount, but that’s not always true. Clients talk about wanting to add, increase, and maintain value… but typically they’re not sure what value they’re talking about or how it applies to their house.

So how does one address value in a house? It’s actually pretty simple; value in a house comes down to common sense and avoiding excess frill. Real value comes from things that make sense and enhance ones comfort and enjoyment of living in a house. A valuable house should employ as many of the following as possible:

1. Location/ Orientation house should be located within a reasonable proximity to the client’s daily needs. Ideally, the house should be in a mixed-use community that offers various amenities with-in walking distance. The less dependent on a vehicle the better for the environs and one’s health. A house should be orientated to take advantage of the sun, prevailing winds, and site specific features. In addition, the house interior should have a connection to the outdoors, both visually and physically.

2. Sustainable house should take advantage of both passive and active sustainable building practices. There are numerous exterior and interior strategies/ methods that can be employed to reduce a house’s impact on the environment. However, the best thing is to construct only the spaces necessary.

3. Floor Plan should meet your needs and how you live. Do not design for what you are told is needed to re-sell the home or include whatever the latest trend is, i.e. “man cave.” You don’t want rooms that you never use- not only will you have to furnish them but you will also have to heat and cool them- these monies are better spent elsewhere. Efficiency can be achieved by the minimization of the plan and simple building volumes.

4. Rooms/ Spaces all rooms and spaces should have ample daylight, sufficient applicable storage, and logically accommodate the intended furniture. Dedicated hallways and circulation spaces should be kept to a minimum. (*note entries to the house should be ‘spaces’ not just doors)

5. Kitchens + Bathrooms should be well organized, have efficient layouts, and provide ample storage- all of which can be achieved in a compact or moderately sized space.

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6. Mudroom minimum should include a washable floor, floor drain, and utility sink with a hose attachment. Ideally each occupant of the house would have their own cubby/locker for storage. The mudroom should be located wherever the family foot traffic passes on a daily basis. (* pssst… pssst… it’s usually not the front door)

7. Garage cars are a reality that is not going away any time soon. However, a garage should not be the dominate element on a house. Ideally the garage should be set-back from the main elevation, or even better, if the site allows, the garage should be located on the side and underneath of a house.

8. Roof complicated gables, hips, gambrels, etc. can be very distracting to the overall design of a home- they’re even more difficult to flash, vent, and properly waterproof. A roof should be simple in design and shed water. (** shed water ** hint hint **)

9. Materials use low-maintenance long lasting materials.

10. Quality should take precedence over quantity. This applies to the entire house- overall size, rooms/ spaces, finishes, etc. Employ fewer elements executed to a higher degree of proficiency.

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The most valuable houses are the ones located in mixed-use walkable communities. Ideally the house is close to the owner’s daily needs. Houses that rely on an efficiency of space and are well designed in simple forms and details. Houses designed to meet the needs of the owners, minimize the life-cycle costs of operating and maintaining the house, a house designed for you– these are characteristics of a valuable house.

 

Design On,

** Notice I used ‘house’ and not ‘home’… a future post on that is in the works.