March 14, 2013
As most in this business already know — either as students or teachers — the challenge to construction (and design) education at the college or university level is finding the time in a curriculum to cover the basics of hands-on construction.
There are electives and workshops of course, usually taught by energetic but technically inexperienced professors, where students gain some understanding of construction technology, but with so much to learn, the rigors of hands-on assembly are lost to more mundane and largely predictable academic subjects.
How a House is Put Together
As a result, it remains for most constructors (and a few designers) to find out for themselves how buildings actually go together. A lucky few find sympathetic mentors or leaders with the patience to pass on the things that they cannot believe weren’t already taught in school — but most entry level professionals wind up picking things up in snatches and glimpses while being paid to do some other narrowly defined task.
At the same time, few construction managers (and fewer designers) have any desire to get down and dirty and actually “work” on a jobsite. Especially to devote the years it takes to appreciate what it’s like to actually build a building efficiently.
It stands to reason though, if one is expected to manage (or design) a technical process, it is only logical to have a deep understanding of how buildings actually go together – if for no other reason than to be able to anticipate the scope of the work, resolve problems in the field, and continually consider cost effective alternatives.
Construction is Color Blind
An important premise to understanding hands-on construction is the fact that to builders, anything that can be imagined can be built — as long as someone is willing to pay for the time, materials, and resources necessary to build and maintain the finished product. On the other hand, construction both expands and restricts the possibilities of a design. And it’s only when design and construction work together that the resulting effort is efficient, purposeful, and sensitive to the needs of our shared environment.
The goal in this series of articles is to therefore bring about some understanding of hands-on construction methods. The objective is to demonstrate the basics without fear of confusing an aesthetic of color and form with the nuts and bolts of a technical process that deals strictly in black and white.
Click to Zoom
Except for scattered notes and comments, almost all of the material to be presented in this series has been taken from our book, “How a House is Built: With 3D Construction Models,” including a few of the book’s illustrations, captioned text, videos, and models.
These articles will cover eight distinct phases of the construction of a simple house, beginning with how the house is actually located on the lot, then to excavation, foundations, framing, roofing, close-in, and MEP installations. Sidebars include a buzzword index, construction safety, and tips and tricks about the process.
SketchUp will of course be the construction modeler, giving you some idea of how we use construction models in our books and business. As most who read our books already know, none of this comes easy, so click the images to zoom, and feel free to interact with the information.
(To be continued…)
February 14, 2013
Some might think social media is only good for constructors (and designers) with nothing better to do than shift through the self-promoting babble found in the constant banter of marketing information on Facebook or MySpace. But they have it wrong.
For many project managers, social media is a way to see both the big picture of what’s happening in the industry and eavesdrop on what their competitors are doing. In practice, they are able to mine public information by reading posts and searching keywords to build competitive strategies in an ever changing construction industry.
Twitter is simple and spontaneous
In particular, the simplicity and off-handed comments found in apps like Twitter bring out unguarded exchanges that are telling when seen in the context of a stream of related tweets. This includes inadvertent security breaches by marketing staff and employees about current or pending projects.
You might think nothing substantive can be said in 140 characters, but add a consistent presence in a Twitter timeline along with links and pictures and these seemingly innocuous little posts begin to reflect not only a broad view of the industry, but a particular company’s way of thinking. As such, it doesn’t take long to read, recognize, and evaluate the collective thoughts found in the underlying messages that are exposed by this media.
This deeper understanding of a group’s thinking is in fact what makes Twitter valuable as a collaborative tool. In fact, any idea that Twitter is just for sending, sorting, and searching messages misses the power of this new media to visually direct a team’s collective consciousness toward a single minded focus.
Twitter as a management tool
The key to using Twitter as a management tool is to harness this interaction in a carefully controlled Twitter list or account. The objective is literally to crowd source the project from its inception, deeply embedding “buy-in” for team members as they are invited to join as followers. Important is that as followers, they are invited into the group and remain only as long as they add value to the team as a whole. In other words, their tweets become a measure of the value they bring to the collaborative efforts of the team as a whole.
In these exchanges, the concise nature of a tweet means project communications are no longer delayed or distorted by staged meetings, reports, proposals, or carefully rendered models. Instead spontaneous messages are sent immediately as part of a continuous flow of input, ideas, and second screen comments that shape the ongoing communications between active team members.
The value of Twitter is therefore the immediacy of the media itself. Participating in the conversation is like feeling the pulse of the entire project team, mashed together into a project long stream of consciousness that is visible in the flow of tweets, retweets, replies, hashtags, and comments, supplemented by photos, video, illustrations, and model images that carry their own perceptive insights.
SketchUp and Twitter
SketchUp adds to these interactions with site scans, photographs, videos, and illustrations from construction models that reinforce content with an immediate visual context for each tweet.
Collaboration begins between principals using site utilization models and overlays to establish scope, later in massing studies, simplified design models, and engineering as early images are gradually mixed by select followers with line item specific content from spreadsheets and schedules.
Like the tweets themselves, cumbersome documents are reduced to real time snapshots, visually gif-ifying content by clarifying collaborative exchanges from concept, through construction, and into facilities management.
Twitter apps are tools
The apps used to contribute and maintain this content are an ever changing collection of programs that were once used to send simple quick posts to a public forum, but have now advanced into sophisticated tools that incorporate multi-project administration. These include:
Short message service (SMS), still the fastest way to tweet images and video into a project account. Twitter uses short codes to sync text messages and images directly into an account from any cell phone with a camera.
Twitter also has an app that makes tweeting a little more complicated. The app has four icons: Home for your current timeline, Connect to track Interactions/Mentions, Discover as the search menu, and Me for settings and profiles. Click the New Tweet icon in the upper right corner to tweet and add a picture, video, or a library image.
Tweetdeck works pretty much the same way as the Twitter app, except it categorizes tweets into separate timelines. Image attachments are currently limited to Library Photos and Take Photo, but no videos, which eliminates motion captures (except via YouTube). Names have been changed to Home, Me, Inbox, and Search as you swipe horizontally to access adjacent screens.
HootSuite adds menu features to manage lists as categories of followers. It has a Compose menu for tweets, with images limited to Take Photo and Choose From Library, again no video, except through YouTube. Hootsuite’s menus also include Streams instead of Home, a Search function, Stats, and Contacts.
Posterous is one of the most comprehensive of the Twitter apps. Instead of lists, Posterous uses Spaces to divide content. Each Space is actually a micro-blog/website where any member in the Space can contribute longer descriptive text along with a range of photos, videos, and illustrations. Text and images are posted through tweets, emails, or directly within the Posterous program.
In the end, each of these apps has its limitations, with some, like GroupTweets, fading with obsolescence and inattention. At the same time, to maintain the value of immediate and unguarded collaborative exchanges, a Twitter app should be simple and fast enough to serve its purpose as an immediately useable multimedia messaging tool.
January 15, 2013
Multidimensional images extracted from piece-based construction models have found a new home in rapid project related communications. As part of a catalogue of 3D illustrations and process animations for an ongoing project, they are used to clarify and communicate ideas in immediate exchanges using shorter, almost haiku like Tweets that adapt to the growing complexity and speed of modern construction management methods.
BIM vs. SketchUp Construction Models
While BIM models may have a place in coordinating the production of 2D bid documents, they are way too cumbersome for real-time collaboration and are often quickly dated by changes and program upgrades – sometimes before a project is even finished.
On the other hand, SketchUp construction models are life-cycle models, generating 3D illustrations and videos available for use from concept to facilities management simply because they are built with an uncomplicated, intuitive, and freely available modeling program.
Builders who are able to anticipate benchmarks and key frames in their construction models use these images to coordinate critical phases in the production process. This includes clarifications, change orders, and RFIs during construction, but also field photos and videos that are now part of hourly, if not minute by minute, image transfers from the jobsite.
Mobility is the New Management Norm
Because 4G and wireless networks are now found on almost all jobsites, its become routine for a technically proficient project team to not only download files and communicate directly with team members anywhere in the world, but also to capture snapshots and video of project activity in real-time. Mobile apps send these images immediately from smart phones and other hand held devices via e-mail or direct messaging along with labels and comments, where they are archived for later searches.
However, while these apps are great for generating a continuous flow of instant communications, the information they carry is quickly buried in unsorted and remote data files after only a few days of jobsite activity. As a result, the latest challenge for project managers is to organize the increasing flow of graphic information into an information resource that works to inform team members.
In response to this challenge, a variety of social networks are available to visually support project production. These include project specific blogs, webpages, collaborative Wikis, and sites like Linked In, MySpace, Tumblr, and Flickr.
At the same time, by definition these programs are social sites and not easily adapted to project management. For example, now antiquated project webpages that were once used to regularly post schedule and budget details along with other project information, are now confused by a range of different formats, broken links, and duplicated reports that make the web much too slow for real time interaction.
Even Facebook, used by some companies for project communications, finds its pages tangled in tagged photos and follower comments after a few days on a scrolling timeline, leaving even the simplest single family residential project overwhelmed by the clunky Facebook interface and any Friends still bothering to follow its linear format.
Twitter as a Construction Model Management Tool
In practice, Twitter is the most promising new tool for continuous construction communications and process management. First, because it allows project managers to interact quickly with very short messages that by their very nature are limited to specific comments, leaving the image itself to relay the information.
In addition, the program is able to automatically organize comments, model images, field photos, and process videos according to phase, dates, and locations in ways that virtually stream visual information to the project team.
Twitter is also able to organize teams of followers into groups and lists, transferring comments, images, and links while sorting and categorizing exchanges into archives that can then be searched and accessed as an integral part of project documentation.
Along with apps like Tweetdeck, GroupTweets, and Posterous, Twitter becomes a short-form messaging tool, as a micro-blogger, with a growing potential to be at the heart of a real time network for team members.
TweetDeck is an old-time Twitter favorite that has been used by project managers to create groups and manage Twitter communications almost from the beginning of twitter-time. Now owned by Twitter, TweetDeck was one of the first project organizers to use a dashboard as a kind of dedicated webpage that allows users to receive and send tweets, view profiles, and photo attachments.
GroupTweet is a simpler tweet organizer that works well for short term projects, especially for complex interior remodels like hospital or mechanical equipment installations, where it’s important to keep both users and suppliers informed of current project activity. GroupTweets uses a homepage as a group messaging board, helping team members to interact while making it easier for everyone to keep up with the production process.
Posterous is probably Twitter’s best team management app (at least for now) because it has controls that correlate project information into separate galleries for specific groups of users. The app uses Posterous Spaces to make sharing and searching the images, photos, videos, comments, and ideas simpler and more intuitive for replies or retweets to non-members.
We’ll look at Twitter basics and these programs next.
December 12, 2012
It’s hard to believe but the first commercially available email programs didn’t appear until the late 1980’s, and though the communication benefits of electronic messaging were clear by the mid 90’s, many construction companies didn’t use email until the very late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
2D Techs or Construction Managers
In fact, it took a new generation of project managers to introduce this simple technology to reluctant old-timers – and as most would admit, the fight goes on.
For example, now that cell phones and voice mail have become standards for project communications, some offices actually still take messages on hand written note pads, while senior managers without keyboard skills have assistants write memos and handle emails for them, finding computers intrusive, distracting, and perhaps a little frightening.
At the same time, according to a recent tweet from The Mortensen Company, more contractors now use BIM software than designers. Of course, it goes without saying that the average builder has no idea who Mortensen is, and though construction companies may claim to own some version of BIM software, complex 3D modeling is largely ignored for spreadsheets, print outs, and face to face fieldwork during actual construction. Even at Mortensen’s.
BIM in the Real World
It’s no secret then that BIM software requires trained technicians, anchored to software and graphic workstations that require constant updates and attention. In practice, working with this kind of technology is simply not practical on most jobsites, especially when a rolled out set of printed 2d contract documents are the basis for the actual scope of the work.
It’s also important to point out that design, including BIM and its 2D documents are only a very small part of the real world of construction management. Based on the value and cost of services, barely 10% of the entire process is design, permitting, and preconstruction, and of that, perhaps half of the effort falls into actual BIM production.
90% of Construction is Communications
Following the money, the focus should be on what is happening on the jobsite and finding ways to communicate more efficiently with the real world that surrounds it.
Especially considering that today, computer programs like SketchUp transfer files over the internet, send emails from menu selections, and automatically upload images, cost and schedule data, and daily reports to the cloud as a common way of storing, cataloging, and accessing construction information.
For a new generation of managers, communications between team members now occurs on PDAs (personal data assistants), immediately using smart phones to photo, scan, text, and tweet annotated images and video exported from SketchUp to coordinate project activities.
Mobility is the New Norm
The mobility of these new devices and their ability to access an unlimited combination of resources has become a fundamental part of a continuous and instantaneous flow of project communications.
All of which is broadcasted wirelessly via satellite, cells, or broadband routers, giving managers immediate access to project information, the web for searches and bookmarks, networking platforms like Linked In and Facebook for market and background information, and graphical tools like You-Tube, image reference libraries, and animations for process control.
Today, the challenge is to understand how to use these new technologies effectively for construction communications, waiting again for a new generation of builders to demonstrate their competitive value in the real world.
July 11, 2012
SketchUp has long been known as a simple 3D modeling program. In the hands of a professional designer, it can be used to create amazingly dramatic renderings of imagined buildings. It is also used by movie producers, set designers, and game builders to create magically immersive worlds that provide realistic backdrops to tell their stories — or kill some threatening predator.
SketchUp can now be linked to relatively inexpensive three-dimensional printers to “print” physical models that can be held in hand, passed around, and studied without the need for a computer to mediate interaction with an idea.
Results are not static
Big box material suppliers use similar 3D modeling programs to plan kitchens, patios, and even houses. Three-dimensional models are effective tools for retailers, because they visually close on an idea and turn it into actual sales. For example, with a few clicks through an IKEA 3D planning program, entire rooms can be laid out, revised, and printed to include a complete list of materials along with total costs, SKU numbers, and aisle locations for pickup on your way to the checkout line.
The freedom to explore one’s own ideas using antiquated drafting tools was once an intimidating prospect. It took training to draw plans and elevations, or a vertical section through a room — let alone a three dimensional sketch. Ironically, when complete, old school experts were needed to visually interpret their own solutions, relying on practiced jargon, napkin sketches, and cardboard models to help people “understand” what they wanted a contractor to build.
Following professorial edicts, these professionals were more often far removed from the realities of the budgets and priorities of their clients. And unfortunately, the results were not always as they were sold, leaving owners and builders to work through errors, omissions, and misunderstandings that only added to the cost of the final construction.
Amateurs born on the platform
SketchUP has been instrumental in using 3D models to put “everyone” back in control of their own ideas. Amateur designers and their builders are now able to work directly in ways that were not possible only a few years ago. Simple 3D modeling and 2D drafting programs have opened doors to completely new self-made architectural expressions.
These are intuitive designs. Fantasies really, but not far from what many people pay a professional to create for them. The difference of course, is that a few hours of playing with a model becomes a form of self-expression that can only come from planning, rethinking, and revising one’s own ideas in three-dimensions.
And that’s the point really
When SketchUp first came out, the marketing mantra was “3D for everyone.” The idea was that anyone could use the program to push-pull, orient, and imagine their own scaled solutions in three-dimensions. Neither design or construction are rocket science, and when the results are of one’s own making, even with a few problems and quirks, an owner –built house can be far more rewarding than living with someone else’s ideas.
In the end, design is no more than the ability to visually replicate historical or contemporary references that can now be found all over the internet. And construction is simply organized common sense. An assembly of pieces and materials in a logical sequence, according to readily available instructions, backed by builders who in practice often complete their work with barely a glance at a designer’s abstract plans and specifications.
June 12, 2012
When the sale of Google SketchUp to Trimble Navigation was announced, it reminded me of the days when the original SketchUp development team was still around. They held an informal conference a few blocks from their offices in the Fall of 2005. It was a small gathering at a little hotel with break out sessions, a few larger presentations, and fabulous display of food and drinks. Not sure, but maybe 500 people tops attended, some invited, most came because they were chosen in a lottery.
At the time, not many realized this simple 3D modeling program was about to be swallowed up by some really big ideas.
SketchUp and @Last Software
@Last Software had a startup spirit then that was infectious and somehow oddly personal. The enthusiasm of their employees started at the top with founders Brad Schell and Joe Esch and made it all the way down to almost everyone in the organization. And thanks to Mark Carvalho and a core group of evangelists, their marketing approach was so personal that everyone wanted to meet the people who put this amazingly intuitive program together. All dedicated geniuses, that was pretty clear.
It was also pretty clear that @Last was looking for an out. Autodesk and Google were sort of circling around, Trimble might have even been there. And there were open and honest conversations about the future direction for SketchUp including an all hands meeting where the development team introduced an early version of Layout — a page composer that coupled 3D to 2D using an AutoCAD paperspace like environment. A photo texturing editor was also hinted at, as well as a passing mention of a geo-locating feature that linked SketchUp to Google Earth.
What was interesting was that these in-house presentations were more about testing reaction to ideas than it was about announcing new features. That worked because it triggered a lot of the discussion about balancing the wish-list for more “cool” design features with the original idea of keeping SketchUp a simple, user friendly 3D modeler. More than one attendee cautioned the team not to make things too complicated with new features. Keeping the program simple was something most understood as the strength of the program.
Of course, you can’t keep something simple and survive, let alone succeed – financially that is – without a lot of new features. You need a market, growth, and more paying users, and you couldn’t get that without a lot of hype and grandstanding.
Google and SketchUp
The startup energy was long gone when we revisited the SketchUp offices in Boulder after the Google acquisition. In its place were security procedures, unsmiling workers, openly political posturing, and a tension and focus that reminded us of an old fashioned sweatshop. Not that it was. It was just that the joy seemed to have faded into a kind of forced happiness that came with all you can eat goodies, offered like candy to children.
Probably no different than any other Google office on a normal day, but the contrast was striking when one thought back to the energy and enthusiasm of the original @Last team. We never went back. Google had literally moved Google Earth in on @Last, bringing with them a new and more global focus, big ideas and a lot of money.
Though some at the 2005 conference believed SketchUp’s new geo-locating feature and Google Earth had rather limited applications, as it turned out it was that feature, along with patents on the simple and user friendly Push/Pull modeling engine, that sold Google on the acquisition. Their goal of course was to populate Google Earth with photoreal 3D models. We all know now that “Street Views” does a far better job of capturing real photo-reality. And it is Trimble Navigation that makes Street Views possible.
Now it’s Trimble’s turn
It’s interesting to read the latest threads on the SketchUp forums about the Trimble acquisition. Still the dreamy wish lists for all kinds of “cool” new features that Trimble should incorporate. Not that that’s bad, but it explains the kind of specialized focus that looks more to light rays, textures, and design tools that fuel both the forums and a much more interesting after market of Plugins and third-party programs.
Of course, no one knows what Trimble’s plans really are, but it’s a pretty safe bet that they see the real value of SketchUp in the very same, simple, intuitive Push/Pull modeling engine that Google purchased from @Last — and probably still maintains a financial interest.
Unlike many designers, almost every constructor knows what any one of Trimble Navigation’s four core market segments has already done to revolutionize field surveying, layout, agriculture, exploration, and geo-mapping. Their GPS technology has literally changed the way field work is done for almost everything that includes a survey, plot, plan, map, farm, drone, scanners, or satellite. This of course includes what Trimble Navigation did for “Street Views” and Google Earth.
Add to these innovative technologies, the recent acquisition by Trimble Navigation of a handful of point scanning and BIM and CAD software and management companies and you get an idea why SketchUp is such a good fit for where they are going. A “cool” design tool may be on the table, but there’s much more opportunity in blending two and three-dimensional visualization with GPS, geo-data, mapping, engineering, production, and civil and building construction.
These are the core markets for Trimble Navigation and there is little doubt that all of these systems are about to see the same simple 3D modeling engine that @Last invented and patented years ago incorporated into their software. It’s like going back into the future, all over again.
Back to Simple “3D for everybody”
The point here is that it’s the underlying simplicity programmed by Esch and Schell that makes SketchUp so valuable to these huge companies. These are pretty much the same lines of code, in the same software engine, that the original @Last team introduced with the original versions of SketchUp all those years ago.
And the real value of that embedded software code remains its simplicity.
The irony is that it’s this same original @Last simplicity that makes SketchUp so important for construction communications. In fact, one of our first books, 3D Construction Modeling (link), remains popular in the used book market because it uses SketchUp Version 4. Much easier to learn because it is exactly what @Last invented – a simple modeling program that brings “3D to everyone.”
I should confess here that all our models are built with version 5 (sometimes 6). In fact, the secret to make construction modeling fast and cost effective is to focus on keeping things plain and simple. This is the same thing that is driving the interests of industry giants like Google and Trimble Navigation in the SketchUp technology and paradoxically parallels the original vision for SketchUp as a simple 3D visualization tool. Remember “3D for everybody.”
In the end, the intent of a construction model is not to impress, but to simply and quickly inform and explain the means or method of a process in 3D. Coloring and rendering in the virtual world might be a lot of fun, but they’re time consuming and have no place in construction. And as Trimble knows, the real money has always been in the real world.
February 15, 2012
SketchUp models are easily used to animate construction phases. They are quick to set up and can be important in illustrating a schedule or particular sequence of construction that might be critical to a bid or negotiation. Here’s an example (with no sound):
The animation was set up in five steps:
1. Organize the pieces in the Outliner. Start with a well organized construction model (use the 1, 2, and 3 method in the previous articles). Pieces should be grouped and nested according to phase and subcontracts and named alphanumerically so they self-sort in the Outliner. To preserve the original model, use Save As to save a version of the file for the animation.
2. Add Layers for control objects. Add Layers to match the alphanumeric names of the pieces, Groups, or Components whose visibility you want to control.
3. Assign pieces to Layers. Select the control object in the Outliner, then use the pull down menu in the Entity Info box to assign it to a corresponding Layer.
4. Set up Layer visibility and Camera. Check or uncheck “Visibility” in the Layers dialog box for each Scene. Change the camera angle, even if only slightly to slow the animation down. Remember you can set the seconds of the transition time between Scenes with the Windows > Model Info > Animation settings — use at least 5 seconds with no delay time between Scenes.
5. Add the Scene. When the Layers and camera angle are set, click to add the Scene to the sequence. You can add more Scenes and reorder them in the animation with the Up and Down arrows at the top of the Scenes dialog box. Test the animation by clicking through the Scene tabs or the names in the Scenes dialog box before playing the final animation for export or recording.
a. Use simple shapes with minimal detail. Increase detailed Scenes later.
b. LayerO is the default. Only assign Layers to control visibility.
c. Shortcut keys are critical to fast and simple model construction.
d. Hidden pieces within a group are not recognized by the Scene property settings.
January 12, 2012
SketchUp is not a BIM modeling program. It does not format components or tabulate descriptions, there is no related data assignment, it doesn’t really work well across multi-platforms, it will not generate analytical reports and it will not automatically or even semi-automatically export a 2D drawing. And it is definitely not a drafting program — though it will produce a great set of construction documents — if you know what you’re doing.
It’s not about BIM
At the same time, anyone can use SketchUp to build a detailed 3D model. Users include high end designers who render buildings in some pretty amazing ways, plus thousands who use SketchUp to visualize space, color, form, and shadow, lay out a stage, storyboard a movie, graphically illustrate a narrative, build a game, or teach almost any subject from K through 12 (and 13-25).
(See also: http://issuu.com/rclub24/docs/catchup_6
At the same time, no real constructor needs a model to visualize a set of 2D construction drawings — it’s not that hard. Students even learn to imagine space and draft 2D floor plans, elevations, and sections in junior high school – though they prefer building 3D models.
Construction modeling is process modeling
Important is that the real potential of construction modeling is in simulating a process. A construction model animates time. Here are some recent examples:
- Site utilization planning (SUP), mobilization, and startup
- Tricky crane lifts or placement of concrete, steel, and the air handlers
- Sequence safety lines while decking a high rise steel frame
- Coordinate labor and material moves in floor phases on a 36 story build
- Simulate safety changeovers in placing fall protection
- Designate twice daily changes in safety zones and restricted areas
- Model prefab stair placement with deck installs on a fast track steel frame
- Determine distances, transport timing, staging, and material movement
- Phase and process demonstrations and method sequencing
- Scale safety zones and markers for overhead material movement
- Visually coordinate move-on, staging, and subcontract start-up
- Scale a lay-down area to maximize efficiency in temporary dry storage
- Calculate crane arcs into storage areas and placement to grid lines
- Most of you get it….it is not about BIM, drawings, or design
Simulate process as easy as 1, 2, 3
- Step 1: Think out of the box, everything comes from a box.
- Step 2: Use inferences and guides to assemble a piece based model
- Step 3: The Outliner and components control time captures
Once built, a static piece-based model can then be deconstructed to illustrate a process as a clickable series of steps or phases, a video that moves from place to place to record different views of an assembly process, or an animation that both anticipates and simulates movement on the jobsite.
Here are three simple examples to try:
Scene Properties used to set camera location, field of view, time/shadows, hidden objects, layers, and annotations. Click here to download the model.
Animation settings used to set delay and transition between Scenes. Video then exported as a movie or captured with one of several free video capture programs. Click here to download the model.
Use the same scene by scene animation technique film makers use to capture CGI motion. Click here to download the model.
November 10, 2011
A 3D construction model starts by first “fabricating” the pieces for the construction and then assembling them exactly as they would be put together in the real world. You can make the pieces as you build the model, or copy and paste them from any previous models. Inferences and guidelines simplify the assembly and the final quality of the construction.
SketchUp’s Components or Groups?
The key to fast construction modeling is to keep the pieces named and organized so that they are readily available for both field changes and new constructions. The best way to keep a large collection of proprietary pieces organized is in a library folder on your hard-drive.
Alternatively, for some projects, you might want to set up a virtual staging area in the same or a separate SketchUp model file. Lay-down yards or staging areas help visually control materials and manage inventory.
Pieces you drag into a model from a library folder are always Components, while pieces you copy from a virtual staging area can be either Groups or Components. The difference is important because Groups can be edited without affecting copies of the group in the same model. But Components must be made “unique” so they can be edited without affecting their clones or matching copies.
For a construction model, minor changes to a series of Components can quickly overwhelm even a simple piece-based assembly. It’s much faster to Explode, Group, Edit and rename the Component as a new Group, especially if you use the Outliner to track a materials list.
Explode, regroup, and rename
Inferences, as visual hints in SketchUp make it possible to quickly assemble the pieces. There are three basic types of Inferences that are important to construction modeling:
1. First, there are the Inferences found on the body of the piece itself. These include edges, faces, midpoints, and corners. Each is a snap point for one of SketchUp’s tools.
Hover over the piece with the Move or Rotate tool to see inference hints. Then click to snap the tool to that position and start the command sequence.
2. Motion Inferences are red, green, or blue dashed lines that become visible as you Move or Rotate a piece parallel to a SketchUp axis. The Shift key constrains the motion. Press the left, right, or up arrow key to lock movement to an axis. The Control key is used to leave a copy.
3. Reference Inferences are similar to motion Inferences. They display a dotted line when two Inference points are aligned. Touch the reference Inference point with the cursor while moving or rotating a piece into position to let SketchUp know the desired alignment. Here’s where the Shift or arrow keys are often necessary to constrain the move.
Centerlines and guidelines
To assemble cylinders (pipes, tubes, and fittings) use mating extensions. The extension can be a projection from the centerline of the piece or any other axis important to the assembly. A fixed length extension makes it possible to quickly join their endpoints and then move the pieces together.
Guidelines are necessary to ensure the quality of the final construction in the same way stringlines and chalklines are required in the field by any good builder. They act as temporary references for site layout, as well as intersecting snap points to locate plates, studs, and rafters. Guidelines are also important to center window and door frames, position equipment and furnishings, and install parts of a building’s system.
Piece-based process model
When pieces are assembled and tracked in virtual construction in the same way as they would be on a jobsite, the sequence and scope of the work is automatically built into the construction model. And when these same pieces are nested into sub-assemblies, phases, and sub contracts in the Outliner, their visibility can also be controlled.
This makes it possible to both illustrate and animate the scope of the work, adding new potential to your practice and your market presence as a builder and construction manager.
ConXtech: A Revolution in Steel Framing Systems
October 13, 2011
The key to SkUp as a construction modeler is to think out of the box. Unlike a more complicated BIM or solid modeling program, the free version of Google SketchUp is a simple and easy to use surface modeler.
That means it’s very quick to make, modify, and assemble the pieces of a building or other structure. Important though is that it’s this piece-based assembly, rather than a single-shaped static-design model, that makes SketchUp a construction communications tool.
It all starts with a box
Almost all of the pieces used in construction are variations on a box. This includes milled and engineered structural members, as well as formwork, foundations, framing and most of the parts found in the building’s mechanical systems.
In SketchUp a box starts with a 2D profile. The 2D profile is then extruded into 3D with the Push-Pull tool. For some objects the profile is shaped or modified with drawing tools before the extrusion.
Fabricate for assembly
To convert the 3D surfaces and edges of the extrusion into a piece that’s ready for assembly, you need to immediately group and name the box as a distinct object – even before finalizing its shape.
To group the extrusion as a single object, triple click any of its surfaces, and select Group from SketchUp’s Edit menu. When you use shortcut keys, the fabricating process is really fast: 1) Triple click; 2) Key-in “g”; and 3) Name the group in the Entity Info box. (See this video for setting up ShortCuts ).
Groups are quick to make and easily modified with the Edit Group command (or double click). They also save a lot of time when there are only a few instances of the group in the model. For example, use groups for a model base, concrete footing, or part of a building system (See this video to review groups).
In SketchUp, you can also make any piece of an assembly a component, but avoid components unless you know you’re going to be using a lot of pieces throughout a large construction model – for example as an array of studs, joists, or the steel in a moment frame.
Components reduce calculation time as you move in and around large assemblies with hundreds of similar pieces. They are also important when an object is going to be saved into a stock library folder. To make and save a component, right click a group and select Make Component, then right click again and select Save As to store it in a file on your computer.
Even a simple construction model uses a lot of the same standard pieces. That means once a piece is manufactured you can save it so it’s ready for assembly in a new model. In other words, you can add to your collection with every model you build. You can also Save As any piece as a component from any another construction model — hundreds are available to save from the models found in our books alone.
Scale to fit
Groups can be easily edited in SketchUp, but changes get complicated when you start modifying components. To make things quick and simple, resize components with the Scale tool instead of editing each as a unique piece. For example, framing members can be resized to fit different lengths along a single axis without affecting other copies.
This saves both the time it takes to make a unique component and the confusion that comes with having several minor variations of the same component. Even a few unique components are cumbersome and have little value in construction modeling.
If you need to change a component and only want a few copies of the new version, its much faster to Explode the component and immediate Group and rename it as you build a model. Using shortcut keys again: 1) Select the component; 2) Key-in “e” to explode; 3) Key-in “g” to group; and 4) Rename the new group in the Entity Info box.
Of course, construction modeling only works for builders who know how a building actually goes together in the real world – piece by piece. And just like the real-world, when assembly is smooth and everything is coming together quickly, it’s tough to slow down and keep the jobsite and materials organized. At the same time, the importance of a well organized construction model is exactly like a well organized construction project.
As such the SketchUp Outliner acts as both a management tool and a materials list. When the pieces are grouped and named in categories (concrete block, rebar, joists, blocking, and subflooring), they can then be nested into assemblies (stem wall, floor, wall, roof framing, building systems), and these assemblies can then be grouped according to phases or sequences or further subdivided into subcontracts.
This means the pieces in the Outliner can be controlled, counted and correlated to a spreadsheet or schedule. In other words, the construction model can be used to generate materials lists, illustrate parts of the assembly, or animate sequences as slides or videos to communicate the construction process.
Most important, no piece or assembly is ever lost. The model can be deconstructed, resized, and modified for every new project that comes along. The result is a very effective management and marketing tool. One that clearly demonstrates what your company can and will do in an increasingly competitive construction industry.