Spotlight: Dennis Fukai of Insitebuilders

Written by Csaba Pozsárkó Books, Education, Google SketchUp Tutorials, Interviews Jun 29, 2009


Barbara and Dennis Fukai are the people “behind” Insitebuilders, a small press specializing in books for the design and construction industry. All of their construction books are written as graphic narratives using a combination of three-dimensional illustrations, interactive 3D construction models, short videos, captioned text, and interactive media. Their goal is to keep their construction books simple. The objective is to make complex construction information quick to read and easy to understand. To accomplish this they use very accurate 3D construction models built with Google SketchUp. The Daily CatchUp asked Dennis about his reasons for using SketchUp for this purpose.

TDC: What do you see as the real value of SketchUp?

Dennis: I think Brad Schell, the founder of SketchUp, said it best on the cover of our book “Building SIMPLE: Building an Information Model.” To paraphrase, he saw 3D modeling as the best way for everyone to share the ideas, designs, and dreams we all have floating around in our heads. For Brad, everyone, the “professional architect, builder, mom and pop remodeling a kitchen, or a kid designing the next space station…” has an idea that needs to be expressed. In short, his dream was to bring 3D to the masses, and that’s exactly what he did.

What has always amazed me about SketchUp is its intuitive feel. It seems like the tools are right where they should be, they operate almost exactly how one would expect them to, and the program anticipates the little things necessary to make 3D modeling easy for everyone. In fact, the pure genius of SketchUp, is that some how the original @Last team was able to get all of these ideas coded into a simple program that seems to just expand and grow from within its own user base.

And what is truly amazing is that in all our books, with thousands of pieces in hundreds of assemblies, we have yet to find the limit of what even the early versions of SketchUp can do. There is no way any of this is an accident, and I continue to admire how inventive and instinctive that early vision remains in probably the most useful product out there for construction modeling.

TDC: Why use SketchUp for construction modeling?

Dennis: Though it’s a great design tool, SketchUp is more than a pretty face. It also has an important role to play as an information and communications tool for manufacturing, construction, and property development. In fact, its real value is not that it can simply illustrate objects in 3D, but that it can also very quickly model and communicate “time” as an erection sequence, simulated field assembly, or a preconstruction process. (See Dennis’s blog:

We use our books to show how SketchUp can be an effective tool to visually communicate the means and methods of an assembly as a series of distinct events or activities. This is especially important in risk management, but it is equally important in discussing change orders and clarifications because it sets up a visual understanding of a problem from a common point of view.

The result is an increasingly collaborative approach to construction, where owners, designers, and constructors are all able to animate concerns in 3D, illustrate project production over time, test alternative approaches to an assembly, and evaluate schedules and costs as a logical sequence of activities in order to find the best values for a project.

TDC: How is construction modeling different in SketchUp?

Dennis: The speed and intuitive feel of SketchUp makes it easy for almost anyone to build a construction model. The trick is using the Outliner in combination with strict control over the organization of the pieces of the total construction. Layer controls, Groups and Components help, but the basic idea is to maintain distinct clusters of objects as a controlled collection of nested construction assemblies.

Fortunately, almost all estimates and schedules in construction are organized in a work breakdown structure (WBS). This means the WBS quickly provides an over all framework for the pieces of the construction model, including three standard levels of subassemblies, sequences, and the supporting labor and equipment used to actually build almost any complex construction project.

The organizational methods we use for the construction models in our books have evolved with the changes to SketchUp over the years. This means that our readers not only interact with the animated details of complex construction in 3D, but they can also follow through with those assemblies using the hands-on project based tutorials included with every book.

TDC: Thank you, Dennis, for these “insights” and finally here are some exciting (though low resolution) samples from the books:


Thank you Csaba !!

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