Simple as 1, 2, 3

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).

Insitebuilders-Fig1, Blog120112 SketchUp Scenes

(See also:

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, Blog120113 - Process simulation


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:

Clickable Scenes

Scene Properties used to set camera location, field of view, time/shadows, hidden objects, layers, and annotations.  Click here to download the model.

Video Capture

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.

Motion Capture

Use the same scene by scene animation technique film makers use to capture CGI motion.  Click here to download the model.