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Keymark's BuildEdge PLAN

$29 tool for SketchUp for architects cuts the time to make roofs, window and walls in half

By Rakesh Rao, February 25, 2014

My notion of CAD-based architectural software is that it involves jargon-heavy commands and dialogs that required intense training and practice. So when I was asked to write about Keymark’s BuildEdge PLAN add-on for SketchUp, I had little clue of what I was getting into. This was soon dispelled. Coming from the rigorous discipline of CAD, free-hand sketching and making quick models of 3D houses was new to me.

Even though I was asked to write a customer story, I figured that I could ask meaningful questions only if I possessed first-hand knowledge of the product. And so before contacting existing users for their opinions, I got cracking on the software by installing SketchUp and then BuildEdge PLAN on my Windows laptop. BuildEdge PLAN works with SketchUp, and SketchUp works on Windows and Mac (see figure 1).

Figure 1: BuildEdge PLAN is the black panel at left, shown running inside SketchUp

Next, I went through the wonderfully made videos on www.buildedge.com . They were comforting to a new user like me. BuildEdge PLAN is simple, because it is divided into four functional drawing tools: Walls, Doors/Windows (or openings), Floors, and Roofs, all of which operate inside SketchUp but in a way that is defined and controlled by the BuildEdge software. Once I was done creating the model, a Commit button converts the geometry to SketchUp’s native objects.

Evaluating BuildEdge PLAN with Test Drawings

The best way to evaluate software is to create something with my own data. I did exactly that by modeling a nearby building, one that is simple enough: a site office that is located inside a courtyard bounded by a wall. After ten minutes of playing around, I came up with the model shown in figure 2.

Figure 2: The basic outline of the walled building

The Interface and Tools

The BuildEdge PLAN user-interface is simple. All controls are located inside a tool palette with four tabs, one each for Walls, Door/Windows, Floors and Roofs. See figures 3 through 6.

Figure 3: The Wall palette, where it all starts

Figure 4: The Door & Window palette creates and edits openings, moves them around with self-healing walls

Figure 5: The repository of Floor tools

Figure 6: The Roof Tools palette, perhaps the most important in BuildEdge PLAN, and my favorite

With my self-tutorial successfully completed, I went on to ask users about their experiences.

How Professionals Use BuildEdge PLAN

I spoke with Roger Nelson, who is a professional user of BuildEdge PLAN and asked him about the software. My focus was to understand the return of investment on this software, not ask him which tools of features he uses.

Rakesh Rao: What is that single most time-saver tool of feature which convinced you to buy BuildEdge PLAN?
Roger Nelson:
At the time I bought the plug-in, the Create Wall tool and the tools like Create Window and Create Door allowed me to make openings easily in walls – this appealed the most to me. It was the ease with which openings can be added, adjusted, and deleted that made working with BuildEdge PLAN a breeze. They were great at reducing the time required to build a 3D model of a house.

Rakesh Rao: Can you name some other key strengths of the software that you find useful? Can you quantify or explain how useful they are?
Roger Nelson:
The Roof feature saved a lot of time, especially when creating complicated roofs.

Rakesh Rao: How much of a productivity improvement, in terms of percentage, did you achieve using BuildEdge PLAN vs plain SketchUp?
Roger Nelson:
I would say that the time spent is halved.

Rakesh Rao: What aspect of your design process (or work-flow) derives the most benefit using BuildEdge PLAN?
Roger Nelson: It is best suited to create study models in the least possible amount of time. Rapid conceptual design, to communicate to my client, is best done using BuildEdge PLAN, compared to doing it all using SketchUp alone.

Rakesh Rao: Would you recommend BuildEdge PLAN to your peers and co-workers?
Roger Nelson:
Absolutely, yes.

Target Market and ROI

Who can benefit from using BuildEdge PLAN? This software is a productivity tool on top of SketchUp, and helps you create really quick visualization schemes that allow form and space planning in minutes. It is easy enough for non-professionals to create building outlines and convey the big picture to stake-holders.

It is not a full-fledged modeler or visualizer but, at the price tag of $29, you cannot go wrong. I don’t need to tell you what the return-on-investment is. It justifies itself on one or two presentations.

Conclusion

BuildEdge PLAN is a value-for-money add-on that SketchUp using architects will love. Keymark Enterprises offers excellent support resources on their web-site which includes product videos, tutorials, online support and a blog that demonstrates the passion of the company in taking this product forward.

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About the Author

Rakesh Rao specializes in DWG CAD software development, including designing add-on products. His expertise includes AEC, survey, mapping and manufacturing. More…

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