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The SketchUp Plug-in for Architectural Desktop

  Lachmi Khemlani

  January 15, 2004

   reprinted with permission

One of the critical shortcomings in current building modeling solutions is their lack of support for conceptual design tasks such as programming, space planning, conceptual sketching, and massing, as I discussed in my recent A-E-C Automation Newsletter article. One step towards a solution to this problem has come with a new SketchUp plug-in for Autodesk Architectural Desktop (ADT), which was unveiled at Autodesk University by @Last Software. SketchUp is an easy, intuitive, and fun to use application for 3D design exploration, which has continued to gain in popularity in the architectural design community since its release in Fall 2000. (See my previous articles on SketchUp in Cadence AEC Tech News #102 and #80.) The availability of this plug-in should be welcome news to those using ADT for building modeling-the 3D design concepts they develop using SketchUp can be intelligently imported as building objects into ADT, giving them a head start on design development.

The plug-in allows SketchUp data to be translated into ADT in different ways, depending upon the configuration and complexity of the SketchUp geometry. The simplest mode is automatic, in which all vertical surfaces become walls, all horizontal surfaces become slabs, and sloping surfaces become roof elements. Windows and doors also translate directly into ADT objects. If the 3D model configuration doesn't allow for a good translation using this method, specific surfaces can be differentiated with materials and an exact method of translation based on material can be specified. For a complex model for which neither of these methods works well, another more roundabout method is available: it uses section slices from SketchUp to convert lines to walls or curtain walls in ADT. While the plug-in does not guarantee a perfectly seamless and flawless translation for each model, it works well enough to save the time and tedium involved in developing the ADT model from scratch. More importantly, it is a great example of integrating diverse applications and workflows into a more coordinated design process.

This article appears in AECbytes issue #3:

About AECbytes

AECbytes is an online publication launched by Lachmi Khemlani in November 2003. It is focused on researching, analyzing, and reviewing technology products and services for the building industry. In addition to a biweekly e-mail newsletter, it includes product reviews, feature articles, and external viewpoints. Subscription to AECbytes is free.

About Lachmi Khemlani

Lachmi Khemlani has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and is the founder of Arcwiz, a consulting, training, and services company in the area of computer-aided building design. She has written extensively on CAD, BIM, and AEC technology in various industry publications such as Cadence, Autodesk Toplines, Augiworld, and AEC Automation Newsletter, and has given presentations before both academic and professional audiences. Her new book is form.Z 4: 3D Modeling, Rendering, and Animation (McGraw-Hill, Nov 2003).

Lachmi's credentials include a professional B.Arch. (Honors) degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India, and an M.Phil. in Architecture from the University of Cambridge, England. She has worked on numerous design projecsts as a practicing architect, and taught CAD and 3D modeling for several years at UC Berkeley. She continues to stay closely involved with the research community, and serves on the editorial board of the journal, Automation in Construction.

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