I think this is the first post in this forum so I guess I will get things started. This is a long post but I want you all to know where I am coming from...
My name is Andy Melaragno. I am a residential designer in Columbus, Ohio. I design custom homes and renovations and I work alone. Most of my new homes are 3,500 s.f. and up in size and $700,000 and up construction cost. The renovations I work on are usually pretty substantial in scope and price range. I have been using 2d AutoCad for the last 25 years to create my design drawings and construction drawings. I started using AutoCad right out of school so I never really worked very long "by hand". I remember, back in the day, the seasoned architects and designers preaching that one could not design on a computer and that they would never learn to design or develop plans in that fashion. I vowed to never take on that attitude. So, here I am today, in the middle of my career years and I see the world of residential design start to change around me. I am seeing more and more 3D modeling being used in residential design and I think it is awesome! The value of showing a homeowner a complete 3D model of their home is priceless! I want so badly to jump on a system that will let me do that! I have reviewed, trialed and even purchased many "3D BIM" programs over the last 10 years but most of them fall short for me in one way or another. I like to add a lot of unique or authentic details to my projects, I have found that most of the programs out there don't do unique very well. They are great for production houses but not high-end custom. I have also found that the rendering output of most of these programs look like cartoon drawings. The only programs that I have seen produce drawings that I would feel comfortable to show my clients, is Revit and SketchUp. I tried Revit when it first came out, it came packaged with AutoCad for Architecture, I didn't like it. I felt that it was too stiff and playing "what if" seemed like a chore. I have always told myself that I would not compromise a design because it was too hard to make the software do what I wanted it to do or to make change on the fly.
I started playing around with SketchUp about 10 years ago. Back then, everyone thought of SU as a "conceptual" tool that couldn't produce construction drawings. I have been using SU for massing models and exterior conceptual designs and have gotten fairly good at it over the years. I have actually produced some decent models of homes I have designed, and I actually have a lot of fun using it. I feel that with SU, if I can think it, I can draw it, just like in 2D AutoCad, but in 3D. Getting a workflow down to where I can create CD's from my models is another thing. I have been scrapping my hollow concept models and then starting over in AutoCad to create my 2D floor plans, Elevations etc. for my CD's. It pains me every time I do it! I have been on a quest over the last 2 years to make SU my main design and construction drawing software. I have purchased Michael Brightman's two books and I subscribe to ConDoc tools. I have read Nick Sonder's and Matt Donley's book. Now I have purchased John Brock's book. I have also subscribed to an SU add-on called PlusSpec. I have hit a wall...I am so sick of creating 2D drawings the fashion way in AutoCad, but I am scared to death to get too far with a project in Sketchup. I want so badly to take all of this information and run with it. The main thing that is stopping me is the fear of getting stuck in the middle of a project and getting myself in trouble with time. I know SU can produce the drawings I want, I have seen Nick's work and it is something to strive for. I have purchased PlusSpec because it creates walls, floors and roofs with structural elements and I like the fact that you can peel away at the model and see all of the structure. I like to show all structure in my building sections so I like the idea of having the plates, beams, floor system etc. drawn in the model. I have not read John's book yet but I want my models to have the same level of detail as his. I come from a construction background so I am confident that I have the knowledge to build a house like he does using SU.
My question is this: How do I start? I think I like Plusspec (I haven't played around with it enough to know for sure), I like the Condoc process to get to Layout, I love the drawings that Nick Sonder produces and I really like the models that John Brock creates. What is the best way to take all of this information and make it work. Do I need Plusspec? I I already have Profile Builder 3. I start to get overwhelmed when I think about it.
I have been wanting to get all of that off my chest for some time now and talk to someone about it but didn't know who to ask or where to ask. I am kicking myself for not biting the bullet and going to 3D base camp.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw John's post on LinkedIn announcing this site. This site is a great idea! I hope that more people like myself will join so we can collaborate, commiserate, bounce ideas off each other and work through this transition together. I feel like I can't be the only one in this position. Sorry for the long post, any input would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for joining the site and posting on the forum! You are the first of what I hope is many! Yes, Basecamp would have been a great experience for you. I have been fortunate to have attended and presented at the last two. I also developed Estimator for SketchUp, Framer for SketchUp, PDF Importer and Issue Tracker (you can see them all at www.estimatorforsketchup.com, but I am currently building separate websites for each). I was probably one of Andrew's first customers at PlusSpec. I was a Softplan user and thought it would be equivalent but for SketchUp. At the time, it was mainly set up for Australia and I could not customize formulas, etc. I really wanted to be able to estimate EVERYTHING and the way I operate, so I ended up creating Estimator. Along the way, I was making the best of Profile Builder, but needed faster framing, so I hired a developer and created Framer for SketchUp. It is fast and works with Estimator, so as I model walls, I have my quantities. These days, I model houses every week for builders across the country, so I use all of my plugins daily. I use PDF Importer to import the floor plans, Framer and the slab tool in Estimator, along with Profile Builder, etc. to model everything and Issue Tracker to tag issues (it produces a branded report with image of issue and description - fast and easy!).
I think PlusSpec is great, but I do not use it. I guess I have developed what works for me and there is no part of a structure I cannot model with SketchUp and plugins. Mike Brightman has done amazing things with ConDocs, so glad you are on board with him. Mike is a great friend and strives to improve the experience for everyone. Nick, well Nick is also a good friend and insanely talented. He absolutely inspired me with regards to his construction documents. He is a master. Both Mike and Nick were gracious to agree to be a part of this site, so you can ask either of them a question and it goes directly to them (and I hope they answer 🙂
Sounds like you have a good operation going on and have experience, so finding what works for you should be attainable. I know it is hard to make everyone else's thing work for you - one of the good and bad with SketchUp. I cuss it and love it, but then I am in it every single day. I have not built a house in a year! (except virtually). I am modeling a 6-story building in Canada right now, so testing SU and my plugins, and my patience! If you can get going with Mike's workflow from the start, that may be best for you. Personally, I have been doing my own way for so long it is hard to change! As far as Nick's work, he has numerous YouTube clips (and I have watched them all!).
YouTube and Google is probably how I learned. I read Mike's book, then Dan's book and both were very helpful. Once I saw Nick's work, I knew SU had all we needed, just needed to learn and practice. It was awesome hanging out with all three of those guys, and so many more, at Basecamp - definitely do not miss the next one!
Feel free to ask any of us a question on this site, or you can email me directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to help any way I can. Hope this helps.
Thanks John. I will definitely look at your plugins! I subscribed to Plusspec a little over year ago and my subscription is due to renew next week. I am torn on whether I will renew it or not. I have not really used the program since I've had it. At first I tried it and gave up due to lack of time. I then I got into Condoc and learned that process, which actually made Plusspec easier to understand for me. I think having a complete grasp on how to get from SU to Layout made it easier to know what the program was trying to accomplish which made it easier to understand...Does that make any sense? Michael does a great job of explaining what how it all is supposed to work and I think knowing how SU and Layout relate made everything click. Anyhow, I will look at your plugins before I pony up for another year of Plusspec.
This process has been very frustrating because have always wanted to talk to someone who knows what I am trying to accomplish and who has either gone through the learning curve or is currently going through it. I have not found anyone locally that is in the same boat as me and have not found any great online collaboration spaces either. I hope this site grows into that space where people can feed off each other and help each other out. Who knows, maybe someday we can have mini Basecamps for architecture geeks! I would be curious to hear what the other members of the forum think about the best way to start.