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Profile Builder 2: Create parametric wall assemblies in SketchUp

Warning: use of this extension may cause increased productivity!

There are many amazing things you can do with the Profile Builder 2 extension, but we were particularly inspired by the way John Brock of BrockWorks, Inc. uses it to swiftly create 3D foundation walls from 2D wall sections – basically, his own custom, parametric wall assemblies.

Profile Builder 2 Extension for SketchUp

A foundation wall is created with the Profile Builder 2 extension by simply tracing a 2D floor plan with the tool.

To really be proficient with this extension, you'll need to get your hands dirty. The full workflow takes some diligence, but the payoff is worth it if your SketchUp dream has been to draw advanced wall assemblies on the fly. So let’s dig in and see how parametric wall assemblies come together with Profile Builder 2 (we’ll just call it 'PB2' from now on).


Profile Builder Dialog

Fig. 1: Profile Builder 2 Dialog and some points of interest.

Once you’ve installed the extension, open the toolbar and draw a surface in any location. This is your first profile. I drew a rectangle (20” wide x 10” high) that represents the profile or cross-section of my footing. Next, you'll want to tell PB2 that the shape you made is a profile. Open the PB2 Dialog, then select the surface (a single-click will do) and click on the New Profile button. Give your profile a simple name.

Now you have a few choices to make in the area to the right of the profile preview. First you’ll designate a Placement Point that defines the location of the path relative to your profile. More plainly, this where your profile is attached to your cursor (indicated by the red dot in the preview image).

To set a Placement Point, use PB2’s dropdown menu, or specify an exact point with the X and Y Offset (you can enter negative numbers here). I chose Bottom-Right, then entered 5” for the X Offset since that’s where I’d like this particular element to be attached to my cursor path when I draw the completed assembly.

Profile Builder 2 Placement Point relationship to path of profile

Profile being drawn showing how the Placement Point defined in the 2D profile (red dot in dialog box) relates to the cursor path in the 3D profile member.

Now is a good time to apply a material by selecting a material or color in the drop-down list under Attributes. Here you can choose among the materials currently in your model, so you may need to apply your desired material to your model first so it appears in the list. Don’t forget to save your profile. (The floppy disk icon; you know, that thing we used to cram into computers back in the day).

I’d suggest giving profiles relevant names and saving them in a project folder; this organization helps as your assemblies grow in complexity. Perhaps create a “Profiles” folder and an “Assemblies” folder. Inside these, you can create sub-folders as needed. You may notice that profiles are saved as .SKP files. This means you can alter the profile geometry in this file, re-save, and your profile library has been updated.

Now, it’s time to draw other profiles that you’ll eventually group together to form an assembly. In my example, I’ve created and saved seven separate profiles. Now, I’ll construct the full assembly in 3D – one component at a time – with PB2’s Build Tool. Think of this as a pre-build of the assembly, exactly as it exists in space. This will come in handy pretty soon.

As-built setup before using the Profile Builder Assembler

Using the Build Tool, I combined the elements into an as-built assembly. I’ll use this as-built setup to tell PB2 how my parametric assembly fits together. Now I’m ready to use the PB Assembler.


Open the Assembler Dialog (second button on the toolbar) and click on the New Assembly button. Not much will happen until you click on the Add Profile Member button. Go ahead and give the assembly a name and description before you continue.

Bring your attention down to the Profile Member tab and click on Add Profile Member. Here, we’re telling PB2 what profile member we want to begin building our assembly with. Give this profile a name, then click Pick from model. Now you can simply click on the 3D element in the model to add it to your new assembly. You should see the preview image update to show this profile member now.

Important: From here, you’ll be off-setting other profiles in the assembly relative to the placement point of this first profile. Even more important: This first Placement Point will end up being the Placement Point of your entire assembly. Choose wisely! In this example, the first profile in our assembly is at the foot of our wall, so we don’t need to input an elevation. In my model, I’ve noted the ‘original’ Placement Point with a set of guidelines, so I can easily inference and measure from it.

Profile Builder 2 wall assembly detail
By inserting a set of guides at the original Placement Point, it’s easy to measure required offset values for PB2’s elevation and Left/Right offsets. Basically, you’re telling PB2 to place a given profile relative to the first profile in your assembly.

Now you can proceed, clicking the Add Profile Member button to add more profiles to your assembly. Here’s where my as-built assembly comes in handy. Using my as-built model, I can use the dimension tool to reference the Placement Point of my first profile against the Placement Point of each successive profile. With these measurements, I was able to put my wall assembly together using only the Elevation and Left / Right Offset fields. (You should definitely be using the Floppy Disk icon at this point!)

Keep an eye on the preview image to help you line everything up properly. It’s also helpful to draw test profiles (using the Build Assembly button) to check your work as you gFig. 2: Assembler Dialog showing a few areas we’re focusing on.


Now comes the fun part: drawing your entire wall with only few clicks! At this point, let’s start fresh by saving your current file and restarting SketchUp. Open the Assembler Dialog and click on the Assembly Browser to select the assembly you just slaved over. Now all you need to do is use the Build Assembly tool and click anywhere in your model to start drawing with your assembly.

You can inference existing geometry to trace on top of a floor plan, for example. Use the Shift key (or arrow keys) to lock an axis direction, and enter values for precise drawing. There are a few different ways to complete the assembly: press the Esc or Enter/Return key, right-click and choose “Finish”, or create a closed path. Clicking back on your initial starting point closes that path and your geometry will be automatically intersected/merged together. Boom, instant wall tool.


Profile Builder 2 extension in action

The Profile Builder 2 extension in action with a foundation wall assembly.

Of course, Profile Builder 2 is capable of much more beyond parametric wall assemblies. There is a ton of information on the PB2 website. You’ll find collections of Profiles (.SKP files with textures) and Assemblies (via 3D Warehouse), as well as helpful video tutorials (including a few dedicated to wall assemblies).

Beyond its modeling capabilities, PB2 also has a knack for reporting. For example, you can add cost data to each layer and then spit out the cost of the assemblies you draw. You know, just for that little bit of extra awesome.

Profile Builder 2 is written by Dale Martens, the same guy who amazed us with the Artisan Organic Toolset, and of course the original Profile Builder (Free and Pro). You can find and purchase PB2 on Extension Warehouse, and you can learn all about it for free using Dale’s resources, including this hefty tome: the Profile Builder 2 User Guide. There are endless possibilities to explore with this extension; we hope you’re inspired to take your SketchUp modeling to the next level!

This extension was released in March of 2015 and costs $49.99; give it a test drive with the 30-day trial.

About the Author

Josh originally joined the team for a year with Google as a SketchUp Trainer in 2008 and later rejoined SketchUp with Trimble in 2013. He is a map nerd, enjoys long walks in the mountains, skiing, playing soccer, kickball, disc golf, and... any sport or backyard game out there!

Profile Photo of Josh Reilly