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Robertson+WalshDesign: Construction models and drawings

The following is from Brandon Walsh of Robertson+WalshDesign. A new SketchUp Pro user, Brandon provides some outstanding documents, all created in LayOut, showing the power of the software and the advantage it gives him due to its seamless integration with SketchUp.

I started working with Aaron Gasper and Andrew Kroh; they were the ones who encouraged me to work entirely in SketchUp Pro. We started work with LayOut on July 5th (right after the holiday) and by July 23rd we were fine-tuning the 95% set for permit. Within one month, we learned how to create a construction model in SketchUp (not just a loose design model,) learned LayOut completely, and printed the permit set. It was approved in September.

SketchUp Pro has proven to be very fast, effective, and frankly a better program when it comes to both designing and documenting projects – and we’ve figured out this program in less than a few weeks. We're going to throw CAD out the door! The process of labeling and dimensioning in LayOut was far superior to CAD; was easier to see and faster to complete for us. There's no way we'll be picking up any of the typical CAD software again any time soon – we'll be using SketchUp Pro. Any engineers we work with will receive exports right from our SketchUp model. It works beautifully.

Our documents have led to requests from contractors to do 3D imaging of projects they're working on. Being able to see things in 3D helps clients understand interior spaces, which in turn helps them make decisions so things can move forward.

SketchUp Pro is going to help grow our business significantly: On our next project, we’ll be creating a model, turning it into drawings, and setting up a “construction site laptop” that everyone can reference during construction. We can do things faster, communicate ideas more easily, create a better construction drawing set, and complete our projects more efficiently by referencing the model directly. Contractors will be able to navigate the model easily; we’ll create saved views that correspond to what they'll need. Clicking on the scene tabs is all they’ll have to do to get the relevant information. If I'm not mistaken, this is a form of Building Information Modeling – having the model on a laptop on site is going to be fantastic.

Thanks for your enthusiasm, Brandon. Congratulations on some really amazing work in LayOut.

Update: Brandon checked in on the article several months later and added some additional content based on the comments. Since we moved to a new blog platform, the comments unfortunately did not successfully migrate. We didn't want to rob you of awesome content, so here ya go.

I thought I'd check in on the article and am flattered to see so many comments. Thank you for all the kind words. Frankly it's been entertaining to develop what we see as a new way of conveying information to contractors - packing more into one drawing and since things are in 3D there's a lot less guess work and coordination calling/emailing.

Anyway, the detailed wall sections are separately drawn with components that we've created in our construction library so that there aren't "hollow" which would cause confusion. This is something SketchUp can work on as toggling as an option with the section tool. Also, note the more familiar "2D" components such as "X's" in the blocking to convey to the contractor that it is, in fact, just blocking.

At a certain point, you have to draw the line as to where you stop detailing the overall model and start using your component library to build more detailed models - otherwise you're in for too much work when it comes time for a change in the design. We reference the overall model constantly so the changes show up in the detailed models as outlines so we know where changes occur.

We're developing a process where we take a schematic design model, save it at the end of that phase and archive it, then continue to follow suit through the end of the design phase. when we build the construction document model it's really the "construction model" that we use on site with the contractors. Before even starting construction, we'll meet with the contractor and walk him through a series of short clips detailing the construction of the project. We'll let he/she tell us if they want any additional images produced from the model too. Last project we saved significant time during construction by showing the design in 3D and how all the different parts came together - even down to the kitchen island design.

We're finding constant advantages to the SketchUp model. Just yesterday we saved one of our clients almost 20% in facade materials cost by performing a quantity take off from the model. That money will be used to go elsewhere in the home - perhaps into upgrades in the kitchen or bathrooms. The true test will be at the end of the installation of the facade material to see how much left over we have!

Even after the construction model and it's use for coordinating digging holes and hammering nails, we use the model to produce fantastic marketing images. In the end, it all came down to one model that produced all the drawings, was on a laptop on site for construction, and was used for marketing. It's amazing to me.

From this experience, we just convinced a developer we're working with to allow us to build a construction model of a project he had already drawn up and designed by another architect (we're a contractor too). We're building the project and the drawings are quite poor, so this is going to save us a lot of time & coordination headaches - and more importantly allow us to stay ahead of schedule. We started with the foundation yesterday and are going to construct the model piece by piece ahead of the construction schedule. In the end, we'll have a fully detailed scale model of the building that helped us through construction and we’re very excited about it.

For everyone else asking for more drawings, yes, these are only a few of the drawings in the set portrayed in this article. We have detailed plans, site plans, etc. if you'd like to see them I'd be happy to email them to you for your reference, just contact me at