Allied Works communicates with project collaborators Arup Daylighting via SketchUp plugins.
When Joe Esch, Brad Schell, and a small group of AEC and CAD industry veterans launched SketchUp nearly 13 years ago in Boulder, Colorado, many of the 3D modeling tools on the market had been developed for the entertainment industry. Google acquired the company in 2006, and Trimble bought it in 2012, yet in spite of these changes in ownership, the team has continued to develop SketchUp into an intuitive design-build program to develop sketches and 3D models for the AEC industry. With its user-accessible Ruby API (application programming interface), the generic modeling program of yesteryear has become a full-blown, application specific design tool capable of detailing architectural projects faster and cheaper than in the past.
In addition to the program’s capabilities that facilitate 2D drawings and 3D models, the latest release of the software—SketchUp Pro 2013—includes a categorized selection of plugins organized within the new Extension Warehouse. According to John Bacus, product management director at Trimble for SketchUp, a study conducted several years ago revealed 45 percent of SketchUp users had used plugins, but without an organized search and retrieval system those benefits were underutilized. “There was some chaos in that world, with people writing extensions that didn’t perform particularly well,” said Bacus. A team of developers has worked to compile and format 167 extensions that have been downloaded more than 200,000 times since its release less than two months ago.
Portland, Oregon–based Allied Works Architecture has embraced these specialized plugin capabilities. The firm relies heavily on SketchUp’s modeling capabilities, in addition to a regular cache of plugins. Brent Linden, director of Allied Works’ New York office, noted how the flow of programming through the buildings they design is easily made the focus within SketchUp. “Since the design process of the Clyfford Still Museum, we’ve moved away from rectilinear into curvilinear,” said Linden. “When you add curves to rectilinear order, space can continue to flow through structure and the Curviloft lofting tool made that possible for our whole team.” The extension was instrumental in developing the perforated concrete ceiling, one of the museum’s most distinguished features.
Lessons learned in lighting design from the Clyfford Still Museum have also been applied to the firm’s work on the Spaulding Paolozzi Center, a new project currently underway for joint use by Clemson University and the College of Charleston. For both projects, Arup provided daylighting consulting services. “We’re trading SketchUp models of individual perforations and the span of a wall so the amount of daylight being mitigated is where we want it to be,” said Linden. “Arup first gave us a CAD file, we made a 3D model in SketchUp, and now we’re communicating through that program.”
In addition to the capabilities of distinct extensions, Linden praised SketchUp for its wide adaptability across his entire team and the speed at which it can be learned. Even as new people come into the Allied Works office and introduce a host of different modeling tools, they can all find common ground in SketchUp. “On the fly, sitting as a team and walking through a 3D model, we can push and pull walls or edges, and change the way the form looks inside and out. Its speed has lent it to being an iterative design form in our process.”