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    SketchUp: A model workflow – part one

    In the first of a three-part series Paul Hensey discusses how to use SketchUp and the benefits it has. 

    Whether you are using SketchUp to simply create a 3D model to help visualise a project, or you want to produce all of the detailing and construction documents and drawings, a robust and manageable workflow will ensure that images and drawings will not crash or develop problems.

    A considered digital workflow is repeatable, will also allow faster communication with contributors to the project, and whilst it may not save time in the early phases, it will considerably reduce effort when working on the detail. If set up correctly, changes to the SketchUp model are immediately reflected across all drawings and those details can be saved for use in future projects.



    A good digital workflow is similar to a paper-based system but with better file names and less mess.

    The folder structure you choose is entirely up to you, but it should be consistent between projects. A simple technique is to create an “empty” project file with all of the sub-folders you think you require, and save this as the master project folder; opening and renaming it for each new piece of work.



    Name your projects and your files in a consistent manner:


    e.g. Project number/project name/file description/date


    This naming convention should then be applied to your SketchUp models


    e.g. 478_Jones_development_idea1_21Feb19

    A benefit of consistent naming is that that the computer will collate files for you. If the only difference in a name is idea-1 and idea-2, these will be arranged next to one another in the same folder. This helps enormously when searching for the latest/specific versions of your work.

    When opening SketchUp, Layout, Excel, Word, etc for the first time, to create a model or document for the project, go to File > Save (with the correct file name and to the correct location) BEFORE creating anything. This establishes the location of the file and therefore the location of any automatic back-ups. It also ensures that you don’t accidentally save files to the folder you last had open, which may be irrelevant.

    There are several versions of SketchUp available:

    Free – web-based, for personal use

    Shop – limited additional functionality, web-based

    Pro – for commercial use, desktop version

    SketchUp Pro is the version that is needed to develop a workflow that allows 3D models to be represented in 2D drawings. It is also the version of the software that has access to the >2000 plugins available for SketchUp, enhancing the functionality of the software and making just about anything possible.

    Paul Hensey is a garden designer and landscape engineer, principal at Green Zone Design Ltd, West Sussex. His own work is split between designing private and commercial schemes. Increasingly he is also commissioned to undertake the construction detailing and engineering of schemes by other designers and practices. His entire workflow is based on SketchUp Pro, which he also teaches and lectures on privately, for several training centres and at official SketchUp events. He has written several books on construction detailing with further volumes due in later 2019/2020.

    [email protected]


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