During my career as an architect and even before that as a student of architecture, there has been some controversy about the use of SketchUp as a professional tool for architects.
“Sketchup is a toy” that is one of the comments I have heard the most among that dilemma, you could say that it is a rather subjective topic divided into two camps:
Architects who use SketchUp as a professional tool.
Architects who do NOT use SketchUp at all.
If you ask me which side I’m on, I would say that I’m one of those who use SketchUp as a professional tool in architecture, it’s a very versatile, intuitive program with a lot of resources available.
Here are x reasons why architects use SketchUp.
1-It is a very intuitive program (easy to learn)
All programs have a learning curve, that learning curve will depend on the complexity of the program and the development time it has had.
For example, a program like AutoCAD, which is one of the most used programs in the CAD world, has a much higher learning curve than Sketchup because it is a program that has many years in development, and every year updates and new features are released.
Sketchup is a relatively recent program, I remember the first time I saw it, I was a student of architecture, it has not rained so much since then, Sketchup belonged to the google company and then was transferred to another company.
It is a very basic program to use, I dare say that I can teach a person to use the basics of SketchUp in a couple of hours (actually I have done it).
Perhaps being so easy to use and so intuitive is one of the stigmas of considering it a “toy” program.
2-It is a very versatile program for Architects
Have you realized how important versatility in work tools is?
There are many programs that are superior to SketchUp in different aspects, but the strength of SketchUp is that you can do a little bit of everything.
You can use it as a tool for 3D modeling for printing, you can make renders, you can draw 2D, make detailed 3D models, make 3D or 2D sketches, landscapes, and a lot of other things.
The versatility of Sketchup as a tool for architects is really unmatched by any other CAD program.
In baseball, the best player is not the one who hits the most HRs or hits the most hits, or defends the best, or runs the best, the best player is the one who can do a little bit of everything.
If you don’t know baseball the same concept applies to any other sport, that analogy doesn’t mean that SketchUp is the best program for architects, I simply consider it a must-have tool for its features.
Sketchup is fast, period…
When I say “fast” I don’t mean the program itself, we all know that an architect’s best tool is his own hand.
No current CAD program can replace freehand drawing, ideas flow very fast in the architect’s mind and if they are not translated quickly, concepts could be easily forgotten.
Not that Sketchup can be as fast as the “mind-hand” connection, but you can create three-dimensional concepts quite quickly, in fact, it lives up to its name, you can create volumetric objects very quickly and easily.
Sketchup has a PRO version and a free version, with the free version is enough to work and get the most out of the program.
If you have a small architecture studio and can’t afford the cost of other 3D modeling software then Sketchup is your best option.
5-Compatible with other CAD programs
Sketchup has export/import options that are essential for architects who typically have a multi-program workflow.
You can export/import files to Revit, AutoCAD, 3Dsmax, Inventor, and many more programs, although it seems to me that this compatibility option is exclusive to the PRO version of Sketchup.
My favorite workflow is Sketchup, AutoCAD, 3ds max.
6-A wide range of resources available online
This is one of the best resources because Sketchup is a tool widely used by architects.
Sketchup has a huge library of online models in its sketchup Warehouse, where you can find all kinds of models made for free by other users, any type of furniture, vegetation and even complete examples at your fingertips.
There is also the Sketchup extension warehouse, which is another resource page for sketchup with a variety of plugins for the program, the plugins are like extensions that help the program to perform additional tasks.
This makes sketchup one of the most complete programs in terms of resources available online.
Conclusion and some examples of Sketchup models
Sketchup is not a toy, I have developed basically my entire career working with this program, many other architectural professionals use sketchup, I have done great professional work with Sketchup, here I share an image of one of the largest and most complex works done with Sketchup (image above complex with curved ceilings).
Yes, it is a program with many flaws, sometimes it has some strange errors, but nothing in life is perfect, you have to know how to use the program to get its full potential.