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Jan 10

Workplace furniture design: the Danish way

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp

Ten years ago, Icons of Denmark established itself as a distributor of Danish furniture for the U.K. market. Since then, they’ve been hard at work evolving from representatives of Danish design to creators of it. Through their unique market-led approach, they’re bringing Danish design to the modern office...one sleek sofa at a time.

The Icons of Denmark showroom is located in Clerkenwell, London. This stunning space has been SketchUp’s home for Clerkenwell Design Week over the past four years.


Tell us about Icons of Denmark’s background. 

Icons of Denmark started as quite a traditional furniture agency, representing Danish furniture brands for the U.K. market. We’ve always had a hands-on approach to representing furniture and pride ourselves on being very knowledgeable about our products. We have a high level of technical know-how for how the furniture can be used, what sorts of applications the furniture has, and certain activities in an office where the furniture has relevance. 

That approach led us into product design and manufacturing. We’ve taken what we’ve learned in the market and now work with Danish designers to come up with new furniture  for the modern office. 

We engage with an international client base who we keep up-to-date with Danish design and furniture through products we produce. Our projects are primarily large-scale commercial projects.

BANK provides a multitude of combinations including a corner module to fit different patterns of space, function and interaction.


How did you transition from representatives of Danish design to creators of it? 

When the furniture designers we represented decided to launch new products, we were required to go out to the market and sell. This work didn't always reflect what we thought of the product and it’s usability in the marketplace...which got a bit old for us. 

In 2016, we took the first steps to create our first product. We were able to brief a Danish designer and manufacturer on how we wanted a sofa to be made, which became the first example of how we create furniture today. 

How is your approach to creating new products unique?

The way we design furniture today is extremely market led. When we got started, there was a lot of residential products being brought to the workplace environment. Contrastingly, we consider specific workplace needs and create designs based around those.

Our process starts with identifying gaps in the market: we notice a certain need or an area of a project that we repeatedly don’t have the right products for. We bring that brief back and collaborate with designers and manufacturers to come up with the new product. That’s what sets us apart from many other firms. We are in no way led by product designers. We are led by the needs of interior designers and clients.

The Private High Back addresses privacy for commercial interiors, providing a space to focus and host informal meetings – without the need for partitioning or room division.


For example, the most recent area we identified is banquet seating. Banquet seating is something that is often designed bespoke for each project. We identified this as an area for a new product. Since we have become very experienced in sofa making and upholstery work, we decided to dip into this category. 

To create this new type of sofa, we started drafting in 2D first, agreeing on certain dimensions and concepts. This was then further developed as a 3D model that was eventually built at our workshop in Denmark. 

After we create a prototype, we go back to the drawing board to refine the 3D model and finalize the piece—working out the final details such as stitching and leg position. This is the process we used for our new product, BANK, which we debuted at Clerkenwell Design Week this year. 

What was your first experience using SketchUp?

My first encounter with the product was in 2007 selling furniture for a Danish manufacturer. I came across the software through an architect. I was quite excited about it so I started promoting the tool among furniture dealers as a potential tool they could configure our products in. 

When I moved to London in 2009, one of the first things I did was to upload our models to 3D Warehouse and start using the platform as an integral part of our selling process. The user friendly aspect of 3D Warehouse and SketchUp Pro itself enabled me to convert all of our DWGs into SKP files and make them more publicly available. 

We quickly found that we were gaining a huge following and considerable number of downloads on these products. Ten years later we are still using the platform to upload and share our models.  

SketchUp is a tool that we use in three different categories of our business: product design, configuration, and interior design.  

Can you talk about your showroom and the products in it. Were any of these designed in SketchUp?

We work with many product designers. At the moment, we are working with one designer who develops his designs in SketchUp, Peter Barreth. Trained as an upholsterer and sofa builder, he is a self-taught user of the product. of SketchUp is a tool that he has found convenient and fast to work with. 

The Private Sofa was one of the first solutions created under the Icons of Denmark brand by Peter. That product was based on a few very basic principles about comfort, seat height and flexibility of sizing. The process started with 2D drafting. 3D models were created in SketchUp from those initial ideas. Once the first prototype was built in Denmark, we sent it to our showroom in London.

Striking the perfect balance between soft lounge and casual dining seating.

We used that prototype to get market feedback and understand what else needed to be done to refine the function and form before we brought it to market. It was almost a year later that The Private Sofa was actually born as a complete product from our research and development with London’s commercial interior design community. 

Where do you see the most value from SketchUp?

Most of our product designs are available in various sizes and finishes that can be configured to a client’s specific project. 

When we started selling meeting tables for example, we realised it’s an advantage to allow clients to choose their own size. We can visualize and configure the tables from our existing design to match the clients’ needs exactly. This is where we use SketchUp everyday. Our ten-person sales team all use the product.

The Forum Table series comes in a variety of table top sizes and colours for the frame and edge.

Since our products can be made to size, we communicate details such as positioning of the legs, the split of tops in a table and the integration of power. If the client wants a specific edge detail, we can visualize that. That has to be visualized quickly for us to get the commitment from our clients and so that we’re all in sync. Our table Forum, for example,  has a fairly simple geometry which lends itself to fast customisation in the product. We can redraw these tabletops very easily to fit the customer’s sizing.

We send those drawings back to our producers in Denmark when we are placing the orders. This allows us to sync very quickly with the producers and manufacturers before an order gets placed. That’s actually where we find the biggest value of SketchUp for our business. 

You mentioned that Icons of Denmark contributes to the interior design piece of a project. What does that workflow look like?

We’re very often being invited to pitch our products in cooperation with an architect. Similarly, sometimes we collaborate when the architect needs some inspiration for a certain setup and that often requires a fast turnaround time. 

Here, SketchUp allows us to play a part in the designer’s work by not just pitching a sofa, but actually pitching a full configuration of our furniture and visualizing it together with our collaborators’ proposals.

The seat, back and front of the SMILE LOUNGE can be upholstered in different fabrics allowing for endless opportunities to create a design that suits your space.

In this instance, we would be taking a brief from an interior designer or architect, suggesting some ideas for the space with our products, and preparing a proposal for the space’s layout. This doesn’t just show our individual products but shows how the products will work in situ on a larger scale.  

When it comes to interior design, I think that’s where some of our products really come into their own. For example the EC1 sofa is a modular sofa. You can play with the different pieces of this product, changing them around based on the space that you’re in. 

And this is just as important to us as the previous two ways I’ve mentioned we use the product. You want the product in a certain size but you also want it in a certain shape and positioning. I think that’s why the EC1 has proven to be one of our most popular products on 3D Warehouse.  

EC1 is based on square modular elements, perfect for optimising soft seating in areas with space constraints.

How do you collaborate between different design tools on your team?

Aside from our sofa line, our other product designers work in SolidWorks. Regardless of the product designers’ workflow, this all feeds into DWG files, which makes it possible for us to work off of a format that we can read and make sense of quickly. 

That’s again where SketchUp becomes the common ground. We always ask our product designers who are working in SolidWorks to give us a DWG model. We can then work to create SketchUp models for sharing via 3D Warehouse or use ourselves when we configure or use the products in situ. 

For exporting, it’s extremely handy for us that we can instantly create DWGs either as 2D or 3D files of the products that we design from scratch. SketchUp provides us with a compatibility advantage across all of the stakeholders we work with.

Where can we find more examples of your work? 

About Icons of Denmark

Since their foundation in 2009, Icons of Denmark have become known as the London home of Danish Design for commercial interiors. Committed to bringing the very best of Danish design to the commercial interiors market in the UK and beyond, Jesper and the Icons of Denmark team work closely with a circle of talented designers and craftsmen who hold a deep fascination for refined beauty, natural materials and functional design that the Danes pride themselves upon.

 

Jan 09

Design at Starbucks: Brewing the right stuff

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp

SketchUp rendering of the Starbucks Reserve Bar at Brookfield Place, NY. Images courtesy of Starbucks.

David Daniels heads up Starbucks’ America East design teams, overseeing over a hundred designers across New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, and Latin America. David and his team have executed over 1,400 major Starbucks renovations and new builds in 2016 alone. As well as being a passionate (and productive) designer, David is also a SketchUp aficionado, so I was thrilled to talk with him about his approach to design and decision-making at Starbucks.

Hello David… Care to introduce yourself and your team to the SketchUp community?

Sure. I’m an architect and the Managing Director of Design at Starbucks and I look after our teams and projects in the America East region. I learned SketchUp years ago from a guy from Kathmandu and I’ve been using it on projects ever since. As time’s gone on, I’ve moved more into leadership, but I’ll still play around in SketchUp developing concepts and carrying out massing studies.

The Starbucks design studios are cooking with SketchUp. If you walked through, you’d see about thirty designers working on different projects that look completely unique. We’re the biggest SketchUp fans; seeing my teams tweak SketchUp’s style palette to infuse their own flavor into the renderings has become a really fun part of the design process for me.

Starbucks design studio in New York City. Images courtesy of Starbucks.

How did your team get going with SketchUp?

At one point I was working out of the Miami office and there were a handful of designers, including myself, who worked on high profile flagship stores. We used SketchUp for design and rendering, but not everyone did.

As a design leader, part of my job is to review and approve designs. I’m looking at a lot: this year alone my team has executed over 1,400 designs, and I have to review them quickly.

Some folks brought me black and white wireframes or two-dimensional visuals. This made me uncomfortable because it meant I would be putting my stamp of approval on a store, palette, or look that I had to try to construct in my head with no visual proof of how it would really go together. At that point we started to insist that everyone use SketchUp to model and paint in textures and surfaces so that I could approve designs with more confidence and authority.

SketchUp rendering of the Starbucks Reserve Bar at Broadway & 9th, NY. Images courtesy of Starbucks.

The shift to SketchUp kicked off in the Miami studio where one of my senior designers led the effort. Since then, the Miami studio now designs more collaboratively, hosting a design charrette every week where they get together with their computers and a big monitor. They co-author five or six core stores in a day, figuring out the spatial design, palette and flavor, all within SketchUp. In the days where everyone was using different software, it was impossible to do this.

After testing the workflow out in this office, we got the entire Latin America studio using SketchUp, and then New York and Dallas shortly after. Over the past year and a half, we’ve been able to roll this out across the four offices I oversee. I’ve found that once my designers learn SketchUp, they genuinely have a lot of fun using it over other software. SketchUp has unlocked latent talent in our up-and-coming designers.

How does this get you closer to the finished product?

Our architects carry out site surveys and create the building shell in Revit. We export this model into SketchUp and carry out all of the interior architecture design in SketchUp. This includes refining the colors, materials, furniture, fixtures and fittings. We create a beautiful three-dimensional schematic design which we then hand over to our Architects of Record (AoRs). That’s what we give them to create the construction packages.

Image of the Starbucks Reserve Bar at Brookfield Place, NY. Images courtesy of Starbucks

Every store is extremely special to our brand and to our customers: it’s their ‘third place,’ a space where people can sit and stay, or shop and learn. We aim to find the sweet spot between being brand-appropriate and being locally relevant so that the store feels right for that neighborhood, or the building that it sits in, or that part of the city.

And because the parameters are different every time, it means that each store has to be unique, right?

Exactly that. Within the stores, we have some simple principles that are really important for us. When we find a building, I think it’s really important to work with the bones of the space. So if the space has brick walls, or some surfaces that are distressed, or it has some great exposed trusses in the roof, then we want to celebrate the envelope, not cover up a bunch of stuff. This shell provides an envelope that hosts the hero of the space: the coffee bar.

“Where the bar sits, what it looks and feels like, the sight lines to and from it, how it’s lit, are all very important. We invest a lot of time into ensuring it’s like a finely crafted piece of furniture because it is the grand stage where we create “coffee theatre.”

A photograph of the Starbucks interior & bar on Broadway & 9th. Images courtesy of Starbucks.


Where the bar sits, what it looks and feels like, the sight lines to and from it, how it’s lit, are all very important. We invest a lot of time into ensuring it’s like a finely crafted piece of furniture because it is the grand stage where we create “coffee theatre.”

Your new store at 10 Waverly Place would be a case in point. What’s your favorite bit in this design?

SketchUp visualisation showing reserve bar at 10 Waverly Place. Images courtesy of Starbucks.


10 Waverly Place is a reserve bar which means it’s a special store with an elevated coffee experience. The way that we prepare and brew coffee in there is pretty special. We have a Black Eagle machine, a Siphon -- which is a Harry-Potter-like brew, -- a Nitro brew, which means we can offer our customers cold brews on tap. The building itself was an existing building with a beautiful white terrazzo floor which happened to be in the same color range as our flagship store, The Roastery, in Seattle. So we preserved and resurfaced that, kept the existing brick walls and also commissioned some hand-drawn custom maps and artwork from a great artist called Tommy Tailor that I’ve collaborated with over the years.

SketchUp visualisation beside a photograph of the finished space. Images courtesy of Starbucks.


What does the Starbucks design workflow look like?

Once we’ve found a building that can functionally hold a Starbucks store, we create a functional layout, that then develops into the first detailed floor plan. If this proposal gets the green light from our operations team, then we kick off the interior design work in SketchUp. Here we test out ideas for the bar, the lighting, and store palette. Doing this in SketchUp makes it feel like we’re working with clay: a lot of ideas can be tried out very quickly. The speed this affords us means we can rapidly visualize ideas, identify the ones we like and build on them as the design progresses.

What’s the one functionality you’re glad SketchUp has?

Without a doubt, it would be Style Builder. The way that we can tweak the default style to achieve a hand-drawn, warm, and not-too-perfect finish helps us to aptly portray a range of design aesthetics across our stores.

Rapid fire tech Q&A with Eduardo Meza, LEED AP and Senior Designer at Starbucks’ Miami Studio

We noticed that your team uses an impressive selection of materials. Where do you find and curate materials? 

The most commonly used materials had been created from photos and scans of our standard catalog.

  1. Do all teams have a separate materials library? Or do you share your materials between offices? 

The Miami studio created a library with our standard materials and this is a library that we shared with other Starbucks Studios. Materials outside of our Standard palette are custom made per project.

  1. Do you or anyone on your team use any SketchUp extensions within your workflow? If yes, could you tell us your top three? 

Yes; LSS Matrix, Section Cutface and Smart Drop.

  1. What keyboard shortcut could you not live without? 

Shortcuts are a must for my workflow. Here my favorite and most frequently used custom shortcuts: M = Materials, C = Components, L= Layers.

10 Waverly Place, Brookfield Place and Broadway & 9th reserve bars have just opened across Manhattan. Pop by to see how these SketchUp visuals became a reality.

Jan 08

From furniture and fixtures to tech-savvy workspaces: See the Grammarly office in Kyiv

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp

Leading architecture and interior design firm, balbek bureau, was chosen to design an entirely new space for one of Grammarly's largest offices. This large, forward-thinking corporate space is located in Kyiv, Ukraine and hosts 150 employees. We connected with the lead designer, Andrii to discuss the details, challenges, and why they chose SketchUp for this project.

Give us some background on you, your team, and the types of projects you work on.

I graduated from the Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture where I earned my architecture degree. After that, I started working at balbek bureau as an architect. balbek bureau works on various types of projects. However, we prefer the corporate and commercial sector; though, we are not limited to a particular type of building or a specific style. In line with this scope of work, we recently completed the new Grammarly office in Kyiv.

Our design team consists of 40 people, including architects, designers, visualizers, and project managers. We work in creative teams where there is a team lead architect, architects, designers, and a project manager. In general, each team consists of three to ten people. Because balbek bureau provides interior design services for a wide range of industries, the creative teams are formed according to the specific type or style of the project. For example hotels, large office spaces, medium-sized offices, cinemas, gas stations, beauty salons, showrooms, “adaptive reuse”, and restoration projects.

For those who are not familiar with Grammarly, who are they and what do they do?

Grammarly is a global company with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Kyiv. They operate 24/7 and are used as a digital writing assistant by millions of people across the world. Grammarly uses a plethora of  IT devices and utilizes a high volume of communication and data exchange, both within individual and group settings.

What was the reasoning behind building a new Grammarly office? And did they have any requirements?

The Grammarly Kyiv team has grown significantly over the years and in 2016, they had outgrown their space. They needed to move to a larger space to accommodate all of their employees and operations. With that, Grammarly required a variety of spaces for different activities, including: 

  • A large conference hall with a seating capacity for 150 people

  • Multiple, smaller meeting rooms equipped with quality audio and video technology for conferences across the globe

  • Reception zone

  • Soundproof recreation room

  • Canteen for employees

  • Nap room

  • Several lounge zones

  • Restroom areas

Other requirements included eco-friendly materials, a warm color palette with a homely feel for the interiors, and adaptability and flexibility of the space. Our team was responsible for the location of the office, office layout, interior concept, and all of the furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

Did you have to create different iterations of the design? If so,  how did you do this with such a large number of requirements?

Above all, designers are artists. For this reason, we developed only one design proposal, taking into account all of the above requirements. After that, the clients provided feedback on the design and requested changes. We made the requested changes, where it was needed, but in general, we didn't create a range of design solutions, only some layout variations.

What was your design process for the Grammarly office?

We started by choosing a location for the new office. We had to choose between five different locations with seemingly different layouts. The winner was Gulliver business center in the city center. Since we didn’t have much time for the design project, the decision was to do all visualizations using SketchUp only, not using 3DS Max, as we normally do. We saved about three to four weeks using 3D models to get approval on the design with the Grammarly team.

Saving time pulling together the Grammarly program with SketchUp.

After that, the design project was delivered in short terms for all engineering work. While choosing furniture and decorative materials, we were also checking all engineers’ layouts and drawings with accordance to our design project. The construction phase lasted for about one year.

Did you run into any challenges? If so, what were they?

Yes, the design was very unique to the space, so we encountered many challenges that we worked through including creating an open working environment with two levels, a suspension bridge, a nap room, and incorporating natural light and other elements to create a work-friendly environment.

The original office area consisted of only one level and a mezzanine of 300 sq. m. To use the space at its maximum, we divided the office area into levels with a suspension bridge and connected it to an open staircase. We also expanded the mezzanine area up to 450 sq. m.This created a siloed work environment for employees. After meeting with the Grammarly team and understanding their needs, our layout idea was to have a meet-up zone on the ground floor where everything would be centered around and would make employee interaction a focal point. The meet-up zone was essentially the “heart” of the office and had six open-plan working zones surrounding it with soundproofing for privacy. We had to make sure this separated the working spaces but also allowed for a sense of “openness”. To do that we developed a radial curve to separate the working areas, and connected the first and second floor with an open staircase. 

A high-level view of the radial curve and the separation of work spaces with the suspension bridge highlighted.

The nap room was another new design element for the building. This room had to be quiet and comfortable so employees could rest, relax, and recharge. We designed a space for three napping blocks. Each block had dark curtains to block out any light and a sensor under the mattress that would alert people if the room was occupied so people would not interrupt.

Another tricky area was incorporating the suspension bridge. The length of the bridge is ninety meters, it loops around the office in a gentle curve, overlooking the entire office and expands slightly to accommodate rooms in its path. The bridge has no ground support, it is merely suspended from the ceiling. In order to keep the thickness of the bridge to a minimum, we passed the sprinkler system pipes under the main floor, and incorporated their fragments into the body of the bridge, blending them with the bridge’s structural elements.

The challenging suspension bridge that helped split up the original layout.

Other challenges included the use of eco-friendly materials. We had to creatively think of ways to reuse these materials throughout the office space. This also included a natural light requirement to help create a positive work-life balance for the employees and contribute to a higher level of comfort and efficiency.

For the natural light requirement, how did you know how much natural light would help with comfort? Did you analyze this?

Guided by the knowledge of the environmental design code of urban commercial buildings, a perimeter depth of 6m, or twice the floor-to-ceiling height, can be potentially daylit. Thus, the buildings deeper than 12m require more artificial light. The Grammarly office in Kyiv is 8.8 m, respectively; therefore, we placed the working areas closer to the source of natural light and the auxiliary rooms deeper into the office where they were supplemented with additional lighting.

Why did you choose SketchUp to design the Grammarly office?

We chose SketchUp due to the ease of use and speed. This project was under tight deadlines and we needed a tool that would allow us to work fast. Normally we would incorporate 3DS Max, but there was no time to do that. So we created everything in SketchUp—from the original design to the nitty-gritty details including textures.

SketchUp designs showcasing the Grammarly office.

What was your workflow in SketchUp?

First, we started designing the 3D models using measurements on site. After some work on the design construction, we moved onto smaller things like incorporating furniture, lighting, and textures. To save time, we used models from 3D Warehouse or from manufacturers’ websites. Our favorite part was the presentation of the model. We used cameras and scenes to showcase funny things, like a birthday cake in a table drawer. Also, we did not use any extensions. This was all native in SketchUp.

Incorporating the smaller details to bring the final design to life.

What are some benefits of using SketchUp in a corporate architectural project like Grammarly?

SketchUp allows you to work with a big, complicated model in one file, not dividing it to smaller ones. I also like SketchUp Viewer because we can easily present our designs to clients on their laptops.

How did you manage the SketchUp model size and performance with such a large file?

Actually, it wasn't a big deal. We kept everything in one model because the office had an open-plan layout. Based on this spatial concept, there were a minimum number of polygons, and all the interior details were in the separate files. The invisible elements weren't included in the general SketchUp model.

How did team members collaborate on the same model? Were there challenges?

I worked on the general SketchUp model and assisting team members helped with the detailed objects in the separate files. It made our workflow easy and very efficient which helped with the tight deadlines we were under.

Have you used SketchUp in any other projects? If so, what were they?

Yes, we use Sketch Up in most of our projects. The latest include:

Bursa hotel

4CITY

What’s your favorite SketchUp command?

“Flip”

More photos of the final space including conference rooms, canteen, lounge areas, and other workspaces.

Credits:

  • Architecture and interior design firm, balbek bureau

  • Architects: Slava Balbek, Andrii Berezynskyi, Anastasiia Marchenko

  • Project manager: Borys Dorogov

  • Client: Grammarly Kyiv

  • Photography: Andrey Bezuglov, Yevhenii Avramenko

Jan 07

Designing innovative workplace interiors with 3DEA Bulgaria

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp

Ivan Borov got the 3D bug at fourteen when he collaborated with a friend on a project using SketchUp and Google Earth. He was fascinated by SketchUp’s accessibility and technology as a whole. Whilst studying interior design in Milan, a short film submission that combined his love for graphic design, video, and photo editing won him a scholarship. 

During an internship at a large showroom in Milan, he realised colleagues were still drawing only in 2D. Keen to help transform the way they worked and improve efficiency, Borov introduced the team to the world of spatial 3D design in SketchUp.

He returned to Bulgaria in 2012 and worked at a furniture firm for four years before establishing 3DEA, a dynamic commercial interior design firm that delivers branding, and turnkey workplace interiors.

Tell us a little bit about 3DEA and the work you do.

I started 3DEA after several years of post-study work experience in Milan and Bulgaria. I had built up a network of professional contacts whilst working at a furniture company so I had a smooth transition into serving them as an interior designer. We typically work on large and small scale companies, helping to express their ethos, brand and visual identity within their interiors. We also create expo and stand design and signage. SketchUp is our Swiss Army knife that equips us to do all these tasks at different scales consistently well.

“SketchUp is our Swiss Army knife that equips us to do all these tasks at different scales consistently well.”

A key theme that runs through our projects is the combination of good design and buildability.

We run a lean team, collaborating closely with other design professionals, particularly architectural studios, as required per project. We find that this multidisciplinary team offers greater expertise and gravitas for securing larger bids.

3DEA was a team of five for a long time until I became a father early this year. This major life event forced me to review my approach to work and to find a better balance. This meant switching from 12 - 15hr days at the office to being more selective about the projects we take on, and working healthier hours in a more flexible way. I believe that you produce better work when you have a balanced approach to life, work, and design.

SketchUp rendering of a workplace interior designed by 3DEA

What sets 3DEA apart from the competition? 

Our key differentiator is that we try new things. We’re comfortable learning through trial and error because it means that we might forge new paths. Making mistakes beats repeating known solutions simply because ‘that’s the way it’s been done’ over many years. This was an issue at the showroom I worked at in Milan, some of the veteran architects were still using the same workflow they’d used since they left university. It can, of course, be hard to try something new and fail, but it’s worth it in the end because that’s how innovation is born and good work is done.

SketchUp renderings of a workplace interior designed by 3DEA

Where did you train?

I studied Interior Design at the Instituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Milan. The first year focused on laying a foundation in traditional drafting, in-person surveys of existing spaces, and hand drawing. The curriculum then progressed from 2D to 3D where we were taught a range of 3D programs. I found that SketchUp combines all the key functionality of the separate programs which helped me to save a lot of time and struggle. To be honest, I found it hard to learn some of the more complex software and was more keen to design and deliver than be hindered by technology. I could very simply model my design in SketchUp and then using LayOut, create my 2D technical drawings. I struggled at times when my files got too heavy and suffered a few crashes just before deadlines, but I learnt how to model in a more nimble way, and I graduated successfully!

How important is it to ensure a workplace function as well as it looks?

Balancing function and design is a fundamental requirement of any design task. The current trend of ‘Instagramable’ spaces tilts the focus of many designers of my generation to trends and fashionable design. Time has proven though that the appropriateness, usability, and resilience of a design is what ensures that it stands the test of time.

 "..The appropriateness, usability, and resilience of a design is what ensures that it stands the test of time."

This applies to every kind of design; automotive design, furniture design, and architecture. I believe it is incredibly important to know what kind of material to use, and what kind of functions to integrate. Beauty is important, but in the end, it requires these other principles to be long-lasting.

Comparison of a SketchUp rendering and a post-construction photo of an interior elevation. Designed by 3DEA

How do you communicate the design decisions in your projects? 

I’m inspired by Bjark Ingels’ approach to communication. Every project he creates has a clear story and a narrative that can be explained and understood by anyone. To achieve this same sort of clarity, we work to make our proposed solution visible to the client and end-users regardless of the project’s scale. We tend to incorporate a lot of pictures, sketches, real-life models, and 3D drawings, all of which we collate in LayOut. Each project poses different problems so we’ll leverage a different mix of media.

Annotated floor plan of the AECO Space project. Created using a SketchUp model and generated and annotated in LayOut.

You delivered an amazing workplace for AECO Space in Sofia, Bulgaria, tell us about this project?

Our brief for AECO Space was to design and deliver a functional and creative space for their staff and presentation and training areas that could stretch to fit a different number of software trainees. We had an airy space to work with; large windows, tall ceilings and lots of light. These lovely qualities posed a challenge. Whilst great for staff, these features proved problematic for their daily work, particularly training sessions and presentations hosted in-house.

Reflecting the AECO Space brand through colour and material specification.

To create a more productive environment, we opted for blinds large enough to cover the expansive windows thereby addressing glare. This meant that we had to figure out how to securely hang the heavy blinds from the ceiling. The only catch was, we had suspended ceilings to counter the large floor-to-ceiling height! Using drawings and 3D models, we tested two visible and two hidden options. After consulting with the customer, we selected a hidden option that was then created and installed by a single contractor, saving us time and making the process much more efficient.

SketchUp renderings of a workplace interior designed by 3DEA

The original space was designed to house a bank so we inherited a formal granite floor that the client didn’t want. Fifteen to twenty percent of the budget had to be set aside to deliver the preferred flooring. Having a clear budget and roadmap for the entire project was essential to bringing in the project on time and within budget.

The as-built space is almost identical to your plans, how do you reach this level of accuracy during the design stage?

Delivering what we promised was easy because we employed a constructible workflow. By modeling the project with buildability in mind, we knew that we could deliver what we proposed, down to the electrical plan and the position of appliances.

 Sectional elevation across the AECO Space office. Drawn using SketchUp Pro and compiled in LayOut.

It also meant that we could communicate the concept to the client with clarity, and deliver clear technical details to our contractors. Rendered, annotated and dimensioned drawings ensured that our tradesmen were able to install each element of the project easily. We did this with the bespoke floor tiles which had different colours and sizes, meaning that we could deliver clear drawings and ensure a smooth installation. We could also accurately calculate costs using takeoffs from our drawings and provide great guidance to our team.

Plan showing the floor grid, colour, and positioning of AECO Space’s coloured carpets.

Do you source real-world products to use in your proposals?

Yes, we source and specify real-world and bespoke items from a wide range of suppliers and contractors. On our project with AECO Space, we had about nineteen different contractors and subcontractors supplying fixtures, fittings, and electrics for a not-so-complex project! To get the best quality and price, and still meet deadlines, we’ve found that we need to work with the best. 

Thankfully, we have a selection of companies that we work with and trust to deliver good quality work, on time and within budget. We curate and specify products from this pool.

In addition to this, we create bespoke pieces and import unique materials like Scandanavian moss from Finland which we used to create the six-meter-long lamp used in a project with AECO Space.

What is your current workflow in SketchUp?

During site analysis, we hand-draw a plotting survey that captures measurements that may become extremely important later in the design process.

Scaled and annotated 2D drawings created for the AECO Space project using SketchUp Pro & LayOut.

We also take lots of photographs. Back at the studio, we transcribe key details from the hand drawings and photos into 2D drawings in SketchUp. Once all amendments are done in 2D, we create our conceptual 3D models. 

We generate images that the client can review, comment on and approve, and then we transition to technical 3D drawings and details, focusing on accuracy to ensure buildability. Our models are data-enriched because that helps us with estimation and specification.

Bespoke furniture details drawn by 3DEA for the AECO Space project.

Even without creating photorealistic renderings, SketchUp helps us to get the client excited about the concept. Then we focus on fascinating the client with the finished product.

When the client sets a tight budget, what tools do you use to estimate material and labour costs? 

We pull area and linear measurements from SketchUp’s Entity Info tab into Excel and use formulas to provide quick estimates for projects. Our models are data-enriched so that when the budget, specification or price changes, updated results can be generated very quickly.

What are your most used SketchUp extensions?

Make Faces saves me a lot of time. CleanUp³ helps us remove unnecessary elements and materials to make models lighter and easier to work with. We find Fredo Tools really useful and Round Corners is great for details because it eases the pain of manually rounding corners. I must also mention DropGC, Add Center Point (which is native to SketchUp), Fredo Corner, Material Tools and Vray for rendering.

Photo of the AECO Space interior. Designed by 3DEA.

Can you share the details of some of the projects that you are most proud of?

We designed a 3 x 1.4m all-in-one workstation with a metal structure for a 24/7 maritime surveillance tower which is in the Black Sea off the coast of Bulgaria. All the computers, equipment and wiring needed to be fully integrated within the metal structure. Solving the design problem was only a starting point. We needed to think through the delivery and installation logistics. Starting from a brief and one reference image shared by the client, we had six months to design, develop, and deliver the project.

Working drawings for a bespoke maritime workstation. Designed by 3DEA.

SketchUp proved extremely important for figuring out if all the separate parts being made in Sofia would fit into the haulage truck before being assembled and then transported to Varna and Burgas. The desk’s home is similar to the leaning tower of Pisa and some of the pieces didn't fit the elevator. This meant we had to simulate exactly how the desk would be positioned throughout the stairwell to eventually arrive in its final location at the top of the tower. This project was really tasking but satisfying to deliver and SketchUp was a great help from the beginning to the end of the project. 

"SketchUp was a great help from the beginning to the end of the project."

Another project highlight for me was designing and delivering our bespoke aluminum and oak veneer lamps across three floors of a new shopping mall in Bulgaria. We collaborated with a lighting manufacturer called Prisma to create three hundred of them with dimensions ranging from 50cm x 50cm, to 6 x 4m.

Photo showing 6m long bespoke lamps designed by 3DEA.

Where can we find more examples of your work?

Selected Projects

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Website
Jan 07

The digital transformation in commercial interiors

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp


We recently chatted with Michael Kanoza, a product graphics analyst in the special visual collaboration department (how’s that for a job title!) about how Steelcase stays ahead of workplace trends to create spaces that help people work, learn, and heal. 

Steelcase was established in 1912. Their first patent was for a metal wastebasket; replacing wicker with steel was a lifesaving innovation at that time in crowded cities where fires spread quickly. 

Since then, the company established roots as a top office furniture manufacturer. Though, they aren’t just any furniture manufacturer. Steelcase differentiates itself with its deep knowledge in the commercial interiors industry as well as its special visual collaboration department. This department helps communicate bespoke products before they are manufactured. 

Over the years, Steelcase has been at the forefront in commercial interiors transformation. Between the digital transformation and changing regulatory requirements, Kanoza has seen the industry grow and transform.

These changes have driven product design as well as the way Steelcase works with its clients. Instead of only manufacturing one-size-fits-all workplace furniture, they’ve had to adapt to custom requirements and consultation needs. In the office furniture business, there has always been a need to produce what’s known as a ‘special’. Producing ideas and communicating them in a quick, visual format for space planning software is key.

Trends, trends, and more trends

Image courtesy of Starbucks.

The work environment is more complicated than it has ever been before. People are working longer hours and in recent years have seen the rise of remote working. Some employees benefit from being in the office (second place) while others prefer to work from home (first place) or from a coffee shop (third place).  So, what exactly are first, second, and third places? According to sociologist Ray Oldenburg, working from a home environment is considered a “first place”, while working from a cafe or coffee shop is considered a “third place”, and the office is a “second place”. 

These “places” - especially “third places”  are starting to define the modern workplace, which has leading organizations jumping to remodel their definition of a workplace. With factors such as increasing business demands, longer working hours, and more remote employees to consider, companies are trying to find ways to help increase employee comfort, efficiency, and innovation.

So, what attracts employees to “third places”?

“The ability to work without colleagues stopping by, lounge furniture with a home-like feel, the energizing buzz of people, access to good food, an attractive ambiance,” said Frank Graziano, manager of advanced applications at Steelcase. “Third places—essentially, public places that help people get through the day or allow them to gather—have been inspiring innovation and stirring conversations throughout Western civilization.”

Employers who realize the importance of third places try to capture its essence by creating spaces within the workplace that re-energize teams and promote creativity and innovation. An example of this trend in action is Google’s new coffee shop that it opened on its California campus.

“We’re bringing the comforts of home and community of third place to the workplace to make the office the best place to work,” said Graziano.  “When you do that, it changes the physical character and social experience of the workplace. It fosters a shift in work culture.”  

Connecting design to customer values

Not only are there trends within the workplace for employees and employers, but there are also significant industry niches that have spurred from this movement: custom workplace furniture design. 

“We are seeing a huge need to accommodate co-creation between the customer, dealer designer, and my department which handles special furniture for Steelcase,” says Kanoza. “It’s important for all stakeholders to be on the same page and designing for the same goal: the betterment of the workplace.”

Inherent within this is sustainability. In today’s conscious consumer climate, the care and rigor of manufacturing processes can be a major deal-breaker. That is why designers such as Steelcase take this very seriously and design specifically with sustainability in mind. 

“We believe that providing the best solutions for our customers begins by ensuring they’re the best solutions for our environment. That’s why every step of the way – through design, manufacturing, delivery, and product lifecycle – we consider the impact of our work on people and on the environment and uncover opportunities to make things better,” says Graziano.

Taking it further, they also consult with individual clients to ensure their proposals meet each firm’s sustainability goals.

The front lines of workplace transformation

Across the board, customers are requiring creative and cost-effective solutions to their special office furniture needs. The team at Steelcase conducts hours of research into office work behavior and trends in order to keep up with customer-driven demand. Afterward, the team determines if the design is even possible to manufacture. 

“We research the feasibility, viability, and cost for a special product and communicate it using our special visual communication process,” says Kanoza.

Customers who require custom products expect to see what it might look like before they commit to a purchase. In response, Steelcase’s dealership designers have to showcase their proposed products within floor plans using renderings and space planning software.

Image courtesy of balbek bureau.

Using technology to innovate

On top of being at the forefront of design innovation and workplace trends, Steelcase also utilizes technology to drive these initiatives forward.

They were the first manufacturers to be listed on the world’s largest 3D model library, 3D Warehouse, and are now one of the largest producers of 3D models on the platform.  

“We would save our CAD models to SketchUp and upload them to 3D Warehouse for users to download,” says Kanoza. “Today, there are thousands of downloads of these models. The 3D Warehouse was a precursor to how we now host SketchUp symbols on Steelcase.com.”

A symbol is a term used for a 3D model that represents a product. When a symbol is accessed from Steelcase’s planning software, it has data connected with information like colors, finishes, materials, and cost reports. This information is all packaged up into the planning software which helps dealer designers organize them into floor plans. Without these symbols, it would be difficult to plan office configurations with Steelcase products.

New technology meant new workflows and processes with the help of SketchUp. These processes impacted the specials product development process and conceptual design. These new processes require designers, engineers, sales, and quote representatives to work together on product designs - which makes the need for collaboration even more important.  

“We use SketchUp in this process. We use it as a composition tool, importing various CAD model types, and adding to them to create visual communication, ” says Kanoza, as he explains the benefits of SketchUp at their company.

Here are two functions that thrive off of the use of SketchUp in particular:

Design validation and application studies. This function helps clients and furniture dealers visualize what a new (special) product will look like when it’s manufactured. To help with visualization, they use 3D models of a special product and place them into the floor plan. This design validation and study establishes the clients’ needs before requesting a mock-up or prototype of the product.

Special design visual communication. This is a new department started by Kanoza, and where he sees the true value of SketchUp. Within this department, the team develops the special symbols of custom furniture pieces. 

“We use SketchUp because we need a way to visually communicate the clients’ request for a special-designed product. The special symbol represents a design that has been reviewed by an engineering and quote representative.  They conclude if Steelcase can design and manufacture [custom pieces] before we actually manufacture them,” says Kanoza. “If we can show dealers how a product will look, we can get them on board and agree to purchase it before we expend any engineering effort.”

This department's ability to quickly conceptualize specials is critical to responding to their customers’ special furniture needs. 

“Even if we do not win the opportunity to sell a special, we save these drawings on a hosted website for dealers to use for future projects,” says Kanoza. “This is a powerful reuse of the effort. We’ve already validated these designs with engineering.” 

Since they have already gone through a rigorous process with all of their designs, they know - in the future - they can quote them fast with the assurance that they can be manufactured.  SketchUp is key to the success of this new department.  

“It is a cost-effective, efficient way to develop special product imagery,” Kanoza exclaims. “With the efficiencies provided using SketchUp and LayOut, we have developed over 10,000 models of previously quoted product designs.”

They also get a little help from some top extensions:  Cleanup3 and FredoScale.

 Sharing SketchUp knowledge around the globe


The use of SketchUp at Steelcase is not just limited to the United States. They use it across the globe at other business centers. Kanoza even hosts a global meeting where each region of the world shares SketchUp best practices. 

“The benefits I see are the interoperability of the platform, ease of use, and a fast learning curve. It allows all of our departments to collaborate on special product design quotes, fast and effectively.”

Learn more about Steelcase.

Source: https://www.steelcase.com/research/articles/topics/employee-engagement/real-work/
Nov 11

How to showcase interior design projects with SketchUp

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp

In part 1 of this series, we revealed how to create winning interior design options in SketchUp. Now that you’re finished modelling, what’s next? 

We show you how to present your vision to customers and blow them away with your designs. Pssst...sign up to watch a live demo of this workflow in our upcoming webinar.


A SketchUp Pro subscription includes a powerful ecosystem of products to help you communicate your creations. Let’s explore!

Add custom Styles to your design

Adding your personal style is an important part of showcasing designs. StyleBuilder allows you to create customised line styles using imported digital or hand drawn strokes. Think crisp pen lines, wavy pencil marks or marks from a fat stick of graphite. Combine line styles with unique textures, colours and watermarks to inject your creative flair into models, renders and animations.

In SketchUp, you can create and edit styles. Apply your preferred style settings with a single click.

Create stunning 2D drawings and branded presentation documents

Now that you’ve added a style, it’s time to insert the model into LayOut. When you import a 3D model, a viewport is placed on the page. Good news, the scenes you set up in your SketchUp file are ready to use in LayOut. 

Combine model views with text and 2D vector illustration to present design details, materials and design options. Many of the tools in LayOut work as they do in SketchUp. That means you can quickly get to drawing, resizing, adding details, making copies and changing styles and scale.

Present your ideas with SketchUp Viewer 

Are printed drawings or a pdf the only way to showcase your work? Of course not! SketchUp Viewer for Mobile gives you the power to view and share your portfolio on iOS and Android devices. Take advantage of Augmented Reality to evaluate design options in real-world scale. Switch between scenes to showcase designs on the go while retaining your model’s style.

Model on the go with SketchUp for Web

Not all CAD tools are fully editable on the web, SketchUp is! Handy if you need to make on-the-fly changes when you’re away from your desktop computer. Let’s say you’re in a meeting at a client’s office and they want to see a project with a revised furniture layout. Open a model to SketchUp for Web directly from Trimble Connect on any web device to make the changes in real-time. Save the file to Trimble Connect for easy access back at the office. 

Create rendered images with Trimble Connect visualizer

We’ll wrap this up with something that we are very excited about. Rendering! With a SketchUp Pro Subscription, you can create simplified renders using Trimble Connect for Desktop and the brand new Trimble Connect Visualizer. Note: this feature is currently available for Windows only.

Step into AR/VR to experience designs before they’re built

Do you have access to a VR or Mixed Reality device? If your answer is yes, you can bring 3D models to life in mixed or virtual reality. Step into a powerful new way to explore, understand, and share your work. The best part? It’s part of a SketchUp Pro Subscription.

Remember to sign up to watch a step-by-step demo of this workflow in our upcoming webinar on December 11th, 4pm UTC.
Nov 11

How to win interior design projects with SketchUp

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp

Pitching for a new project is one of the most exciting parts of the design process. Creativity needs to flow but deadlines are around the corner. You want to get ideas out of your head quickly and turn them into winning results that will wow your client, boss or team.

Leverage the full power of a SketchUp Pro subscription at every stage of your creative process to deliver impactful concepts, quickly. Watch us do it live by signing up for our upcoming webinar (and keep reading for a sneak peak!) 

In Part 1 of this series, we’ll teach you how to start from scratch and create design options with ease. In Part 2, you’ll learn how to showcase those designs in their best light, leaving your audience mesmerized. The examples used are interior design focused but don’t worry, these concepts can be applied to almost any industry!

Get started with a 2D sketch, floorplan or photo in SketchUp Pro

There are a few different ways to bring your project into SketchUp right from the start. Don’t be afraid to use what you have depending on the project, whether a sketch, photograph (check out how to use Match Photo) or a 2D plan:

  1. Working from a hand-drawn sketch? Import the hand drawing as an image and start tracing with the Line tool to create a floorplan. This is an easy (and thus popular) way to bring a floorplan into SketchUp.

  1. Have a set of plans? Import a floor plan in CAD, image or PDF. Draw the outline of your project by scaling and drawing from the plan as a reference.

Bring the outline into 3D 

Once you have an outline, you’re ready to draw exterior walls. This workflow highlights how to use imported CAD geometry as your starting point.

 

Create multiple design options using 3D Warehouse

It’s time to bring your space to life. Apply colors and textures with materials to add detail and realism to your models. Visualize your design ideas fast by importing real products from 3D Warehouse

SketchUp lets you quickly work through configurations and build upon the ones you like. Show off options for furnishings or add in various types of greenery to brighten the space and give your design some personality.

The key to showcasing and organising design options for your projects in SketchUp is use of Layers and Scenes. Layers help you organise your model, and Scenes help you present designs easily by adjusting layers, objects, styles and more! 

Save your project to Trimble Connect 

Now that you have your design options in hand, it’s time to save your project to the cloud. Trimble Connect offers you unlimited cloud storage with full version control. The best part? It’s included in a SketchUp Pro subscription

Part of a design team? 

Working together just got a little easier with Trimble Connect. Let’s say you’re working on the interior design at the same time another team member is working on the MEP design. 

You can import a reference model into SketchUp from Trimble Connect. You won’t be able to modify the model, but you can use it as context to more easily coordinate the project. This is useful when you have a team of designers working on different areas. 

Invite other people to your project, create groups with different permissions to control which files members can access. You can also utilize version control to track project history and progress.

Flying solo? 

Each time you upload a copy of your design file, Trimble Connect will keep track of the versions. Use version control to manage different iterations of your model and share those as design options with your client. Assign to-dos and quickly work through client feedback, all within Trimble Connect.

Sign up to watch a step-by-step demo of this workflow in our upcoming webinar on December 11th, 4pm UTC.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article to learn best practices for showcasing your design.

Aug 30

Around the World with SketchUp

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp

This month, we're taking a trip around the world to celebrate all the places your projects are taking shape. From Barcelona to Bangalore (and everywhere in between) SketchUp users create noteworthy designs, often influenced by their unique surroundings.

We want you to share how your surroundings inspire your designs using #SketchUp_Global on social media for a chance to be featured. Here’s a round-up of our favourites.

First up, Diyar Aydoğan imagines a tranquil escape from the bustle of London, UK.

Soaking in the southern hospitality. Ten Over Studio creates this 3D animation to capture a unique meaning of "home" in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA.

OPM Render Studio shares a glimpse of this snowy scene.

Step into this forest house, hidden away in the pristine hillsides of Peru. By Alets Alvarado.

Doig Architecture takes us to Melbourne, Australia with this design featuring gorgeous views out to Port Phillip Bay.

Onxy Design Collective has us daydreaming with this mountain getaway in Park City, Utah, USA.

An oasis in the city. Maria Alarcon designs a rooftop in the heart of Barcelona, Spain where the hardness of stone and wood blend with the freely growing greenery.

This southern California, USA home truly has no bad angles. Architect Steve Giannetti combines a worn, antique look with natural materials to create a timeless and fresh space. Animation by Voxl.Vision.

Nad Design transports us to this lush getaway on the coast of Indonesia.

Now that’s an office! We love this interior by Tacata Arts in Bangalore, India.

Up next: we're highlighting Doddy Setiawan’s tropical home featuring gorgeous green accents, inside and out.

We're wrapping up in Brazil with a bucket list kind of view from Marco Corrêa.

Thanks for joining our trip around the world! Remember to get involved using #SketchUp_Global

Jul 15

Announcing SketchUp 2019 feature updates

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp

We are excited to share some of our favourite features and improvements in the latest product update to SketchUp Pro 2019 and LayOut. 

This release has made SketchUp more intuitive and fun to use with focus on improvements to imagery exports, usability, and a seamless LayOut connection. Get ready — your professional workflow will greatly benefit!

New in SketchUp

Professional Output Enhancements

Exporting images

Exporting 2D graphics, raster files, and animations just got better. You can now control the overall line thicknesses of exported images with our new line scale multiplier, found in the export options dialogs. 

Before this change, line weights stayed the same as the viewport which would make the line weight too small or too large. So, if you are experiencing line weights that are too thick, you can make those line weights thinner. Also, .png images now export with its transparency so you can see what is behind the material while compositing.

Customisable unit settings

Have you ever needed to use different unit measurements for a model? Now your model can be customised to show different unit measurements for area and volume. For example, in a model of a room, you can use millimeters for the wall and meters for volume. Available unit types: millimeters, centimeters, meters, inches and feet.

Workflow Improvements

Invert Selection

It really is the small things that help your workflow. This new feature will allow you to select anything, then invert the selection of objects. This makes it simple to select items and then perform actions on their inverse. The keyboard shortcut for this will be: CTRL + SHIFT + I (Windows)  or CMD + SHIFT + I (Mac).

Importing files

The days of picking out your import file format from a long list are over. You can now drag and drop ALL supported file types directly into your modelling window. By default, you’ll now see all supported file types available for import. Additionally, the DWG and DXF importers now bring in fewer duplicate and messy edges.

Eraser Tool

Have you ever accidentally erased too much in your model? To make your detailing workflow a little smoother and seamless, we added alt & cmd as modifier keys to remove any unnecessarily highlighted lines that you may have accidentally captured during your modelling efforts.

Section Planes

Cutting a model along a plane so that you can peer inside the model? We just made this way smoother. Section planes now ask the user to name them before placing them in the model. Simply place, then name.

Send to LayOut

You can now send your models directly to LayOut from the large toolset in the left-hand toolbar. If you haven’t used LayOut for 2D drawings before, start taking advantage of it now!

Large Area Imports for Add Location

You can now easily import large sites at full resolution. How can you take advantage of this new feature? Simply zoom out a bit, then select the level from which you want to import. Note that misusing this feature can adversely affect performance in your SketchUp model. Check out our help center to be sure you’re aware of how to best handle lots of data in your models.

New in LayOut

Professional Output Enhancements

Isometric dimensioning

It is now possible to make linear dimensions align with an isometric viewpoint. This one is huge! Since an isometric drawing is a primary type of drawing in LayOut, we wanted to make it smoother and more straightforward. You can now control extension lines, gap distance, and align dimensions with isometric angles.

Auto-text

Similar to “smart labels”, you can now add text to dimensions without breaking the automatic measurement. For example, let's say you create a wall dimension. You can dimension a wall, add the word “wall”, and the dimension measurement will still update if the wall’s measurement changes. Pro tip: make sure your string has <> in it. For example, ‘Width <>’ will turn into ‘Wall 1.42m’.

Workflow Enhancements

Rotating dimensions

Now, when you rotate your object, the bounding box is also rotated with so you can continue to scale in the right orientation. 

Quicker editing

Staying consistent with SketchUp usability, in LayOut you can now hit the return key to edit model views, groups, dimensions, or labels! Just select, press return, and start typing!

Ready to try? Contact iRender to see for yourself how these updates can enhance your professional workflows.


Be sure to also check out the SketchUp 2019.2 Review Video by courtesy of
Matt Donley ~ MasterSketchUp.com 

Apr 17

A Constructible Model with M Moser Associates

By Athol Phillips | SketchUp

We spoke to Jason Li, Associate and Charles Corley, Director of Organisational Development at M Moser Associates about how virtual design and construction complements an integrated project design and delivery approach.

Over the past fifteen years, M Moser, a global AEC firm with an extensive track record in workplace design and construction, has used SketchUp and LayOut not only for design and conceptualization but as a vital communication tool throughout the project delivery process.

What does the term "VDC" mean to M Moser?

Charles: It’s Virtual Design and Construction and by that we mean an entirely constructible 3D modeling workflow that empowers any stakeholder to understand and participate in a project. We can create a working virtual environment that makes everything clear to all project participants regardless of training or experience. Rather than relying on a highly coded or flat and disassembled, abstract set of documents, a visual reference is universal. A desk looks like a desk; a wall looks like a wall. You don't need an expert interpreter of construction documents in order to understand fully and collaborate.

M Moser prefers to own as much of the responsibility on a project as possible. The best case scenario is we’re the designer, engineer, purchaser, and contractor. The deliverable, if you will, is the completed project. Throughout all of our offices worldwide, we use virtual design and construction out of a need to have everybody understand each other. We have an array of cultures, understandings, and backgrounds in construction. We want people to engage meaningfully and get the best out of each other’s contribution and expertise by constructing a project in SketchUp well before reaching the site. VDC is a communication tool that gets everybody on the path to the right result.

What types of projects do you focus on as a business?

Charles: We design and build workplaces. Not only corporate offices but corporate campuses, laboratories, private hospitals, private education facilities, and workplaces of all types. You name it, we've done it.

Using a nimble tool like SketchUp is also extremely important as these types of projects can be ever-changing. With more traditional building projects you have to nail down things well before construction for many reasons such as permitting, structural calculations, and ordering materials. But workplaces, even extremely large ones, can remain fluid in design. Even the size of the premises could change considerably. Departments can move around. Mergers and acquisitions could change the whole landscape of the office. The flexibility of SketchUp allows the entire team, including clients, specialists, and contractors to keep up.

Virtual construction starts to become tangible.

Render; not just a pretty facade, the engineering can be equally eye-catching.

What is unique about the way you operate?

Charles: In some ways, we’re sort of the enfant terrible. We're radical about change and are constantly evolving the way we think about construction information. Where many firms are steeped in more traditional documentation, we're trying to make any record of construction information a by-product of the real collaboration and 3D work.

We don't want to send out stacks of documents to people who have never seen it before and say, "Go read this and get back to us with a price." We'd rather have them involved from the very beginning. This means, all the trades, contractors, suppliers, and the client working together in 3D, from concept to completion.

We're trying to shake the tree where a lot of people don't want to change. Jason and I have a lot of war stories about how people are incredibly stubborn to change and don’t wish to consider alternatives. We've broken down a lot of assumptions like, “You can't use SketchUp for official documents to send to the government,” or “It’s not accurate enough,” or “We can’t collaborate with consultants using other programs.” These arguments have melted and fallen by the wayside.

Jason: M Moser could be considered quite unique in the industry because our focus is not just on the design. We have to consider the contractors and the build. For many companies, their role ends when they hand over the designs and completed documents, whereas we handover a complete result. And even beyond that, our role sometimes continues into operation and maintenance.

Construction detailing in LayOut can be templated for all projects in a region.

Your designers are charged with producing constructible models. Can they do this on the first pass?

Charles: Not every designer has the experience to really understand construction. They tend to draw the design intent, then they have to work with others to discover what’s possible.

As an example, just recently we had a team discussing an intricate reception counter. The contractor in the room pointed out: "If the table were four inches shorter, we could use off-the-shelf components and wouldn’t have to manufacture any custom pieces." The designer made the change right then, rationalizing that it wouldn’t really impact the overall look but offered a significant reduction in cost and lead-time. Thousands of collaborative discussions like this occur constantly, many of which wouldn’t be possible in 2D.

Jason: We collaborate on a daily basis; it's not really like a factory where I do my job and pass to someone else, or “Here's a stack of drawings, you go and do it." Projects are realized through discussion and brainstorming. People have different backgrounds and this way we can truly avoid misinterpretations on what the designer intended.

Virtual construction sequencing can save months onsite.

People will always have differing opinions, so does it always go as planned?

Charles: What you would see in our meetings would be a group of people from very different professions, looking at a model being rotated on a large screen. The person leading the meeting is not coming up with all the answers, they’re the "chief question-asker." The team answers the issues together, marking the live model and taking screen captures. They talk about what needs to change and sometimes even make these changes on-the-fly. It's very much a team activity.

The notion of success mostly comes from the client but often there are multiple opinions. One might say, "I want to make sure I have the correct amount of meeting rooms;" another person says, "I want to make sure we finish on time;" another, "I want to make sure my boss coming from overseas is happy," and so on. Those objectives blend together and form the definition of a successful project.

Jason: We're using VDC as a methodology to ensure designers, engineers, professionals, specialists, and the client can communicate on an equal platform. Our goal is that everybody understands the project objectives to achieve results.

Collaboration throughout a project makes for a smooth delivery.

A slick reception area before, during, and after the build.

Building constructible 3D models looks to be a time-consuming exercise. Is it more efficient than it seems?

Charles: Many would say that you can do something in AutoCAD faster or easier than you can in SketchUp. We have found that is not the case if you use it intelligently. There is often a false understanding of time efficiency. Hand a project to a couple or draftsmen and they may spend hundreds of hours doing the drawings, not taking the time to understand construction. A senior stakeholder would then have to go through each page of the drawings to check them, applying the required 20 years of experience to effectively decipher it. Then there are the perspectives. Visualizers can spend an inordinate amount of time setting up beautiful—but only a limited number of—renders. All those hours really add up.

Jason: VDC forces the people who are doing the drawings to think about what they're building, they can't just draw lines. With our methodology, the modeler creates everything in SketchUp.

Then they split the model into different viewports in LayOut to see right away if something's not working. The key difference is, any changes are immediately echoed through the entire set. Everybody's job is faster and easier. The whole workflow is compressed and more evident to everybody at a glance. Errors are glaring, "Oh, look, this wall is not meeting the mullion correctly." We can see where buildability is correct and where it is failing, and we can catch it early. There's also less time spent on visualizations. We can use an extension to quickly do perspectives from any position in minutes instead of hours.

Finding a clash here, is one step closer to eliminating onsite issues.

Get everyone on the same page with exploded 3D fly-through animations.

What perspectives can your clients expect to see in the early design stages?

Jason: We do aim to deliver spectacular visuals to help convey our idea. At one time, we had a team of visualization specialists dedicated to rendering, but it became a bottleneck because time had to be booked with the few 3D visualizers trained in that software.

We now have established ways to do as much as we can in SketchUp, which is the fastest way. There isn’t a steep learning curve. Everybody can have it and everybody can use it to develop gorgeous renderings with extensions. We don't need so many specialists. In Shanghai and Singapore, we use renderers such as Enscape. In India, we lean more toward CPU-based renderers, including SU Podium.

Charles: We also had a problem with third-party drawn perspectives. A designer would freestyle to make something look better. In this process, they might have a detailed understanding of what the interior would look like, but would often leave out the air vents, access panels, joint lines, and sprinklers because they thought they were ugly. Even worse, they would enlarge or shrink objects to give a false impression of what one would experience.

By transitioning to the VDC methodology, we ensure that perspectives remain true to life. We can also deliver beautiful renders instantly, so you can quickly look at things from a different point of view. There's a nimbleness that is lost when creating perspectives with other workflows where the same limited views are updated over and over again.

Render; a visually stunning workplace is a productive workplace.

Does your methodology transverse regions?

Charles: We developed our approach because we work with contractors trained in very different ways and to some extent that continues today. However, we think that the constructability aspect of VDC is applicable anywhere. There's a great deal of value in being able to do virtual mock-ups and say, "Are you sure this is what you want? Because look here, this could be improved."

Constructible models eliminate wasted resources and materials and allow for an unprecedented attention to detail before reaching the site. If you think of everything in a project as separate systems that must come together, there’s a huge amount of coordination required in what was traditionally called the design development stage. We now choose to call this integrated development because we are essentially combining the power, lighting, partition, and furniture systems.

The integrated development stage is where much of the change occurs and decisions are made. Documentation for the record is memorializing what we had agreed during all this collaborative effort. Documents may be still necessary for now but they record what was already worked out and understood by all and don’t serve to gain that agreement. That was done through a highly constructible model—a virtual construction.

Photograph; the finished product, a clean and crisp space featuring natural materials.

About M Moser Associates

M Moser Associates has specialized in the design and delivery of workplace environments since 1981, with clients from the corporate, private healthcare, and education sectors. With over 900 staff in 16 offices on three continents, the company provides a holistic approach to physical and digital workplace environments of all scales.

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