Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Sketchup is dead! (Long live Sketchup!)

I've noticed an interesting trend on my travels this year, regarding what was, up until recently, the darling of the design office (at least from a drafting software pov) - yes, I mean our old friend Google Sketchup.

We have had a ton of requests for a Sketchup test this year. And I should make this clear, we have manfully resisted this for quite some time, feeling that a Sketchup test was somehow an exercise in overkill. Many times I have asked the question, 'Why on earth would you want a Sketchup test?!'.

Nevertheless, it still keeps coming up in feedback forums, so it has been added to our list of short term devs.


...I don't know if something is in the water, but over the past few months, I have been in meetings with heads of design and technology (mostly in Architectural firms, to be fair) where Sketchup is no longer the poster-child of design software. Oh no, in fact, quite the opposite! 'We're trying to kill Sketchup', was the anguished cry from one leading design firm in New York. And back in Blighty, the same trend is emerging; 'Sketchup has become my biggest pain in the ****!', bemoans another technology leader.

But what has prompted such a collective venting of creative spleens, I hear you cry? Well, it seems that, whilst Sketchup is great for knocking out quick visualizations, too many people are trying to use it for much more than that.

In some ways, Sketchup is becoming a victim of its own simplicity. Because Architects are nowhere near as scared of learning Sketchup as they are of, say, Revit or MicroStation, they're now trying to use it for all sorts of inappropriate outputs. Let's make this clear - Sketchup is not Revit. You can't create a BIM model in Sketchup - so stop trying!

And it doesn't stop there. Not only is misguided use of the drafting tool causing the collective blood-pressure of BIM managers everywhere to reach Vesuvian levels, it is also now being cited in a couple of legal cases where, I kid you not, firms of Architects are being sued by clients for mishandled project information leading to mistakes during a build. Turns out that shadow diagrams quickly crunched out in Sketchup have been used as hard data during a build, which, in turn, has led to some pretty upset clients!

Suddenly, the ramifications of using technical software inappropriately on projects isn't funny at all. It can cost AEC firms thousands of dollars in lost income - not to mention the management time that goes into yet another round of unnecessary litigation. And those design firms who poo-poo the importance of technical software as a highly sought after skill? You have been warned. No longer can you get away with the familiar refrain, 'We only employ good designers. Software skills don't matter - we can always get them up to speed in Revit later'. (For the record, my blood freezes whenever I hear those 5 words - get... them... up... to... speed).

Oh, and don't blame Sketchup for this mess. It's not the one at fault here! The clue is in the name, stupid! ;)