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Sketchup-ur-space Magazine - June 14

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Interview with Paul Lee - Virtual Architect & Managing Director at Viewsion Virtual Environments

Please make a brief introduction of yourself to our readers.

I am passionate about creativity and have always enjoyed art and science. I get bored quickly if I'm not using my brain and expanding my knowledge so it was very natural that I would end up working for myself. I have mastered the art of drawing and painting at a young age and was tempted to go to art college. Luckily I didn't do that because college generally makes you dislike what you already liked so I went to architecture school. Somehow though, I still love architecture.

When do you first discover SketchUp & start to utilize it in your project?

In 2006 I was setting up my architecture business- Aspire Architecture- (which is currently undergoing a revamp) and I was using CAD. The amount of work it took to create the required information was so great that I knew that 2D information was not sufficient or even viable for doing my work. I looked at a few 3D packages and an architect friend of mine mentioned SketchUp. She said it was pretty cool but I had no idea how cool it was going to be. Once I started using it I was hooked. Game over.

How did you get inspired to become a virtual architect?

Since graduating from architecture school at the Dublin Institute of Technology in 1996 I have gravitated towards using technology as a way of solving the problems that exist within the business of construction. That is why SketchUp, which is the most direct system I know of for bringing a concept into digital form was very attractive to me and I decided to make the leap from CAD to SketchUp in 2006 and then to form Viewsion training centre in 2008 with a business partner- Alan O'Brien who is an IT professional.

Can you differentiate SketchUp as a most simplified tool in comparison with other 3D modeling tools?

SketchUp is a fast modeling system. I have heard many competitors make this point- not just SketchUp enthusiasts. It is also very adaptable and can be used in many different industries from architecture/ construction/ engineering to product design and virtual movie sets. The range of applications is virtually endless (pardon the pun)

How do you evaluate SketchUp?

The mistake that many people make is that because SketchUp is so fast, that they imagine that it's not so "deep". This is unfortunate, because SketchUp can effectively replace CAD (as a 2D paradigm) as it exports dwg and dxf as well as many other filetypes. My point is that there is no excuse for generating information in 2D anymore. Now that 3D is easy and accessible and can deliver the 2D information, it's not very clever to keep doing the 2D thing. In addition, SketchUp has strong Building Information Modeling (BIM) credentials, as it does accurate 3D, 4D (construction sequencing), 5D (cost analysis) 6D (Facilities Management Model) and 7D (energy analysis). It also does Construction Documents as detailed in my book entitled "construction documents using SketchUp Pro".

Please point some cons about SketchUp?

One thing that really bugs me about SketchUp is there are no built-in "Mirror" or "Fillet" commands. I know there are plugins available for these function but it does make SketchUp look silly to CAD users that it isn't a standard feature.

Another point is that because SketchUp is effectively a replacement for 2D CAD, they are afraid to market it as such. I can't understand this, and have been saying it for years.

You also work as teacher cum trainer for SketchUp. Please share your experience with our readers.

I started teaching in 2001 in St. John's Central College, Cork City, Ireland. I taught architectural drafting, tech drawing, and CAD. I wrote a course to show how CAD should be used in an office environment because there was no effective course for this and standard CAD courses were academic in nature and did not prepare people for the workplace. When I discovered SketchUp and realised it's potential, 2D CAD was over for me.

In 2008 I started Viewsion Virtual Environments with Alan O'Brien who is an IT consultant.

What upgradations should be included in SketchUp for architectural modeling in near future?

I believe that SketchUp should have better 2D tools. The course I wrote illustrates a very effective workflow for using SU Pro for this purpose and as such it is a very good set of exercises in their own right. However, SketchUp should have some effective tools to automate this process.

Cost analysis is an extremely important aspect for SketchUp that should be capitalised upon.

I would also like to see effective export options for the IFC format.

The SketchUp has been acquired by Trimble but we do not find significant developments for launching new plugins for SketchUp. What are your opinions?

To be honest I don't know how the transition has affected the development of plugins. I hope that Trimble takes this aspect seriously and engages with programmers to keep SketchUp fluid, open and exciting. Enjoyability is a major factor that many of the software vendors ignore- I would say "Ignore enjoyability of software at your peril!" as creativity is becoming more important as a factor.

What suggestions do you want to provide for budding architects & newbie SketchUp users?

I would say to architects- don't fall into the trap of thinking that you are being prepared to work in an office for someone else and just designing buildings. Think outside of the traditional career structures- Even construction itself is going to become more like product design and virtual modeling is going to increase in importance. Video and Tablet interfaces are extremely important to understand and to learn how to manipulate. Learn to use the tools that suit the task you are engaging in, and don't get "snobby" about software- That attitude will turn you into a dinosaur pretty fast!

Did you find our magazine useful for SketchUp users and why?

SketchUp ur Space has a lot of resources for those interested in the platform. I like the emphasis on interviews and it's important to have focus on new and important developments for the SketchUp community.

Construction Documents using SketchUp Pro - Publication from Viewsion

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