On the topic of Google’s tools, there’s a new one that’s useful in the real (estate) world: Sketchup, which was recently added to the Google stable. As the name suggests, Sketchup is a software drawing program that can be downloaded from the Sketchup web site and installed easily. I took the free version for a spin this weekend. I’m impressed and (a little bit) addicted.
Let me tell you what I did with it. I’m planning to build a weekend getaway on a lot my wife and I own near Mt. Baker (screenshot above — my lot is right where those arrows come together), which is a gorgeous rec/wildlife area north of Seattle along the Cascade Mountains. My desk at home is littered with rough sketches of floor plans and various cuttings from architectural magazines. We have decided on a hand-crafted log cabin, but need to keep the costs down, although we want to create a space big enough to host friends and family over the winter holidays. With that in mind and the help of Sketchup, I now have a 3D model of the house:
My sketch is not complete but it was relatively simple to get this far. Already I have enough of the design drawn to be able to send this to log home builders for quotes; not bad for my first-attempt. I’ve also learned some of the tricks to simplify the work flow so the next one will be even easier. I’d recommend starting with a throw-away sketch to learn the basics before getting into anything too detailed. When you do tackle a detailed project, use the layers feature to simplify adding to the design.
Sketchup becomes more addictive as your sketch comes to life. The orbit tool lets you to fly around your model. You can save custom views and the zoom lets you move into and through your sketch. It’s easy to add shadows, and even change the time of year to show how lighting will change with the seasons (cool).
The Google connection (in case you were wondering) is that you can now position your completed house on its lot and view it in context using Google’s virtual earth which is integrated with Sketchup. I haven’t tried this yet but I plan to as soon as my sketch is complete.