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SketchUp construction docs vs Archicad

JohnJay
Advocate
This is simultaneously the best and worst place to ask this question but I'm sure lots of you have experience with SketchUp and so can make a useful comparison vs Archicad.

I used to work in a small design studio and although it wasn't my primary capacity I did use AC13 on and off for a few years and more recently AC20 but only for a few months, so I know the pros and cons of using Archicad, for my use at least. I'm currently trialling 23 but the workflow remains similar in AC even since v13.

I'm now working freelance so need to make a choice - continue to use Archicad or switch to SketchUp. I don't really have any experience with SketchUp and am just starting to learn of its strengths and weaknesses.

So to my questions:

1. Does AC Solo support Twinmotion or is Twinmotion only available in Full AC?

2.mHow do those of you that use both SU and AC think they compare from a modelling POV? I mainly work with residential house/garden/pool/outdoor living design. Window/door/stair/roof builders are not natively available in SU but it looks like there are plugins or objects for all of these? Does SU fall short of AC anywhere in the modelling department?

I intend on trying out Twinmotion as looks perfect for my use. TM is also available for SU though so of little consequence to the choice between AC and SU.

3. Most importantly then, how does SU compare to AC for construction docs? It looks like this is quite a manual and clunky process in SU? If that's the case then my decision is already made. What I am keen to find out is if there are any good plugins that automate this part of the process to a level approaching the integration in AC?

I have installed the SU trial and have started a small project from start to finish to see for myself but would really like to hear your opinions as I'm sure there will be useful and even essential plugins that I will miss.

Thanks
AC25
17 REPLIES 17

JohnJay
Advocate
There are other considerations too, such as the 'little' (but essential once you get used to them) utilities such as Trace reference, Model view options,, graphic overrides, and the tracker palette just to name a few...

The more I think about this the more I think it's a no brainer and I should stick with AC and add Twinmotion.

I suppose the main question should be - are there any reasons why I would switch from AC to SU? I already use MODO and Octane for advanced modelling, texturing, shading and rendering so my main use for AC or SU would be for the basic house/garden model and for conceptual sketch line style renders. SU seems to have the edge there but I'm comfortable post processing and combining AC sketch lines with other renders and creating the style I want.
AC25

JohnJay
Advocate
Then I read threads like this one:

https://archicad-talk.graphisoft.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=70161&start=20

lots of disgruntled small practice users and reports that Twinmotion isn't very stable...
AC25

JohnJay
Advocate
Ultimately though, it seems that SU is just a bit too clunky in the construction docs dept, and unless things have improved or there are plugins that help, this is certainly the kind of workflow that I'd like to avoid. Seems like too much opportunity for human error and in any case a really dull and boring workflow - way too much time spent on technicalities and not enough on the creative side, i.e. designing.

This guy is reportedly one of the SU gurus and the workflow is not one that I'd be keen on adopting, and this is just for line weights... seems like symbols, hatches etc are even more clunky.



Still keen on hearing your opinions though.
AC25

jl_lt
Expert
Hi! Quoting mr.James Murray, from onland.info site, a great place to learn conceptual and practical material about using Archicad: "SketchUp is a bad software that you should not use".

But in all seriuosness, you should evaluate what you want as a practice and then decide. Are you a more conceptual and vanguardist practice or are you more construction minded with down to earth design? If it's the former, SketchUp might be good for You (although i would use rhino better), if it's the latter, archicad will serve You better although You can also get very conceptual in archicad. If you do a lot of exterior work You might also want to take a look at Vectorworks, a step brother of Archicad.
If still in doubt, i recommend reading Mr. shoegnomes excelent post about what kind of practice You are or want to be. You can find it here:

http://www.shoegnome.com/2013/03/14/what-kind-of-architect-are-you/

Are You going to do only the schematic design and then delegate construction docs to someone else or are You doing all the work all the way? If it's the former, SketchUp might be good, if it's the latter, then archicad is a no brainer (you need put good effort into your archicad template though). You also have to take into account that importanting and exporting between these two softwares (AR and SU) is really good, so you can actually use both in diferent design stages.

Do You need super realistic rendering? Then SketchUp might be good because it has vray conection. If not, You can get great results within archicad or with twinmotion (which some people here seem to complain about, but ive had no problems with it and think that its almost a miracle of technology specially the 2020 version).

Do You need an integrated solution for 3d modelling and doing your architectural plans, sections, elevations and quantity take offs almost automatically? SketchUp has plugin solutions for this, but as You Will find in many forums, even it's users say it's a clunky and time consuming process and need really good equipement, but You can get spectacular results with good effort. Meanwhile, archicad can fly even in 5 year old computers.

finally, do You plan to remain a one man show or do You want to collaborate with other people and eventually grow? If it's the case, archicad will set You up for this.

Best of lucks in your desicion! but i suspect You already know the answer

JohnJay wrote:
Ultimately though, it seems that SU is just a bit too clunky in the construction docs dept, and unless things have improved or there are plugins that help,
I don't find the need to use Sketchup with Archicad, but there are a number of fairly amazing extensions that could help, if you wanted to go in the Sketchup direction. PlusSpec, Roof Nui, Medeek Trusses, and others do pretty amazing things, but my sense is that you really need a bunch of them. However, I certainly drool over the construction doc's that Nick Sonder puts together. https://sketchupbook.com/ At some point in the size of the model, things start to work like molasses, though I'm not sure where that is. I like that with AC I don't really have to worry about this.
Richard
--------------------------
Richard Morrison, Architect-Interior Designer
AC25 (since AC6.0), Win10

JohnJay
Advocate
hmmmm... I downloaded a model from the 3DWarehouse so I could try creating some plans and elevations (this one: https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model/ba82fb25-7c79-44c8-ab62-ca5ae8304431/container-house).

It's only around 50k polys so not very heavy at all, yet cutting the model to create a simple section cut was much slower than I expected it to be (my PC's not exactly cutting edge but I do have a 6 core i7, a GTX 1070 and 48gb RAM). In MODO 50k polys are nothing, and even AC handles them with little effort.

Tried to import the scene into AC to test the SKP import but that was a disaster too - lots of GUI flickering and refreshing and when it ended nothing was imported.

So, is it normal that SU is so slow with such a simple model or is it my system or me that's doing something wrong or missing something?

Does SU import into AC work well?
AC25

JohnJay
Advocate
@ jl_lt - i'm leaning towards AC right now but only because of the performance issues stated above.

There are also lots of little things that only become apparent once you start modelling and then try to adjust the model.

e.g. changing wall thickness is a lot easier in AC. The wall thickness is always clearly displayed so it's easy to check and confirm. Similar story with roofs - you set the pitch and can then adjust edges know that the pitch it always the same. The pitch is always displayed so there's less chance of changing the pitch by mistake.

There are lots of these instances like this and all together I think they make a big difference.

Maybe I just need to play with SU a bit more but so far I don't get what all the fuss is about.
AC25

DGSketcher
Rockstar
I loved SU as a basic architectural modeller, especially its ability to create blocks & modules, and thought it might work on some smaller projects. Unfortunately It does lack dimensional surety of thickness and angles as already mentioned. I last tried it around 3-4 years ago and things may have improved, but for me it unravelled very quickly as soon as I started documentation and trying to export to collaborate. I ended up having to redo the scheme in AC.
Apple iMac macOS Monterey / AC25UKI (most recent builds)

Anonymous
Not applicable
While there are definitely some very talented people (eg. Nick Sonder) doing some incredible things in SketchUp, it really lacks some basic things which a drawing set requires such as Schedules. The number of posts on the SketchUp forums complaining about the slowness of Layout were was a deal killer for me when I was pondering about which software to use. Archicad has a lot of automation. SketchUp has none. There are a number of plugins for SketchUp which help, but bottom line is that there is a lot of fix up work when you get to changes. SketchUp is very useful for quick mockups but for the documents, not so great.

jl_lt
Expert
JohnJay wrote:
.

Maybe I just need to play with SU a bit more but so far I don't get what all the fuss is about.
I'll be more blunt: stay away from it man. If free modelling attracts You, Youd be better modeling in Rhino; Personally, i even prefer Autocad 3d over ketchup. If you need construction docs, layout work and quantities, archicad is a no brainer. But please, do try them out before deciding.

JohnJay
Advocate
Richard wrote:
I don't find the need to use Sketchup with Archicad, but there are a number of fairly amazing extensions that could help, if you wanted to go in the Sketchup direction. PlusSpec, Roof Nui, Medeek Trusses, and others do pretty amazing things, but my sense is that you really need a bunch of them. However, I certainly drool over the construction doc's that Nick Sonder puts together. https://sketchupbook.com/ At some point in the size of the model, things start to work like molasses, though I'm not sure where that is. I like that with AC I don't really have to worry about this.
I came across most of those plugins when I was looking into SU and agree they add a lot of useful functionality.

Generating docs though definitely seems a lot more streamlined and integrated in AC and while AC isn't as fluid in the modelling dept, it's very fast at creating the base model which I can then develop elsewhere.

For my use I think if AC Solo plays well with Twinmotion, then the decision is made.

Does anyone know if Solo supports TM?

In the meantime I had another play with SU and opened some other house models which were more polys and greater size than the previous model I tried and surprisingly it was much smoother to navigate than before.

When I tried to edit things though it was a different story - Very laggy and frustrating to use and the model wasn't even that heavy. Not sure if it's me or my system but I'm just not gelling with SU.
AC25

schagemann
Contributor
To add to all the above advice - here my 2 cents:

- SKUP is brilliant for initial sketch design & conceptual modelling;
- SKUP is fundamentally not a documentation tool, although it seems to slowly develop in that direction;
- SKUP has a very flat learning curve, ARCHICAD quite the opposite;
- SKUP is expandable, however IMHO it does not get close to RHINO & GRASSHOPPER (which now integrate nicely with ARCHICAD
- ARCHICAD TEAMWORK is unparalleled, which might not be important to you now, but wait until your practice grows;
- GRAPHISOFT is always on the forefront of the BIM & IFC evolution (by virtue of being the underdog...);
- ARCHICAD (like SKUP) is cross-platform, i.e. if you ever choose to switch to the bright side you can!
- ARCHICAD can do pretty much all the things SKUP can do (although often not as straightforwardly) and a lot more;

...there is plenty more but you can see that on the graphisoft website for yourself.
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ethanbodnar
Contributor
Hi John Jay, so nice to see you thinking out loud and sharing your research process here! I'm in middle of pretty much the same question

Have been using AC for a couple months now for the first time, and fallen in love with everything that's possible. Taking a pause to make sure I'm 100% moving forward w/ AC due to cost and time investment for the learning curve. Know it's worth it, just reflecting on whether this moment in time is the right moment to make the jump. Considering whether it's more of a 2021 project and should stick with SketchUp for another year.

— ConDoc Tools and PlusSpec seem to add some of the BIM workflow, schedules and automatically generating documentation into SketchUp. But overall it just feels messy and confusing workflows, when Archicad does all of this built in. And they get to be price-y for plugins.

— Going back to SketchUp this week to play around, things just don't make sense in my mind anymore after using AC, where you're actually building something for real, instead of just modeling forms and lines in SU.

— Even though for my work, I'm using a small percentage of AC features, I know they are there to grow into which feels good to know. Made a list of all these features so I don't get distracted trying to use every tool at the start, and focusing on making a Template first, which seems to be the main thing that unlocks so much of AC's potential!

Those are just some thoughts that are on my mind and hope they help

JohnJay
Advocate
jl_lt wrote:
If you do a lot of exterior work You might also want to take a look at Vectorworks, a step brother of Archicad.
Even though I said it was strictly a choice between AC and SU, I had a look at Vectorworks 🙂

It appears very capable but I think it's so similar to AC, yet different to the point I'd have to relearn everything so for my use I don't think it's worth the time investment.
ethanbodnar wrote:
Hi John Jay, so nice to see you thinking out loud and sharing your research process here! I'm in middle of pretty much the same question 🙂
Glad the discussion is of use ethanbodnar 🙂

I've decided to go with AC and have subscribed to Solo for now. I already have a couple of projects to get done so needed to make a decision (the trial version leaves an 'Archicad Trial' watermark on PDFs which I couldn't send to clients).

Overall I think the model is way more organised in AC so it's easier to keep track of everything, especially during the design phase where I might have several versions of scheme that I want to develop.

I focus mostly on design and visuals, though I do need plans, elevations, details and other drawings for planning purposes, to show clients, to communicate with my engineer and draughtsman and to show tradesmen on site. I suppose I don't need 'construction docs' at all, but I do need a system that makes this part of the job as automatic as possible, so I can focus on the creative side rather than worry about whether my drawings have all updated correctly or whether that hatch I drew manually is still in the right place 🙂

In any case I find the basic building of a house and garden model much quicker in AC. I'm only now starting to use the Morph tool properly and tbh it's not far off the basic SU way of modelling. Also, I thought SU was more competent in the conceptual rendering dept, but I exported an AC model to SU and didn't find anything that SU could do that I preferred to the AC equivalent.

Finally, these days AC modelling has improved and is way more powerful than it was in AC13, or even 20, and the Morph tool, though not as fluid as I'd like is there or thereabouts. The cherry on the cake is SU file support, so most objects in the 3D Warehouse can be imported and used in AC.

For final detailing, photoreal rendering and any modelling I can't do (or I find slow and clunky to do) in AC, I have MODO and Octane. The only thing that's missing is a .obj import option in AC which would make it easy to get models from MODO to AC. Still working on an efficient solution on that one...
AC25

jl_lt
Expert
Nice to hear you made a research-based desicion. Best of lucks!

Laszlo Nagy
Community Admin
Community Admin
JohnJay wrote:
For final detailing, photoreal rendering and any modelling I can't do (or I find slow and clunky to do) in AC, I have MODO and Octane. The only thing that's missing is a .obj import option in AC which would make it easy to get models from MODO to AC. Still working on an efficient solution on that one...


There is a commercial Add-On called ModelPort that can import OBJ files into Archicad:

https://archvista.com/modelport/

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JohnJay
Advocate
LaszloNagy wrote:
There is a commercial Add-On called ModelPort that can import OBJ files into Archicad:

https://archvista.com/modelport/


Thanks - that seems really useful, though for the moment I've found that Blender is fine at exporting 3ds files (though you need Blender 2.79 for this).
AC25

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