SketchUp Pro 2014 and IFC: welcome to the new world of BIM
SketchUp Pro 2013 was announced back in late May of 2013 and now SketchUp Pro 2014 is out.
This is old news, I know. Oh well. It’s been a busy few weeks and we have SketchUp Pro 2014 for a year (plus or minus) before we need to start talking about SketchUp Pro 2015. So there’s time.
We all knew big changes were coming to SketchUp when it was bought by Trimble and started adding a year to the product’s name. And sure enough, big news keeps coming. Everyone who supports OpenBIM should be very excited about this release. I am personally thrilled with SketchUp Pro 2014, even though I’ll almost certainly never use it (I will most likely download SketchUp Make 2014 for one reason or another). Instead of adding their own parameters and creating a new proprietary system, SketchUp has gone the route of OpenBIM and made it very easy to attach IFC (or other) data to elements. And that is fucking awesome.
I’m saying it here and now, and you can all quote me if you’d like. SketchUp Pro 2014 is now a BIM software.
SketchUp Pro 2014 crossed the threshold. IFC does it for me. We can still argue if it’s a good BIM program or the best or able to do X, Y, or Z, but it qualifies in my eyes now. Henceforth when I talk about BIM programs I will include SketchUp. It deserves that qualification. For those of us paying 5-10x for our software, we should be a little nervous. I’ve no doubt that ArchiCAD 18 will be a better program to use than SketchUp 2014 (I’m biased as hell, remember?). But the gap is narrowing. And narrowing fast. Think about the development of Revit and ArchiCAD over the past two years. Look at Revit 2015 when it arrived. Was there some equally big shift? No. Sketchy lines sure as shit isn’t as big news. Will ArchiCAD 18 have some major jump shift towards the future when it comes out? I hope so. But it’s hard to imagine what could be added to make an equally huge splash (Building Materials in ArchiCAD 17 might qualify, but that’s for a different discussion). Look again at what has been happening to SketchUp since it was bought by Trimble. The gap is narrowing.
Yes there is still a long path ahead. IFC gurus like Rob Jackson need to tear SketchUp Pro 2014 apart and do tests. SketchUp still needs to go 64-bit to handle the massive projects that ArchiCAD and Revit can handle. And there’s no work sharing function, yet. And yes I know there are issues and concerns that some people have that while SketchUp can now attach IFC data (or any other schema to its elements) it is nowhere near ready to handle COBie to the extent required by the UK in 2016. But you know what? That’s still a little over 18 months away. There is still Sketch 2015 before then, plus a rich and healthy API scene.
Luke Johnson had the best quote about this “Un-coordinated BIM is like having all the ingredients of a delicious cake and eating each of them separately.” Fine. I’m sure that’ll change. Either through plug-ins or future development or whatever. Or maybe it won’t. I don’t know. To me being able to attach data to elements (especially in an OpenBIM format like IFC) means SketchUp models now are speaking the right language. Elements imported into other programs will be that much more useful. That’s great. But here’s what’s more exciting. SketchUp is saying that they are doing BIM now. And I believe them. The question remains what kind of BIM are they going to do? If you’re on board with anything I have to say about BIM then you realize what we are doing with ArchiCAD and Revit is just one corner of BIM. The spectrum from pencil on paper to augmented reality is huge, diverse, and the path to the future has many routes.
I think SketchUp instead of playing by Autodesk’s or Graphisoft’s rules are reminding us there are other ways to do BIM. And that is very exciting.
Here are some other thoughts for you to mull over as you digest what it means to live in a world where SketchUp Pro qualifies as BIM.
Refer back to my primary benefits of BIM diagram above. Where are SketchUp’s strengths? Not in production (as compared to Revit or ArchiCAD). Collaboration? A bit more, but still not the best. Design? Much more so. So much in fact that many users of other software still think they need SketchUp for design. Integration? You bet. This is where SketchUp will probably blow past everyone else. Fortunately Trimble believes in IFC and OpenBIM so the rest of us will benefit too.
SketchUp is part of Trimble. Trimble is really interested in the construction site and what happens at either end of the building process. The BIM that SketchUp advances will be one that is seamless from conceptual design to construction and hand off because that is the BIM that Trimble is interested in. Look at the form of SketchUp and see how that is where it is going—the first big step was the formal alignment with the maker movement last year when the free version of SketchUp became SketchUp Make.
SketchUp was a disruptive force when it appeared so many years ago. It democratized and simplified 3D modeling. Anyone could model anything in SketchUp. And now there are 3.5 MILLION models in the 3D warehouse. SketchUp can now attach IFC data to elements. Connect those dots.
SketchUp has always been about openness. The developers views have always been about working and playing well with others. This was only furthered when it was part of Google. The SketchUp teams’ old boss at Google, Eric Schmidt, summed it up well: “Open always wins”
I had the opportunity to have a conversation with John Bacus a few weeks ago. John’s title has changed over the years as SketchUp has gone from @Last Software to Google and now to Trimble but it’s always essentially been head of product design for SketchUp. Anyways, in our discussion he said something like this: “access to data has to be open, extensible, and open to changes to design, field, economy, etc.”
In 2014 SketchUp became BIM. And I think we’re all in for a whole new thing.
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