Category Archives: ArchiCAD

10 Tips to Becoming Successful as a Design & Construction Company

By | ArchiCAD, Architects, Architecture, BIM, Construction, Design, Designers, IFC, PlusSpec, Sketchup, Sketchup for Construction & Estimating, Software, Tradies | One Comment
successful design construction for builder architects effective I have been designing and building for 24 years. Integrated Design & Build firms are a different animal to the traditional Client + Architect + Builder scenario. They are more profitable, but they usually have a larger staff ratio, which can be a bit of a handful and a trap for ‘inexperienced’ players. Essentially the responsibility of a project, from start to finish, resides solely with one company alone – and the blame game does not come into play for clients. This is why reputable design build firms are much sought after. Not everyone can design, yet most of us can, and the longer you have been in the industry, the better you get at it. There is real job satisfaction to be gained when you build your own designs. I recommend it highly. It took me some time to get used to the in-house design and in-house build workflow, and there were many things that I needed to do to flourish and become profitable. When I look back and ask myself what the key ingredient to success was, I always come to the same conclusion: Communication. Here are 10 steps that I took to make my design & build company more successful. After implementing these simple rules and improvements, I reduced waste by over 20% I am not just talking about leftover materials, I am talking about time by becoming efficiency. The end result was clearly displayed in profit margins. The 10 Steps to success:
  1. Employ youth straight out of School as apprentices. Once they become qualified pay them what they are worth, and reward them when they do the right thing. Young brains can be trained to do things the way you like them, so spend the time needed to train them correctly. Start small, as the biggest killer for new companies is too much work. However, most think it is not enough work.

  2. Concentrate on communication with the client. We all know that out of every 10 people you meet, you are inevitably going to clash with one. That is life. Try and ‘pick and choose’ customers. If it feels bad, gracefully decline the job. Life is too short! It is easy to keep clients onboard when you explain what you are doing, and in a way they understand. Clients do not understand 2D drawings, but they do understand 3D. We were all born seeing the world in 3D, and we only learned 2D because that was the best way to communicate before the advent of modern technology (like 3d CAD software & iphones).

  3. Get with the times! Technology can be a distraction, so take my advice and delete LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter from your phone. These are social apps that the marketing people in your business should use. I am not saying that you shouldn’t use them, just use them at the right time and place, as they can be very distracting. You need to get the technology that works for your business, not the other way around. Checkout PlusSpec was made for what we do – nothing else!

  4. Never employ friends or relatives, and try not to do their work either. Christmas will be so much more enjoyable. Believe me.

  5. Insist on quality. Good enough is not considered good in my book! If you would not have it in your house, do not put it in one of your clients. You will find that your clients will tell their friends when they are happy. I found that for every 1 happy client, they told 5 friends. Recommendation is the best way to get more work. It cuts down on marketing expenses, and more often than not, the client will not bother seeking another quote. People trust their friends, and what they can see firsthand.

  6. Make sure your office is close to home. An hour each way in traffic is 2 hours out of each day that you could be doing something productive (or dare I say relaxing?).

  7. Buy Cheap, buy twice! We have all been guilty of going to the local hardware and buying the $40 drill. If you will use it more than twice, then you should buy quality gear that is reliable. This is the same for every facet of your business, including computers, chairs and desks. If you only need it once, then rent it.

  8. Do not rent equipment. Buy everything that you need, as soon as you can afford it. If you are buying specialised machinery, you should charge it out to your clients at the same rate that you would pay to rent it.

  9. If it looks and sounds too good to be true it is! 95% of the time unbelievable deals are unbelievable. Trust your instinct, not the sales person. Their only job is to get your hard earned cash by selling you their goods. Unfortunately, integrity is becoming a thing of the past for many salespeople, which I find disappointing. Get used to negotiating better buy prices from the people that are trying hard to sell to you.

  10. The biggest advantage I gained was by using 3D modeling and PlusSpec. It sounds difficult yet it is not. I created PlusSpec, and as I developed it, I improved it with the profits I gained from the results. At first, I never told a soul; it was my secret, my advantage, and I kept it to myself. Now PlusSpec is in over 80 countries around the world. Yep word of mouth did the trick.  These days, I really only design and build 1 or 2 homes per year, and the prerequisite for doing the job is that the project must be with 15 minutes from my home.
Take the time to work on your business, and not in it. Do this as soon as you can. Learn better things that will actually help you grow. Technology will boost your sales through communication, decrease your errors via clear plan interpretation, lower your design time, increase accuracy of your quotes for design, and quotes for build. If you want to know more about PlusSpec, you can check it out here. I am very proud of the achievement, and the improvement it is making to businesses small and large. It is the pinnacle of design and construction technology to date. Yes, it is subscription based, yet the truth is you stay up to date with the latest technology, every minute of the day. And for less than $20 per week you will never look back! I guarantee it. That is it from me, I look forward to hearing your stories of success.

The Problem with BIM

By | ArchiCAD, Architects, Architecture, BIM, Construction, Design, Designers, PlusSpec, Revit, Sketchup | No Comments

It’s not meant to be hard.

The Secret of BIM_Its not meant to be hard Disclaimer:  No Grandmothers were harmed in the making of this article (as we did not make them try to use any of the mainstream BIM software systems).   The word ‘simple’ is often interpreted as meaning something that lacks power or sophistication. In fact, many professionals often equate simplicity with being amateurish. But in the words of Steve Jobs ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’.   The ‘Grandmother principle’ does not actually mean that something should be so simple to use that even your Grandmother could use it. The Grandmother principle outlines that if something is overly complex, then it will inevitably cost you and your business as much as it will ever give you.   The truth is that current BIM software have innumerable complexities and constraints – especially for Residential design and construction. They are incredibly difficult to learn, cost you a vast sum of money to purchase and upskill staff (which is why the vast majority of practices do not even provide sufficient training), as well as prolonged periods of unproductiveness. Complexity also breeds specialization. Software specialization is bad news for Architects, Builders and Estimators. Why? Architects need to focus on design. Builders need to focus on construction. And Estimators/Quantity Surveyors need to focus on estimating. Software is merely a tool – an evolution of the pencil and paper, which should simply allow you to work faster and smarter.   You need a software solution that is simple to teach and quick to master. You should not have to structure your recruitment process around software specialization, or fear losing staff simply due to their ability to use a program.   To quote John Maeda in The Laws of Simplicity, ‘Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.’   SketchUp logo For those of you who have never used SketchUp, it is the most popular free-form 3D modeling software in the world. As the name suggests, SketchUp was born out of the desire to design in 3D in a manner that is reminiscent of sketching. As the team at SketchUp put it, ‘SketchUp Pro is like a pencil with superpowers.’ And they are not wrong. SketchUp has been created so that you can design in 3D with freedom. It allows you to concentrate on designing, not modeling. In the words of the SketchUp team ‘When the medium is simple enough, the barriers to creativity disappear.’   The problem with SketchUp is that even though it is used by the vast majority of design professionals, it is often derided for being too simple (and lacking those much needed BIM features). It is more often than not deemed to be a great concept design and visualization tool, which is put into a similar category as Photoshop: nice to have, but not essential.   And even though a large portion of Professionals have been vehement in their belief that SketchUp could not compete with other full implementation BIM software, the simple truth is that millions of Professionals around the world love using it, and have been waiting for SketchUp to become smarter, more powerful, and parametric – so that it could truly compete with the likes of Revit and ArchiCAD.   That time has arrived. Introducing PlusSpec for SketchUp: PlusSpec for SketchUp 3D CAD & Estimation Software Logo PlusSpec for SketchUp is an amazing new design and estimating 3D CAD software, that combines the power of BIM (Building Information Modelling), VDC (Virtual Design and Construction), 3D Modelling, 2D Planning/documentation, and Estimation. PlusSpec uses real manufacturers products from the free RubySketch online library, and generates automatic specifications and product schedules. Material take-offs and estimates are formulated as you design. PlusSpec incorporates parametric modelling within the native SketchUp platform, so that any design option can be explored quickly and easily in either BIM or free-form 3D.   Although PlusSpec for SketchUp can be used for any type or size of construction, PlusSpec has been specifically designed for Residential design and construction, and it is the first CAD software that benefits both Design Professionals and Builders/Contractors/Estimators equally.   Material take-offs and estimates (Builders & Estimators) and feasibility studies (Architects) will never be the same again.   PlusSpec has grown SketchUp into a full implementation (from concept to construction) BIM solution that will finally provide Architects and designers with the tool that they have been waiting for. It has been created so that you can design, document and prepare feasibility studies or estimates faster and smarter. You have the best of BIM technology and parametric modeling (PlusSpec), as well as free-form modeling (SketchUp), which provides you with total design freedom. You are not limited by components/families, or our wall types. In fact, your imagination, is your only boundary!   PlusSpec for SketchUp is the perfect balance between design and construction and epitomizes and enhances the SketchUp mantra: ‘Great tools are ones you look forward to using…They let you do what you want without having to figure out how. They help with the hard or boring tasks so that you can focus on being creative, or productive, or both.’    PlusSpec for SketchUp is Revolutionizing Residential BIM: Perform complex tasks, simply. Enrich your workflow. Easy to learn and upskill. Increase your efficiency. Maximize your profits!   Take a look for yourself:

Why so many acronyms with BIM?

By | ArchiCAD, Architects, Architecture, BIM, Designers, IFC, Revit | No Comments
Are acronyms getting in the way of progression and adoption of time saving technology? Here is an insert I took from a document I read in relation to Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Standards.
“Most CEN and CENELEC Committees have parallel activities in ISO and IEC, and in some cases the same organisation provides the Secretariat for both an international and regional Committee. There are agreements between CEN/CENELEC and ISO/IEC regarding exchange of information” ……………..
Here is my take on the industry : I have been reading through many documents on Building Information Modelling (BIM) of late; no wonder so many peoples heads spin. To be honest, Building Information Modelling  is really not that complicated. We have been doing it the hard way for centuries and Building Information Modelling is simply  a 3D model  created with a Computer Aided Drawing (CAD) program to organise & simplify the process of design, construction, manufacturing and maintenance. Surely we do not need hundreds of acronyms to convey this? Are the editors lazy or is it that the puzzle has not been 100% solved? Let’s just make it that little bit harder to decipher a document shall we? As you may all know I am a big fan of creating & refining systems to increase productivity. I was introduced to our industry at 15 years of age and even back then I thought to myself that this industry needs some innovation. I am hardly considered an intellect yet blind Fred could read the writing on the wall. I was taught to draw by hand with the old cedar drawing board , T Square and one of those new fan dangle clutch pencils which saved us all a good 5 seconds of hard labour sharpening. Before I decipher the acronyms I would like to give an overview of where I think we are now. I choose to skip the 2D CAD days as essentially they yield a similar result to hand drawing. I am going to skip a decade or two so you can get back to your paying jobs. Today we have drawing tools that are easy to use and have the ability to represent every element in 3D,  every nut bolt and screw if you chose to do so ( I hope you don’t). Lets look at what we really need out of a drawing to build and maintain the dwelling. Do we need acronyms? I do not think so. So what do we need to design and build a project?
  1. We need a client with space or property, who needs a facility to either protect themselves, their employees and or their equipment or pets  from the elements, a place to live, work from or a place to relax.
  2. We need a brief from the client explaining the purpose of the facility.
  3. We need to represent that facility in a portable document that can be interpreted, annotated, refined & stored.
  4. We need to communicate on that document with authorities, builders, engineers/consultants, surveyors, manufacturers and product distributors.
  5. We need to collaborate on that document and create a specification.
  6. We need a cost indictaion associated with Design, Build, Maintenance & a running cost EG. utilities
  7. We need a schedule to work from
  8. We need a bill of materials
  9. We need a maintenance schedule
  10. We need a record of who did what, when, why and how long before it will need replacing or maintaining. (Facility Maintenance)
  11. In most cases we need appropriate weather.
Items 3 to 10  can be accomplished with traditional 2D drawing and paper documentation, yet 3D drawings with Building Information are far more efficient and easier to interpret, therefore attracting more clients to BIM adopters. Put simply the art of BIM is associating appropriate information with geometry and using a system that extracts the necessary data that is related to the construction and maintenance of the facility.  What does that mean? It means the geometry/Model represent the Building, the components that it is made from & the Information clarifies the who, what, why where and when. BIM breaks down the top 10 items into categories and structure to efficiently  store and handle documentation. We as designers and builders do not have to do this, it is being done for us. However we do need to understand the process, which I must say is a lot easier than creating the process. For Building Information Modelling to be successful there need to be standards. These standards need to be easy to read and understand. Below I have decided to start compiling a list of commonly used acronyms you may find helpful… Feel free to add more as no doubt there are many I have missed.

Acronyms associated with Architecture and Building Information Modelling (BIM)

AEC Architecture Engineering and Construction
BOQs Bill Of Quantities
CAD Computer Aided Design
CAE Computer Aided Engineering.
CAM Computer Aided Manufacturing
CGI Computer Generated Imagery
FM Facilities Management
GIS Geographical Information System.
IFC Industry Foundation Class
IPD Integrated Project Delivery
IPE Integrated Project Environments
ISO International Standards
LOD Level of Development
MEP Mechanical Electrical Plumbing
QTO Quantity Take Off
ROI Return on Investment
VDC Virtual Design & Construction
WD Working Draft
4D Linking of 3D CAD components or assemblies with time/schedule
5D Linking of 3D CAD components or assemblies with schedule & cost
Let me just say BIM is not hard. There are various software packages out there that enable steps 1 to 10 to be refined and they get better every year. I personally use PlusSpec as it reduces the likelihood of error and it does more for less money. Some others in the industry use Revit, Archicad & Bentley and all of the products are simply tools to help reduce time and increase efficiency. With the introduction of IFC (a format that can be used various brands of software) we can all now collaborate on the same drawings and information associated with the project regardless of products we use or how much we pay for them.  

Sketchup inside of Archicad with IFC

By | ArchiCAD, BIM, Construction, PlusSpec, Sketchup | One Comment
Before Sketchup 14 and PlusSpec imports came in triangulated.

Before Sketchup 14 and PlusSpec imports came into Archicad triangulated.

Hi guys you may be happy to know that Archicad 17 has much better Sketchup integration. Yet so too does 15 with the IFC capabilities in Sketchup 14 IFC Import from Sketchup 14 and PlusSPec         IFC Import from Sketchup 14 and PlusSpec into Archicad 15
Archicad with structural properties done in PlusSpec

Archicad with structural properties done in PlusSpec

Back in 15 and 16 Archicad models used to come in triangulated Yet with Sketchup 14 and PlusSpec you can have a full LOD 350 model imported as IFC . There is a little more work to do yet this is a huge time advantage. Here is an example of a small IFC component that I exported for you to use and comment on. IFC Sketchup Export Sample for Archicad I hope this helps with your work flow as now you will have a bigger library to choose from. If you think it is an advantage please let me know and I have another 2000+ models that I can have changed.  There are no parametrics to these models, they are basically dumb models. The native parametric files are available here

Sketchup 14 and PlusSpec

By | ArchiCAD, Architecture, BIM, Construction, PlusSpec, Revit, Sketchup | No Comments
Hi guys, I have been fielding a lot of emails from our Australian users about how does PlusSpec go inside of Sketchup 14. I am pleased to say PlusSpec works  inside of Sketchup 14 and I am so happy with the updates in Layout. If BIM is your thing then you will love PlusSpec inside Sketchup 14. We do have a few small teething issues with network drives, yet if you are using Sketchup on a local drive than you will have no problems Many of the 30+ million Sketchup users use Sketchup for concept design and then export the model to other software such as Autocad, Revit & Archicad. In the early stages of Layout I did the exact same thing.  Can I suggest if you are still doing this you should consider giving Layout another try. Essentially you are are doing the same thing twice. I know a lot of you have not had the privilege of using PlusSpec yet when you do, I’m sure you’ll find that drawing in 3d and plotting to 2d has never been easier. In Australasia a lot of architects provide a specification with their drawings and this is a huge driving force behind BIM.  I like you needed to have an accurate specification and I wanted that specification to be directly related to the model. To date this functionality has alluded Sketchup users yet with the addition of PlusSpec, this is easier to do in Sketchup Pro than any other software package I have ever used. sketchup14-bim-plusspec-design-build-architect-builder1 sketchup14-bim-plusspec-design-build-architect-builder   Parametrics in Sketchup… Hooray! Many Sketchup users say goodbye to their model once they are out of concept stage, as editing a model can be cumbersome, especially if the user is not experienced.  Having the ability to add, remove, adjust and alter was never a simple process. Well my friends those days are gone! Adding scenes and altering geometry to enable 2d plotting in Layout was time consuming to say the least!  With PlusSpec those days are gone.. Quantifying with Sketchup could be done yet it was a hit and miss event. If you are not a Sketchup Ninja then forget about it. Those days are also gone. How about creating Groups and components? need I say it… Gone! So many niggles that used to bug me and take away from my design dare I say it?  GONE! If you have not pre registered for PlusSpec you may want to hurry before they are all…… Gone.    

Sketchup for Units of Measurement

By | ArchiCAD, BIM, Construction, PlusSpec, Revit, Sketchup | 6 Comments
 Units of measure around the world. In Australia we use primarily metric for everything. Some of the old tradies will still talk in feet and inches yet when ordering, specifying and constructing metric is the only way to communicate. As you guys probably know we are about to release PlusSpec, it is a BIM add on for Sketchup that will save any Architect and builder and tradie a lot of time. We primarily made it for Australia yet the amount of emails and correspondence I am getting to my inbox from around the globe is some what overwhelming. I understand how the US works as it is primarily imperial so we pretty much have that sorted now but from what I understand much of Europe have a bit of a hybrid system going. EG the cars speedometer reads in miles. No doubt your wondering why it matters as Sketchup works in many imperial or metric yet we also added an element of units into the walls, and floors to reduce the amount of work that goes into BIM. framing and structural ellements in Sketchup and PlusSpec Wall with PlusSpec and wall with Sketchup1 There are nominal sizes and actual that also cause a problems. EG 2*4 in the US is actually 1.5″*3.5″. Over in the land down under if we draw the plan in nominal sizes (100mm walls) the carpenters and builders get cranky as 90mm is the actual size of them wall and when they are setting out it does not take long to get a 50mm discrepancy. So nominal sizes are important here. Why did I decide to create the plugin? I think that Revit and Archicad are far too expensive. They are hard to use and the file sizes are not portable without using drop box. With Sketchup I can email my plans and model all in one and we use it on a tablet. Having a drawing tool and a construction tool all in one is of great benefit to my building company, my clients and my carpenters. We call it BIM (building information modelling) BIM is a great tool when it is automated as we have. For any of you Archicad or Revit guys you will know what I mean when it comes to attributing wall types and material types it can be some what cumbersome to say the least. With PlusSpec everything has a name, everything has an attribute and everything has a layer. There is no need to make components and groups or nest components, there is no need to cut windows though several layers, it is all done for you in a simple to use toolbar inside of Sketchup. The walls can move and adjoining walls will move with them. The floors are components, the walls are components and the structural elements are present and can be turned on an off to suit the application. The roofing tool  constructs multiple  roof types yet it  allows you to change pitch, roofing materials and gutters and roof types with a single click. for me to be able to get it out to the rest of the world I would like a bit of feedback on how you guys use Sketchup for construction and construction drawing. I would like to know what country uses a combination of imperial and metric. If anyone could send me a drawing similar to the one at this link it would be fantastic. No doubt there are many people using Sketchup for construction that would like a bill of quantities attached to a model and that is something that PlusSpec does very very well. your help would be much appreciated.