All posts by Drew Povey

3D Virtual Design & Construction Models can save lives!

By | Construction | No Comments

Plan out your site with PlusSpec and reduce error, identify hazards, and boost your productivity.

How often does site safety fall to the wayside?

 

2.3 million workers die every year by work related injury at a staggering cost of $3 trillion, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

 

Is part of the problem that site safety is traditionally just another report of endless (meaningless) paper?  We can’t tell you how many times we have received a generic risk assessment by a sub contractor, or how many times we have seen trades simply signing without reading, just so they can hurry up and start. To put it simply, paper, spreadsheets, and data are disconnected – so it is easy to see why this problem is perpetual.

 

Builders/Contractors have a lot of crap that they have to deal with. Adding more paper with big blocks of text is not the solution, Virtual construction with hazard identification is.

It is far easier to plan the setting out of a site and to identity the hazards with a 3D model. There is no need to decipher or interpret things, which we all need to do when we receive a 2D plan. Moreover, if something doesn’t work or fit – it is made perfectly clear in the 3D model.

Easily plan and quantify all of your site requirements in PlusSpec, such as scaffolding.

This is just another reason why PlusSpec for SketchUp is taking the lead in residential construction.

 

With PlusSpec, safety officers and Builders/Contractors can visually see potential hazards, document them for future reference via our tag tool, or simply suggest a safety driven cost saving design alteration during the planning phase. Identifying risks and reducing hazards associated with a site specific design, was not possible, feasible or accessible in residential construction up until now. Understanding site specific risks will help identify low, medium and high-risk areas and potentially eliminate costs due to problematic site access, sloping sites, deep excavation, public safety, etc. Although this is the ideal time to start identifying these site specific factors, if a Builder/Contractor is not able to provide input during the planning phase, they can tag/add an allowance for this in the quote or tendering stage and communicate this back to the project administrator for consideration.

 

How often do Builders/Contractors include these additional costs that are due to risks or hazards in an estimate? The answer is, nowhere near enough. But why you ask? The answer is because it is a difficult thing to do unless you physically go to the site, or you see it in 3D. And when most Builders/Contractors are still quoting for free, site visits are too costly.

 

Just as a mistake made on site is 100 times more costly than a mistake made in a 3D model, so too are accidents. Identifying risks and hazards before a project commences will reduce injury and ultimately save lives.

If you’re not using PlusSpec to design or estimate, or improve safety on your projects, start your free 30 day Trial and transform the way you estimate and build.

PlusSpec Material Creator

By | PlusSpec | No Comments

Did you know that PlusSpec for SketchUp has a super powerful tool called the ‘Material Creator’?

What’s so special about the Material Creator?

One of the most powerful features of PlusSpec is that you are able to design, estimate or specify actual building products. These products are the essence of BIM, and are filled with information. They are also an exact, to scale replica of the actual product. This means that you will reduce design and specification error – and that your clients will be able to see exactly what they are going to get!

 

Although PlusSpec has hundreds of products from a growing number of Building Manufacturers, it will be a little while (but hopefully not too long) before we have every Building Manufacturer hosting their products inside of PlusSpec.

 

There may even be times where you simply want the flexibility of using a generic product. And this is the power of the PlusSpec Material Creator. With this tool, you are able to quickly and easily create all of your favorite building products that aren’t yet on PlusSpec – or even generic stuff. Once you have created a product, it is saved to your personal Material Library (which is attached to your PlusSpec subscription).

Hang on. I get a personal Material Library with PlusSpec?

Yes! Every time that you create a custom product, it is saved to your personal Material Library, and becomes immediately available for you to use from the PlusSpec drop-down menu. In other words, you can completely customize the Materials, Selections & Finishes for every tool!

 

If you have multiple seats under an account, the Material Library is automatically linked and shared across all of the PlusSpec seats.

 

And, you can even share your Material library with other PlusSpec users (such as, consultants, peers, etc). Awesome, right?!

How long does it take to create a product?

Like most things in life, the first time is the hardest. But once you have done it a couple of times, it gets super easy.

 

A single product (that is scaled correctly, with the correct thickness, name, brand, etc) should only take you a couple of minutes!

 

The hardest part is finding or creating the right image for your product.

Okay. How do I use the Material Creator?

You can create products in all of the PlusSpec tools, such as: the wall tool, the floor tool, the roof tool (you get the picture).

 

Simply open the tool that you want to create the product for, such as the wall tool. Next, open the tab ‘Materials Selections & Finishes’. Next, select a product from the list and then press the button ‘Create/Manage’.

Note: Some materials/layers can’t be used as the base selection for creating a new product, such as composite materials (shown in the above image). We’ll talk about composite materials in another post. Just ensure that you select another non-composite material from the drop-down before clicking on the ‘Create/Manage’ button.

 

This will launch the Material Creator Page (see the image at the top of the post to see what this looks like).

 

To create your product, you will need to find an image. You are then able to scale it, name it, add a brand (or nominate it as generic), and add a material thickness.

Note: Some materials are shown without a thickness. Read our post about LOD (level of Detail) to better understand why some materials are shown without a material thickness.

 

To finish creating the product, tick the box and press ‘Create Material from Template’.

 

And voila! You will have now created your custom product. To load the new product into PlusSpec, you can drag and drop the new product into the drop-down, if you are using a PC (or alternatively, just press the ‘sync’ tool). If you are using a Mac, you will need to press the sync tool.

What image should I use, or how do I create my own?

To make a sexy looking product with the Material Creator, you’ll need to understand  Seamless/Tileable Textures. Make sure that you read our blogs ‘What is a Seamless Texture‘ and ‘How to make a Seamless Texture‘.

Because most CAD software use seamless textures, many building manufacturers have a library of their products as seamless textures on their websites. This is the best place to look first.

How many products can I store in my personal Material Library?

Unlimited. Seriously, the sky’s the limit!

 

Note: Most PlusSpec users only create products when they need to (rather than spending a few hours creating them in bulk). You may never even need to create one. This tool is all about flexibility.

Can I suggest a brand that I would love to see available in PlusSpec?

Yes. Just click on the Suggest/Request tab under the ‘Material, Selections & Finishes tab’ (in any of the PlusSpec tools).

 

You can also contact your Building Manufacturers directly and tell them why they need to have their products available in PlusSpec!

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts or experience with this tool.

How to Make a Seamless Texture (Tileable Texture)

By | Architecture, Design | One Comment

What is a “seamless” texture or a “tileable” texture?

Check out our blog post on ‘What is a Seamless or Tileable Texture?‘  It’s super short and will tell you everything that you need to know. However, to put it simply, a seamless texture is an image that can be placed next to itself (above, below, or side-by-side) without creating an obvious seam, join or boundary between the copies of the image. 

How do I create a seamless texture?

The most IMPORTANT thing is that you need the right image. If you start with the wrong image, you are destined for failure. The first question is: Does the image that you want to use do the product justice? If it doesn’t look sexy in the first place, don’t bother trying to make it seamless!

 

You should look out for things like:

Is the image taken in an even soft light with no shadows?

Is the image taken square on to the subject?

Once you find the right image you will need to crop the image in a way that the join is not evident once the images are tiled vertically and horizontally.  This will take a bit of trial and error, but after you have done it a few times it gets far easier!

Example of a good quality Seamless Texture. *Click to Enlarge*

What should I know before creating a seamless texture?

Before creating a seamless texture, you need to consider how you will be using it. For example, will the image that it is used in be printed on a huge bill board? If so, you’ll need a very high resolution image that does not pixelate when printed.

 

However, if you will be using it for Architecture, Design or Estimating (such as PlusSpec for SketchUp), you will want to keep the image resolution low, so that it does not slow down your software.

What software do I need to create a seamless texture?

Once you have selected and saved the image that you want to use to create a seamless texture, you will need to use a software that allows you to crop and manipulate the image. PhotoShop™ is one of the most popular choices, but it comes at a cost. However, there are free options, such as Gimp™ and Faststone Capture. There is a free version of Faststone capture, but the paid version is very affordable. We highly recommend it.

 

After you have loaded your image in the software that you are using, you will be able to zoom in on the area that you want to tile. You will be cropping the image so that when you place a copy of that image side-by-side, there will be no noticeable seam or join. Once you are happy, save the file as a JPG.

IMPORTANT: Make sure that you understand the resolution of the image. It may be beneficial to save a high res and a low res version. We recommend the following naming convention, although you can use whatever you like: “Imageproductname_range_manufacturer_size”

5 of the most common mistakes when creating a seamless texture

  • Incorrect crop
  • Too many pixels  or too much resolution for the end user’s needs
  • Uneven lighting across the image
  • File size:  very complex seamless texture used for BIM, CAD, VDC, estimating or rendering should never be larger in file size that 145kb.  The majority of brick textures should be around 20kb to 30kb. There is an art to getting visually high resolution with low file size. If you need a pro to do this or to get you started click here.

Tips and tricks for creating a seamless texture

Many people make the mistake of tiling the texture and re-cropping more of the repeated texture to make it look bigger as a swatch. This is not good practice as essentially you are creating a larger file size. There is a rule of the thumb that we try to adhere to, and you should too, when creating textures for CAD:

  • If a product is uniform in color, only a small area (Eg 3 bricks wide by 3 brick high) is required.
  • If the product is a natural product and you want to show variation (EG a brick blend) you will need to crop a larger number of bricks because you will get a repeating pattern that will not look real when it is placed in a model.

Another useful tip (which can be a bit tricky) is to flip your image vertically and horizontally and then crop it. This will enable you to get more variation in your texture before saving.

Can I take photos of products that I want to use for a seamless texture?

Definitely.  You can even use your mobile phone. Our tip is to take a photo on an overcast day. Make sure the camera is parallel to the image in both directions, as editing an image taken with the wrong Field Of View (around 30 degrees) will be difficult to tile. 

 

In an ideal world your camera has grid line and the grid lines line up exactly with the extremities of the texture required.

Where can I find examples of seamless textures?

Here are some free examples of  brick seamless textures in skp format.

 

Because most CAD software use seamless textures, many building manufacturers have a library of their products as seamless textures on their websites. This is the best place to look first.

Who can I get to make seamless textures for me?

Don’t have the time or inclination to create seamless textures? We don’t blame you. For a small price, we can help.

 

Contact Us to find out more.

What is a Seamless Texture (Tileable Texture)?

By | Architecture, Design | 2 Comments

By now, you’ve probably heard of a Seamless Texture. However, seamless textures can also be referred to as Tileable textures, 3D textures, Texture fills, Material Textures, and so on. To keep it simple, we’ll stick to using the term ‘Seamless Texture’.

But what exactly is a Seamless Texture?

To put it simply, a seamless texture is an image that can be placed next to itself (above, below, or side-by-side) without creating an obvious seam, join or boundary between the copies of the image.

Example of a Seamless Texture. *Click to Enlarge*

Notice how this image, when repeated, has created a continuous pattern. When viewing this texture, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to determine where one copy of the image begins and another one ends.

Example of a Non-seamless Texture. *Click to Enlarge*

Notice how the repeated image has created visible seams at the image boundaries. It’s pretty easy to see where one image starts and another one ends.

Example of an Average Quality Seamless Texture. *Click to Enlarge*Not all seamless textures are equal. The problem with the above seamless texture is that there is not enough variation, or randomness in the pattern. See how a very particular brick stands out, and repeats itself in a constant pattern? Ideally, seamless textures should avoid this kind of repetition –  as it is not aesthetically pleasing (or ideal anyway).

Who uses seamless textures?

  • Architects/Designers/Builders/Drafts people
  • Artists/Graphic Artists
  • Renderers
  • Game Designers

In this article, we will focus on the Design and Build industry: Architects/Designers/Builders/Drafts people.

Which CAD software uses seamless textures?

Almost every CAD software uses seamless textures in some form or another. Here are a few:

  1. PlusSpec for SketchUp
  2. Revit
  3. ArchiCAD
  4. Bentley (Microstation)

Why would I need a seamless texture?

Although many CAD software come with a library of seamless textures, there will be times where you need a texture that is not available. So, you’ll want to be able to find or create a seamless texture.

 

More advanced CAD software, like PlusSpec, use seamless textures for more than just representing a material, or a building product. In PlusSpec, these textures are used to control geometry, quantify and estimate materials, better communicate with clients, assist with sales, and more. PlusSpec textures represent actual manufacturers content (aesthetically, and to real-world scale). They are also geo-located and they sync according to the location of the user!

 

PlusSpec also has a super powerful Material Creator, so that users can create all of their favorite building products, or generic materials. However, to make sure that they look sexy and are scaled accurately – you’ll need to know all about seamless textures!

Where can I find examples of seamless textures?

Here are some free examples of  brick seamless textures in skp format.

 

Because most CAD software use seamless textures, many building manufacturers have a library of their products as seamless textures on their websites. This is the best place to look first.

Can I render seamless textures?

In most cases, the answer is yes. Rendering engines like Thea gives you the capacity to add features like reflection, bump and more. However, you can normally also replace textures with the rendering software textures, if required.

Who can I get to make seamless textures for me?

Don’t have the time or inclination to create seamless textures? We don’t blame you. For a small price, we can help.

 

Contact Us to find out more.

Can I make my own seamless textures?

Of course! Stay tuned for our next blog, in which we’ll show you how to create your own seamless textures.

Understanding LOD (Level of Detail) for Design and Construction

By | Construction, Design | One Comment

LOD (Level of Detail) is the term used to describe how much information a drawing or model contains. Simply put, it is how you choose to show the construction details and materials of a project.

 

When we were designing and drawing with pen and paper only, there was never really an issue with LOD. However, now that technology allows us to model in 3D, the concept of LOD has blurred. There is a reason why Plans, Elevations and Sections are kept as simple as possible (Low-mid LOD). If we need to show a higher LOD, we create 2D construction details. This keeps the design fluid, and saves time.

 

However, now that we can design and draft in 3D, and a large part of what we draw is automated, why not just model everything, right? Imagine if your entire project had every material, product, connector/fastener!? Hell, it would be one giant detail. Surely, this is something that we should all be doing?

 

Wrong. Until our computers become way more powerful, too much detail can hurt you more than it can ever benefit you. First and foremost, it will slow down your computer to a crawl  – even for a small, custom home. But beyond the constraints of technology, it would impact your ability to quickly design and draft, and then make quick changes to your design. This would ultimately consume your time and profits.

High LOD should be saved for 2D/3D details or Actual Construction Assemblies.

But there is a balance. Obviously, if you can see (and are aware of) all of the different products and materials in your project, you can better mitigate design error and oversight. In fact, many of the available 3D BIM/CAD software only add to possible error and oversight. For example, are your walls showing structure only, or are they including surface finishes? We have seen many examples where a plan has been dimensioned from the finish surface, instead of the structure (or vice versa), without even being aware of it.

 

Moreover, these types of software don’t allow you to to see and manipulate the structure and materials, so that you can design and detail better.

Virtual Design and Construction software (VDC)

The good news is that there are emerging technologies that have determined the right balance of LOD. PlusSpec for SketchUp is a design and estimating BIM software that is also Virtual Design and Construction. The difference with VDC compared to BIM is that it provides a higher LOD, whilst still enabling very quick and flexible design changes.

In the above example, the circled elements in the 3D detail are elements that are simplified within PlusSpec. In a 2D/3D detail, you may show each individual brick and block. However, PlusSpec simplifies the required geometry by showing the bricks and blocks with a scaled image of the brick or block product. Why model 10,000 bricks or blocks, when you can show it with a simple surface (and still understand scale, and calculate the quantities)? In the 3D detail, the joist insulation is also shown with a thickness, and has been exactly fitted between each joist. PlusSpec simplifies this by showing the joist insulation with a surface. As the final example from this image, the 3D detail has included each masonry wall tie, and has also included the DPC. Again, PlusSpec simplifies this by showing these elements with a surface. The simplification of LOD in these examples ensures that you will be able to quickly design and make changes, while keeping your model size nice and light. Finally, it will still accurately capture the required quantities for Feasibility studies or a Quote/Estimate. As you can see though, the LOD is still quite high, which means that there is typically only minor work required for the actual 2D or 3D detail, which saves you even more time.

The problem with high LOD, is that you can get addicted to it. Before you know it, you can be yelling ‘MORE, MORE MORE!’ A good example of this is a masonry wall with stucco/render on the exterior, and plaster on the interior (or equivalent). You should not show all three layers (yet you would be surprised how often we are asked how to do this). To keep your model light and efficient, PlusSpec simplifies the wall by showing the structure thickness only. The finish material thicknesses are ignored, and they are represented with a surface material/product or colour.

The trick with LOD is that you want it to be as high as possible, without any negative ramifications (time to model, time to make changes, computer speed, etc). Simplicity is key!

If you use the correct LOD, you will be able to make design changes on the fly – and not get bogged down by unnecessary detail. However, if you use a VDC software, such as PlusSpec, you will be able to design and communicate more efficiently, and with less error. And don’t get us started on 3D details, which you will be able to take directly from your model, or model separately as a vignette. Check out our blog post on 3D details if you’d like to know more.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on LOD!

Inside 3D Residential: Supercharging Design with PlusSpec

By | Design, PlusSpec, User Stories | No Comments

3D Residential is a North American residential design and drafting company based in the greater Charlotte, NC area. In this blog interview with Director, Easton Hunter, we discuss how PlusSpec for SketchUp has changed the way that he is able to design, communicate and control client budgets.

Charlotte Lake House – Rendering of PlusSpec for SketchUp model. All images courtesy of 3D Residential. Read More

Press Release: RubySketch Announces first major 2017 update to PlusSpec

By | News, PlusSpec | No Comments
SYDNEY, June 30, 2017 – RubySketch announced today that the latest major update to PlusSpec has been made public.   ‘PlusSpec is growing and evolving at a lightning pace’ said Andrew Dwight, founder of RubySketch. ‘We release 3-4 major updates every year, but this update was big! We made a lot of improvements behind the scenes, as well as some super powerful new tools and features.’ Read More
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