Introduction: Building Design in Sketchup

I spent a few years volunteering at an animal rescue center. I was not directly involved with the animals and spent my time doing building and maintenance work.

When I first started, all of the animals were housed in kennels built inside shipping containers. I was asked to do some drawings for temporary buildings. These buildings were to be designed to stand for an unknown amount of time as the land was on loan to the sanctuary pending purchase and as such, we were not eligible for planning permission and could not leave a permanent scar on the land such as foundations...

Step 1: The Brief

For the first stage of construction, there were 3 buildings required:

  1. A set of kennels approx. 4m x 20m
  2. A cattery approx. 4m x 6m
  3. A recreation hall with staff area approx. 7m x 14m

These were all achievable sizes, we did, however, have to overcome issues regarding building outside of planning permission requirements, building large buildings without foundations, building with relatively cheap materials (as buildings were temporary and all funding for works came from charitable donations).

I also had to simplify the design where possible as many of the laborers on the job were not experienced in construction, so it had to be easy to point them at some work and allow them to complete sections relatively unsupervised.

In order to cut down the amount of large scale building works, I decided on 2 things:

  1. Build around the dimensions of a standard 2440x1220mm (8x4) sheet.
  2. Build timber frames in sections, flat on the ground inside an existing shed and lift them into place for speedy construction.

*Please note I am not an architect or a builder, these drawings were good enough for the construction of these temporary buildings and were good enough to satisfy an engineer from our local council office. These drawing may be inaccurate or incomplete in parts but do reflect the original design work for large timber frame constructions. Please build at your own risk but enjoy the process and learn some new skills along the way.

Step 2: Ground Prep

The major challenge in front of us was creating a suitable surface to build on.

The inability to dig and pour foundations was a big problem. As the buildings were to be timber, it was decided that we would build on top of 600x600mm (24x24") concrete paving slabs. We got these for free as one of our volunteers worked at a local prison where the prisoners made the slabs for community schemes.

We leveled off the 3 sites and started to lay slabs on a bed of sand. No concrete was used here as this would start a requirement for planning as it is deemed to make the installation permanent.

The dimensions of the buildings were first revised so as the floors and walls were based (internally) on uncut 2440x1220mm sheets.

This resulted in internal building dimensions becoming:

  • Kennels - 4880 x 19520mm
  • Cattery - 4880 x 6100mm
  • Rec Hall - 7320 x 14640mm

Slabs were laid to extend beyond these dimensions and accommodate the buildings.

I will go through the design of the kennel building over the next few steps, the other buildings are similar. The internal fit out of the building was to be completed at another time and the final design has not been agreed.

Step 3: Slab Design and Distribution

As we go through this instructable I will explain each new process the first time we meet it, from there on in I will assume you now know how to do it and not show every individual step.

To start with we will create one slab.

Select the rectangle tool or press the letter R.

Choose a starting point for your drawing and click.

We want a 600x600mm slab so type "600,600" and press enter, this will produce the square shown in image 1.

As this is a 3D drawing, we want the slab to have some depth, the slabs used were 40mm so press P, this will launch the Push/Pull tool, click on the square and type 40 and enter. You now have a 3D slab.

At present, the slab is a number of independent shapes, we want to make a component, highlight the entire slab and right click, select "Make Component", name the component with a full and precise name and give it a description, this is good practice.

We will want to show all materials as accurately in the final render so we will apply a texture color, select the slab and press B for the paint bucket. In materials choose asphalt and concrete and then select Polished Concrete New.

At this point you can copy and paste the slab as many times as you wish but we have lots of slabs to place and there is a quick way to do it. Select the slab, press M (move), then hold Ctrl (multiply on the keyboard as you click one of the corners. Move your mouse so you have selected the correct axis to copy along, type in the distance (don't forget that for us this will be the overall distance between the 2 ends of the overall slab less the size on one single slab)

For example: the kennels are 19520mm overall, to cover this we need 33 slabs for length, this results in 600mm * 33 slabs = 19800mm, as we are copying from one edge of the slab, we can discount that slab from out calculation so we will type in "19200" (19800 - 600).

For the array copy, before typing or clicking anything else type "/32", this will create 32 copies between the original and the first copy.

With the long array made, select it all and repeat the process for the width.

I then repeated for each of the three buildings, placing them in the correct relative positions.

You will also notice that if we look at the component properties that sketchup will maintain a component count based on name and calculate the volume (if you need this for say concrete mix quantities).

Step 4: Laying Out Flooring

In my experience, building in Sketchup does not follow the real life sequence for construction. It is easier to start at the bottom and fill in all of the details from the inside to out as you go, otherwise, you end up with objects in your way or working with the camera view too close to your object to adequately visualize it.

I will demonstrate this with the kennels. This building was to include drainage from under each kennel - each kennel cubicle works like a shower tray with a drain in the corner, this way kennels can be hosed out and the foul water heads off down the drain and out of the building.

To allow for this, the building was built on top of joists set on the slabs with a damp proof membrane (DPM) to prevent water ingress from below. I did not draw the pipes for the plumbing system as this was to be done but a professional plumber and he would know better what is required than I would.

*Note, I will also not be drawing the routes for the electrical cable, I did this work but the planning was done at a different time.

I drew out the joists at 280 x 50mm (11" x 2") and even though they come in 6m lengths they were cut to 4880 (the internal measurement of our building. For the purpose of the BOM I treated them as full lengths as the offcuts are too small for use elsewhere.

In order to stay inside the internal floor space of our building, I inserted 40 joists using the array copy tool. The walls will continue to the ground so I consider them outside of the floor space.

Next, I made a simple 1220x1440x10mm plywood sheet for the floor, naming is important here as there will be many different styles of sheets used in the rest of the project. The fist board was laid and the rest with the copy multiply tool. This is done by pressing M (Move) the holding Ctrl while clicking the desired object (Multiply), paste this new object edge to edge with the original then before clicking anything else type "x14", this creates 14 copies all placed with the same relative spacing as the first copy. If you are unsure how many multiples you need simply type "x10", this will not be enough, don't click anything else and type "x20", too many, you can hone in on the correct number of multiples.

Step 5: Structure and Interior Walls for the Kennel Block

Keeping with the theme of building from the inside out, I made a sheet of 6mm ply and duplicated it all around the inside of the walls.

Don't worry about windows and doors yet, we will use the push/pull tool to cut openings in the finished walls, this will avoid drawing lots of difficult pieces.

I then drew a modular frame based on 50x75mm planks, these structured will be made to hold 4 sheets with each sheet sharing uprights with its neighbor. The planks were used with the long side (75mm) forming the depth of the wall, this is to allow rock wool insulation to be inserted. The bottom half of the frame has additional timbers for support but the top is left empty for electrical services and windows. Sockets must be up high if you are to stop a dog peeing into one.

The frame was then fitted all around the outside of the building.

Step 6: Roof Structure

The roof will be supported by 50x280mm joists

These were drawn on the flat and to length.

A joist was installed along the length of the building front, this is to provide a run on the roof for water, naturally, we want the roof to run water towards the back of the building. Here it is captured by a gutter and directed into a rainwater collection system (not drawn).

The joist is liad onto the front beam of the building and then using the rotate tool, pivoting about the point where the front riser and joist meet. The rear of the joist is brought to rest on the top of the back wall.

The joist component was then coloured and arrayed.

Step 7: Outer Wall Cladding

The walls were to be finished using shiplap.

This wooden material is profiled to fit together keeping wind and water out while being a cheap and quick solution to install.

I got all of the dimensions for the profile here

This was drawn out, extruded with the push/pull tool to 6m (supplied lengths) and then placed and arrayed.

Towards the ends of each wall, the boards had to be resized to fit.

You will notice that the shiplap does not reach the roof on the gable ends, this was a fill space that we needed to work out at a later time.

Step 8: Adding Doors

As this model is only a representation of the final planned design, I did not know what type of doors we would ultimately install, so I decided to borrow one from the warehouse.

Click the insert model from warehouse tool and enter your search term, find the one you want and insert into your model.

Please note: I DID NOT DRAW THESE, they are available for use from the model warehouse.

I only wanted the door so I deleted off the windows and then took measurements from the door model.

I need to make an opening to install the door and as I have several layers, pushing a shape through would not work. For this we need to make a cookie cutter.

I made a deep box to the dimensions of the door, this was placed passing through the space where I wanted the door installed. Note that here I switched the face style to x-ray as to avoid cutting through an upright.

Highlighting all of the objects required you then need to right click and click intersect faces -> with selection.

You can then removed the block and you will see that there is a trace of the outline, this follows all of the complex curves of the shiplap. Then simply use the eraser tool to remove the infill from the cavity and move the door into place. I put 2 doors to comply with fire regulations in my area.

Step 9: Create a Corrugated Sheet for the Roof

All of our buildings were to use 1200x3000mm sheets of corrugated bitumen.

To start I drew a 100mm line.

I then used the 2 point arc tool to draw an arc 50mm wide and 15mm high, this was repeated below the line.

I deleted the center guideline and selected the entire curve, using the offset tool I dragged the curve to an offset of 6mm to create thickness.

I move arrayed the twin curves to create a wave 1200mm wide.

Using a line to close each of the open ends the shape became a solid and then using the push/pull tool, it was extruded to 3000mm.

Step 10: Install the Roof

The first of the corrugated sheets was fitted to the roof on the flat, there was an allowance for a slight overhang (always a good idea where rain is involved).

The sheet was then rotated down at the back as we did with the joist to keep the slope.

Finally an array copy and trim covers the roof in sheeting.

Step 11: View Styles

Sketchup allows you to view the model in different modes such as wireframe or x-ray.

To alter this go to view -> face style -> select required view

This is helpful in visualising how the building is constructed or if there are internal details to be altered.

I hope this was some way useful. It's the first time in a while for me using sketchup but this instructable has sparked my interest again so if you have any questions pop them below and I would love to try and help...

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