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Ask HN: Software to make 3D/architectural model of a house
3 points by AlexMuir 1450 days ago | hide | past | web | 7 comments | favorite
I'm struggling with this problem - I have a house that needs extensive renovation. I want to invest the time now in creating a model of the property - this is a long-term project which is going to span a number of years.

I want two things:

1. The ability to create dimensioned drawings which I can use to calculate material requirements and submit in planning applications.

2. A 3D model of the house to play around with to see how various changes look. I'd like to get fairly detailed on this, and model the interior - floors, doors, windows, stairs.

I've measured up pretty much everything and now I'm ready to start modelling. But I can't figure out what software package to use:

- Sketchup - I'm worried that it's effectively abandonware now that Google have dropped it. I can't figure out even basic things and the interface seems very counterintuitive when one gets beyond pushing and pulling blocks.

- 3D Studio - I used to be pretty reasonable on this, and I'd have no problem making a 3D model. But it would then be very hard to extract plans and dimensions from this if I need to submit planning applications etc.

- Autocad - Seems like the tool of choice here, but I can't see whether it's going to be able to produce a nice 3D render of the house so that I can see what various transformations look like.

Revit LT has been recently released, this will set you back a little more than 1000$. Revit is a pretty difficult software to learn that I have trained professionals on for more than five years, it usually takes a few weeks for trained CAD professionals to get up to speed. Revit is a Building Information Modeling software that uses a parametric relational database to track changes between components, its quite sophisticated. For renovation, there is an web application from Autodesk, that will allow you to make simple changes - http://www.homestyler.com/ - I would suggest hiring an architect or designer, of course. Sketchup is a good basic 3D Modeler that is free and can create scale drawings. Easy to build a static model but more difficult to accomodate changes.

When I rented my apartment, I used Homestyler to see what it would look like with my furniture, so I'll second that suggestion.

It's not as powerful as I'd like, but it works for basic purposes, and it's free :) :


When I tried it (2 years ago), it didn't allow dimensioned drawing, so it might be a non-starter.

For the price of 3d studio or Autocad, you could hire someone to do basic drafting. Sketchup pro which will produce drafted documents is still several hundred dollars.

All these programs have considerable learning curves.

So does architectural design and even basic drafting.

Computer modeling and rendering are arts in their own right.

If you have drafting skills, paper and pencil plus physical model building is likely to be the most efficient approach.

Software no more substitutes for architectural expertise than a compiler substitutes for lack of programming chops.

I disagree with "If you have drafting skills, paper and pencil plus physical model building is likely to be the most efficient approach".

See Homestyler (recommended below) and other programs, with a gentle learning curve.

I have limited drafting skills (did some of the initial courses for civil engineering), but the current easy-to-use programs are miles beyond what I'd get trying to draw or model myself.

That said, if this is going to be really long-term, I agree with your suggestion of hiring someone.

Google sold SketchUp to Trimble, a multi-billion dollar company which sees it as a strategic resource. Trimble has already hired some additional developers and is looking for more. In short, SketchUp is NOT abandonware.

There are a number of videos (both free and paid) on how to use SketchUp, as well as several books. The SketchUcation forum is also very helpful. If you are willing to give it a real try, I think you'll find that it works well for you.

Sounds like you're after Autodesk's Revit: http://www.autodesk.co.uk/adsk/servlet/pc/index?siteID=45293...

well not for the accurate "locate every board" 3D CAD, Sweet Home 3D ( http://www.sweethome3d.com/index.jsp ) will work for quickly visualizing rooms and populating with furniture.

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