Saturday, June 28, 2008

Visualising Floor Plans - From 2D to 3D

If you are ever in the market for buying a house, it's likely that whenever you get the details for a property it will include at least a 2D hand-drawn sketch of the floor plan of the house.

However, it's increasingly likely that a more professional looking floor plan will have been created using a CAD (computer aided design) floor plan editor, such as the Autodesk labs online drawing tool. (It's possible to share such drawing over the web , so if you have a go at using the Autodesk Labs Draw package to draw a floor plan, please post a link back to it in the comments to this post :-)

2D floor plans are all very well, but there is also an increasing number of tools that make 3D modeling, a technology once only available to professional architects, now available to all-comers.

For example,, SketchUp is a 3D design tool that can be used to create 3D models of buildings (as well as other objects). SketchUp models can be displayed in Google Earth and used in other 3D web applications and virtual worlds.

SketchUp works on Mac and Windows computers and can be downloaded from

It is also possible to model - and view - objects inside building that you have created, as well as creating the buildings themselves.

In true collaborative style, you can share and edit the designs that other people have created by checking them out of the 3D Warehouse.

One very powerful feature of SketchUp is the ability to use a photograph as the basis for a model, as the following movie illustrates:

Download Google SketchUp and have a go at creating your own 3D model. There are lots of video tutorials to help get you started on both the Google SketchUp website and on YouTube. When you have completed your model, why not upload it to the 3D Warehouse, or post a movie of a walkthrough of your model to a video sharing site, with a link back here? :-)

Once you have created a 3D SketchUp model, it can be submitted to the Google Sketchup 3D model warehouse, and then viewed in 3D worlds such as Google Earth. Online applications such as Scenecaster also allow you to reuse models from the SketchUp warehouse as part of an animated 3D walkthrough, as this movie shows.

If you are interested in using SketchUp to create 3D models from 2D floor plans, this set of tutorial videos will show you how:

(Note that if you use the Autocad Labs Draw application cannot directly export drawings in a CAD format that SketchUp can import. However, you can export the plan as an image and load that into SketchUp, where you can trace round it.)

If you do manage to create a 3D model from a floor plan, why not post a link back to the original 2D CAD drawing, and the 3D model you generated from it, as a comment to this post?

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