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Architecture/design software


dear cotter
what's the best software for 3d design a house for amateur people except auto cad?
yours truly

Dear Questioner,
There is a large choice of software to design and draw a house. Even within CAD there is a selection of programmes, each with their own following. My main question would be as to the purpose of this drawing? Will you be using it to design your house/an extendion, to submit for planning authority approval, to get quotes and prices from construction companies or all three?

But as to the best, it would have to be Google Sketchup - it is a free 3-dimensional modelling program. Its fun to use, and pretty intuitive. Dimensions and areas can be taken off the drawings, and its easy to save image files. Btw, Trimble now own Sketchup, not Google, but its pretty much the same thing. Best of all there is a large online Sketchup community, with forums, blogs, tutorials and templates and tutorials. Many architects and engineers use it, so I can only recommend it. Download the free versions as they will give you more than enough command options. If you feel that bit more adventurous, and have a decent IT understanding, you can add plugin programs to get the most out of Skecthup, everything from rendering programs, to animation and lighting add ons.

CAD - Don't be frightened off by the complexity or the cost. Freeware versions are easy to find online, I myself use Draftsight a lot of the time. I can discuss some basic ways to draw with a CAD program, or there is lots of tutorial videos on you-yube.

I know I'm going a little off topic, but I though I might throw in a few hints and tips also;

Regardless of which reason you are deciding to do this/these drawing(s), I would firstly suggest that you draw it out by hand, even just quick ideas of where you want things to go and what changes you would like to make. Its a psychological thing, but most people are much more comfortable rubbing out and changing pencil lines than they are computer lines. Sit down and discuss it the design with your family or partner, as they will have a fresh perspective. Draw it out a hundred times if you have to. As you go, try to keep some of the better designs to one side, so that you can refer back to them later. Start with 2-dimensional, so that you can fit items of furniture in the rooms, then start doodling what you would like it to look like 3-dimensionally.

Next step if you havent done so already, is to draw again by hand, but this time to scale. This will start to give you dimensions and areas. A quick google search can find you rough per square metre costs asociated with building, depending on your country. Look up "construction costs per square metre" or "construction cost calculators" - they won't be 100% accurate, but can give you a ball park figure/estimate. Here is an example for Australia;
This might make you change your design as your budget may be very different, but that is where a lot of people struggle. Prioritise your design and spend your money where you really want it. You can probably have that amazing kitchen, or that extra bedroom, or that brilliant entrance but not all three. Back to Sketchup;

The beauty of Sketchup is that you can import Jpeg files and work off them. Now that you have a design that you're sort of happy with, and its drawn to scale you can take a picture of it, download the image off your camera or phone, and import it to Sketchup. Now you have a pretty good idea of where to put all those walls!

Other great tips with Sketchup are:

Use the Geolocation tool: put in your address or location of your site and you can import a google map. This will help you locate your design and scale it to the available are. You can line it up with neighbouring properties or make sure that the master bedroom gets that killer view!

Check out the shadow tool - now that you have geo-located your property/design you can add a smiluated shadow to your house and check out the effects of sunlight throughout the year. Make sure that your sunlounges aren't blocked by your new design, or that the kitchen doesnt get cooked in the heaviest summer rays.

For further hints and tips just mail me again!
Happy to help

(if you think that this has been even slightly helpful please give me a nice rating - Thank you)


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Brendan Cotter


Domestic extensions, planning permissions, house renovations, using solar power, renovation, adding value to a property, getting a house that the client wants


Im a graduate architect, with a Bachelor of Architecture from DIT, Ireland. I have a number of years of experience as both a design architect and a site architect, and have brought domestic projects through from initial client meetings through planning to construction and to completion and handover

Bachelor of Architecture, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland

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