Uses of Google freebies

The Library had a really basic sort of floorplan arrangement that we’d used since we first got on the web.  Here’s the example for the first floor:

First floor old style

First floor old style

There was a legend for the numbered dots, and that was about it.  Not to scale, either.  Not everyone finds it easy to interpret.

I’ve wanted to change that, and also to address the problem of having one general street address for the entire multi-block campus (but not our building on a cross street), for some time.

Of course, I have my usual massive budget with lots of zeroes to do this.  No other digits, just zeroes.  So it had to be free.

Now I’ve done it:

1. I used Google Earth for the aerial views, and figured out an approximate street number.  Since it was available, I threw in the GPS coordinates too.

2. After some time of working off-and-on, at work and at home, I completed my first version of the Library building in Google SketchUp.  Someday I hope to improve on it, but this is the first full version.

(Both are credited in the botlogo at the bottom of each catalog page.)

I did screen shots and pulled them into a graphics editing program to add the little colored ovals and lines to point things out.

Thoughts on Google SketchUp:

* I had SketchUp, which was free, and I could use it at work or on my own PC at home, or I could use a campus-licensed MS Visio, which I might not be able to use at home (longer time to get this ready).

If Visio, then I’d have to learn another program all over in order to do my own stuff at home (my house, my deck expansion, etc.).  SketchUp is promoting to educators and has a promotion to encourage doing entire campuses, so they like campus stuff.  I went with the free SketchUp, which is available to individuals too.

* SketchUp has a lot of quirks.  You will need patience.  Lots.  Any software, however, will also have quirks, and I hated to pay to learn them.

* SketchUp has the possibility of creating a walk-through, but Google is doing some changes in their handling of it and of their web sites, so I’m waiting to see if we can do that without the pay Pro version.  If not, we still have some good screen shots.

* Blueprints that are detailed and exactly to scale would be nice.  Wish I’d had more of them — I have an incomplete set, and some changes were made later, so some of my measurements and positions are off a little.  Mostly by inches.  Still, they helped a lot.  So did walking around taking measurements myself, since a lot of things like that were not in the pages I had.

The Pro (pay) version allows you to scan blueprints in and try to use them as a basis for the starting floorplan, but I didn’t have this, due to my budget (see above).  It was a plus and a minus thing, I think, given the blueprints I had.

* You can start with the outside dimensions of your building, as one solid block, and then push in with the push/pull tool, or slice it off if you need to.  SketchUp is not fond of things like our diagonal angle front on the building, but I managed to get it done.  Aligning anything with the diagonal side, however, was not easy.

* SketchUp has a lot of furniture and such to add, and you can create your own components to do this, too.  I usually ended up with whatever it was lying on the side, and trying to get it upright and sticking to the floor was not an easy task (made furniture look there had been some kind of bar fight in the building).

Maybe someday I’ll get the hang of it.  Some of it was due to the component apparently expecting to be used in this direction and I needed it oriented in that direction.  The stuff lying on its side, however, I can’t explain.  Maybe components sleep when they’re not being used….

* If you have a two-story building, especially with an open-to-both-floors area such as ours, pay more attention than my first version did to heights, and close the ceilings on the first floor and leave a space before adding the second floor. Otherwise, you get the tops of the walls showing on the second floor and you can’t erase them without deleting the wall below.  Hindsight on my part.

Also, do the entire first floor before adding the next, because trying to do stuff on the first floor after that means you will often find yourself zooming above the ceiling and that won’t let you work.  Except on the top of the ceiling in the crawlspace, that is.

* Watch out for differences between the outside ground level and the inside floor level.

* You can use the components to populate your bookshelving with books, or you can save a lot of time and just color in blocks.  After doing some of the former on the first floor, I changed to the latter.  Some of the same for computer workstations — easier to just do blocks rather than fighting to get monitors and such to stand up properly.

* I didn’t try to cram in chairs, every table, study carrels, etc.  The study rooms and classrooms are unpopulated.  They get rearranged anyway, so I decided not to get compulsive about it, Mr. Monk.

* We’re talking about making changes in the 2nd floor classrooms.  I used SketchUp to do a version of them, and we will be able to use them to show various ideas and how they would look in a realistic manner.

* There is a Dummies book for Google SketchUp.  Some of that is useful, in large part because the help system in the software is not.

And as I always told people when teaching woodworking classes, “just think of it as a prototype and don’t be too hard on yourself.  Nobody should expect a prototype to be perfect.”