Google sketch up is a modelling software package that has been available free for some time now. A friend of mine has recently tried it out. After a couple of hours he said he was able to model the following structures. See view of models below:Garage roof
The first is a block and plank floor and the second is a garage roof without the cladding or plywood decking. He said it was simply a matter of setting up the blocks and turning them into components, and then it is possible to copy, paste and set out the bricks, blocks, floor etc. It is possible to draw within 1mm accuracy. With more time much more complex structures are possible.
Personally I think this is a great tool for engineers to use to check that details work and/or use it as a tool to explain to architects and clients how the structure works. Some clients can find it difficult to understand the 2-d building drawings that we produce and it would be nice to be able to use this programme to demonstrate a tricky detail or problem. It can also show the detail from any angle. Hopefully I will post an update when I have tried it myself.
Below is a U-tube video of what is possible with Sketch up…..although this would require more than just a few hours work.