Under Cover With 2021 Feature Films Most Exclusive SketchUp Designers & V-Ray Specialist

Luke Whitelock has been involved in the design work for various feature films including Marvel, Fox, Disney and many more, and now he is here to share his SketchUp & V-Ray Rendering Secrets with the world.


All Images are courtesy of Luke Whitelock Designs unless otherwise stated.

V-Ray rendered image from a recent Luke Whitelock’s set design

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Stage Design

Luke, how do these 3D modelling & Rendering platforms help create stage and location builds?

I use a range of features on SketchUp and V-Ray to create my stage builds, it really depends on the type of designs I am creating. Since 2012, I decided to exclusively use SketchUp and Layout to create all of my construction documents which makes it incredibly easy and simple to showcase my designs to the team.


I also use various plug-ins (including V-Ray), I love that when I am stuck, it’s usually pretty quick and easy to find a plug-in that will do what I need to do to create world class designs.

The work we did on "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" really pushed the boundaries of my skills and allowed me to develop my knowledge and SketchUp ability.

A Sneak Peak into Disney’s ‘Maleficent’ Set Designs 

The work above is my proudest moment as a designer so far, the work we did on “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” really pushed the boundaries of my skills and allowed me to develop my knowledge and SketchUp ability.

I’ll block everything out quickly on SketchUp and move across to layout almost immediately where I then set up my drawing views (plans and elevations etc) that way, as I go back to SketchUp and add more detail, the drawing in layout takes care of itself. Once the initial Sketch is done, V-Ray creates a smooth transition from Sketch to render, keeping the design realistic and bringing my set designs to life.

Great, so why did you start rendering?

I first started using V-Ray as I saw a colleague using it and it looked like they were getting great result. It’s still a new feature to my designs but I love it, I wish I used it more.

You see, renders are normally the work of concept artists, that being said, I love using V-Ray and bringing my designs to life. I will usually create some white clay renders when I can.

“The Q Ship Escape Pod” Rendered as final pieces to take to the feature film team before they get to work


I have recently used V-Ray extensively on “The Batman” and “The Sandman” unfortunately I am not able to share those images as yet. So I have shared some SketchUp designs and renders of previous feature sets and stage builds.

Up and coming releases, sit back, grab some popcorn and get excited for 2022!

Think you can create simplistic, realistic designs for your clients and save hours on creating your clients dream masterpieces? Give SketchUp Pro a try for free for 30-days here!

So who is Luke?



Our brand new SketchUp top trumps give you a speedy breakdown and the 411 on everything you need to know about Luke…



From where he calls home in the digital design space, to his secret SketchUp power, you’ll find the ins and the outs of his SketchUp Journey here…



If you want to have a personalised SketchUp top trump made for you, email us at marketing@elmtec.co.uk and let’s get the ball rolling! 

Detailing out an efficient design-build workflow

From commercial to residential builds, Scott Miller from Remington Development Corporation uses the SketchUp suite of tools to perfect the conceptual design process. Learn how this SketchUp pro uses his skills to help move design-build projects forward for the large, Canadian-based real estate development company.

Give us a little bit of background on your role(s) over the past several years.

I am an architectural designer and have been in the industry for over two decades. I’ve worked for several real estate development companies, earlier as an intern architect with Dialog and IBI Group, and now with Remington Development Corporation, where I’ve designed over 100 buildings. At IBI Group, I was responsible for concept design and project management, working on 20 to 30 projects that facilitated concept design all the way to design documentation and construction administration. At Remington, I work with a team of brilliant individuals and focus on the conceptual design phase, investigating development opportunities on various land types, or preparing proposals for leasing opportunities.

In my current role, timing is critical, so I rely on several different tools in and outside of the SketchUp suite to execute accurate and timely proposals. The software contingent I use daily includes SketchUp Pro, Sefaira, V-Ray, and Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator.

Concept planning for Quarry Park Riverfront projects. Modeled in SketchUp and rendered using V-Ray.

How long have you been using SketchUp, and why do you choose to continue using it in your projects?

I’ve been using SketchUp since 2008! I started out using SketchUp’s basic functionalities to get design ideas out quickly. Over the years, I advanced my skills and learned how to use SketchUp for building design, site plans, and master plans. Having mastered my workflow and various shortcuts, I significantly increased my efficiency.


“SketchUp is a very intuitive software that helps me expand on ideas, which is why I continue to use it. It enables me to offer our internal group and clients multiple design options quickly. I also use it to help our construction group understand the costs associated with the proposed designs while ensuring we meet local regulatory building codes.”

River Front Plans to depict unit density, floor area ratios, and parking requirements for the sites. Modeled in SketchUp.

What does your typical workflow look like?

Over time I’ve honed my workflow and, in turn, have become a faster modeler. Typically, my design-build workflow starts with an idea or concept. This concept is then tested relative to a site and is  developed into floor plans, a massing model and then a model that’s suitable for rendering. Depending on the project, I may start modeling with a typical floor and transition to a main floor base with parking below, for say a residential project. For an office building a structural grid and parking lot may drive the modeling process. But for all projects a concept is foremost and SketchUp helps me to illustrate that idea quickly. 

Detailing my overall workflow process, I mainly create massing models, which are not too intricate but are still based on real-life building systems. From there, I import a site map and 3D Warehouse models which saves some time building out the surrounding context, such as roads, foliage, and furniture. The Placemaker extension is very helpful for populating the models with the site context. And all these steps help ground my model into its real-life surroundings. For more complex sites, contours from a survey are used to develop a terrain model that can inform the initial design process.

First image: Quarry Station concept model. Second image: Linework export overlaid on rendering.  Modeled in SketchUp and rendered using V-Ray.

Once the 3D model is built, a structural grid is implemented, usually with a blindside call to the engineers at RJC, and details are added to the project based on real world-building requirements. This helps me determine the cost of the project. Area take-offs and volume of materials required, such as concrete for the building’s foundations or areas of vision glass, are used to develop construction budgets. On top of that, I use SketchUp to review the location and dimensions for doors, stairs, and windows to ensure the buildings I am designing are up to building code standards.

Quarry Station concept, structural grid, and façade options – modeled in SketchUp and rendered using V-Ray.

Another benefit of using SketchUp is the ability to use Sefaira. During the conceptual stage, I assign values to walls, windows, and the foundation to review compliance with our national energy codes. Although these are high-level numbers, they give me – and our group or our client – a rough idea of the energy consumption based on the location’s climate that can affect the materials proposed. The analysis provides a basis to start discussions with, in this case, our sustainability engineers. We are able to identify where we may have issues with energy loss through the building envelope, what our equipment/lighting power requirement limits are, or minimum values for the construction assemblies and glazing systems. Once this building performance analysis is complete, it is sent to our mechanical engineers.

University District Office Building with Sefaira analysis.

Once the design develops, I render it all in V-Ray, which, thanks to a four GPU Boxx computer, can be done in minutes. My team pulls these renders into proposals or presentations for the client’s review. For people that aren’t used to CAD or 3D modeling, the rendering really helps them visualize how a building will look when it’s complete, which is ideal for getting approvals or conveying design intent.

V-Ray rendered images and construction images for the Computer Modelling Group – CMG Building (Courtesy of IBI Group).  Modeled in SketchUp and rendered using V-Ray.

“Most projects are time-constrained so with SketchUp, V-Ray and Sefaira I can do all of this fairly quickly and offer up different design options in real time. SketchUp also enables me to do details in 3D that can assist in constructing the building or relaying construction assembly to our client.”

Multi-family wood frame detail.

Diving a little deeper, has Sefaira helped save you money, or helped you choose one material or shading type over the other? 

Generally, compliance with these energy codes costs us money, but the benefit of Sefaira is that we can see which systems need attention so we can place our efforts in the proper areas. In terms of materials, Sefaira helps us select materials and justify the use of a particular system. For example, Sefaira showcases the benefits of using a good glazing coating and how it can contribute to a more energy-efficient building, which can justify the added expense compared to upgrading the mechanical system. Similarly, when we look at wall assemblies we can see directly how a well-insulated wall, roof, or floor assembly can contribute to building energy efficiencies.


How do you collaborate with your entire team?

Each member of our team has a different role in a design-build project. Although I am responsible for the conceptual design phase of these buildings, we also have team members that do not have a working knowledge of SketchUp or CAD who help pull together the presentations based on my work in SketchUp and V-Ray. Additionally, we have a team of architects and engineers that help us interpret our needs for structure, mechanical, electrical and even energy analysis that we started in Sefaira, which can impact the process and lead to further design iterations. With more recent energy codes, energy consumption will need to be considered at the concept stage. We all work together, in different programs, with the initial design starting from SketchUp. CAD files are exported from SketchUp or the SketchUp file is cleaned up so that it can be imported into other 3D software that our architects can use to generate development & building permit drawings.

Aerial views of Quarry Park with Quarry Station Sites (foreground) rendered. Modeled in SketchUp and rendered using V-Ray.    

What are some benefits you get from using SketchUp, V-Ray, Sefaira in concept design?

“Being able to quickly and intuitively pull together detailed design projects in SketchUp is key for my role. This is something that has always impressed me, taking an architectural idea, modelling it and sharing it. Add on the ability to photo-realistically render my 3D models and review energy consumption, and it’s the perfect combination to help us win contracts, get sign off on projects from clients, and get building approvals from city officials.”

University District Office Building entry renderings used to illustrate the transition of the entry to the transit stop for development permit approval.  Modeled in SketchUp and rendered using V-Ray.

What’s next for you and your team? Is there other technology you’d like to explore?

We have several land holdings and I look forward to designing new master plans with realistic and functional projects. Working with a high performing team (shoutout to Randy, Cody, Jamie, and Ryan) at The Remington Group makes this work fun and rewarding. I really look forward to doing some larger multi-use projects here in Calgary and Edmonton or elsewhere.

Here’s another look into a couple of our projects over the years:

Quarry Rise images modeled in SketchUp and rendered in 3ds Max. (Courtesy of IBI Group &  RKA Visual)

Lido rendering and final site photos. (Courtesy of Battistella Developments & IBI Group)  Modeled in SketchUp and rendered using V-Ray.

Discover The Black Friday Magic Behind The SketchUp Scenes

25% Off Your SketchUp Pro Subscription

From Thursday 26th November until Friday 3rd December 2021, you can receive 25% off your new SketchUp Pro subscriptions.

You Can also receive 20% off any new V-Ray for SketchUp subscriptions from 26th November to 29th November 2021. 

As an early Christmas present on us!🎉

This can be applied to new SketchUp Pro 1-year subscription or a 1-year V-Ray for SketchUp subscription when you contact one of our authorised resellers here. (Terms and Conditions Apply)

SketchUp Pro 2021

SketchUp Pro is 3D Modelling software that proves simple is powerful, offering the most intuitive way to design, document and communicate your ideas in 3D. SketchUp Pro has long been used by professionals in a range of industries – architecture, construction, engineering, landscape architecture, kitchen & bath design, urban planning, film & stage, and woodworking. SketchUp is the intuitive, all-purpose antidote to complicated, expensive CAD software.



SketchUp slots into any workflow and plays nicely with other design tools.


Extension Warehouse contains over 400 plugins that layer additional tools and features on top of SketchUp. Free and paid plugins are available for industry-specific workflows such as rendering and 3D printing. Elmtec sells a range of productivity and rendering plug ins such as V-RayEnscapeSkatter, and Profile Builder.

Present and Document

SketchUp Pro includes LayOut a powerful 2D illustration app for the creation of professional drawing sets, construction documents and screen presentations, all dynamically linked to SketchUp files.

Inferencing and Customization

Accuracy and speed plus personalization of any design project to make it your very own.

Why V-Ray For SketchUp?

Visualize designs in real-time

Now with V-Ray Vision, you can visualize your designs in real-time while you work in SketchUp. Move around your model, apply materials, set up lights and cameras—all in a live real-time view of your scene. And when you’re ready for photo quality renders, V-Ray is ready to go.

Lighting made easy

Adjust the lights in your scene even after you render. With Light Mix, once your scene is rendered, you can interactively adjust the brightness and colour of any light without having to render again.

Add randomness for realism

To create more realistic materials, new tools have been added that randomize textures and colours. The VRayUVWRandomizer lets you randomize texture coordinates and includes Stochastic Tiling that automatically fixes repeating textures. Built-in controls have also been added to the VRayMultiSubTex material to randomize colours.

Improved Sun and Sky model

Render your scene at the perfect light of magic hour. The Improved Sun & Sky model is more accurate, with a better-looking sunrise and sunset, even as the sun dips below the horizon.

Optimized V-Ray Core

V-Ray 5 is the fastest and best rendering experience yet.

New software architecture

Much faster scene loading and scene export thanks to the newly refactored V-Ray backend.

Post-process your renders right in V-Ray

V-Ray 5 features a new V-Ray Frame Buffer. With built-in compositing, you can make colour corrections, combine render elements and save them as pre-sets to be used in future—all without needing another app.

New layered V-Ray material

The V-Ray Material now includes built-in Coat and Sheen layers. Coat makes it easy to create materials with reflective coatings like varnished wood, and Sheen makes it easy to   fabrics like silk, satin, and velvet.

Improved contour rendering

The global Contours control gives you more control over linework, making it easier than ever to give your renders an illustrative look.

Dirt and weathering

Give your SketchUp models a weathered look with the improved V-Ray Dirt texture. Add dirt and streaks anywhere—in corners or across entire surfaces.

New documented API

For developers looking to create and connect tools with V-Ray for SketchUp, there’s a new fully documented API to make it as easy as possible.

Send an email to sales@elmtec.co.uk for more information on 20% off V-Ray for SketchUp and/or 25% off a SketchUp Pro 1-year subscription.

Innovative, Modern Homes in Vietnam with LimDimHouse Studio

We spoke to Mai Tran, who founded her practice, LIMDIMHOUSE Studio three years after graduating with a degree in architecture. Based in Hue, Vietnam, she discusses her unique design style combining traditional Vietnamese elements with modern touches. We deep-dive into her very Instagram-worthy project, Jalousie house, which is making waves on international and local architecture blogs. 

All images courtesy of LIMDIMHOUSE Studio unless otherwise stated.

Peek inside the Jalouise House, and see how LIMDIMHOUSE created an airy oasis in the heart of Hue, Vietnam. Video courtesy of chimnon studio.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I studied at Hue University of Science, majoring in architecture. After graduating in 2014, I worked at an architecture company in Ho Chi Minh. I started my own practice in 2017 to pursue my passion for creating iconic residential building designs using my ideas and styles. 

We’ve seen Jalousie House on several architectural and design websites across the web. Tell us more about it. 

There wasn’t any brief, except that it’s going to be a homestay residence. Therefore, we designed it to be a comfortable environment for people to feel imaginative and free. It was also somewhat essential that every area was Instagram-worthy, making it an inviting, creative place that people felt at home in. I was also particularly passionate about making it adaptable to the climate and location. 

A unique yet simple folding façade contributes to the building’s unique shape, making it easy to spot this homestay residence!

Houses in urban areas are built side-by-side, creating a high probability of poor air-circulation and light distribution. We also have high rainfall in Hue. We used folds and layers to create gaps for ventilation and water-proofing in response to this context and its associated climate. 

SketchUp model of the Jalouise house, featuring its unique folding-pattern wall and glass-shutter window in comparison to real-life image of Jalouise house.

Folding-pattern walls block out harsh sunlight from streaming into the house. Glass-shutter windows are implemented at angles to escape harsh sunlight from the shadows cast by the folding-pattern walls. 

The folding-pattern wall blocks out harsh sunlight and shields the indoors from rain, allows air to circulate in and out of the house unhindered. These folds further contribute to the unique shape of the building, making it simple yet striking. It’s easy to spot this homestay residence!

This diagram shows the sun path from morning to evening, illustrating that the folding-pattern wall blocks out harsh sunlight in the day, and the plants act as a filter to cool down the house.

1st-story floorplan, featuring the garage, studio, and a bedroom. Woody elements bring a fusion of traditional and modern style. 

At the back of the house, we constructed an indoor garden with top lighting to take advantage of the skylight and promote ventilation throughout the house. This green layer acts as a natural air-conditioner and filter that cools and cleans the air before it flows into the home. The indoor garden also doubles its use to provide an immersive, natural experience from the bathroom and bedroom.   

The indoor garden at the back of the house offers top lighting to bring natural light and promote air ventilation in the house.

Did you perform any tests on the layering systems to ensure they would work as expected?

I didn’t do any tests; it was purely by experience and observation. I used SketchUp to have a good, overall understanding of the house based on the look and feel, flow, and design function. We used SketchUp’s Add Location and Shadow study to imitate daylight in our 3D model. This enabled us to check how shadows would fall and ensure that the louver could meet our expectations in terms of design and functionality. 

We were pleasantly surprised when our proposal worked even better than we expected. 

The 2nd story featuring the LimDim Office, living room, kitchen, master bedroom with an ensuite master bathroom.

The mezzanine floorplan, features an immersive garden experience in the bedroom, with traditional-like wall tiles harmonized across all bedrooms. 

The 2nd story featuring the LimDim Office, living room, kitchen, master bedroom with an ensuite master bathroom.

“We used SketchUp’s Add Location and shadow study to imitate daylight in our 3D model. This enabled us to check how shadows would fall and ensure that the louver could meet our expectations in terms of design and functionality.”

What’s your typical workflow?

We study the urban structure of the location, and then we brainstorm ideas. Then we create 3D models using SketchUp to test, visualize and analyze the house for best design options.   

SketchUp provides fast and accurate virtual representation. It’s highly-efficient software that we can use on low-configuration computers in the office. When our team gets to the site, they can reference our 3D models and know what to do.

The rooftop is a place to relax and gather with friends.

“SketchUp provides fast and accurate virtual representation. It’s highly efficient software that we can use on low-configuration computers in the office. When our team gets to the site, they can reference our 3D models and know what to do.”

What are your favorite plugins?

We don’t require any plugins and only use native tools. Some of the functions we love are the ability to draw parallel lines and duplicate items quickly. It is also remarkable that SketchUp helps in the material quantity calculations and reveals details to make the construction process more straightforward. 


Established in 2017 by Mai Tran, the studio specializes in architectural design, landscape design, and renovation. Since 2015, the founder and associates have completed global collaborations with partners in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Singapore and more. LIMDIMHOUSE aims to bring a peaceful, airy, and soulful feel to their projects, so people have a dreamy place to chill and enjoy.

Become A Master Renderer using V-Ray For SketchUp with Scott Currie

Architecture of Calm’s most recent project, created using V-Ray for SketchUp 

We’ve been speaking with Scott Currie, Owner of Architecture of Calm, shortlisted for this years Cuckmere Haven and showcasing their incredible work at Art Wave 2021. They will be sharing an exclusive insight into how they render using V-Ray for SketchUp and some inside secrets into getting realistic designs to display to their clients.

Interior Designs rendered using V-Ray to showcase lighting to a client.

For over 10 years we have worked collaboratively with Interior Designers, Engineers and on-site Construction Professionals along with our own experimentation and research, constantly testing the boundaries of modelling and rendering to ensure the outcome is unusual in the most positive way. exceptional and extraordinary, you could say.


I have used sketch-up as my only 3D modelling software in the 15 years of practicing – since setting up AoC 2 years ago I then invested in V-Ray as I was able to take the time to learn more about the features, it was always spoken about in previous practice but not necessarily utilised. Now, I cannot imagine sending projects to clients without V-Ray.

I am able to showcase not only how the buildings will look in a more realistic manner, but also how they look at various times of the day with different lighting, all while still presenting a professional and slick rendered image. 

A 1960s bungalow reworked/reimagined for the way in which we live now…dormers originally explored, but resulting in the decision to remove and replace the roof space with a new timber frame box.

How do you use V-Ray in your workflow?

I usually begin with a plan or black and white drawings, which are a language in their own right, and can be misinterpreted at times, 3D images are easy to understand not only for myself and the team but also our clients. They also come in handy with planning officers and at public consultation events.

Sometimes the design process can ‘work itself out’ very quickly based on client and brief, and sometimes it takes many iterations, continuing to change on site once the design becomes a physical reality; this works well when the collaborative approach is adhered to…

Since setting up my own practice, we create 3D images for 90% of our projects.  So as you can imagine, rendering has become a massively important part of our workflow. At my previous practice a lot of 3D work was sub-contracted but I use it as a design tool in its own right, and as an exploratory tool with the client(s).

A Summer Project, experimenting with patio doors.

What has been your most memorable build?

Every project comes with it’s own set of positives, based on scale, budget, location and so on…I really enjoy the smaller re-workings of older properties, where custodianship is important and ‘time’ celebrated, allowing the old historic building to be enjoyed via new interventions for many more years…

Full restoration project using V-Ray for SketchUp

Think you can create simplistic, realistic designs for your clients and save hours as a designer bringing your clients concepts to life? Give SketchUp Pro a try for free for 30-days here!

To see more of Scott’s work, 3D modelling designs and renders, you can find him on social media here:

So who is Scott?


Our brand new SketchUp top trumps give you a speedy breakdown and the 411 on everything you need to know about Scott…


From where he calls home in the digital design space, to his secret SketchUp power, you’ll find the ins and the outs of his SketchUp Journey here…


If you want to have a personalised SketchUp top trump made for you, email us at marketing@elmtec.co.uk and let’s get the ball rolling! 

Using Trimble technology to streamline architecture projects

Innovator and designer extraordinaire, Bob Pineo of Design Develop LLC, a full-service architecture firm, has been working in the architecture industry for over 20 years. The firm he helps manage has offices in Charlottesville and Baltimore. They use SketchUp and Trimble technology to run and grow the business and accelerate their workflow on a variety of large and small design projects. Tune in as we sit down with Bob and the entire DD team and learn all about the company’s background, and their super-efficient process.

Bob Pineo at the Design Develop headquarters.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started with SketchUp.

My background is in building construction, and I got more involved in design later on in my career. Around that time, I was using CAD documentation to communicate designs to clients but quickly realized most clients had a hard time understanding these technical, 2D plans. 

“I switched to SketchUp and Lumion exclusively because it helped me speak the same language as my clients — 3D. I’ve been using SketchUp for over 15 years now!”


SketchUp is such a versatile tool and allows our team to iterate quickly using direct feedback from clients. With SketchUp, I’m able to take my conceptual ideas and morph them into a design — and then update that design as details change. It’s very fluid and flexible, which is what our company needs. We also use SketchUp as a “training” tool for architects. I believe that the more you conceptualize a space and iterate, the better architect you become. There are always hundreds of ways to design something, so it’s good training to be able to explore those options.

Contrary to popular belief, I believe SketchUp is more than just a presentation tool, it’s a tool to help understand a space before we start presenting ideas.

SketchUp being used on a commercial project. Project: Sapon and Swisher Dental Office.

SketchUp in action. Project: The Women’s Center.

Tell us a little bit about the company and what projects you take on.

Our company has transformed from solving one or two small design challenges to high-level graphic expressions of larger design ideas and challenges on a wide variety of architectural projects. We are innovators and technology seekers.

We also don’t have a “typical” type of project. We are all generalists. We will work on any type of project —  whatever comes in the door — from residential spaces to industrial facilities, handling all stages of involvement from city approval efforts to construction administration. We enjoy this because we get a lot of project variety and more ways to be creative. 

A wide variety of projects coming to life.

What sets your team apart from the rest?

I believe we are excellent listeners. As soon as someone wants to use an architect, it means they are incredibly invested in everything from cost, budget, time, and energy so we respect that by including them in every step of the design. We make sure they are comfortable and they understand what we are proposing. We have offices in Charlottesville and Baltimore and these guiding principles translate to success in both a small-town market and a larger, regional-based service firm.

Communicating the details to ensure a successful final build. 

Tell us about your workflow from start to finish.

As I mentioned, all of our projects are different so it really depends on what we are doing. As a shell or a guideline, here’s what our process looks like:

We start out by determining the timeline, budget, and design requirements with the client. Once we have a good understanding of the project, we go to the site and scan it with the Trimble X7 and pull that data into SketchUp via Scan Essentials. This is a fairly new part of our process and has saved us time and money. We used to hire this out with a third-party surveyor and we’d always have issues with the files and getting the data in a timely manner. Now we do this all in-house. We’ve even expanded our business by selling this service to other companies.

Using point cloud data to represent the as-built condition.

After importing point cloud data, we move on to the conceptual design phase. Based on the client’s requirements, we come up with a variety of design options utilizing both SketchUp and Lumion. This is a fluid, back and forth process where we work with the client to ensure the design will work for their needs. Clients start to fall in love with the concepts when they can see it in 3D. They can picture themselves in the space and it’s an exciting time.

Once the design details are finalized, we price everything out to make sure we stay within budget. Then we get to the build phase. We export our entire design into LayOut for construction documentation.

“In many cases, the LayOut documentation is the “holy grail” of the design because there is no room for error. Everyone refers to it.” 

Getting into the details with LayOut documentation.

What are the benefits you get using the Trimble suite of products?

Combining Trimble products has helped grow our company exponentially. We use SketchUp, Trimble X7, and Scan Essentials. We don’t use technology just to use it. We use it to help streamline our workflow and grow our business. Incorporating this technology has been very straightforward and the ability to iterate wasn’t sacrificed. 


“When we look for technology or new tools, we need them to be flexible enough for our projects without overdoing it — and that’s what Trimble offers us. These products are flexible, affordable, practical, and help everyone on our team get their job done efficiently.”

At the end of the day, we are known as innovators so we need technology to keep up with the pace of our projects.


Using innovative technology in SketchUp: Scan Essentials.

What’s next for you and your team?

We have a desire to integrate more Trimble products such as Trimble RealWorks and CloudEngine. We’ve seen a lot of growth with our process using Trimble products so we want to see where else this can go. It’s an exciting time. As always we are so grateful to the folks at Sketchup and Trimble for all the great products and services they provide! We see ourselves being part of that family for years to come.

Using 3D design visualization tools with Jacobs

Award-winning imagery from ASAI. Project: Tyndall Air Force Base. Date: 2020.

With a background in architecture and a passion for visualization, it’s no surprise that Jim Kessler, Director of the Visual Media Group at Jacobs, a global solutions firm, relies on SketchUp and a wide range of rendering tools to communicate project design and processes. Read along as we detail his team’s visualization process, which has earned several awards of excellence from the American Society of Architectural Illustrators (ASAI).


Communicating project details using SketchUp and 3ds Max. Project: Fort Bliss town center in El Paso, Texas.

Tell us a little bit about your background, company, and the way your group is organized. 

I studied and started off my career in architecture. I practiced for several years before I found my passion for visualization. I love being able to use electronic design tools to advance the visual communication of ideas.

I joined Jacobs 22 years ago and have been able to build my career and focus on the aspects of design that I enjoy the most. Jacobs provides innovative solutions and bespoke communications for a wide range of industries including everything from aerospace to architecture.

After identifying a critical need for holistic media solutions for Jacobs, I created the Visual Media Group. We are responsible for introducing the company to new technology, visually communicating a design or telling a story, and generating compelling visualizations. I like to think of our group as the “turning the light bulb on” team helping clients communicate a project’s intent and impact on their constituents, team members of broader communities.

One of the first 3D models I created in SketchUp. This is now used in the SketchUp Help Center.

Tell us a little bit about how you currently use SketchUp and your workflow.


Because our group’s responsibilities encompass everything involving visualization, we rely on a wide range of tools — one of those being SketchUp.

SketchUp used in the Fort Bliss town center project.

Our normal workflow involves the architecture group developing the foundational design in SketchUp. Then, our group exports the 3D model and cleans it up. We strip out all of the entourage and unnecessary components. When we are done, it’s just raw geometry that is left. Our team then imports it into 3ds Max or TwinMotion so we can use tools like V-Ray tune for textures on flat surfaces. We remodel it in other software so we can show imperfections easier like rust on a metallic surface. At this stage, we add entourage back in from our large render-ready, in-house content library. All that’s left at this point is to run a high-quality visualization export. To support this, we have a render farm of about 30 dedicated computers.

A high-definition render. Project: Fort Bliss located in El Paso, Texas.

Tell us a little bit about the award you won from the American Society of Architectural Illustrators using SketchUp & Photoshop.

Every year we submit a visualization project to the American Society of Architectural Illustrators (ASAI) Architecture in Perspective Competition. This last year we submitted our designs for the Tyndall Airforce base and we won an award for excellence. The foundation of this design was in SketchUp and then we rendered it in 3ds Max. Our style was based on hyperrealism — a notch above photorealism, and a current theme and style in the industry. This style is very mood-based. For this particular image, we focused on a rain shot. We were trying to capture a torrential downpour in the Florida region at around 3 p.m. You will notice stark reflections and shadows that help tell this story. We also incorporated basic design principles such as having a foreground, and background and applying the rule of thirds.

Award-winning project from ASAI: Tyndall Air Force Base.

How do you pick a style for the projects you work on?

It really depends on the project. I enjoy non-photorealistic renders (NPR). These styles allow a designer to communicate early-stage designs before many key architectural decisions have been made. I think SketchUp is an excellent tool for this. For every project, I develop a custom style in Style Builder. For example, on a project for Fort Bliss (located in El Paso, Texas), I focused on a pastel watermark for the skyline and worked with desert colors like the tinge of sand to get a feel for that environment.

NPR-style image showcased. Project: Dudley Square.

I put forth that if you are designing in SketchUp one should think critically about not only the design but how one communicates the intent through the customization of the stylized representation. I feel as though you need to think critically about how you present ideas to clients. This can be very meticulous and you have to go color by color in a design. This can take a lot of time, which is why a lot of people won’t do it.

 Using custom styles to communicate project details. Project: Military Barracks.

Why do you enjoy NPR-type visualizations the most?

At the early stages, when a design is in flux and conversations with the clients are taking place, a photorealistic rendering signals completion of the project and that design changes are no longer possible. Whereas an NPR visual suggests a sense of flux and has a huge artistic element to it, which architects gravitate towards. 

More NPR-style visuals.

Are there specific rendering tools that you prefer? 

We use a wide range of rendering tools depending on the stage of the project and what we are trying to accomplish. As you’ve seen, we rely on rendering engines and tools that can really improve the quality of output. Some of these are Unreal Engine, Unity, V-Ray, 3ds Max, TwinMotion, Substance Painter, Quixel Megascans, and for post-production, we use the entire Adobe Creative Suite.

About Jacobs

At Jacobs, we’re challenging today to reinvent tomorrow by solving the world’s most critical problems for thriving cities, resilient environments, mission-critical outcomes, operational advancement, scientific discovery, and cutting-edge manufacturing, turning abstract ideas into realities that transform the world for good. With $14 billion in revenue and a talent force of approximately 55,000, Jacobs provides a full spectrum of professional services including consulting, technical, scientific, and project delivery for the government and private sector. Visit www.jacobs.com and connect with Jacobs on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Elmtec secures distribution rights for D5 Render for the UK+ Ireland

A hybrid model of speed and efficiency has arrived, taking the 21st Century technology sector by storm, D5 Render introduces exceptional visual quality alongside mind-blowing real-time rendering. It’s fair to say, 3D visualisation will never be the same again.

From 28th September 2021, Elmtec will be the official distributor for D5 render in the UK and Ireland. D5 Render, a real time renderer for digital designers, brings a whole new layer to the industry. Thanks to cutting edge technologies, it has never been easier to render ultra-realistic images with real-time raytracing, creating a transformational movement within the design industry.

“The real-time ray tracing and DLSS in D5 Render gives architects a powerful tool for high-quality real-time visualization of their designs. Allowing them to explore, test, and present their ideas in a visually compelling way, and to iterate more efficiently than before.”

D5 Render is a GPU rendering software running on the foundation Unreal Engine as well as the hardware architecture of the new generation of Nvidia RTX graphics cards. With the self-developed pioneering real-time GI and Video Noise Reduction algorithms, plus the hybrid real-time rendering pipeline, D5 Render is set to unleash the high-performance potential of RTX graphics cards, bringing designers a creative experience like never before. The interactive rendering process has never been this easy, making it possible for the unprecedented RTX Real-time Rendering Workflow for Architects and interior designers.

D5 is compatible software with SketchUp, 3Ds Max and Revit, Rhino, Blender and ArchiCAD. Its newfound technology uses out-standing real time raytracing allows 3D designers to build photorealistic ray traced lighting without the need for baking.

The built in PBR asset material library frees you from piling up a thousand gloss maps to the other thousand normal maps, meaninglessly. With D5 Render, you may create photorealistic materials by simply loading high-res PBR textures from Quixel Megascans, Substance Source, CC0Textures, and many more.

D5 render also contains over 1100 ready-made vegetations, people and vehicle models with animation provided by professional asset creators with an ever-expanding range stored in the cloud.

Who are D5?

Dimension 5 (“D5”), the team behind D5 Render, was assembled in Singapore A*STAR. In 2015, the team decided to move back to China. Since its inception, the D5 team has reached cooperation with various enterprises and companies, including Marriott International, Vanke Real Estate, PowerChina Real Estate, etc. In 2019, D5 was listed as one of the “Top 7 Global ISV Partners of NVIDIA” together with Adobe and Autodesk and was named as a “National High-tech Enterprise” by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

The D5 self-developed D5 Render was officially launched in June 2020, and has gained more than 400,000 downloads since then, covering users from 195 countries and regions around the world. Committed to its vision, the D5 team shall continue its cause in building innovative products and services with practicality, by focusing on visualized workflows for designing and rendering.

Elmtec has been the official UK distributor of SketchUp UK for over 24 years, supporting and driving the monumental changes and adaptations in the online 3D modelling and rendering space. As digital design changes every second, we are constantly finding brand new ideas and systems to maximise the effectiveness of our customers workflows and drive 100% performance.

We are now ecstatic to be introducing and distributing D5 across the UK and Ireland, from the moment we saw D5 and started speaking to the team, we knew this newfound technology would change the shape of the technology sector forever.

Delivering Affordable Net-Zero Energy Housing

The eCasa housing project was designed to deliver a series of net-zero, affordable housing prototypes in Washington, D.C., for low-income families. Using Sefaira, nonprofit architecture firm Inscape Publico balanced building envelope performance and renewable energy generation in the late design stage to achieve net-zero. 

Mi Casa Inc., a nonprofit organization, provides affordable housing opportunities to low and moderate-income families to sustain diverse and healthy communities in the Washington D.C. and Baltimore areas. To address the complex changes impacting neighborhoods in the greater D.C. area and ensure scalability, Mi Casa collaborated with the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Project type: Affordable housing for low-income families

Location: Washington D.C., USA

Building program: Residential

Floor area/stories /occupancy: 2 x blocks of 6 housing units

Performance goal: Net-zero energy

Navigating project limitations

Inscape Publico had designed and specified the building blocks but wanted to understand their performance and optimize the project where possible. The project needed to juggle a limited budget, a limited palette of building materials, and a tight project timeline. Using Sefaira analysis enabled the team to optimize the changeable factors within the project and demonstrate that the project was on track to achieve net-zero energy.

To achieve their goals, the design team needed to:

  • calculate the baseline building performance based on specified building materials.
  • minimize energy consumption to achieve net-zero by utilizing high-performance construction and specifying high-efficiency appliances and systems.
  • calculate how much renewable energy would be generated by pre-specified solar photovoltaic panels to confirm the quantity required to achieve net-zero.
  • minimize annual operating costs for the inhabitants by specifying highly efficient water fixtures.

To get started, the design team set up the analysis model, inputting pre-determined envelope and HVAC values and baseline variables such as occupancy, lighting power density, plug load, temperature set points, and diversity factors. Next, potential strategies were investigated:

Shading type and depth: Using Sefaira’s response curves, an optimum 2.5 ft deep horizontal projection was specified over each glazed opening. This reduced annual space cooling by 14%.

Water fixtures: To reduce waste and operating costs, high-efficiency water fixtures were specified. 

Annual operating costs were reduced by 37% because less energy was required to heat water and water usage was much less overall.

By specifying high-performance values for shading and water fixtures, the design team ensured that the final annual energy consumption figure would be as low as 21,372 kBTU/year for Minnesota Street and 21,073 kBTU/year for 27th Street.

Having optimized the building envelope for performance, the next step was to offset the energy consumed by generating as much or more energy on-site. Sefaira analysis confirmed that two arrays of 18 photovoltaic panels per block would generate 21,473 kBTU/year for Minnesota Street and 22,025 kBTU/year for 27th Street, thereby ensuring the project would achieve net-zero energy status.

“I would use Sefaira at an even earlier stage to optimize the envelope instead of simply analyzing the materials and details we had already established,” said Stefan Schwarzkopf, Design Director at Inscape Publico.

For example, the predetermined roof assembly R-value was quite high; however, Sefaira showed that a roof assembly with a lower R-value performed just as well. Knowing this information earlier on could have enabled the team to make more cost-effective building material and detailing choices.

Sefaira enabled the Inscape Publico and Mi Casa team to calculate the annual energy consumption, investigate energy-saving strategies, and apply renewable energy generation, helping the project reach net-zero energy status.

Sefaira enabled the Inscape Publico and Mi Casa team to calculate the annual energy consumption, investigate energy-saving strategies, and apply renewable energy generation, helping the project reach net-zero energy status.

"Sefaira takes the guesswork out of the process of evaluating various design choices to find the ones with optimal impact, helping the design team to fluidly refine not only the project design itself but also the project goals," Schwarzkopf concluded.

SketchUp For Students: Lauren Emily Interiors

Inside the life of an Interior Design Specialist Studying Interior Design Using SketchUp

Over the last few years Lauren has gained skills across a range of disciplines from creative styling to spatial design while studying Interior Design.

Having completed a variety of design projects and live working briefs, Lauren has found a passion for lifestyle styling and graphic communication.


The Life Of A SketchUp Student...

Today we are joined by Lauren as we dive into the life of a SketchUp student, understanding how this 3D modelling software supports growing entrepreneurs and digital design specialists create simple and realistic concepts for their clients and their studies. Truly grasping the hardship, challenges and roadblocks students go through in their bid to be a successful Digital Designer.

Lauren Emily Interior is a interior design and decoration specialist company based in London. Created by Lauren McDermott, she offers interior design, personalised styling and decoration consultancy. 

“Being able to trial various materials on worktops and adjust the mirroring & reflections have aided my creativity.”

So, Lauren tell us about how you got into Interior Design…

Hi! I have always loved creating pieces of art, and from a young age I have taken part in various Interior Design projects, when given the opportunity to study Design at University, I couldn’t wait to get started, it is worth all the hard work!

I’m currently studying Interior Design Decoration at Solent University Southampton where I am gaining the skills and knowledge across a range of disciplines from creative styling to spatial design.

Lauren’s latest SketchUp project for interior design

When did SketchUp first come into your life?

I first heard of SketchUp in my first year of University where it was used to demonstrate dimensional visualisations of residential spaces for a few of our projects. Getting to grips with the software was  a little tedious sometimes, but stick at it and eventually your designs will flow naturally with a clean and smooth finish before you showcase them to clients!

I definitely recommend learning a few keyboard shortcuts such as clicking space bar to return to the Selection tool and “M” for the Move tool. I remember seeing a blog post on Elmtec not so long ago with all of these shortcuts written down, this really helped me learn some new time-savers for my own work and ones I can pass on to others!

"I first heard of SketchUp in my first year of University where it was used to demonstrate dimensional visualisations of residential spaces for a few of our projects."

Emily McDermott

How do you currently use SketchUp?

I use a variety of SketchUp plug-ins and extensions, they are one of my favourite things about the 3D modelling software, a (what feels like) a never ending stream of addons and features to explore and use that only make my designs more realistic and seamless.

LayOut is a feature I use on a regular basis and is great as you can immediately send and update views of your sketch up model, ready to clearly present to clients.

I am not a complete sketch up pro (yet.. 😊) I have not fully explored the variety of extensions and plug-ins in sketch up, but I have used “twilight” rendering to create professional visuals for presentation boards!

I am most proud of this piece of work, a residential design for a collaborative project with linden homes

What does your typical workflow look like?

A typical design workflow can change depending on the type of project – whether its residential or commercial, a large or small environment. However, to maintain a focus throughout the project, I usually begin with an interior concept and mood to inform the layouts. After trialling a few different spatial designs in 2D, a final decision is made and then formed into 3D using SketchUp. What’s great about these programs is the flexibility when designing to make small or large changes quickly – this allows the design to come alive effectively.

Think you can create simplistic, realistic designs for your clients and save hours as a student on creating your clients dream masterpieces? Give SketchUp Pro a try for free for 30-days here!

So who is Lauren?



Our brand new SketchUp top trumps give you a speedy breakdown and the 411 on everything you need to know about Lauren…



From where she calls home in the digital design space, to her secret SketchUp power, you’ll find the ins and the outs of her SketchUp Journey here…



If you want to have a personalised SketchUp top trump made for you, email us at marketing@elmtec.co.uk and let’s get the ball rolling! 

About Elmtec

Elmtec have been the UK distribution partner for SketchUp since 2010, and service a network of UK and Irish resellers. We have over 22 years’ experience within the digital design community.

Contact Us

T: 01844 263750
E: sales@elmtec.co.uk
W: www.elmtec.co.uk/sketchup