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    Fleshing out the bones: A look at PlusSpec

    Deborah Singerman

    New software from Building Information Modelling (BIM) company, RubySketch, fills the geometry of its Sketchup 3D models with suppliers’ productS, cost fields and specification information to meet the dimensions of a job for clearer – and faster – text and visual communication of construction documentation. And all within a BIM environment with its access advantages for project members.

    PlusSpec, which was officially released on April 29, capitalises on RubySketch’s 3000-plus individual models. Going further than other well-known platforms such as Revit and ArchiCAD, PlusSpec allows architects to seek and select manufacturers’ own products at any stage of design rather than generic products. 

    PlusSpec works inside Sketchup, taking advantage of free flow design capabilities while introducing new parametric power to draw, edit and inspect the structure, the geometry and the specification of the design at an early stage. It adds the job specifics and products, becoming what Ruby Sketch founder and director, Andrew Dwight, refers to as “job specifics” within that geometry.

    There are more than 2000 architects using RubySketch and its digital library, and with PlusSpec, they can now select manufacturers’ brand information from within the model.

    Input the details of the when, where, what and how of the job. Quantity of item, unit, length, volume, order description, size and value are automatically added and organised. Click buttons from the menu of icons for a list of relevant products and their details from the more than 300 in the library from 80 manufacturers – and actively being sold and growing all the time (see www.rubysketch.com/brands). This includes the model number and files extensions that work within Plus Spec. In a nice touch, PlusSpec shows Australian products with an Aussie flag within the country icon. The library is free for designers, architects and builders to use.

    As with Sketchup, speed and flexibility are important in this parametric software, moving, dragging, clicking the model and dropping in products and quantities as required. Once populated with components, the geometry can still be fine-tuned, inspected, and sent to consultants and clients for further changes until the design and concept are completed. The list of materials can be exported, and individual pages printed and sent out for prices. A 2D drawing can also be prepared via Sketchup Pro or traditional DWG CAD packages.

    According to Dwight, PlusSpec will create every item (timber, insulation, walls, roofing, floors, cladding and so on) to build a building.

    “You can have many products within the one item e.g. within the wall tool there are timbers and then materials for interior lining, insulation, termite barriers, hardware, wall finishes. Once satisfied, the quantity and the specification is simply one click away. All this is done within PlusSpec. This saves a huge amount of time. PlusSpec can quantify over two million various product units in less than five seconds. I am not aware of anything in this world that can do this. It still amazes me today,” he says.

    Dwight has been developing PlusSpec for seven years. It went through 120 beta testers. He estimates it will take around five hours on average to train someone.

    Recent PlusSpec presentations in the US to Sketchup owner, Trimble, went down better than he could have hoped. Closer to home, Dwight says he wants to be able to empower all Students with free PlusSpec licenses to give them a great start for their careers.

    “I built PlusSpec out of necessity (for his own design & construction company, AAD Build). Quoting, collaborating and purchasing BIM software can be too expensive for the average sized design firm or building company, I now have the opportunity positively to alter the way our industry works by rectifying these issues on a large scale. Not just for Australia but for the world.”

    Deborah Singerman is a Sydney-based journalist and editor, specialising in architecture and design, including city, community, society, economy, sustainability and culture.

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