You can now use SketchUp with Allen/Iano’s Fundamentals of Building Construction book


When it comes to learning construction methods and systems (and, of course, the related materials), it is crucial for a student to understand how things fit together. Every construction system is an assembly of subparts (e.g. beams, bolts, decking) and often a layering based on various functional requirements (e.g. air barrier, insulation, structural sheathing,…). This tectonics of architecture and construction can be as simple as the layering of beams or be of a complexity akin to assembling auto parts.

In my teaching of Construction Materials and Methods, I have learned that unless a student has previous construction experience, completes enough labs or takes part in a hands-on construction exercise, understanding these assemblies – especially in their three-dimensional arrangement – sometimes does not come naturally.

This is why I was excited when my publisher, Wiley, accepted my proposal and offered me the chance to create a comprehensive set of interactive 3D exercises for the sixth edition of what may be considered the standard textbook for any materials and methods course: Edward Allen and Joseph Iano’s “Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods”, to be released next week. These exercises accomplish exactly what I found lacking in the past. In particular, they:

  • Allow a student to use an easy-to-learn and free 3D CAD program (Trimble’s SketchUp Make) to learn about building assemblies using only a few non-complicated tools: move, copy, and scale.
  • Allow a construction materials and methods course to have its students experience assemblies and systems without the need for expensive and time-consuming labs on these.
  • Offer flexibility in scaling up class sizes (and creating online classes) since all of these exercises can be completed on a student’s own computer.
  • Introduce students to 3D modeling, which benefits spatial comprehension, understanding of constructability and inherent error-checking.

Overall, these 46 exercises encompass the breadth of the book and include the main materials (wood, concrete, steel, masonry) but also non-structural assemblies like tiling, stairs, and curtain walls. A viewing-only sample of an exercise from Chapter 4 can be seen in the 3D model shown below (can you guess what it is?):

All of the exercises are available in SketchUp’s SKP format as well as a generic 3D DWG format that can be used with AutoCAD, Rhino etc. Because of labeling and some interactive behavior, the SketchUp models should be preferred – especially since SketchUp Make is a freely available software. In the book, exercises are linked to the text by a button symbol (see image below). The exercises can then be downloaded from the student/instructor companion pages.

Interactive Exercise button

Together with this book’s other ancillary materials (question banks, image collections, animations, and presentations), this set of exercises will certainly aid in a student’s comprehension of this topic. There are even some in my set of interactive exercises that are open-ended and should spark creativity and foster problem-solving skills.


  • Darren Songfreid

    I wish I had this back in my construction/materials class in archiecture school.