Geo-Modeling for Google Earth with Google Building Maker and Google SketchUp 8 - dummies

Geo-Modeling for Google Earth with Google Building Maker and Google SketchUp 8

By Aidan Chopra

If you’re modeling existing buildings specifically so they’ll appear in everyone’s Google Earth, you’re geo-modeling. The thing is, geo-modeling (building models for Google Earth) is different from other kinds of SketchUp modeling.

The folks at Google are on a mission to make Google Earth into a hyper-realistic, fully-3D map of the planet, complete with everything from mountains to weather systems. Plenty of 3D enthusiasts are pitching in to help make Google’s mission a reality by modeling as many buildings as they can — one building at a time.

All Google Earth models are

  • Geo-located: They know where on earth they’re supposed to sit.

  • Geometrically simple: Having lots of edges and faces doesn’t cut it; big models plus Google Earth equals sluggish performance, and no one wants that.

  • Hollow: Earth models are basically shells; they contain no interior walls or other details at all.

  • Completely photo-textured: Photo-texturing your model means painting it with photographs of the building it’s supposed to represent.

You can approach geo-modeling in a few ways — SketchUp is no longer the only tool at your disposal.

Building Maker is purpose-built for geo-modeling; making accurate, photo-textured models of existing buildings is literally all it does. It gives you two things that are otherwise very, very hard to obtain:

  • Aerial imagery: Being able to use photo-textures that have been taken from above (rather than from street level) automatically takes care of things like trees, cars, people, and anything else that’d otherwise get in the way.

  • Building height: Believe it or not, figuring out the height of an existing building you’re trying to model is one of the hardest parts of the geo-modeling process.

To find out if you can use Building Maker for your model, search for building maker available locations into your favorite search engine.

Here’s another neat thing about Building Maker: You can open the models it creates in SketchUp and refine them there. Here’s what the workflow looks like:

  1. Open a new SketchUp file and make sure you’re online.

  2. Choose File, Building Maker, Add New Building.

  3. Model a building with Building Maker.

    Building Maker is a completely separate program, with all the tools, widgets, and buttons that implies.


  4. When you’re ready, click the SketchUp Export button.

  5. Work on your model until it looks the way you want it to.

  6. When you’re done, choose File, 3D Warehouse, Share Model.

    Your revised SketchUp model automatically overwrites the original Building Maker model on the 3D Warehouse. Google presumes that it’s better than its predecessor.