Google Sketchup and Greenwashing

Google Sketchup is an architectural design tool. As a New York design/build firm we use it to show clients 3D renderings of our jobs. We’ve used it for all sorts of things – decks made out of salvaged glass sheets, natural pools, salvaged kitchen cabinet layouts, store layouts, green roofs, buildings…you name it.

Sketchup has some green related tools, specifically:

  • Evaluating solar potential – See shading and sun exposure on your design based on its geographic location and time. Useful.
  • Exploring sustainable solutions (their words not mine) – They claim Sketchup is green because some green design companies use them. If a green company buys gas is the gas station green?
  • Simulating energy performance – There are some green related plugins you can use to simulate different scenarios, but they are third party, not Google.

Conclusion: Google Sketchup was built for deigners and does a good job, but the fact that green designers use it has everything to do with them being designers and little to do with them being green.

Google’s attempt to associate itself with the green design movement is weak. I like Sketchup as a design tool but as a Green Designer I am not impressed by their feeble attempt to greenwash the product.

We thre this together in a couple hours to show the client of an ecological toy store

It is easy in Sketchup to show the space from different perspectives

We were then able to use the Sketchup plans to design the Formaldehyde free FSC green shelves

The store is always packed and we'd like to think that our design contributed to that success.


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