04 October 2012

Home Designer Unit

The house plan I doodled with while my students worked on theirs.
I've previously talked about how much I love the Home Designer line of products, in particular for education. This time around I devoted more time to the unit, which allotted time for smaller preparatory assignments. I'll start by describing the assignments, then reflect on them if you want to keep reading.

Unfinished walls.
Class started out with them attempting to draw the walls on the main floor of their own house on graph paper. I didn't check it, I just wanted them to start visualizing their homes from an architectural perspective. I provided a very simple floor plan with a few missing walls. Their job was simple: fill in the gaps with the appropriate walls. Some were exterior walls, one was a diagonal interior wall, and one was an invisible wall. When they complete this assignment, they've at least experienced a few of the main types of walls. They exported a picture of the finished plan and uploaded it. (DROPitTOme)

L-shaped stairs that students draw.
This is one of the most simple yet complicated parts of house design. Drawing stairs correctly with the software can prove difficult, then they need to add a second floor, then create a stairwell. Like I said, it's simple, yet so complicated. I gave them a simple floor plan to focus their efforts on drawing stairs. When finished, they used the full camera view to see that the stairs really went to the next floor, and that there was a stairwell.

Students add hinged doors, bifold doors, doorways, garage doors, and windows.
Doors & Windows
From complicated to simple, I gave them a simple floor plan with all the walls, just no doors or windows. They explored the different types of doors and put them in appropriate places (I didn't require specific doors everywhere, but I did strongly recommend certain kinds of doors for certain places.) Then they simply placed windows where they found it appropriate. The view they took a picture of this time was doll house view.

L-shaped, U-shaped, straight, and galley kitchen styles.
This assignment took two days. I provided a plan with four of the main shapes of kitchens: L-shaped, U/G-shaped, single wall, and galley. They were required to put cabinets, fixtures, and appliances in each type of kitchen. They then exported a picture of either the plan view or the doll house view.

Mostly an interior design assignment.
Bed & Bath
This assignment is more for interior design, and also serves as a comprehensive checkpoint. They got a simple bedroom/bathroom plan with just walls, and they put doors, windows, cabinets, bathroom fixtures, and furniture in it. They could change the walls or flooring if they wanted to.

This program has a fantastic plant chooser tool. Too bad none of the plants are 3D.
Finally they focus on the outside. They get just the shell of a house and they create a perimeter (lot), add a driveway and sidewalks, and then use the plant finder to select trees and shrubbery. The view they take a picture of this time is the full overview, which will show the roof and especially the exterior.

Whole House
Now that they've had experience with designing individual parts of the house, they might be ready to design an entire house from scratch. In the end I had them export pictures of all the main rooms, as well as a full overview and a plan view.
Without doing official comparisons from last time I did this unit, it seems like it's worked better than last time. Besides just splitting up a lot of things into small assignments, I've also created and posted tutorial videos, so I can't be sure what is to credit. (The tutorial videos are there for absent students to catch up, for quick students to get ahead, and for absent-minded students to refresh what I told them.)

One thing they are doing better is thinking more about how to move through the house. I got really irked by the bedrooms behind bedrooms, or kitchens next to offices. They're also better at keeping the design together. Often they'd build one hallway out to one room, then another hallway to another, making it look like hospital wings jutting out from the main building.

In the future I'd like to provide more video tutorials and more assignments, and throw in a few fun ones. One idea was to use the software to make a skating park, or a lazertag arena. One neat feature of the program is that you can sort of walk around in the building, so maybe another idea could be to create a maze. Considering I also teach Multimedia, I could have students use it to create storyboards.

An Ikea desk I modeled in Sketchup and placed in my house plan.
One More Thing...
I just found out you can add Sketchup (and other 3D) models to your house. That opens up the entire Sketchup warehouse, not to mention any custom items you want to model. It actually works incredibly easy. You just save the Sketchup model as version 6, then import it into your plan. As long as the model was scaled accurately in Sketchup, it will fit great in your house. I haven't played with it a lot, as we're just finishing up the unit, but I anticipate some cool things...

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