We may have mentioned this before... We've got a creamery to design! Although a professional may have to step in at some point before we move into construction, we'd like to take it as far as we can ourselves first. It will save money and make us intimately familiar with every nook and cranny of the new creamery as well as the rules regulating its design and function as stated in the PMO (now our bible). It all started a few months ago with a pencil, plastic grid ruler, and some paper. Although they were effective and the tools were enjoyable to work with, the results were decidedly not very professional looking... Maybe if I had a drafters precision, but I don't.
In my search for another way (Photoshop was not the way) I found two great programs that I thought I'd share:
Floorplanner is a free online program that lets you sketch up a floor plan and even view the design in 3d. You can add things like windows, doors, and drains and scale everything to your liking. They have an entire library of objects, furniture (industrial kitchen stuff too), and architectural details to add in. After trying it out, I was so excited about my find and the new high-tech look of the creamery plan that I showed it off to our architect roommate as soon as he got home from work. When presented with our plans he chuckled a bit and then kindly directed me to...
SketchUp. It's actually a downloadable program (you can work off-line) designed by Google that is pitched as, "3D modeling for everyone" and it's free! Sounds cool, right? Apparently it's so good that even design professionals use it. And guess what?! (this is the best part) - you can use it in conjunction with Google earth! You can take your design, plop it onto your land and view it there TO SCALE.
Although super excited to use the program, I was afraid it would be a tad beyond my technical/computer skills (I've never used CAD, but that's what I was imagining. With terror.) and would take a long time to learn. I was unsure of whether it was worth my time. After all, it's not like we don't have enough to do here! Well, it was. Although it took me around 4 hours to make a simple version of the top floor only of our creamery my first time in the saddle (I might just be slow, but that's what it took), since then, I've become pretty proficient (for a non professional) and have been able to make plans that clearly show our vision and have been an incredibly valuable tool for us. We've been able to decide exactly where we will build the creamery as well as better understand how it will fit into the current layout of buildings and land on our farm.
If you're not very comfortable with computers and/or an investment of about 10 hours seems a bit overboard, go with Floorplanner. It's a solid program and you may not need all the bells and whistles of SketchUp.
Both programs have tutorial videos and searchable how-to databases available on their sites to teach you how to use their features.