10 useful builtin addons for architecture in Blender

The 10 most useful addons for architecture design

Blender 2.8 is a significant revamp of the popular free and open source 3d modeling and animation suite. Numerous new features and UI improvements will continue to drive Blender's adoption in multiple industries including architectural design.

As a generalist 3d program, utilizing external plugins could significantly improve efficiency and workflows for design work. The following list shows the most essential plugins to use for architectural concept design work.

It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a list that every designer should look into to improve workflows.

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Video associated with this list

Make sure you watch the following video for a qucik understanding of how the addons work and where to find them. More detailed videos for some addons will be added soon.

Tissue

  • Purpose - panelize and tesselate geometry
  • Usage - create and select a panel component and a base mesh, and in the sidebar menu, choose Tissue, and Tesselate
  • Location - View3D > Sidebar > Tissue
  • Installation - search for Tissue in the add-ons tab in preferences
  • Discussion - facebook group and blendrartists topic

Description

Tissue is a tessellating plugin that maps and morphs a "component" to a base mesh by using the topology of the base object. It works with quads and provides numerous opportunities for architectural design.

It can be used to create facade panels - from straightforward brick of solid panel(with a punch-through windows and balconies) to intricate morphed curtain wall panel systems. The same workflow can be used to create a city grid out of a subdivided plane.

Tissue can also be utilized for generative design to evaluate topological studies of any sort. Combined with subdivision modifier (and many other modifiers), it can generate results that take a fraction of the setup time to do something similar with Grasshopper.

The plugin retains the parametric relationship between the base mesh and the component. For example, is to start with a simple facade panel component in order to get an understanding of the scale. then tesselate it on a base mesh. Subsequently, refine the initial panel, and then simply update the tesselation with the click of a button, retaining the previous tesselation settings. In this sense, tissue provides an easy workflow for iterative design studies.

Offset Edges (Part of Edit Mesh Tools)

  • Purpose - offset, move, or extrude edge loops
  • Usage - in edit mode, select the edge you would like to offset, then go to the, Edge Tools, and select offset edges.
  • Location - View3D (Edit mode) > Sidebar > Edit > Mesh Tools > Edge Tools
  • Installation - search for Edit Mesh Tools in the add-ons tab in preferences

Description

This continues to be the plugin that I use the most often. It now comes builtin as part of the Edit Mesh Tools addon. It provides a cad-like offset functionality. Besides everyday general offset needs, it is also an excellent tool to build roof overhangs, cornices, and mouldings, as the tool provides angled offsets. I've created scripts that help generate landscaped stairs as well.

One limitation of the tool is that it preserves the topological continuity of the offset geometry. In case the results have overlapping or criss-crossing vertices, the only way to adjust the topology is by manually fixing the overlaps. The issue can mostly be avoided by making sure that the vertices around beveled corners are well spaced apart and that the offset distance is smaller than the distances that would create overlaps.

Edit Mesh Tools has a series of other useful commands in an easy-to-access location in the sidebar menu.

Sure UVW Box (Part of Magic UV)

  • Purpose - UV Box automatically unwraps at 1 to 1 scale without manual UV unwrap and alignment
  • Usage - en edit mode, select all topology, press U to open the UV menu, select UVW near the bottom, and choose Box
  • Location - View3D (Edit mode) > Sidebar > Edit > Mesh Tools > Edge Tools
  • Installation - search for Magic UV in the add-ons tab in preferences

Description

This is the second most-used addon in my toolbox. Since discovering this plugin, I rarely need to manually UV unwrap geometry, as it automates the process of making sure your textures come in the right size. As long you object scale is 1, all objects unwrapped with UVW Box will have UVs relative to a unit of one. This means that your bricks will remain the same size no matter what the underlying geometry could be, for example. It is now part of Magic UV.

Note if you would like to use Sure UVW without entering edit mode, then you can install it as a seperate plugin from here, which will be then available in the sidebar menu

Scatter Objects

  • Purpose - Scatter instances of objects around a scene
  • Usage - select a ground plane object and then the object to scatter around. Use the tool options to adjust the settings (Note, use tool options in Properties > Tools instead of Sidebar > Tools)
  • Location - View3D > Search (press F3) > Scatter
  • Installation - search for Scatter Objects in the add-ons tab in preferences

Description

This plugins scatters instances of objects. Unlike using particles, this does not need a a specific grid density for vertex groups or a specific vertex density to scatter the objects around. This is useful for positioning debris or other random elements. The scattered objects are linked to the original object so any changed on the base object will result in changes in the scattered objects.

Modifiers tools

  • Purpose - Adds buttons on top of the modifier stack to quickly apply/delete/enable all modifiers in the stack
  • Usage - Select and object with modifiers, to to the modifier tab in the properties window, and you should see 4 new buttons on top
  • Location - Properties Panel > Modifiers
  • Installation - Search for Modifier tools in the add-ons tab in preferences

Archipack (free version)

  • Purpose - create walls, doors, windows, roofs, stairs, and other architectural elements.
  • Usage - In the Create tab in the Sidebar, select the type of elements you wish to create and then adjust the settings in the Archipack tab
  • Location - To create elements: View3D > Sidebar > Create
  • Location - To edit elements, with an element selected: View3D > Sidebar > Archipack
  • Installation - search for Archipack in the add-ons tab in preferences

Description

Archipack makes it easier to create traditional architectural elements like walls, windows, doors, roofs, and stairs. Of particular use is the stair tool and the walls/window tools. Windows and doors come as an "assembly" parented to an empty that include a Boolean box to use for when inserting into doors. The stair tool allows fairly complex stairs to be built with ease. Currently the stair and handrail styles are limited, yet the ability to create complex stair assemblies fast is significantly useful. There are many other functionalities, which could have their own blog post, and I would encourage you test the plug-in and explore all its possibilities.

Tinycad

  • Purpose - perform cad-like operations like extend or trim.
  • Usage - in edit mode, select two edges to trim or intersect, select the edge menu on the viewport header or right click (if in edge selection mode), and choose the tinyCAD submenu. Then choose VTX Auto or intersect
  • Location - View3D > Edit Mode > Edge Context Menu
  • Installation - search for Tinycad in the add-ons tab in preferences

Description

This plug-in introduces rudimentary CAD-like functionality based on mesh edges. The two operators that are quite useful are extending two edges up to a point where they meet and intersecting two overlapping edges by inserting a vertex.

Stored Views

  • Purpose - quickly save and restore views and cameras
  • Usage - select the View tab in the Sidebar, scroll down to stored views
  • Location - View3D > Sidebar > View > Stored Views
  • Installation - search for Stored Views in the add-ons tab in preferences

Description

This plug-in introduces rudimentary CAD-like functionality based on mesh edges. The two operators that are quite useful are extending two edges up to a point where they meet and intersecting two overlapping edges by inserting a vertex

Bool Tool

  • Purpose - Ease of use for creating booleans.
  • Usage - Select the boolean object and the resulting object (from which to add or subtract), then go to the Sidebar, choose the Edit tab, and use the Brush boolean tools for non destructive operations.
  • Location - View3D > Sidebar > Edit
  • Installation - search for Bool Tool in the add-ons tab in preferences

Description

This addons eases the process of using booleans, as it automatically creates a boolean modifier on the last selected object. It also changes the boolean object display mode to boundary and disables it for rendering purposes. There and many other more sophisticated addons that essentially do what this addon does (and more), yet this addon works great for architectural design as it preserves a Blender vanilla experience as much as possible.

Align Tool

  • Purpose - Align objects based on their object level location, rotation, and scale with ease
  • Usage - Select the objects to align, with the last one being the one to align the operations to.
  • Location - View3D > Sidebar > Item > Align
  • Installation - search for Align in the add-ons tab in preferences

Description

This addon aligns objects easily in object level based on their location. Select all the objects, with the last object selected being the one that you would like all the other objects to align to and then choose how you would like to align.

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