Model Organization

Model Organization

Nesting Groups and Layers

A persistent question is why do we need nested groups? Why don’t we layer per line like computer-aided design (CAD)? Once you understand the benefit, it’s a no-brainer—the system presented is a fool proof, easier way of doing things. It eliminates opportunity for errors and requires less troubleshooting. Nested groups avoid having an endless layers list.

For example, if you have a two-story house with a basement, you would need hundreds, maybe thousands, of layers to accurately describe each combination of LEVEL, ELEMENT, LOCATION, and CONDITION. Managing that many layers is hard enough; imagine applying them to all of your geometry. With nested layers, you are able to reuse layers within each LEVEL, within each ELEMENT, within each LOCATION, and within each CONDITION.

Group your model accordingly. Note the floor height for finished floors are included in level layers.
Door openings are always cut to the finished floor.

Nesting Groups

Start with nesting groups within one another. This is the way to organize every model, for every project type, to get predictable results. This section is more theory than practice but will be a strong resource later. Just take a moment to understand the order of how the model is organized with this system; you will implement in practice for new construction and renovation projects. The order in which you actually group your model is likely different than the order the groups are explained in this section. What order you group doesn’t matter, as long as the final organization is correct.

To start nesting groups, you first need to separate the different levels of your design into groups: one group that holds everything on the first level, another group that holds everything on the second level, and so on.

The objects and geometry that represent each level of the model are first separated into LEVEL groups.
Twenty-five ELEMENT groups within each LEVEL group.
Three CONDITION groups within each of the LOCATION groups within each of the ELEMENT groups within the each of the LEVEL groups.
Edges, surfaces, and objects are held within each of the three CONDITION groups. This is the last level of organization for the default system.
Next, double-click inside of each of the LEVEL groups; you will need to make 25 groups that hold ELEMENT entities. Select the walls, right-click, make group. Select the floors, right-click, make group. Select the roofs, right-click, make group. Do this for all 25 ELEMENT groups that correspond with the objects represented by the ELEMENT layers.

Inside each of the ELEMENT groups, you will add two LOCATION groups, one to hold exterior entities, the other to hold interior entities. Inside each of the LOCATION groups, you will add three CONDITION groups, one to hold new entities, one to hold existing entities, and one to hold demolished entities. Inside CONDITION groups is where you will add edges, surfaces, and objects. Because groups are invisible containers, the best way to build a model is to get after it—that is, just start modeling. Begin by grouping objects based on the layers; these layers are also further described in the next section so you know what goes in each group. You will need to select geometry and objects in order to create the groups. Build the walls, make a group. Add doors and windows, then put them each in their respective group. Add floors and ceilings, then put them each in their respective groups. Once you have a decent amount of the model built, select all the elements that make up the first level, and put them in a group. Take it from there. Let’s use a simple model to illustrate the point. Here is a simple two-level renovation composed of new and existing floors, walls, and a roof.

Group geometry and objects within each level based on the ELEMENT layers. For instance, roofs grouped together, walls grouped together, floors grouped together, etc. You will do this for all ELEMENT layers. Within each ELEMENT layer, the organization continues with LOCATION and CONDITION.
TIP:  You could use components just the same, but if an element is unique, not repeating, and the only one in the model, then there is no need for it to be a component. Components are better suited to objects, specifically repeating objects. Groups are better suited to overall model organization.


Layers control the visibility of entities in SketchUp; edges, surfaces, text, groups, components, section planes, and images can all have a layer applied to them. If an entity is on a layer that is not visible, the entity cannot be seen. You can assign only one layer to each entity in SketchUp, but if the geometry is nested inside multiple groups, we can assign a layer to each of the nested groups, which ultimate controls the visibility of the geometry in the final nested group. We need nested groups primarily for the advanced layering that makes the entire SketchUp Workflow for Architecture and ConDoc System work.

TIP:  When I say ELEMENT group, I mean the group that has the ELEMENT layers applied to it. When I mention the “LEVEL 01 group,” I am referring to the group that has the LEVEL_01 layer applied to it.

We group entities per their LEVEL, ELEMENT, LOCATION, and CONDITION, but SketchUp doesn’t know what these containers are. We need to assign layers to the nested groups. Layers are the container’s nametags— they make the geometry a “roof,” a “wall,” or a “floor” so they will be displayed appropriately. The geometry contained in the last nested group will be visible only if all the nested layers are visible. For the following example, let’s assume our model has two levels, and only the roof, walls, and floors as ELEMENTS. This will give us a simple example to test nested layer visibility.

This Model Organization Diagram illustrates the new exterior walls on level 01 of the simple renovation project. If any of the layers in the chain are turned off, the walls can no longer be seen.
Let’s explain what we created by assigning layers to nested groups, a series of switches to see the geometry. Like a light switch, all switches in the circuit must be on for the light to be visible. If any layer in the chain is turned off , the geometry will be invisible. Using our simplified renovation example, let’s look at the walls to demonstrate the point. They are organized LEVEL_01 > ELEMENT_Walls > LOCATION_Exterior > CONDITION_New. If any one of these layers is turned off, then the geometry that represents the walls will not be visible.

All nested layers must be visible to see the edges, surfaces, and objects within the final CONDITION group.

If the LEVEL layer is turned off , then all other nested groups cannot be seen, regardless of whether their ELEMENT, LOCATION, or CONDITION layers are visible. LEVEL layer turned off makes the entire level’s geometry invisible.
If an ELEMENT layer is turned off , then all groups within it will be invisible throughout each LEVEL. ELEMENT layer turned off makes that geometry invisible in all levels.
If a LOCATION layer is turned off , then all groups within it will be invisible throughout each ELEMENT within each LEVEL. This is how the Interior and Exterior utility scenes peel away the exterior of a model so quickly and easily. LOCATION layer turned off makes that geometry invisible for all elements in all levels.
If a CONDITION layer is turned off , then all groups within it will be invisible throughout each LOCATION within each ELEMENT within each LEVEL. CONDITION layer turned off makes that geometry invisible in all levels
Ultimately, if you put everything in the right place, you can use layers to control visibility with full control. This is what enables hatching, line weights, and consultant exports. The entire system runs on this concept of nesting groups with layers.

Place geometry in the correct group with the corresponding layer.
TIP: Paste in place is a more powerful paste; it is used to move an entity from one group to another. Simply cut as usual, then navigate to the proper group, and choose Edit > Paste in place.
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