Grand Designs 3D Self Build and Development combines two other applications from the range – Kitchen & Bathroom and Renovation & Interior – to offer an all-in-one solution to home design. As with most high-end packages of this ilk, it’s pretty easy to mock up an early layout and the wide range of tools available for fine-tuning offers those with a bit more creativity the ability to truly refine a finished product.
A typical build may start with a ground area, which can be added to define the boundaries of a property, and creation of exterior and interior walls to create a "blueprint" layout. While it’s possible to be extremely precise when creating a design, it’s also possible to knock one up pretty quickly once you get used to the location and purpose of each of the tools available. Much of the process involves using the mouse to "drag and drop" to decide the length, position and size of elements and as such it’s extremely quick and easy to tweak and embellish designs.
Windows, doors and interior objects can be dragged and dropped onto the plan from the wide range of styles available and once you’re up to speed it’s possible to come up with a rough layout of a floor with a few key elements in just a couple of minutes. Of course most people would want a little more detail than this and there’s a big difference between fleshing out a rough plan and the intricacies required to develop a dream property.
Rest assured that Grand Designs is more than capable of handling precise measurements and object construction, from the height and number of shelves in a bookcase to the angles of stairs, texture of walls, floors and ceilings and exteriors.
There are around 7200 objects and 1300 textures available to apply, with more downloadable from the Internet, and in many cases it’s possible to use custom images and even import photos to use as backdrops in the surrounding area. Lights and reflections can be used to enhance designs and everything from balconies, railings and garden objects and structures can be added and viewed from a range of angles.
Once a structure is complete, or indeed at any point during design, it’s possible to view in 3D, walk around the rendered design using the mouse or export plans and drawings for use elsewhere.
We were extremely impressed by the level of detail available and the various ways in which a home can be fine-tuned to get it as close to a finished design as possible, but did have a few issues with other areas of the software.
The toolbars and iconography used within the application seem a little dated and do nothing to complement a package oriented around creative design. 3D models are also a little rough around the edges at times, and we experienced some graphical issues with redrawing when flying around a 3D model.
Finally, the sheer range of textures, objects, measurements and other nuances that can be controlled can be a little overwhelming and while this is inevitable to an extent due to the degree of variety required, these could have been presented in a more approachable fashion. Video tutorials are available alongside comprehensive help files, but these seem rather hurriedly produced and are not as useful as they could be.
Despite these issues there can be little doubting the potential uses for such a package, and while the aesthetic concerns orient it more towards practical application than designing a dream home for fun, this is still an extremely flexible way to experiment.
Grand Designs covers just about everything you might want to do with a real home and goes into an impressive amount of detail when it comes to refining and fine-tuning. Considering the graphical capabilities of modern software and hardware though, the rather dated approach to presentation is a little disappointing, though not serious enough to undermine the flexibility of the software.