Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
As a young student, long before computer drafting tools were available, I enjoyed architecture and precision drawing. After college, I worked for an architect in San Diego on a plan for a small housing development in Utah, with passive solar design and some off-site fabrication features.
My first use of CAD was for boat hulls in the late eighties, when I was exploring designs for large, modern Pacific proas. Upgraded in the nineties to MultiSurf by AeroHydro: "a rich and versatile system for parametric design of 3D geometric objects, particularly complex objects involving freeform curves and surfaces.".
Sketchup and Google Earth are well integrated for exchanging terrain data and models, which is useful for site planning, solar exposure study of shadows for any date and time, and viewing 3D models in relation in their surroundings. A structure like the Hanalei Pier may be of community interest, worthy of great effort to texture and render in detail, but small private buildings can be located accurately and viewed in the same way.
In 2009, I started using Google SketchUp (7 Pro) and its programmable "Dynamic Components" feature to create a solar array model. When scaled, the outer frame dimension is rounded to accommodate the appropriate number of columns and rows, based on the single panel size, and then copies of that panel are drawn instead of a stretched version.
The next "smart component" was a truss beam that adjusts its number of diaganol braces appropriately as its length is scaled.
Variations of these techniques were used to create Dynamic Component models for dimensioned lumber (choice of sizes), rafter and purlin systems, deck floor joists and railings, nail/hole patterns, and shipping containers. (NOTE: To use the dynamic features of these models, they must be downloaded using the "Components" window in SketchUp, rather than the "Download" button on these pages.)
Different sizes of shipping containers stack like blocks - until you find out how they are built, where they are strong and not, the engineering needed to stack them in ways different than how they were designed - square, on their corner posts:
Deck extended 8', new roof cantilevers over old, which is cut back to raise gutter above header beams.
Early 2010 - Pre-fab containers began to lose their appeal when I realized that door and window openings in containers must be done relatively close to a build site, since they no longer meet specs for container shipping rates. So focus shifted toward components that can be useful on many different projects, "modular housing designed for shipping containers", starting with roof kit systems in two sizes, 16' and 20' trusses, with generous four foot overhangs at each end, that fit a wide variety of floor plans. The trusses rest on 4x10 beams attached to the containers, or optional posts to extend the roof over decking.
Dozens of truss variations have been considered, all in 3D: