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Grand Designs 3D Renovation & Interior - Grand Designs 3D Renovation & Interior

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


Once you're finished laying everything out you can render the scene with full lighting calculations - a process that apparently results in photo realistic images of your design. However, despite our best efforts we couldn't come up with anything that looked more realistic than the basic model with a few more shadows thrown in for good measure. Regardless, you can specify time of day and sun position (well, technically house position) to see how the house can be best designed to use the available light.

You can also print out plans of the structure, for submitting to an architect or such like. However, as mentioned, Arcon makes a point of saying only printouts from the full Self Build & Development package are of planning application quality.

A number of example Grand Design projects are really the only major tie-in with the TV show, giving you the opportunity to see just how some of these great buildings were put together. However, the buildings are just simple unfurnished models of the buildings with none of the often beautiful settings these building find themselves in also rendered. This limits their impact somewhat and reduces their usefulness. Nevertheless, to be able to see exactly the proportions and innovative designs used in these buildings is quite a lesson.

Possibly the most disappointing part of this software, for someone that's new to it, at least, is the included tutorials are appallingly produced with poor quality ad hoc voiceovers that do little to actually explain what's going on - much less come close to being a step by step beginner's guide. Likewise the 300 page manual falls fowl of the classic errors, whereby it goes into some ridiculous detail in some areas then completely glosses over others and at no point does it give you a true feeling of how the heck you do anything.

And this is a big problem because the software is oh so very far from being intuitive, at least beyond the basics of putting up a few walls. Now I appreciate that reasonably powerful CAD software is going to have a certain degree of complexity, but there's something about this program that left me feeling constantly flustered. A problem that is quite clearly due to this software having gone through limited end user testing. Something that is nicely demonstrated by the fact a tool tip (the popup that appears when you hold your cursor over an icon) was written in German.

In fairness, though, with time this software's idiosyncrasies can be overcome and when they are it will be an invaluable tool for the budding self builder or DIYer. So for this reason we feel it's actually worth the money, especially as the seemingly identical but non-Grand Designs branded version of Arcon's 3D Home Designer is twice the price. Just be wary that the single user license is strictly enforced to the point where two users of the same computer with different logins won't both be able to use the software. For that you'll need to buy a second license.


Budding self-builders rejoice. For £50 you can have a reasonably powerful and relatively easy to use CAD package with which to design your latest creation. From 2D layout to fully rendered 3D model and architect's drawings you can plan and execute the vast majority of most modest building and design work with one program. Just don't expect much from the Grand Designs tie-in.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Performance 8
  • Value 8
  • Usability 6
  • Features 8


April 22, 2009, 5:35 am

Hmm, interesting. Personally, I don't see much use for this to the average DIYer (well, at least not this version). Surely it'd much easier - not to mention cheaper - to jot a few things down on some paper? If you want something that dresses it up and renders fancy lighting (not that it looks particularly fancy anyway) then you might as well play The Sims. The whole thing stinks of a rushed, half-assed commercial cash-in.

Having said that, it does sound like the full version would be of benefit to more serious types, not that I can speak from any experience.


April 22, 2009, 5:43 am

Could it be, the rare software review?

You guys really need to review more software!


April 22, 2009, 2:26 pm

@smc8788, I'm not sure it might be useful, if you have a designers head but are not a trained housing designer, then passing your creations over to him to finish to make sure it has all current housing regulations etc, could save a lot of time & money.


April 22, 2009, 2:38 pm

Precisely, Keith. Being able to flesh out your ideas and demonstrate them, to an architect or builder or just to yourself so you can fully visualise them, is pretty invaluable.


April 22, 2009, 3:00 pm

Could I use this version to design my living room : ie render what it would look like to have a 42" plasma on a pull out wall mount, and larger 5.1 speakers but 'hidden' by sitting on purpose made bookshelves, and a cabinet designed to house/hide all my AV gear?

If I could show my wife a convincing rendered mock-up I could speed this project along, and start ordering some decent AV kit!


April 22, 2009, 3:09 pm

Given that you see so many Macs in Grand Designs, its very disappointing that they didn't go for a Mac version of this or some similar software. At best it seems a poorly considered cash-in, when people can get the free version of SketchUp for both platforms. As someone who runs an architectural practice, I welcome Clients giving me 3d sketches - the rest I'd rather sort myself rather than having to undo what they think they've done - building structures and building regulations are complicated - buying a piece of software doesn't overcome that!


April 22, 2009, 3:23 pm

Aye, SketchUp is a brilliant piece of free software. I use it on occasion for a bit of case modding.

I suppose I can see the use in throwing down some ideas to see what they might look like, but I doubt its usefulness as a serious design tool. I'm sure there must be better options out there for that kind of thing; this just seems like a highly simplified piece of software with rather limited options for people that don't want to pay out for a fully fledged design program. But then I could be wrong - I haven't even used it after all!


January 15, 2011, 5:06 pm

Agree with the above. I am a qualified Architect and yes I can see how the client could find this piece of software useful in generating initial designs to begin to understand the spaces but I would say that any building project so much more involved than a piece of 'Grand Designs' software. Relying too heavily on something like this to see you though the statutory regulations and contractual issues is a real danger without professional expertise.

Also agree that SketchUp would be a much better option (and free)for any budding home-builder. This is a great piece of software, again with its own limitations, and I would imagine from reading this review give the user a greater freedom to design.

rapid prototype

February 17, 2014, 6:49 pm

Thanks for sharing...

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