Architect vs Draftsman

Posted by on Mar 25, 2013 in Blog, How to/ Tips | 23 Comments

Bambra Interior 2

A client of mine called me last week and said: “Darren please write a blog on the difference between an architect and a draftsperson, so others don’t make the same mistake I did.”

Which should you choose: architect or draftsman? It’s a question I am asked often and it’s a good one; there is a big difference, yet in this country unlike in many others you don’t have to be an architect to design a home.

Traditionally a draftsperson prepared technical drawings and plans under the direction of an architect. The act of drafting being part of the architectural process: The architect works out how their design will be built, passes this to their draftsperson in the form of sketches, which they re-draw neatly for distribution to the builder. It freed up architects to take on more projects.

This however changed decades ago, and many if not most drafts-people now operate as “building designers”; that is they undertake the design also, with no architect involved. Why? Because the industry here is not regulated, so they can.

A drafting degree is a TAFE level diploma, most of which are one or two years in length. An architecture degree is a University degree that is 5 years full time, followed by a minimum of two years practical experience in an architectural practice, after which you are eligible to sit the registration exams, the final step to becoming an architect. It takes a minimum of 7 years to become an architect; it takes as little as 1 to 2 years to become a draftsperson.

Drafts-people are an important and necessary part of the building industry. The issue however is they have crossed into doing work they have no training in, and this is reflected in the homes they produce. It is estimated that architects design only 3% of houses in Australia. With 97% of our houses created by people who aren’t designers, it’s no wonder that most new houses in this country are so badly designed with no thought to responding to their surrounds like avoiding overshadowing, or to energy efficiency and aesthetics.

This upsets me greatly. I wrote a blog the recently about the importance of good architecture in our lives, so I am saddened that most miss out on these benefits.

I acknowledge that there are some drafts-people out there who have natural design ability and produce good work, but in my time I can say I’ve only seen a few.

In all their extra years of training, architects learn not just about how to do technical drawings, but design, what makes good design, construction systems, engineering, planning regulations, energy efficiency, material science, design philosophy, history etc. A draftsman learns about technical drawing, and some general construction knowledge, that is it.

Many who have gone the way of the draftsperson will say that Architects cost more. They do, but you get what you pay for. I spend months designing a house. I know that draftspersons will spend just a few weeks. Their fees are less because they do far less work, or put another way not much design thought or input. Their construction drawings will consist of 3 to 5 sheets in total for anew house. My houses: 15-25 sheets of drawings. Such is the depth and level of design detail that myself and other architects go to.

With any new home or renovation starting at several hundred thousand dollars to build, wouldn’t you want to entrust this money to an expert? One who will create the best possible design, maximising what you get, and how your money is spent? The added amount an architect costs will be made back many times over in the added resale value that “architect designed homes” sell for. Architects actually make you money, but more importantly, you get to live in a home that functions superbly, looks beautiful, is built to a far higher level of quality, and performs better in terms of energy consumption. Pick up any home design magazine, and you won’t find a single home designed by a draftsperson…

Ok, that’s off my chest. I wrote this blog as I love and I am all about the positive effect good design has on peoples lives. My hope is I have made more people aware of how much more you get when you engage an architect.

Any questions? Please share in the comments section below. Also if there are any topics you would like to me to cover, please let me know.

Bambra - from garden

23 Comments

  1. Cilla
    March 25, 2013

    great blog.
    I chatted to a friend this morning who lives in an old house in Northcote – and she said that the extension that was put on to her property was clearly designed by an architect and not a draftsman. It’s thought out beautifully – with amazing views to the park behind, fantastic cross breezes, and it’s beautiful.

    Reply
    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      March 25, 2013

      Ahhh. Nice to hear that they appreciate and are benefitting from a well designed space. Music to my ears. Thanks Cilla.

      Reply
  2. Amy
    April 26, 2014

    Hi Darren,

    Architecture has been my passion since I was young, so naturally, I wish to persue that as a career. I just spent two weeks in a building design firm, and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I am a little disheartened and confused as to the path that I should take to get there. The guys there suggest studying building design, however I do not want to be a half-hearted architect. I want to be the best designer that I possibly can be, and therefore wonder if university would be prefferable. They also noted that building designers usually can work during their study, and therefore gain more practical experience during their study than undergraduates.

    Any advice or mentoring you could provide would be really appreciated…

    Thank you,
    Amy

    Reply
    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      April 27, 2014

      Hi Amy,
      Great to hear of your passion for architecture. My advice is study architecture as this will prepare you best to create your own amazing buildings. As for which university, they all differ in approach, visit them all and see which one resonates most with you.
      I wish you well.
      Darren.

      Reply
  3. Mark Newman
    September 20, 2014

    Hi Darren,

    Greag blog atricle, as a builder I especially like the comment about the 5 drawings produced by the draftsman compared to 20 plus drawing by the architect.

    Home owners expect a builder to turn up and build a new home or extensive renovation and hand them five drawings to do so. Its no surprise there is extra costs that come up as things haven’t been shown on the drawings, and of course its the builders fault.

    Owners need to pay for the design to be done properly up front so they can get competitive quotes on decent plans with all the information provided. If they do this they should then be able to expect a smooth building process with less surprises.

    Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      September 21, 2014

      Thanks for you comment Mark. I appreciate your frustration too. Ironically the client is interested in saving money, fair enough, but without spending that money up front on comprehensive drawings, costs blow out later as you and I have said. The money they tried to save ends up being spent and then some. Fingers then get pointed at the builder or the architect.

      My hope is that with my blog, and others out there also spreading the word, that we can educate people on this and other matters, so that building is a rewarding and transparent process for all involved.

      All the best with you work. Thanks again.

      Darren.

      Reply
  4. Tek1 Pty Ltd
    October 16, 2014

    Great Post Darren,

    Eventually, its all comes down to the available budget. If you are comfortable with spending some extra money, go for the services of an architect. And if you happen to be on a strict budget then perhaps go with the services of a draftsman.

    Reply
    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      October 17, 2014

      Thank you for your comment.

      Exactly, well said. It is up to the each person’s needs. To some design is not important, and there’s nothing wrong with that, to others it is. Then there is the cost, not everyone can afford an architect designed home. If it were more affordable I’m sure a lot more would be using architects… I wish it was more affordable, but building is very expensive.

      Thanks for reading my blog.

      Reply
      • Shelley
        November 26, 2014

        Hi Darren,

        I found your article really interesting. I’m currently about to embark on a major renovation/extension and in the tricky situation of seeing the value of working with an architect but of course have a very tight budget.

        I wondered whether a good compromise would be to engage the services of an architect for the design concepts and detailed drawings and material specs and then employ a draftsman/builder to complete the construction plans?

        Would love to hear your thoughts…

        Reply
        • Darren Naftal
          Darren Naftal
          December 20, 2014

          Great question Shelley. I firmly believe the architect should see the whole process through. Only they have the full understanding and idea of their vision. The construction plans are as important as the design, if not more so. They control the quality and also the way in which the vision comes to life on the building site. Any compromise at the construction drawing phase, would only see the same compromise being built.
          Best of luck with your project.

          Reply
  5. todd
    December 19, 2014

    hi Darren ,
    very interesting discussion as I am a 43 yr old concreter who is looking at becoming a draftsman , so I have a heap of research to do as to how I go about this but you views are very interesting and can appreciate everyone’s comments ,any advice on how I could become a better than average draftsman would be appreciated , and would you advise to try and get a traineeship whilst doing the course part time or just do the course full time ? thanks

    Reply
    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      December 20, 2014

      Hi Todd,
      There are good and bad practitioners in any field. My advice to stand out as a draftsmen is to be passionate about what you do and what you create. Secondly, only work with clients who are interested in creating something aligned with your values, it’s a team effort. Best of luck.

      Reply
  6. Claire
    December 22, 2014

    This is really interesting, and I’m glad I read this. I am searching for information on both architects and draftsmen, as to which would be a better field to work in. It sounds silly but i’m in 10th grade and stressing over which will support me better as an adult, and which basic college classes I have to take. Still unsure, but maybe you could shed some light on your views?

    Reply
    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      December 22, 2014

      Hi Claire,
      I’m glad my blog post has helped.
      It is harder to get into architecture, but if you really love designing, then it’s the way to go. Architects are more interested in spending the time to create buildings that are unique, well thought out, and of the highest quality. If you want to be the best building designer you can be, then studying architecture will help you get there.
      As for subjects at school. I highly recommend graphics, if that’s not available then art. Maths and some physics will help too.
      Good luck. Feel free to email or call if you have any other questions.

      Reply
  7. Justin
    February 27, 2015

    I commissioned an architect 2 years ago to design an extension to my family home. I am a corporate designer and value well thought out design solutions. We gave a very detailed written brief including visual references on what we did and didn’t like. We described the way we live and the way we wanted to interact with the built form and the natural environment. The proposal was fantastic – visually really interesting and a solution we had not thought of to meet our needs. I do not believe a draftsman would have come up with the proposal. We were very excited. What we were not aware of was that an area of our lot is deemed flood affected by our local council requiring a detailed flood study. After a considerable amount of time and money, our proposal was rejected. We are in a position now where we are not sure we can afford an architect to continue with the project and are questioning the value of it. Just a different point of view.

    Reply
    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      February 27, 2015

      Hi Justin,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear your architect came up with a great proposal.

      Before I even prepare a fee proposal to a potential client, I call the council and ask if a permit is needed for their land, to see if heritage controls, flood zones etc exist. I can’t know the scope of the works (do I need to prepare planning drawings) and the complexity involved without speaking to the council. For your architect to have not done that is really unfortunate, and suggests to me a lack of experience perhaps? I’m sorry to hear it. It’s a mistake that should not have happened.

      Flood zones set a minimum floor height to ensure you won’t get flooded. Find out from the local water authority what the floor level is. If you raise your proposal up to comply with the flood zone requirements, and it still meets the height requirements under the code, you should get your permit.

      I hope this was of some help and you can still get your project underway.

      Best of luck,

      Darren.

      Reply
  8. Architect vs Draftsman
    August 15, 2015

    Thanks Darren,

    Great blog, and it answered my question.

    I am passionate about architecture and design. Unfortunately i am not in a position to make the major leagues as an architect (academics and age oblige). Fortunately i was accepted to be a full time student to learn the ropes of building design for 2 years.

    My point is, i want to be a 100% drafter (and proud) and work side by side with the minds who created their work…and learn from them, and never replace their professional qualities.

    It seems that a lot of designers or (in any field) today are a bit pompous. This you tube generation…auto cad, sketshup, is becoming arrogant. Yes their are some 2% designers who have the chops…but, nothing compares to a real architect who knows the science of building. I am just an humble artist who loves the art to create…i am a side musician wanting to learn.

    Glad some people here gave me inspired testimonials, that helped me to further my quest to be a draftsmen

    Reply
  9. Dianne
    November 10, 2015

    Great article. We live in a 1938 weatherboard house with a flat roof extension with poor design. The lack of flow of living spaces, underutilisation of natural light, lack of privacy with bedroom spaces combined with a kitchen being installed where the hallway used to be make for a challenging environment. After living and breathing bad design we’ve opted for an architect to assist us with a floor plan reshuffle. However we’ve met with some “interesting” questioning for not simply using a builder or drafts person for the design.

    Reply
    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      November 10, 2015

      Hi Dianne,
      Every addition I’ve done to a house required the tearing off of an existing addition that was poorly designed. Glad to hear you are correcting the wrongs at your house, and freeing your kitchen from the hallway. Hope your project goes well and the final outcome is so “interesting” that those who doubted your decision to use an architect will understand.

      Reply
  10. Charmain Lewis
    June 18, 2016

    My husband and I are looking to renovate a property that will involve remodelling the front of the house and knocking down the back and rebuilding. Interestingly, I stumbled across this blog because we are debating using an architect v draftsmen. I thought we could achieve the same innovative results at a lower cost by using a draftsmen but after reading your blog and now understanding the difference between the two, I am going to do my best to convince my husband to engage the services on an architect and spend the extra money as I am sure it will be worth the end result. I must say, my husband and I have very short memories as a number of years ago, we saved ourselves heaps in the initial stages, when we engaged a draftsmen to design the extension of a previous house. The builder (also a qualified civil engineer) took one look at the drawings and told us it wasn’t going to work and then went about making changes to the design to make it work. It has been some 20 years since this experience so our memories clearly aren’t that great but your article has brought the memories flooding back so a big “thank you” from me and wish me luck with convincing my husband. I shall make him read your blog!

    Reply
  11. AKINSANYA AKINDELE JOHN
    August 12, 2016

    Hello Darren,

    I really enjoyed your analysis of the roles of An Architects and that of a Draughtsman.

    It is really in-sighting and comprehensive.

    I am an Architect from Nigeria, and I hope to have a constant conversation with you.

    Regards.

    Reply
    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      August 12, 2016

      Thank you Akinsanya. I look forward to that.

      Reply
      • Akinsanya Akindele John
        April 14, 2017

        Good day,

        It is been a while I had contacted you, it is just I was fully engaged at the office. I have started my own practice since I resigned from my old Office.
        Journalism is one of my forte and I will appreciate your input in some works I am putting together.
        Kindly send me your official or personal email address where I can reach you directly.

        Regards.

        Akinsanya Akindele John

        Reply

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