Should you Hire a Draftsman over an Architect, and Vice-Versa

The words “draftsman” and “architect” have become synonymous to the lay man, but for those in-the-know they are hardly one and the same. Both professions play important roles in the Australian building industry, but it’s extremely important to have a solid grasp on what exactly these roles are before you hire either one to work on your project.

Learn from history or be doomed to repeat it.

Modern day confusion stems from the original relationship held between architects and draftsmen. Historically, an architect designed a structure from scratch and then passed off their rough sketches to a draftsman to refine into workable drawings for actual builders. Originally this was all done on paper, but for a few decades now CAD has ruled the roost.

The idea was that the architect was the master and the draftsman was the pupil. By delegating grunt work, architects were able to work on more projects at the same time. Back then draftsmen had very little to do with design decisions. Simply put, they translated the architect’s concept into a “how-to” sort of schematic.

And along comes Computer Aided Drafting, shaking up the program.

CAD made construction drawings faster to create, easier to modify, and simpler to reproduce. With the use of templates and software assisted engineering, draftsmen were able to design simple buildings on their own.

Over time, as draftsmen became more savvy with the tools of their trade, it became common for structures to be conceptualised and constructed from start to finish without ever consulting a certified architect.

Nowadays a very small percentage of residential properties built in Australia utilise the input of an architect. The numbers vary depending on who is reporting, but the general consensus is that fewer than 5% of new single-family homes are designed by an architect.

Stay in school, kids. You’ll make a lot more money.

An architect’s educational background is considerably different than that of a draftsman. CAD is something that you study at a 2 year trade school, whereas architecture requires 4-5 years attendance at a full-fledged university as well as 2 years of practice. Architects need to pass standardised tests issued by the government before they can become licensed and work professionally.

As you might imagine, the salary requirements for an architect are quite a bit heftier. After all, they’ve been through the ringer and back!

You get what you pay for, just make sure you’re paying for what you need.

Just because an architect costs more doesn’t mean that there’s never a need to hire one. If you place a high value on aesthetics, usage of space, energy efficiency, shadowing, and showcasing a unique or artistic look, then it could very well be worth your while to invest more resources at the design phase of your project by hiring an architect.

The homes you drool over flipping through the pages of a design magazine are not designed by draftsmen, they are designed by architects. If wowing the neighbours is more important than your bottom line, then the choice is simple. Architect all the way.

But if you’re happy with a slightly modified replica of a cookie-cutter design you’ve seen around the neighbourhood or you use the services of a renovation or extension company, then there’s simply no reason to shell out big bucks for an architect when a draftsman is more than capable of completing the task at hand. Similarly, 98% of all home extensions can be drawn up by a draftsman.

Now that you understand the difference between an architect and a draftsman, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on whom you need to hire when sketching out the plans for your dream home or next major renovation.