Architect vs Building Designer vs Draftsman (The Complete 2019 Guide)

Architect vs Building Designer vs Draftsman (The Complete 2019 Guide)

Do I Need An Architect, Building Designer, or Draftsman?

When you venture into the world of construction, either for a new building or a remodel, you are going to get a lot of advice from a lot of different people. The first thing people will usually tell you is to hire an architect. Or a building designer. Or a draftsperson.

The problem is, on the surface, these three job titles can seem incredibly similar and yet, the cost for their services can vary pretty significantly. So what separates them and, more importantly, who do you need to hire?

This brief article will highlight what separates these professionals from each other and, hopefully, give you some clarity on who would be best for your project.

What does a draftsperson do?

A draftsperson is an expert in drawing up blueprints and designs. They focus on documentation and delivery of plans. Usually, they’ve had some training at a TAFE on how to do this properly and are more than capable of creating clear, accurate building plans.

A draftsperson, generally speaking, doesn’t handle any design work. They are strictly specialists when it comes to drawing the plans. Here’s a metaphor that makes it easy to understand: Think of a building as a beautiful, delicious chocolate cake. It’s the draftsperson’s job to write down the recipe for it. They didn’t invent the chocolate cake and they aren’t going to bake it, they just write the instructions.

Another thing that separates a draftsperson from architects and building designers is training and licensing.  Currently, there are no requirements to become a draftsperson or certifications you need to hold to operate as one. This is great for those who want to be self-taught, but that also means there is no way of guaranteeing the level of skill or expertise of a given draftsperson.

What does an architect do?

Architects are the most licensed and, therefore, the most expensive of the group.  To be an architect, you must have at least a university degree AND pass a licensing exam. On top of that, architects must continually get re-licensed every year. That means they have to build the cost of their own education into their rates.

Architects, along with building designers, can perform all of the functions of a draftsperson. They can draw up plans, give valuable input in the design materials and process, and deliver accurate documentation. However, architects and building designers also have the necessary knowledge and skill to make informed design decisions on the building to improve its form and function.

Essentially, they can take what a client wants out of a building and ensure that it looks good, serves the purpose it needs to, and stays on budget. Anyone who has dealt with construction projects knows this isn’t an easy thing to do. 

What does a building designer do?

Building designers are, in essence, the middle ground between a draftsperson and an architect. They have more training and licensing than a draftsperson, but typically don’t carry the same hefty price tag as an architect. A building designer can effectively  carry out the same tasks (delivery, documentation, and design) in a cost-effective way. It’s also worth noting that depending  on where you live,  building designers, like architects, still have to be certified to work on certain types of buildings. They must individually qualify to work on residential homes, office buildings, apartment buildings, etc. This gives them an extra layer of accountability and, therefore, credibility.

Case in point, many building designers start their careers as a draftsperson and then later acquire the necessary licenses to operate as a building designer. Another interesting fact is that even after acquiring an architecture degree, a person is legally considered a building designer until they take the licensing exam. That means that you may be able to find a building designer with all of the education of an architect who simply hasn’t gotten certified yet.

Building designers are also more qualified to assist in the beginning stages of the construction process. Because of their extra experience and education, they can offer valuable insight into materials, use, and even help you find contractors and construction companies.

To keep it simple, the biggest difference between a draftsperson, a building designer, and an architect is knowledge, experience, and cost.

So which one is right for me?

If your project is relatively small, like a quick remodel, it’s usually best to use draftsperson or a building designer. In these cases, they can give you everything you need without the unnecessary cost of an architect. For larger projects, most people choose to use either a building designer or an architect.  More in-depth and complicated builds need the problem-solving  abilities of people with extra training.

This is a good time to talk about budget. Generally speaking, an architect is more expensive to hire than a draftsperson or a building designer. A draftsperson is usually the cheapest of the three thanks to the low bar of entry. Building designers almost always fall somewhere in the middle.

One final word…

Depending on where you live and the type of construction you are doing, you may actually be required to hire at least a building designer for the construction. It’s always smart to check your local construction codes and laws before starting any major project to avoid any legal trouble or red tape halfway through.

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