You may be planning to renovate your home, add an extension, or build a new home. How do you decide if you need an architect or a draftsperson / building designer to help you with your home project?

As an architect, I often get asked this question by people who have not built their own home or renovated before. Each person’s situation is different so you have to consider all the options and decide how you can have the best design for your budget.

Here are some tips to help you decide if an architect would be the best professional to help you, or whether the services of a draftsperson / building designer will suffice.

Qualifications and registration requirements

 There is a difference in the qualifications of an architect and that of a draftsperson / building designer.

A graduate architect will be required to complete 5 years at a University studying architecture, to complete a Bachelor of Architecture and graduate with a Masters of Architecture degree.

The graduate architect has to then complete two years training and experience with an architectural company.  After completing this training, they have to pass a competency based assessment architectural practice exam before they can register with the Architectural registration board.  Once registered, a graduate architect can then call themselves an architect.

An architect may decide to go on and do further studies in an area of particular interest and to gain the skills and knowledge to call themselves an expert in their field.

For example, in my own case, after registering as an architect, I went on to complete a Masters in Architecture – Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies from the University of East London.  This provided me with the skills and knowledge to design green healthy eco homes.

The qualification for a draftsperson / building designer is typically completed over two years with an Advanced Diploma in Building Design from a TAFE college.

A draftsperson / building designer then needs to demonstrate that they have had one year of practical experience before they can registered with the Building Practitioners Board under the category of Draftsperson, Class of Building Design (Architectural).


 It is often assumed that an architect will charge more than a draftsperson / building designer.   On the website it states:

“Many people wrongly assume that an architect will always be more expensive by default. While less costly projects are likely to be better suited to a building designer, prices and pricing structures can vary quite a bit, and highly sought-after building designers are likely to charge appropriately for their services”

The whole article can be read at

And an article on the home improvement website states

It’s a common misconception that architects are expensive.

You can read the whole article at

Each home project is different and unique.  It is often difficult to know the full extent of the work involved in the project until the work has been commenced.  An architect may only be able to provide an indication of the fees and not the exact amount.  As a ball-park rule an architects’ fee structure is approximately 8 to 15% of the cost of construction.

Each architect may have a different method on how they charge their fees.  An architect can charge their fees as an hourly fee, a percentage of the cost of construction, or as a lump sum fee for their work.

When I work with my Clients in designing their homes or home renovations, I have an understanding of their budget and how they can get the best from using an architect within their budgets. There are benefits to having the continuum of a professional working on your project and at the same time you have to weigh up the budget.

If my client’s budget is restrictive I can provide partial architectural services.  For example, providing architectural design services, at an hourly fee, to redesign the floor plan for their home project.

Services Provided

 You would also want to have a good understanding for what you are paying for.  Are you comparing ‘apples with oranges’?  Are the set of documents from an architect comparable with the set of documents from a draftsperson/building designer?  Is the level of service the same?

Or are you comparing two different sets of products and services?  Are the architects’ drawings more detailed and specify more information about your home project when you compare it with a draftsperson / building designer’s set of documents?

What is important in all of this, besides the level of service, is that the documents produced form part of the contract between you and your builder.  What may initially appear to be expensive at the start of a home project may save you money during construction.  Your home project’s construction phase may run smoother, with less cost over runs, if you have a comprehensive detailed set of documents for your home project.

Managing On-Site Costs

One of the most difficult issues on site is when a number of variations to the contract works arise and the resulting cost overrun of the construction budget.

As an architect, the work that I provide during documentation is a detailed service which includes detailed drawings and a separate specification and schedules.  As the documents form part of the contact between you and the builder, it is important to have what you want documented on the drawings and in the specifications and schedules.

The builder then knows what he has to supply and install and what to quote on, because it is included on the documents.  And you know what is included in the builder’s price.

This goes a long way towards managing escalating construction costs on site, and disputes arising from misunderstandings. The bottom line is that the builder’s quote for your home project should include what is included in the documents for your home project, unless there are exclusions to the builder’s scope of works.

Conclusion – architect or draftsperson / building designer?

Your home project is both an exciting and challenging time.  You want your project to run as smoothly as possible and to be managed as best as you can.  There will be issues which arise during the construction phase of your home project and you want to be able to work out what the best solution is for you in resolving these issues.

Clear communication is an important part of running a smooth project.  In deciding on who you need for your Home Project, you might consider their experience, qualifications, accomplishments, past work and enthusiasm.  You could speak to people who have used their services before and to read their testimonials.  This should all appeal to you.

Equally, or more important, is to find someone you can communicate your ideas and aspirations to, so they can help you realise your ideal home.



Bridget Puszka is a Senior Design Architect at BP Architects located in st Kilda, Victoria, Australia.

BP Architects design green healthy eco homes so you can live a premium sustainable lifestyle, that your family will love, your guests will admire, and saves you 25% on your energy.

You can read more about BP Architects’ projects and architectural services at