What’s the Difference Between an Architect, Draftsman and Building Designer?

An architect is often the first profession that springs to mind when we think about hiring someone to design a house. As you get further into research, you will realise there are draftspeople (draftsmen) and building designers, too. But most people get stuck asking: do I choose an architect, a draftsman or building designer, and what’s the difference between them?

The one thing they all have in common is that they can design and draw house plans that you can submit to council for approval.

A drafter can draw up architectural plans based on the hundreds of plans they’ve drawn before. Drafters, who take a more creative approach, often advertise their services as those of building designers. Builders Designers have completed a TAFE or Open University course that takes 2 years full-time to complete, and they usually have a Diploma in Architectural Design.

The main difference between drafters, building designers and architects is that architects have a higher level of training and are usually 30-50% more expensive than a builder designer.

How Much Do Building Plans Cost?

The three main ways architects charge for their services are:

  • fixed fees,
  • hourly rate, and
  • percentage of building cost.

Of these three, the percentage of build cost is the most common. For house plans and council approval services, a drafter or building designer might charge around 5% of total building costs. Architect’s fees will be higher, ranging from 12% up to 22%, with 15% being about average for residential properties. That includes project management. If you want house plans only, an architect might charge around 8-10% of total building costs.

If you don’t know your construction costs, an architect or building designer might charge a flat rate based on the size of your house. Most times, they will start by showing you examples of previous work to get a better understanding of what you want.  They can then work out fees after your initial consultation and site visit.

Getting and Comparing Quotes

We suggest that you get three estimates from builders to get an accurate estimate of your building costs.

When getting quotes for house plans or drafting services, give the architects, building designers or draftsperson as much information as you can. Include photographs and/or floor plans of similar homes, if possible.

When comparing quotes, make sure every service includes all the details about their services and payments. Ensure you ask if they:

  • Include council submission (Development Application) in their quote?
  • Offer a fixed fee?
  • Have they allowed for a surveyor if needed?
  • Have they allowed for shadow diagrams (needed for most DAs)?
  • What is their design process?

Finally, check their track record before you make your decision. If they have a good track record, you cfan trust they will deliver what they say.

How long have they been in business? Do they have a list of previous clients you can contact directly? Your house plans are a significant investment and lay the foundation for your ideal home, so you want to be sure your dream of a new home doesn’t turn into a nightmare before building even begins.

You can get fairly accurate quotes for house plans based on a service’s previous work. If you want a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom brick veneer house, for example, they probably will have drawn plenty of plans for similar homes in the past and will be able to confidently give a quote for yours. If you are unsure of the specifications, though, they may not give you a fixed fee and will add a clause to their contract that stipulates further fees for extra work.

Average Design Costs

On average, the building costs tend to be between $1,200 and $1,800 per square metre, according to Realestate View.

So what about the design costs?

For new house plans, design costs usually range between $5,000 to $10,000 or more. Plans for average-sized renovations usually cost between $3,000 – $5,000.

Small jobs (like rebuilding an external wall) are around $1,800 – $2,500.

Look for an architect or draftsman or building designer willing to listen to your ideas and work with you. Together, you should be able to create a building design that is aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound.

Why Choose a Draftsman or Building Designer?

At Design Plus Drafting, we understand that it can be stressful and intimidating at the beginning of any building adventure. We are a Sydney based building design company that understands the rules and regulations surrounding council Development Applications and Complying Development Certificates. We understand that engaging the right people to partner is vital in obtaining council approval and the key to the success of your building project.

Why Engage Design Plus Drafting?

  • We listen. We take into consideration what YOU want and design accordingly.
  • We are easy to work with. We come at the process from a different angle than architects.
  • We do not design one size fits all home – each client’s needs are different.
  • We are a small team with lots of experience and excellent reviews.
  • We provide fixed prices for all projects

Trouble deciding if you need an architect or draftsman or building design?

Call us at Design Plus Drafting on (02) 9565 2265 or email info@designplusdrafting.com.au

For more information about the difference between architects and draftspeople, read the advice from CHOICE, Australia’s nonprofit consumer rights organisation.


*Cost and prices in this article are indicative and should only be considered as a general guide. Prices vary locally and are subject to market forces. Article updated on 28 January 2020.