Architect vs Draftsman

Luke Parker
Architect vs Draftsman

You’ve got a renovation project in mind and you need someone to draw up some plans. Who you gonna call, a draftsman or an architect? TradeSkills Auckland Managing Director, Gerald Mannion, says it’s a question he’s often asked.

Given the fact you’re trusting them with your large investment, it’s important to get the right fit so there’s a few things to consider.

The right person for the job.

“For a straight-forward project which requires a building consent, a draftsman is usually the best option,” Gerald says. “They can source an engineer, prepare the plans and organise the consent process. This will include most renovation additions and minor dwellings, e.g. additional windows or doors, a new bathroom, decks over 1.5m, additional rooms garages, and sleep outs.”

Architects are best-suited for more complicated constructions such as an entire house or commercial building.

“They predominantly deal with projects that require a big team of consultants and when a professional is required to oversee the entire project from start to finish including site supervision.”

SEE ALSO: Choosing the right builder

A matter of cost.

“One of the main issues is often cost,” Gerald says. “Most architects will charge 10% of the final building cost. For just the drawings, they could charge around 4-6% of the final building cost.

“Draftsmen responsible just for the drawings work will charge around 1-3% of the final building costs.”

Does the job require some artistic input?

He says one of the benefits of an architect is having both an artistic as well as a practical bent.

“They have to take all possibilities into their design and consider codes, consent, fire regulations, zoning, and disabled-access. However they especially take into account aesthetics, safety, function and economical use of the building including sunshine angles and view.

A draftsman’s role is much more practical.

“Their training as far as design is not as in depth but in many cases most houses are fairly straight forward and logical.”

Gerald recommends that the draftsman lodges the consent and that cost is included within their quote.

“Then if there are any issues, it’s the draftsman’s problem to solve and it is much quicker and less stressful if they just get on with it without the client being a go between.”

It all comes down to value.

Teena Pennington resizedTeena Pennington, CEO of New Zealand Institute of Architects, says you'd use an architect if you wanted to realise the maximum value for your expenditure.

"Architects are qualified to take care of all of the practical aspects of a construction project, no matter its size. They take a project from concept design through to building completion, and are equipped to deal with everything along the way – planning and consent, contractors and the council, and other professional consultants such as engineers and surveyors. They're your advocate in this process, and have the knowledge and skills to stand up for your interests in a construction project.

"More than this, they offer solutions for your needs, within your budget. With an architect, you're not getting a one-size-fits-all solution. You're getting a design tailored to your circumstances."

Teena says residential projects are a large part of the work of most New Zealand architects, and a significant amount of these projects are alterations or additions.

"Architects take these jobs as seriously as they do any commission, and bring a huge range of experience to them. Others might offer lower fees, but investing a bit more in design, in considering and costing options, and in getting things right at the start will pay off during construction and after completion. You'll get a result that works for you, and one that adds value to your property."

SEE ALSO: Choosing the right builder


  • Tertiary training.
  • Master’s Degree in Architecture (5 Years at University). 
  • Architects charge more for their designs. 
  • Take the client through all stages of the project from initial planning to project completion. 


  • Trained to create accurate technical drawings. Often have a diploma or certificate in drafting (2 years at a technical institute).
  • Work with architects and engineers to produce technical drawings for the consent process.
  • Specialise in details and practicalities of the project.

Pros and Cons

Architects Pros
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance if anything goes wrong.
  • Oversee the project through all stages of the construction process; good for first time house owners or someone who lacks knowledge on the construction process. 
  • Closer relationship with the architect ensures a better design.
  • Work on all scale of projects. 
  • Solutions tailored to individual circumstances, and to maximise budget and take advantage of site and planning opportunities.  
  • Not the cheapest option. 

Draftsmen Pros

  • Charge only for the drafting work and are therefore cheaper. 
  • With experience they can help with suitable design solutions along with the drafting. 
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance if anything goes wrong. 
  • Good for simple to medium sized projects.
  • Work closely with the builder if required to produce a design that is economical for the client. 
  • Cannot handle big complex projects.
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