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Architect, architectural designer, and architectural draftsman: understanding the difference

difference between architect architectural designer and architectural draftsman

Choosing the right professional is crucial when planning a renovation or extension for your home. You might have come across terms like architect, architectural designer, and architectural draftsman. But what do they mean, and who should you choose for your project? Let’s break it down in simple terms.


Experience and training:

Architects are highly trained professionals who have completed a degree in architecture, followed by several years of practical experience and exams. They are registered with a professional body and must adhere to strict regulations. You can find a local architect through the New Zealand Institute of Architects.


Architects typically charge higher fees due to their extensive training and expertise. Their fees can be a percentage of the total project cost or an hourly rate.

Ideal projects:

  • Complex projects requiring innovative design solutions
  • Large-scale bespoke custom home builds
  • High-end residential renovations


An architect is your go-to professional if you plan to build a large, custom-designed home or undertake a high-end renovation. They can offer creative solutions and ensure every detail is meticulously planned to meet your unique needs.

Architectural Designer

Architectural designer

Experience and training:

Architectural designers may have a background in architecture or related fields, but they are not registered architects. Their training can vary widely, from formal education to on-the-job experience. For more details, see this guide.


Generally, architectural designers charge less than architects. Their fees might also be more flexible, depending on their experience and the project’s complexity.

Ideal projects:

  • Residential renovations and extensions
  • Projects with a moderate level of complexity
  • Homeowners looking for professional design without the higher cost of an architect


An architectural designer can provide the necessary plans and guidance at a more affordable rate while offering professional expertise for a home extension or a complete home renovation.

Architectural draftsman

Experience and training:

Architectural draftsmen, or drafters, focus on creating technical drawings and plans. They often have a diploma or certificate in drafting and are skilled in using computer-aided design (CAD) software.


Draftsmen typically charge the lowest fees among the three professionals. Their rates can be hourly or fixed, based on the project’s scope.

Ideal projects:

  • Simple renovations
  • Adding another bathroom
  • Projects where the design is already conceptualised
  • Homeowners needing detailed plans for council approvals


If you already have a clear idea of what you want for a small renovation, an architectural draftsman can create the necessary technical drawings to bring your vision to life and ensure you meet all regulatory requirements.

Allison and Tom transformed their cramped three-bedroom home in The Gardens into a spacious, functional haven with the help of Add Value Renovations. The project included adding a new bedroom and renovating the kitchen, all while staying within budget and navigating building consents.

Engaging a design and construction company

Add Value Design & Build

When deciding between an architect or a building designer, the best approach is to engage a design and construction company from the start.

This way, you’ll still have access to an architect for high-end homes or a building designer for regular dwellings. They’ll also work under the guidance of an experienced custom home specialist who can ensure the design stays within your budget from the outset. This means you can:

  • Avoid false expectations about what is possible within your budget.
  • Save time by preventing unnecessary design revisions.
  • Avoid wasting money on concepts that may never be realised.

Even with an experienced builder from a design and construction company, follow these steps for a successful outcome.

1. Be open, honest, and realistic about your budget

Trying to influence the contract price by anchoring a lower budget than you’re willing to pay will only waste everyone’s time and lead to dissatisfaction with the outcome.

2. Manage scope creep

Be aware that adding to your project scope will increase your budget. Choose a company that keeps you informed about budget changes as your design evolves, preventing unexpected costs.

3. Work with a specialist

Always choose a specialist with experience in building homes similar to your project. Experience ensures designs stay on budget.

Whether you’re building your first home or have built before, designing a new home can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to remember, and it’s easy to miss important details.

All the tips covered here are just a small part of the information you need to start the design process well-informed.

For more insights on planning your renovation, check out our blog on 6 Essential Questions to Ask Before Starting Your Project. If you’re ready to take the next step, contact us to discuss your needs and find out how we can help make your renovation experience effortless.

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