We’re always receiving emails and telephone calls from potential clients asking for advice, so I thought I’d start answering these in a series of blogs. Hope you find my answers and insights useful when designing and building your new build home or home renovation.

This is a typical email we receive.

The following was from Steve in Croydon in April.

Dear Wayne

I’m looking to put a second storey on my duplex (semi-detached home). Friends suggested we use “c…..d”, so we got them to do a proposal.  In their submission, they have an allowance for the design, drafting and gaining the planning approvals of $15638.00.  The thing is….we don’t like what they have designed “it’s pretty generic”.  Is this sort of project too small for an Architect, and what would you charge?   How’s an architect different to a draftsperson anyway?


 Steve has touched on a couple of items here:

  1. How small is too small for an Architect to become involved in?
  2. What do architects cost? and
  3. What is the difference between an Architect and a Draftsperson?

Items 1 and 2 are related, and I will cover these in another blog post.

Firstly, I’d like to clear up the third item, as it sets the scene for the other questions.

 “How is an Architect different from a Draftsperson?”

Well, to the uninitiated, it’s true the result produced by both is similar…you will receive drawings, plans, elevations and sections for your project.

In fact, you will find many architects drafting in architectural companies.

If I search my memory banks, I recall the first 3 or 4 years of my working career was drafting under the control and guidance of a project architect ….so drafting is PART of the process, and it is an important part of how information is communicated, BUT it is not the whole process. 

To give you an idea of where the drafting fits in this overall scheme of things, here’s a breakdown of the stages of the architect’s service, with the standard percentage of the total architectural fee charged at each of these stages.

1.  Design Brief & Measured Drawings 2.5%
2.  Concept Design 15%
3.  Design Development 12.5%
4.  Development Application/Planning Permit 5%
5.  Construction Documentation 35%
6.  Contractor Selection 2.5%
7.  Contract Administration 25%
8.  As-Built Documentation 2.5%

As you can see, the drafting component (typically the Construction documentation) makes up about thirty-five to forty per cent of the architectural service, so if you do engage a draftsperson to draw up some plans, the cost should be significantly lower than hiring an architect.

So what does this mean for your project?

Now, you’re probably thinking, who’s going to do the other sixty to sixty-five per cent of the architectural work on my project? And, this is a good question…..you may be able to get your draftsperson and your builder to share the remainder of this work between them or you may want to have a go at some of it yourself; however you do need to keep in mind that this is taking on a huge amount of responsibility and potential stress.

  • Who is going to be responsible for the design and ensuring that it is correct?
  • Do you trust them to understand the planning objectives and controls of the council, and will they ensure compliance with the environmental and construction requirements?

Even, if you can get your draftsperson and builder to assist, it’s not really what they’re trained to do, and so legally can’t be expected to take responsibility if something goes wrong as a result. They may have done this a hundred times before without a problem, but if something goes wrong, you have no insurance.

In terms of expertise in building, the bar’s set extremely high for an architect and rightly so, as we deal with very expensive assets belonging to our clients and we take responsibility for this. That’s why it takes six years’ full-time study, and more than three years of practical experience to be eligible to even apply for registration as an architect. And, then the rigorous registration process ensures that only competent applicants make the grade.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Once an architect is registered, they are required to undertake a minimum of 20 education hours (CPD) every year and must carry Professional Indemnity insurance.

Like everything in life you get what you pay for, so it’s a pretty big gamble if you make a wrong decision.

In conclusion, whatever your choice, make sure your focus is on design.

Your design is where everything starts – and ends.

How those lines are drawn on the page, the expertise of who draws them, and the decisions that are made to position them and create them. That’s the point at which you determine how you get to live in your home, how expensive your home is to build and maintain, and how it helps you live your life.

The whole merit of design is that it will take whatever budget you have, big or small, and make it work harder. So you make the most of what you’ve got. An investment in doing this well will always be worth far more than the cost.


Willoughby Architects is an architectural firm based in Willoughby on Sydney’s lower north shore, we design, organise approvals and project manage the building process for new build homes and renovations for existing homes. At Willoughby Architects we are committed to producing sustainable, innovative architecture. Learn more about Willoughby Architects and see some of our new build homes and home renovation projects or get more information about the design process today.

Contact Wayne, Principal Architect, Willoughby Architects on:
Phone: 0412 998 027
Email: architects@willoughbyarchitects.com.au
Or visit their website: https://willoughbyarchitects.com.au/

About the Author: Wayne Farmilo, Founder & Principal Architect of Willoughby Architects has been a registered Architect, in Vic and NSW, for 25 years. Wayne started his own practice NSW in 2002, initially focusing in the retail and dining space, however, since 2012 the practice has actively focused on residential design projects.