With a long history of experience in construction, Todd Wilderman creates a top design in Chief Architect’s Residential Design Contest.
“I started doing residential drafting at about the age of 12. My father was an industrial arts teacher at the local high school but drew plans on the side to supplement a meager teacher’s salary. I walked by his drawing table one day and said: “I could do that, doesn’t look that hard”. The next day, there was another drawing table in the room and I had a garage plan to draw.
“After that, I eventually went on to do many other things… construction trades, sign-making, welding, and carpentry. I also managed to get a BA in Art with studies in Math and Physics, a Construction Management certificate, a diploma in Surveying, and a Masters in Architecture.
“I started my own design company, Wilderman Designs, LLC in 1990. I started out drawing everything by hand, then I ‘graduated to CAD’.
“I was always frustrated with the CAD because it was limited in 3D designing. Also, I felt like software should be able to do the more mundane things (like dimensioning) in a more automated fashion.
“I had experience with DataCAD, AutoCAD, Revit, Rhino, etc. but it seemed to me that Chief Architect was a better solution for me since I focus on residential design. I find the software relatively easy to learn and usually very user-friendly. I say this from of perspective of NOT being a computer-type guy.”
…Chief helps me get it done faster. I think it probably has reduced my drafting time to about 30% of what it used to take.
“I like that I can do everything 3D, all the time. The fact that I can send clients the 3D model to browse on their own time, helps me find more time to do other things and the designs get communicated more clearly and more quickly. Changes are usually quick and easy, and the client is generally more satisfied with the direction of the design from the first rendition.
“I have a pretty steady workflow of about 15-25 jobs at a time and Chief helps me get it done faster. I think it probably has reduced my drafting time to about 30% of what it used to take.”
More from Todd
We’d like to thank Todd for taking the time to share his journey with us and our community!
We were happy to learn about how he’s leveraging the use of the Chief Architect 3D Viewer! If you’re interested in sending your clients 3D models to browse on their own time, like Todd has mentioned he’s doing, you can learn more about sharing Chief Architect 3D Viewer models here.
Chief Architect Design Contests are a fun way to share your designs, build credibility and expose your brand. Share one of your Kitchen/Bath or Interior Designs for a chance to win Chief Gear. Use any Chief Architect or Home Designer software product to create your original design.
“Soon to be 63 years old, I was born and raised in the Detroit Metropolitan area. After high school, I attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1980 from the School of Architecture with my Bachelor of Science in Architecture. Shortly after graduation, I married my beautiful and brilliant high school sweetheart, Debbie, who often helps me when I’m struggling with project designs… and is also my best critic (soon to be celebrating our 39th anniversary!).
“Debbie and I bought our first home right after getting married, a fixer-upper, where I completed my very first residential reno design. When I submitted my plans to the St. Clair Shores Building Department for the building permit, the Building Inspector called me and asked who prepared the documents and shared how impressed he was (you may not remember or know that this was before the advent of Computer Aided Design for Architecture, so everything was drawn by hand back then). Shortly after, I was contacted by several of what became my first ‘paying’ clients.
“Several years later, knowing that a graduate degree would be required if I was to become a registered architect, I was accepted and enrolled in Lawrence Technological University’s unique, graduate-level ‘BArch’ architectural degree program recognized by the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) (at the time, LTU’s BArch degree program was the only non-Masters program accepted by the AIA to meet the licensing requirement). I completed my graduate thesis on the “Design and Development of Comprehensive Health Care Facilities.”
“Graduating with my BArch degree in 1983, I took a job with a local architectural firm where I spent most of my time as a ‘go-for’ for the owner and principal architect. I was charged with taking a lot of as-built dimensions of existing residential and small commercial structures along with providing a number of as-built drawings for the firm but never was permitted to work on any ‘design’ projects. Staying in touch with a friend I made in my thesis class, we decided to give it a go together and formed an architectural design firm called Hensel & Heckendorn (my partner won the straw draw, so his last name went first)! We worked on several projects together before succumbing to an economy that had taken a turn for the worse. We chose to go our separate ways and I ended up taking a job as an Engineer with General Motors Corporation.
“As architecture, particularly residential architecture, has been and will always be my absolute passion, I’ve had the fortune of a very successful, albeit moonlighting, a career spanning over 38 years. Everything from residential additions, renovations, new single-family residence projects ranging from small to large (largest to date has been a 4,800 square foot 2-story with, believe it or not, a 2-lane bowling alley located under a 5-car garage, complete with gutters and pinsetters), as well as several small to large commercial projects. Ironically, at the time I was to lose my father to cancer, I was actually commissioned to design a rather large Funeral Home. Unfortunately, the timing was such that we lost my father before the project was completed, however, the clients who then became friends took very good care of my family through the process of saying ‘goodbye’. One of the very unique and wonderful outcomes of the ‘residential’ design profession is the amazing opportunity to meet, and often become friends of the clients we work with! Though I am currently not a registered architect, when necessary, I will collaborate with one of my college professors as well as my old business partner who are both licensed to practice architecture in Michigan.
“Somewhere in the middle of my moonlight business, Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) software programs began to pop up and caught my intrigue. As a family-proclaimed tech geek, I saw the potential CAAD had for my architectural work. AutoCAD was the first program I purchased and taught myself. Shortly after becoming awkwardly proficient, AutoCAD came out with a 3rd party Architectural add-on. I thought that was ‘awesome’! I buried myself into the program and was professing the need for my architect friends to embrace the change. They were very reluctant to abandon the historically rich and romantic craft of ‘hand-drawn’ designs and construction documents. But I saw the bright light and believed that CAD would definitely be the way of the future for all architectural practices.
“For a number of my friends, all I had to do was show them how I could flip a completed plan over by drawing a simple line down the middle and all annotation presented itself as if it was always drawn that way, they were hooked. I can’t tell you how many times that request was presented by a client when I had invested hours in annotating the documents, only to bring out the eraser and get to work removing all of that text only to re-draw it on the backside of the sheet, all the while hoping I did not bore a hole through the sheet… which also happened more than once! Thank goodness for the ‘power’ erasers we had to work with back then… I still have mine!
Though I saw ads for the Chief Architect program, I did not think it would be advanced enough to use in my business… boy was I wrong.
“Over the years I’ve watched a number of architectural CAD programs hit the marketplace, becoming more and more useful and user-friendly. In the early nineties, I even had the opportunity to teach CAAD at a local community college for several years using AutoCAD and a new (at that time,) 3rd party add-on called ASG. Though I saw ads for the Chief Architect program, I did not think it would be advanced enough to use in my business… boy was I wrong. I started using what I believed to be a high-end architectural software program but was seriously struggling, trying to come up with macros and shortcuts to help speed up my productivity. I began to dig deeper into researching programs that were geared more to residential work as that is where my true passion lies.”
“It was in late 2014, to early 2015 that I thought I would give Chief Architect a try… I believe it was with Version 6. I was quickly blown away with everything the program and the company (customer support) had to offer! The very expensive, very difficult and unyielding ‘high-end’ program that had taken me several years to learn and become proficient, paled in comparison to what I could do with Chief Architect!!! I quickly and literally cut my turn-around time on projects by more than half what it was taking me before and I was able to do things, provide additional types of information, and bring much of the lost, what I like to call, ‘romance’, of the ‘hand drawing’ era of construction documents.
“I continue to be hugely impressed with the updates and additional tools and routines, new functions, and improvements Chief Architect regularly does with their program. The ‘User Center’ is incredible, and the customer support, who I seem to challenge often as I am always seeming to try something out of the ordinary, is outstanding. I’ve yet to stump them, and I promise I’m not trying to do that, I just seem to have clients that ask me to do some unique or different from normal-type things. Chief Architect always seems to come through.”
“Years have gone by using Chief Architect now. I’ve completed numerous fun projects and I seem to be getting much better at using many of the program’s productivity and fun functions. I have even received a collection of outstanding compliments from contractors, builders, but most importantly, several municipalities Building Department Chiefs & Inspectors complimenting me as much about my ‘design’ as the look and content of the working drawings I produce using Chief Architect. I absolutely give all the credit to the program.
“As I get ready to retire from my day job working for a large company, I am very excited to dive back into my architectural business full-time. I mean this sincerely when I say that Chief Architect has provided me the ability and desire to do so. Thank you to everyone at Chief for what you have and continue to create… and thanks to those of you who ‘liked’ my project entry.”
Thank you for sharing your journey with us and including Chief Architect in your work! For more of Jerry’s wonderful designs, see the projects listed below.
Our Chief Architect team is excited to meet and reconnect with all of our new and long-time users. Chief Academy is at our home headquarters in beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
If you are unfamiliar with Chief Academy, it includes 2-day training classes (introductory to advanced) followed by a half‑day of focus-based training with three specific seminars and then social networking events to extend your learning or relaxation.
Chief Academy will kick off with classes ranging from Introductory to Advanced focusing on Residential Design as well as Introductory and Intermediate classes specializing in Kitchen, Bath, and Interiors. Each class is taught by one of our Chief Architect Certified Instructors. We have an excellent team of trainers and technical support analysts who are here to answer questions and cover topics from layer sets to 3D rendering.
For 2019, we are offering a new Intermediate Kitchen & Bath course allowing you the option to choose either introductory or intermediate. When signing up, you will have the option to choose a comprehensive training course that best suits your experience level or professional focus. You can always give us a call for assistance in choosing the class that’s right for you.
Day 3 is a half-day of this event. It consists of three focus-based seminars – Remodeling Techniques, Productivity Tips & Power Tools and 3D for Your Design Business. Running simultaneously to the focus-based seminars is both a 1-on-1 training and hands-on new products test drive. The 1-on-1 training is a great way to work personally on your project or questions with our support technicians. Slots fill up quickly, so you will want to sign up soon. With our new products test drive lab, you will get the latest look at our future products and can try them out for yourself!
Our goal for Chief Academy is to help our users become more proficient and productive in the software. We want everyone who completes our training to feel more confident in their ability to bring their designs to life. Learn more about how to prepare for a Chief Architect training class here.
Although this is an educational event, we want to make your stay with us relaxing for both you and your guest. View hotel & vacation rental accommodations here. Chief Academy is an excellent time to meet like-minded, industry professionals. Connect with new and current Chief Architect users during the evening cruise on Coeur d’Alene Lake, build professional relationships during one of our added networking events, or join us for an evening reception on the river. To connect with other users before Chief Academy, head over to our user forum Chief Talk.
Don’t worry about having to pick and choose what event you would like to attend, all of these are at different times so you can hit each one! View the full schedule here.
Whether you are a returning visitor or new to the area, you will not want to miss the early morning hike around Tubbs Hill before training on day two. This hike is a local favorite and is filled with breathtaking views of Lake Coeur d’ Alene.
If you are traveling with a guest, we have created a list of local activities to enjoy while our users are in training. Guests are always welcome at our networking events, so please bring them along!
We are all getting excited for Chief Academy and hope that you will join us September 11th – 13th in this beautiful place we get to call home. Sign up now! We look forward to seeing you there!
“My name is Christian Dewitt and I have been designing since I was two. I would draw plans and put families in front of the homes. I have been doing this for ten years now. I helped design our current home in North Carolina about 8 years ago. This experience really helped me increase my knowledge in the construction part of designing a house.
“I found Chief Architect’s Home Designer Software when I was looking for software that could perform the task that I needed to, at a great price, so I could stop having to sketch or draw my designs. I had compared other design software programs like SketchUp and Virtual Architect with Chief Architect Home Designer Software. I found that SketchUp was too pricey at the moment and you couldn’t own it outright. Virtual Architect’s graphics were very pixelated, also it didn’t offer the customization that Chief Architect’s Home Designer did.”
I have been using Chief Architect’s Home Designer for about three years now and it has done so many important projects that I wouldn’t have been able to complete without it.
“I started out with Home Designer Suite and it was so simple to upgrade to Architectural. I have had one true project that I have used Chief Architect’s Home Designer software for, and it really helped my client visualize how she wanted to layout her space. I wouldn’t have been able to complete the project to the best of my ability without it.
“Hopefully, this contest win will help me increase my recognition to be able to use Chief Architect in many more projects to come. I hope that someday people see the true potential in young people like me, and I’m hoping that I can change people’s perspectives about the younger generation.”
More from Christian
It’s a pleasure to be a part of Christian’s design process. We look forward to seeing the great things he’ll accomplish in the industry with his enthusiasm and grit!
Eric, an Idaho native, places third in the Chief Architect Remodel/Addition Design Contest. His artistic talents were a perfect fit for a career in home design.
“I was born in Pocatello, Idaho and then moved to Idaho Falls and lived on the family farm and worked with my father who flew airplanes and was a metal fabricator. I took on a job as a laborer that placed me in the building industry framing houses and building cabinets. I was very intrigued by the plans that we worked from. I am an artist and planned to go to college in Boise, Idaho to study Art, Advertising and Design. To pay my way through college, I worked construction at various levels including building houses.
“I eventually started my own company and found myself enjoying the designing process and started hand drafting our projects. Clients would often rely on me to help explain what they were looking at when we were studying the floor plans and elevations. I realized that most people I worked with had a difficult time understanding what they were looking at when viewing 2D plans and elevations. I started trying to hand draw in 3D but the time involved was prohibitive.”
” I discovered Chief Architect’s 3D Home Architect product in the early ’90s… which later became Home Designer. At first, learning the program seemed daunting, but as time and practice moved forward, so did the skill set. It was amazing to see clients understand what they were looking at. I HAD to master 3D design – visual graphics. I started creating my own textures and objects so that I could better portray what I wanted our clients to see. Chief Architect is nearly the perfect platform to do this. We now know that if clients can see it…they will do it once you align design with a budget.
Because he could see, because he could visualize it, he changed his mind from a no, to a yes.
“When I worked with Strite Construction in Boise, Idaho, I spent nearly 3 months on an 18,000sf project and we were very close to presenting the final design and proposing the numbers to sell the job… just before the proposal I received a call that my father died unexpectedly… I had to leave and could not be there for the meeting. My colleague said that the client did not like the cost and decided not to move forward. The client stood up and noticed my plans sitting on a table behind him (which they did not use in the meeting). They were in the corner, 20+ sheets printed 36” x 48” just sitting there. I had them printed before I left town. The client opened the plans and slowly reviewed every single page…everyone sat quietly, waiting…watching. Finally, after an eternity the client said, “you have really spent a lot of time on this, it is very detailed… you guys are serious about this project.” Everyone nodded. Then he said, “What the heck, let’s do it!” Because he could see, because he could visualize it, he changed his mind from a no, to a yes.”
Eric’s work is truly outstanding. Make sure to connect with him at Hoff Design Build and view more of his designs below.
Brenna Sibson places 3rd in the Chief Architect Kitchen/ Bath & Interior design contest. Brenna is skilled in the art of transforming homes into beautiful spaces that suit her clients’ unique tastes.
“My name is Brenna Sibson. I am from Vermillion, SD. My interest in the construction industry began by watching my dad on job sites and drawing plans growing up.
“After high school, I attended two tech schools. One of which gave me my background in AutoCAD, the other I partook in the construction of two homes to really gain an understanding of how a house is built! From there I worked at a lumberyard for a few years and have since made it back home to work for my dad and his business partner at AMS Building Systems.
“I have been here for a little over a year using Chief Architect and can honestly say I would never choose to use any other program!”
The 3D capabilities are remarkable and really give us an edge in selling homes and remodels.
More from Brenna
Thank you for sharing your projects with us and our community, Brenna. Keep up the great work!
Allen Tatomer, of Blue Collar Builders TV, has an idea. He plans to use his experience in construction project management, and his history as a home show TV producer, to provide rebuilding options to property owners devastated by last year’s Camp Fire in Paradise, CA.
The Blue Collar Builders are pursuing product sponsorships, along with the television series, Paradise Rises. They hope to bring down construction costs and help make the transition back into normal life easier for Paradise residents. Among the project challenges will be adapting construction techniques for disaster awareness, including features like rooftop sprinklers, fire resistant exterior materials, and designs that reduce the buildup of natural debris on and around the structures.
The idea is to leverage a base floor plan, then derive from it multiple options in square footage and architectural style. This technique will make the construction process easier to manage and more cost efficient, while preserving individual identities for the homes. Home owners can choose their favorite style and home size, and even include a matching Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) as temporary living quarters during construction then future use as guest house, studio, or rental option.
There are 6 floor plan options available, ranging from 1200 sq. ft. to 2400 sq. ft. Each option can be modified to adapt a different architectural style. I use Chief Architect to create the initial plan footprint, then save off copies for each subsequent design. We decide to focus on variations of these styles: Coastal, Colonial, Cottage, Craftsman, Farmhouse, Tuscan, and Victorian. Flip through the full selection of the latest revisions.
We leverage websites like Houzz.com and Pinterest to search out inspiration for each house style. Simply using a search term like “Modern Farmhouse Exterior” returns results that help identify architectural features, scaling, and massings that are typical to a design style.
After I wrap up the floor plan options and style concepts, our team begins producing illustrations and animations that bring the designs to life. Kerry masters interior design and aesthetics, generating stills using the various library catalogs and rendering techniques available for Chief Architect.
Bailey follows up using the automatic walkthrough tools to generate navigation paths that can be recorded as movies; some of these have been shared on the Paradise Rises Facebook page. One of the great things about using design software is the ability to reuse these elements and controls for multiple designs. With a quick copy-and-paste-in-place, the walkthrough paths are ready for the next house; we can even set them up to run on a different computer so that the processing time has less impact on our workday.
Once the process is complete, we’ll have created a huge selection of content that will help with the visualization of this project. Because these designs have all been generated in our drafting software, we can simply hand off the files to an Architect and Engineer to finalize for permitting and construction. They can continue on with the work using Chief Architect to add structural details, code compliance, and plot information, then produce a set of permit ready documents for breaking ground.
If this project for the people of Paradise, CA resonates for you, reach out to Blue Collar Builders TV to learn what you can do to participate.
Chief Architect Software is a leading developer and publisher of 3D Architectural home design software for builders, designers, architects and home DIY enthusiasts.
What our Customers are Saying
Our favorite software
Our favorite software. I have been using chief for about 6 years now, I believe I started in x4. Chief was the clear choice for architectural design and plan sets, with its import and export into other CAD and BIM-based… products, its extensive catalogs, its massive collection of support articles, bustling internet forums and decent rendering abilities. There is no other software on the market that is as user-friendly, capable and fast. We’ve recently started using Chief Architect for market advertisements as well as importing into high-end visual video walkthrough software such as Lumion. We’re quite happy with Chief’s versatility and ever-expanding features. Read more “Our favorite software”
I am an interior design professional who has been using Chief Architect software for my business since 2010. The software is a very powerful tool I use on all my projects and allows me to create detailed plans, elevations and… very impressive 3D renderings for my clients. The software has taken time to learn, but the support from Chief is quick and helpful, and the tools including videos and online forums also very helpful. Read more “A very powerful tool”
I’ve had great results using this software. I started with Home Designer Pro and then moved to Chief Architect Premier. I really like the way the software is set up, it’s much easier to use than other products. My clients… love the 3D renderings and I know it’s helped me get new projects. Great job Chief Architect team! Read more “Great job Chief Architect team!”
The best home design software we’ve ever used! Finally, a program that works or “thinks” like a designer as opposed to a program for the manufacturer of boxes or materials. Great quality renderings too.
I use Chief Architect software exclusively in my design business. I started out with CA Home Designer Pro, used that for two years, then “graduated” to the full-blown Chief Architect software. The structure and platform of all their products is… identical so, moving up to the next, greater version is SO comfortable! I’m getting raves about the work I’m doing – thank you, Chief Architect!!! Read more “Thank you, Chief Architect!!!”
William Haigh Design
Thank you Chief Architect for a great program.
Since we have been using Chief Architect, we have been able to give our customers a complete visual of what we proposed for their project, as well as, boost our credibility, our sales, and our overall profit for all projects… we have sold. Thank you Chief Architect for a great program. Read more “Thank you Chief Architect for a great program.”
We use Chief Architect every single day and it is an absolutely indispensable part of our business. The ability to show a client, with extreme accuracy, what a space will look like before the work has even begun is everything.