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.
“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.
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!
Jim places third in the Chief Architect Residential Design Contest. His log home design maximizes space with a light and spacious feel.
“This is the home my wife and I built in Crosslake, Minnesota, which is the second home I have designed for our family. We have lived in Crosslake for most of late spring, summer, and fall. We also have a townhome in Maple Grove, Minnesota that we stay in for most of the winter.
Jim places second in the Chief Architect Residential Design Contest. He is a home enthusiast who is making his dreams of living in a log home a reality!
“My wife and I are from Somersworth, New Hampshire and are in the process of building our dream/retirement home in Berwick, Maine. We have always dreamed of living in a spacious log home with visions of our kids, their kids, and our extended family enjoying time together. We have been designing this home in our minds for decades and a couple of years ago we decided to move ahead and make it happen.
“Lewis and Company Construction is located in Little Rock, Arkansas and we have been servicing the Greater Central Arkansas area since 2001 with residential remodeling services. Recognizing the need to help customers visualize their projects in advance, we explored and experimented with several CAD programs, but didn’t find exactly what we wanted until we did the Chief Architect free trial.
Chief Architect Software is a leading developer and publisher of 3D Architectural home design software for builders, designers, architects and home DIY enthusiasts.
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