Building Design Instructor Jacob Allderdice's Advice for New Students

Licensed architect and Herzing instructor Jacob Allderdice

Updated November 2022

Are you considering a career in building design? Wondering what college training programs look like and what your employment options would be after graduation?

You've come to the right place! This week, we're talking with Herzing's Building Design Technician program instructor, Jacob Allderdice, a veteran design professional with decades of industry experience and plenty of advice for prospective design students.

Get his perspective on what it takes to do well in training, build a successful design career, and find your unique talent as a designer.


Q: Jacob, how long have you been an instructor for Herzing's building design program, and what attracted you to teaching?

Jacob: I have been teaching building design at Herzing since May 2016. Before that, I taught for about 12 years in the Architectural Technology “Green Program” and Bachelor of Interior Design program at Toronto’s International Academy of Design (now RCC Academy of Design).

I also served as a teaching assistant in the University of Toronto’s undergraduate design program, and I currently mentor students in the RAIC “Syllabus Program,” which trains architectural draftspersons who wish to become fully qualified and licensed architects.

I hold bachelor's degrees in English literature and environmental design studies, plus a master's in architecture and a master's in urban design. I have always felt confident about having something valuable to say, and passionate about sharing my skills and experience with colleagues. 


Q: Can you tell us about your professional background in architectural design? What kind of projects have you worked on?

Jacob: I worked for over 10 years in the field of architecture before I ever started teaching design. My first two jobs were in the offices of two notable New York architects, Steven Holl and Edward Larrabee Barnes.

Their work resonates with me to this day, as I teach the importance of empirical (or “phenomenological”) approaches to design (such as one finds in the work of Holl), and a rationalist approach (such as one sees in Barnes’s work).

I also worked with several notable Toronto-area architects over the years. Most recently, I worked as Senior Architect at SNC Lavalin (BAE-Newplan Architects) in Newfoundland. My experience includes work in residential design, urban design, and the design of civic buildings such as schools and museums.

I have run more than one design company over the years. One was called “The Little House that Could” (I focused on houses and additions) and another was “Made Good” (I designed and built porches, decks, and fences). 


Q: Compared to other training programs out there, what do you believe is most effective and unique about Herzing's building design diploma?

Jacob: The strength of Herzing's building design program lies in two key areas:

1. The training is thorough and intensive.

Over the course of just 12 months, students learn design principles, drafting, building construction, building codes, and 3D modelling. They work with computer programs such as AutoCAD, Revit, and SketchUp, but they also learn principles of manual drafting and design, and office management.

Herzing students learn how a building permit set is put together and what they need to know to be useful in an architect’s office, or working with a builder, or even to start their own design practice. At the end of the program, our students emerge as well-rounded building designers—with a portfolio of designs and drawings they can use to show off their talents.

2. The program attracts people from all backgrounds.

The second area of strength for Herzing’s program is its appeal to students from many different backgrounds. Our classes are lively and diverse—and because of the "rolling start" nature of the program, there are always more advanced students learning and working alongside others who have just begun their Herzing education. The result is what I like to call a "one-room schoolhouse." Students often learn as much from each other as they do from the teacher. 


Q: How would you describe the "ideal" student for this program? What does it take to do well in training, and build a successful design career?

Jacob: If there is one element that is essential for a building designer to be happy and successful, it is a driving interest and aptitude in art and design. Beyond that, there is no one "ideal" student, just as there is no “best” job in the wide field of architecture and building design.

Each student has strengths upon which to build. For example, a background in business management will be useful for students who wish to run their own design business. And a background in computers will help students who wish to focus on the technical aspects of a design office.

A background in law and writing will prove essential for the student who wishes to work on the building code and specification-writing side of the design profession. A talented artist will likely find employment in rendering and presentation, while a confident, verbal person could be employed on the sales and development side of the profession.

A student with a background in construction will be able to develop and build on their prior knowledge and return to the industry (if they choose) with a wider understanding of the principles of design that underlie successful building design.

In other words, through the coursework of the building design diploma program, each student is encouraged to develop the skills they already have while learning new skills that build on their strengths.


Q: What advice do you give people who want to do freelance design work? What should they keep in mind?

Jacob: Graduates should remember that to design and “stamp” permit drawings in the province of Ontario, they need to take and pass provincial building code examinations.

Students in our program are trained to take these exams, allowing them to establish their own design firms. However, even without a stamp as a “registered designer,” their skills will prove useful in finding freelance (contract) positions with larger design firms.

Graduates of our program will also learn skills sufficient to help them find freelance work drafting plans and helping homeowners with the design drawings required for permit applications.


Q: What are the most likely entry-level jobs for new building design graduates in Toronto? Where can students expect to find work?

Jacob: Graduates of Herzing's building design program will find entry-level positions in many areas, from architectural drafting, to building construction, to millwork and kitchen design, to landscape design.

A student's love of artistic expression and aptitude for design, combined with solid training, is the surest guarantee of success in finding work post-graduation.


Q: What would you say is most challenging - and most rewarding - about working as a building designer?

Jacob: Most challenging is the physical aspect of drafting work: long hours at a computer or drafting table will take its toll on one’s back!

Most rewarding will depend on the designer: some love the initial stage of design, when all is open and new and fresh; others will enjoy the completed project, when the drawings are long finished and the results of hard work become evident on the ground.

It depends on the strengths of the designer. Are you someone who loves a challenge? Are you good with words? Are you artistic? Are you adept at computers and technical aspects of design?

The fulfillment you experience as a designer will relate to how your particular strengths contribute to, and find expression in, the work you do. Good luck to all of this year's students!


A big thank you to Jacob Allderdice for taking the time to share his insights and advice with our readers. We're incredibly lucky to have such an accomplished designer and passionate instructor on the faculty at Herzing College.

Learn more about the building Design PROGRAM

Herzing College Toronto offers a 12-month intensive Building Design Technician program that includes a guaranteed eight-week work placement. Training focuses on AutoCAD 2D and 3D, architectural design principles and techniques, and the Ontario Building Code.

Click below to browse the training for yourself. See a detailed course list, get information on careers and admissions, and chat live with an advisor. We're here to help!

Explore the Building Design Technician Program


hard hat icon



Most Read