Building Designer vs Architect

building designer vs architect

To distinguish between the two and what this means for your housing or commercial project, we’ll go over things in layman’s terms.

The world of construction can seem daunting, and when you venture into it for a new building or renovation, advice will come from many directions. One thing that everyone agrees on is the need to hire an architect—or “designer.” But which one? With varying prices for identical-sounding titles, what’s their distinction? And more importantly, what would be the right choice to hire to realise your project?

What Building Designers vs Architects Have In Common

Both architects and accredited building designers will supply documentation to the local council or state government for approval through a Development Application or a Complying Development when creating new homes, renovations or extensions.

Architects and building designers share many of the same responsibilities, but there are some differences in each profession. They’re both accountable for concept design, subsequent drawings of floor plans, elevations, sections and reports necessary for obtaining a planning permit and relevant construction documents to register for a building permit.

Both accredited building designers and architects produce high caliber, professional standard work in their service. But it’s equally vital to factor in the individual client demand as the benchmark for quality and style, and the budget they’re working with. This depends as much on the brief the client has given as it does the individual architect or building designer attached to the project.

Differences In Our Roles Through Your Process

Typically building designers will handle the design and documentation process for your building to be approved by local authorities before handing over the plans to a contractor and stepping out of the picture. This means that they will focus on creating highly detailed working plans that can be interpreted with or without their involvement by your chosen builders. You’ll have the freedom to take your project elsewhere. But they can also monitor your construction should you choose to have them rather than an independent contractor. In reality designers, architects and builders work together in a close-knit community, so trust that your designer probably already has someone in mind who’s perfect for the job.

Meanwhile an architect is legally binded to oversee the design, documentation and delivery of your project from its construction all the way to completion. They’re an independent administrator of the building contract and can incorporate non-standard design elements and techniques during your construction. This brings us to the common question…

Who’s more qualified to helm my project?

There’s no short answer for this. Academically, both have a different range of specialised skills. Architects study the art and science of building design for their university education, covering technical design, history, and law. Graduates would fulfill two years of practical work in the supervision of a registered architect before officially registering to become architects themselves. Building designers however aren’t strictly confined to the study of architecture alone. Often they derive from various relevant design-related backgrounds. This gives you versatility and depth in their respective specialisations. Those with degrees and experience in architecture who aren’t officially registered as architects often go on to become building designers, as well as people who have completed tertiary or postgraduate education in a number of design fields with further accreditation/licenses/registrations. This takes technical skills, experience and insurance.

Building designers are more than capable of overseeing the design of functional, energy efficient and beautifully creative homes and more than their fair share of amazing works in retail, childcare and other commercial projects. View EDG’s portfolio for instance. We’ve worked across residential housing and large scale public sector properties alike. From medical, residential to government buildings, a team as experienced as ours is able to manage the scope of any commercial or residential project while maintaining our eye for boutique designs. In fact this unique, personable approach is what people count on when assigning our services.

In Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, building designers are accredited through appropriate licensing. It’s guaranteed you’re hiring someone competent as building designers are required to be registered by the Victorian Building Act (1993) with the Building Practitioners Board as a Draftsperson, Class of Building Design (Architectural). In Queensland, they’ll need to have a current BSA Building Design Licence while in Tasmania any project costing upwards of $5000 must be overseen by someone with a Building Practitioner Accreditation.

It’s always a plus to rely on designers who are members of professional associations such as Design Matters National, which happens to be our profession’s largest governing body. This means they’ve likely undergone further professional development and will be up to date with changes in planning or building laws. And guess who’s closely affiliated with them, even being a former president of one; EDG’s very own director, none other than Alastair McDonald.

building design services

What To Consider When You Hire A Building Designer

A building designer is likely your best choice when you have a clearly-defined concept that needs professional execution. They’ll draft the plans for you and get it through approval. It’s also best that you want some hand in seeing the construction phase. Seeing that you’re most likely here because you’re thinking of building a home or spaces for residential use, you’re probably invested as it will also help respect budget constraints, if any. They’ll also be well equipped to help you outfit everything, from furnishings, exteriors, finishes and any design elements to create a finished home with your desired ambience.

You’ll be developing a close relationship with your designer for an extended period of time. So ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I like the style of their previous work?
  • Do I connect with them on a personal level?
  • Can I see myself working with them for X amount of months?
  • Do their ideas resonate with me?
  • Do I trust this person to capture my vision and integrate it to a living environment?

At the end of the day, more than design, approval and construction of your project, you need to select someone you’re comfortable with, someone who you believe can confidently execute your project. This means selecting a balance between a craftsman, a realist and an artist who can build a property that maximises every design opportunity as well as the investment you’re making.