The process of choosing a design professional can be overwhelming. You’ll need to consider your style preferences, your budget, the size of the project and the type of professional you need to get it done.

You might be unclear about the differences between architecture and building design services. We want you to understand what you’re getting when you choose each type of professional, so you can make an informed selection based on the needs of your project.

Here are some key things to consider when choosing whom to work with:

Qualifications & Registrations

An architect must be registered with the Architect’s Accreditation Council of Australia. To qualify, they complete five years at university followed by two years of working in architectural practice, then pass an oral and written registration exam.

In many states, anyone can operate as a building designer without any special registration. However, in Queensland a building designer completes two years of post-secondary training plus two years of experience, and must be licensed by the Building Services Authority.

Their Role in the Process

A building designer will typically handle the design and documentation of the building to approval stage, then hand the plans over to the builder and step away. For this reason, they focus on producing detailed, high-quality plans that can be interpreted without their involvement, and are therefore best suited to projects with standard construction elements.

An architect oversees the design, documentation and delivery of a project, all the way through the construction phase to completion. They act as an independent administrator of the building contract during the construction of the project. Since they have complete oversight of the design as it’s being built, they can incorporate more complex or non-standard design elements and building techniques.

The construction phase is usually the longest, most difficult and most stressful part of the process, so expert handling by an architect can be the key to a project’s success.

The Budget

There’s a perception that an architect will always be more expensive than a building designer. In fact, many architects can work efficiently in consideration of your budget, and a high-quality building designer might charge a comparable fee to an architect. The most important thing is for a designer to give you a clear scope of the work they will provide under the fee agreement, so that you know what to expect.

Remember that you’re paying for expertise, not just hours worked. A more experienced or better-qualified professional is usually a worthwhile investment. And more time spent on the process doesn’t always translate to better outcomes—high-quality design can often be delivered in a more efficient time frame, if you’re working with the right person.

Depending on the demands of your project, the difference between hiring a building designer and an architect won’t necessarily be reflected in the quality of the design.

Given the extra level of qualification required by an architect, you might assume that using an architect will guarantee a “better” design. In reality, either an architect or an experienced building designer can produce a thoughtful, well-executed design and provide a great outcome. The success of the project will often come down to the talent of the individual you hire, and whether they’re well-matched to the scope of your project.

How do you know which type of professional is right for your project?

A building designer might be most appropriate when:

  • The project is of a relatively smaller scale, and not overly complex;
  • You have a clearly-defined concept that needs professional execution to get the plans through approval;
  • Your project can be built using common construction techniques and does not require extensively detailed documentation and supervision during construction;
  • You’re willing to oversee the construction phase yourself in order to respect budget constraints.

An architect is best when:

  • Your project is of a larger scale, or the site demands an inventive design solution;
  • Your design concept needs to be created from scratch, or you’re open to exploring options you may not have considered;
  • There are complex or non-standard building techniques and custom-made elements that will require more detailed documentation and supervision;
  • You want to invest in a professional who can oversee the whole process, from design to completion.

When choosing a designer, ask yourself: do I trust this person? Do I like the style of their previous work? Can I see myself working with them on a twelve month project?

Still not sure? We offer a full range of building design and architecture services for domestic renovations and new builds of different sizes. Contact us for a no-obligation chat about your project – we can tailor a service to suit your vision and budget.