What’s the difference between an Architect and Building Designer


After many years in the design and build industry in Europe & Australia, it was apparent that many people were completely out of their depth, through no fault of their own, when deciding on how they were going to approach the design and building of a new home or a renovation.

As there are so many options available many just give up on the process and put it into the too hard basket!  So it’s not surprising that many who are looking at a new home end up going for a House and Land package often with a mass production builder or as it is known in the trade Cookie Cutter Homes.

Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, there are other options, and in this inaugural blog of PROPERTY THERAPY we are going to look at a basic question “What is the difference between a Building Designer V an Architect”?

The reality is not a lot!  The route of a Building Designer is very similar to an Architect.  In Australia, a Building Designer is a licenced professional and has to by law be registered with the State Government.  In Queensland that is the Queensland Building Construction Commission (QBCC) and you will see the licence number quoted on all correspondence, websites etc; of companies registered. You will be able to go onto the QBCC website (www.qbcc.qld.gov.au)  and check the licence number to ensure it is bona fide. Other states will have their own relevant state licencing departments.

QBCC have several levels of Building Designers. For example, we hold an “Open Licence” which means we are legally qualified and carry high levels of insurance to carry out Build Design Services on any type of building from a shed to a multi-storey complex in the same way as an Architect.

There are several ways that a Building Designer can become qualified. Some, like myself, chose to go the route of getting a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Architecture whilst others choose to go the route of finding a Building Designers course which does not require a degree, but gives the student the qualifications to apply for a State Licence. This often means that to get the practical experience they would work for a company for a few years.  Even with a degree the learning process is not complete and again most Building Designers before they open their own practices, spend a few years gaining experience.  For me it was 3 years at Uni and then 9 years with different Architect practices honing my skills, before I felt confident to go forward into the world of building design as a sole practitioner.  That was 20 years ago, and my design studio was established in Queensland in 2008.  There is no short cut, you need to put the hard yards in to get proficient as with any professional. No different to being a lawyer or doctor we are highly skilled in our profession. You may well see an advertisement for an Architectural based Building Designer.  These companies are not Architects as it is illegal in Australia to quote that you are an Architect for reasons I will give you below but that term is generally accepted as politically correct.

What IS the difference then?  Fundamentally the route is similar but the Degree route must be taken to become and Architect. Post-graduates will usually take up a career in private practice, many for several years before they venture into their own practice, as they will continue their learning skills before taking their Architects exams and be admitted into the Australian Institute of Architects.

At the end of the day whether you go Building Designer or Architect route it will probably come down to “interviewing” those practices you have shortlisted as you would anyone looking to “employ” someone. Designing a new home or renovating is in most cases the most expensive item of people’s lives.  No one wants to waste either time nor money working with someone they are unsure of.  Do your homework, ask for references, ask as many questions as you like, look at past projects and make your decision with informed choice.

The one big question everyone want to know of course is how much is this going to cost me? Generally professional fees are based on the complexity of the project and the budget.  There can in some cases be significant differences and the most important thing at this stage is to check on the detail of the fee proposal to ensure it is apples for apples.  Your instinct will click in!

I hope this has been helpful and please contact us if you have any questions relating to this blog as we want to ensure everyone is “educated” in the process of all forms of design and build.

General information only

We intend for the information on the Website to only serve as a general overview on matters of interest. The information on the Website is not intended to be comprehensive, nor does it in any way constitute personal advice. We attempt to ensure that the content on the Website is current and accurate but we do not guarantee its currency and accuracy. You should carry out your own research and/or seek your own advice before acting or relying on any of the information displayed on the Website

Please go to the Contact page for more information on how to keep in touch with us and please leave comments below…..we just love comments and questions!!

About the Author: Simon

Simon Scott Principal of SSB Design Studio is spearheading the efforts at the PROPERTY THERAPY. he believes great homes have the power to improve people’s lives. And he’s on a mission to help aspiring homeowners take action in creating their dream homes and improving their lives

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