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  • Writer's pictureLittle Brick Studio

The difference between an architect, and a building designer – and how do I choose?

So, you have decided that you want to renovate or build a new home, you have some basic ideas but not really any idea how to put them all together? You realise you need a professional to help – but google tells you there are architects, building designers, interior designers and draftspersons and you have no idea which to use??

In short, enlisting a professional is always a good idea. Even if you have a pretty good idea about what you want to do, a professional will always assist with a refinement of your ideas, combined with an understanding of each part of the permit and building process to bring the project into fruition in its best possible form. Any designer should act as your partner in the project, evolving your design from initial concept to the final product and most importantly within your budget.

But how to figure out what kind of building design professional is right for you?

The reality is that there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer on which consultant you engage – its more about finding the right person/company for you and your project, regardless of their qualifications. But understanding the difference between the options might help you in the decision process.

First of all, let’s start with some definitions:

  • Architect: A person who designs buildings (or parts of buildings).

  • Building Designer: A person who designs buildings (or parts of buildings).

See some similarities in the above? We will elaborate more below, but firstly we can also add in:

  • Draftsperson: A person employed in making mechanical drawings, especially in an architectural or engineering firm.

  • Interior Designer: A person who specializes in interior design

  • Interior Decorator: a person who is employed to design and decorate the inside of people's houses.

  • Interior Stylist: better known for their work in magazines, television and other visual media, a person whose primary job is to beautify spaces by either adding, editing or collating items, they can change the complexion of any room without any structural alterations.

Still no clearer on who is best for your project? It’s not really surprising is it, as there are obviously such crossovers between all of the options and their roles in design projects.

So, let’s go into a bit more detail on qualifications of architects and building designers:

  • Architects are degree qualified. To register as an architect, you must have a degree in architecture (usually a master’s degree), be officially registered with the governing architecture body in their state which requires up to 2 years of professional experience and an exam and logbook process for registration.

  • Building Designers are diploma qualified. To register as a Building Designer in Victoria (known as a ‘registered building practitioner’) you must hold as a minimum an advanced diploma in Building Design and 2 years of professional experience. Many building designers also hold a bachelor’s degree in architecture, however, have not progressed to the masters for the full architect registration requirement. The building designer definition has always been an evolving role within the industry. Traditionally starting out as draftspersons, building designers tended to fill the gap in the industry for smaller design projects, where perhaps there wasn’t the budget or need for a full architectural design. But this evolved into a full-service design process, and this is why the registration process was implemented as part of the Building Act 1993.

Important to note is there is no requirement for registration or tertiary qualifications of interior designers, decorators, stylists, so while some may have qualifications, some do not. This is not necessarily an issue, but its something you should ask and explore with

your chosen consultant.

What are we here at Little Brick Studio?

We are very proud to be Building Designers, fully registered with the Victorian Building Authority, the Building Designers Association of Victoria and the Building Designers Association of Australia. We hold all of the required professional indemnity insurance, and as an added bonus, our staff also hold qualifications in architecture, interior design and town planning – we are a full package deal!

What’s the difference and which is best for you? ​When you break it down, building designers and architects (and sometimes interior designers) perform very similar roles, the key distinction being the formal qualification and registration process. We always say to our clients, there are great architects and great building designers, and like every other occupation in the world there are also bad seeds in both career paths.

The reality of design is that much of it is not a learned thing – it’s often a raw talent which could be refined with education and experience but cannot actually be taught from scratch.

So, what to look for in your consultant? A history of projects that you like!

Does the designer have a professional website, with examples of a variety of projects and designs? Call and have a chat to your designer about the project – are they knowledgeable and well versed in permit requirements for your project? When you get a quote for their services – is it within your budget? Does it include everything you required (organisation of permits, interior design, materials and finishes selections)

Do your homework before you decide:

  • Decide on your project scope and budget.

  • What are your time and/or financial constraints?

  • Research your designer’s experience and registration in your state.

  • Ask to see examples of the designer’s previous projects

  • Enquire about their design process and time frames

  • Understand the scope or your designers quote – what is included and not included and assess it with similar quotes to ensure you are comparing apples to apples.

  • Chat to your designer – are they someone you can work with comfortably for the coming months, can you be honest with them and trust them to design a home to suit your requirements?

In the end the choice of building designer or architect, regardless of their qualifications, should be more about their passion and talent for design, and their ability to meet the requirements for your specific project and how they fit with your specific project needs.

Ready to start your research? Email or call us with your project information and we would be happy to chat about your requirements!


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