You want to build a new home and want it to be "just right." Should you hire an architect
to design it for you or should you work with a building designer
? What's the difference between them? Who will do a better job? Which one will be more expensive?
What's the Difference between and Architect and a Building Designer?
Both architects and building designers design buildings. The major difference between them is the legal difference. By law, a person can only advertise their services as those of an architect if they have:
- Successfully completed a full course of university studies in the field of architecture.
- Been accepted by and paid their fees to the requisite state architecture board (for example, the Queensland Board of Architects).
- Obtained the proper insurances required by registered architects.
No such laws apply to building designers. However, it is against the law for a person to undertake work as a building designer without first obtaining a license from a state board (such as a Building Services Authority or Board of Architects) and having the relevant insurances. These legal requirements were put into place Australia-wide to help protect consumers against fraudulent claims of competency.
While it is not a legal necessity, many building designers take the further step of becoming members of professional associations such as the Royal Australian Institute of Architects or the Building Designers Association. Membership in these associations requires minimum proof of competency and gives new clients more confidence in a building designer's abilities.
Who Is Better - an Architect or a Building Designer?
There is no one right answer to the question, "Who is better; an architect or a building designer?" Each has to be judged on his or her individual merits. Many building designers establish their reputations for excellence through years of hard work and referrals from satisfied clients. Some architects may move from years of working in a large, corporate environment into private practice, yet lack experience in designing residential buildings.
Choosing an Architect or Building Designer
In order to get the right designer for your home, start by looking at architects and building designers as professional equals. Then speak to them individually, outlining the requirements of the job. You will learn a lot about their level of competence from the answers they give you.
To ensure you are selecting a design professional, check their credentials. Remember, they must be licensed and insured to work in your state. If they belong to respected professional associations, that is a further indication of their competence. Any business person's best credentials are their referrals. Ask them about similar jobs they have done in the past and ask for proof of their ability to do the work you need to have done. If an architect or building designer is just getting established, they made need to "go the extra mile" for you and provide proof of their ability in preliminary drawings or evidence from their studies.
Whilst you may not be able to get a quote during a preliminary meeting, do ask about their fee structure. Usually, these are one of the following:
- An hourly rate, with periodic payments (either calendar or stage-of-completion payments).
- A flat fee based upon a percentage of construction costs.
- A conditional fixed rate. Conditions that apply may include time limits, progress payments, limits to the number of design changes and/or others.
Finally, make an informed decision based on the evidence provided by an architect or building designer. You may find that one seems to be more in sync with your vision for your new home or home addition than the other. One may seem to be more enthusiastic than another or more willing to listen to and respond to your input. You will be spending a lot of time with them, so, all other things being equal, choose the building designer you feel most comfortable with.