Article - building construction
Architect or Building Designer – Who Do You Choose?
by Glenn Murray
Thinking of building a new home or complex? Will you use an architect or a building designer? Both are involved in
the design of buildings – their appearance, layout, structure, and so on. But what’s the difference?
The simplest difference is a legal one. To be called an “architect” in NSW, you have to be registered with the
Board of Architects of NSW. The title “building designer” can be used by anyone designing buildings.
But that’s hardly even scratching the surface. Brian Basford is a building designer and treasurer of the Building
Designers Association of NSW. He suggests that building designers are generally less expensive, and mostly involved
in less flamboyant buildings. “It’s horses for courses. Most architects probably wouldn’t want to design a single
bedroom extension for a pensioner, whereas I’ve done a lot of that.”
Brian also stressed that there are quite often overlaps between what architects do and what building designers do.
There’s no simple rule. “But no matter what the job, good building designers and good architects both produce
quality work”, he says.
Architect Gary Kurzer agrees that architects are more likely to be involved with more distinctive, “up-market”
buildings. But not because of cost. “Architects work to your budget just like building designers. The real reason
is that architects are a little more likely to stretch the boundaries and challenge convention.”
According to Gary, you should generally choose an architect if you want more than just a literal translation of
your brief. “My clients normally have a rough idea of what they want. I take that idea and transform it into
something they love, but could never have imagined themselves.”
The most important thing is knowing what you want from the service, and choosing someone that suits your job.
And whether you choose an architect or building designer, remember, qualifications are no guarantee of quality.
Always ask to see previous examples of their work. Ask for references from previous customers. Ask to see their
qualifications. Ask how long they’ve been working. Do they have professional indemnity insurance? Are they a member
of an accredited body?…
In the end, it’s like anything else… there’s no substitute for common sense.
Thanks to Gary Kurzer, Architect, 0411044448, and Brian Basford, Building Designer.
Q: Are architects and building designers the same thing?
A: No. Architects must be registered with the Board of Architects of NSW.
Q: Will I get a better design from an architect?
A: Not necessarily. The only guarantee is a minimum level of qualifications. Architects must have a Bachelor of
Architecture degree (5 years) as well as the demonstrated ability to deal with clients and satisfy their
requirements. Generally this means at least a couple of years experience in an architect’s office.
Q: Are building designers more in touch with builders and other trades?
A: Not necessarily. Architects are trained to deal with and manage all aspects of the building project. It all
comes down to the individual’s experience and abilities.
Q: Are Building designers “would-be” architects?
A: No. Building design is a recognised profession with its own national body (the BDAA) offering 3 levels of
accreditation based on experience and quality – but registration isn’t compulsory. Many building designers have the
qualifications to register with the Board of Architects but they choose not to because they don’t think the name
“architect” is worth the ongoing cost of registration.
Q: Are architects more expensive?
A: Not necessarily. An architect will work to your budget like a building designer. They can do anything from a
simple design to very complex interior and exterior detailing to superintendence of the building process. Your
building costs and ongoing running costs may also be less. For example, find out if your architect is incorporating
cost-saving measures into the building process. They may also design to take advantage of natural lighting,
ventilation, heating, cooling, etc. which will save you less in electricity.
Q: How do I tell if they’re really an architect?
A: Call the Board of Architects of NSW – (02) 93564900 or visit http://www.boarch.nsw.gov.au/f_consumer.html.
Q: How do I look for an accredited building designer?
A: Call the Building Designers Association of NSW – Sydney (02) 49264855 or visit http://www.bdansw.com.au or
Q: Where else can I go for further information?
A: http://www.architecture.com.au - Royal Australian Institute of Architects
http://www.bdansw.com.au - Building Designers Association of NSW