Architect or Building Designer, What’s the Difference?

3D model of house design with compass, ruler and pencil

When deciding to build a custom home who should you use, an architect or building designer?

All building projects whether large or small will need a design plan. Many people know that an architect or building designer is the person or company to speak to when it comes to house plans, but it can be confusing as to whose services you use to design your new custom home.

Few people know the difference between an architect or building designer as both design buildings.

There are subtle differences between the two and who you ultimately use will depend on your budget and the type of home design you require. So let’s take a look at these differences.

Building Designers/Drafts people

Building designers are registered practitioners. They are not required to pass the same tests as an architect or do the same amount of schooling to achieve their certification.

Building designers are required to be licensed by State Building Boards. Building designers create plans that have the minimal amount of information required to build a home. They tend to work the more mainstream markets where the house designs are not overly complex and block sizes regular. They are perfect for standardised housing built to a budget and not particularly difficult to build. That said many building designers are experienced in the more complex builds and can offer services similar to an architectural service. Generally speaking a building designer will be cheaper than an architect.


Architects not only produce amazing designs, they also have sufficient knowledge to ensure that their designs are structurally safe and sound. Architects tend to be used on bigger budget, one off custom homes. From an architectural point of view their designs are cutting edge, innovative and individual. The cost of construction is often secondary to what the architect and owner wish to achieve. The plans they produce will be highly detailed and specified.

Architects must complete a university degree in architecture, require a number of years of practical experience and must pass all the requirements of the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia.

While architects can draw plans for your building project, their services extend far beyond the design of your new home. An architect, for example can project and contract manage your home building. They will deal with a builder such as Renmark Homes on your behalf and give directions to ensure the builder is true to the design. They will conduct regular site meetings and keep you informed of progress.

This is well suited to busy people building an expensive luxury home. The architect is also more involved in the structural design of the home working closely with the engineer in the early stages of design process. For high end clients or large commercial projects, the architect will also select materials for both the interior and exterior of the building, select appliances, fixtures and fittings on behalf of their client. In these cases the cost is secondary to the look and feel they wish to achieve based on their client’s brief.

So who is best suited to my needs; an architect or a building designer?

If you have a limited budget and you already know the design you want, hire a building designer. They will translate your ideas in to a typical working plan without the need for further input into the design. They can provide a basic joinery and electrical plan for you if requested. But ultimately it will be up to you and your builder to fine tune the inclusions to reflect what you want. Many experienced draftsmen have enough knowledge to help you out with minor building issues.

Architects on the other hand come into their own if you are looking to build something based on interesting, innovative and cutting edge design. Their services are all encompassing, taking care of design, structural engineering, contract documentation, specification, contract administration and project management.

These services do not come cheap, but are necessary on big budget projects, which require very detailed plans, specification and architect involvement.

Whether you appoint an architect or building designer will be a personal choice. Don’t make the mistake that many clients make. You don’t want to engage an architect at great cost, get a design that you absolutely love, but find you cannot afford to build it. Talk to us today about how we can work with you and your architect for the best possible outcome.

This series of articles is designed to help you understand the importance of good plans and give you some tips in designing your new home. If you found this information useful we would love for you to share it with others who may be looking to build a home.

Renmark Homes – Building Custom Designed Homes in Melbourne’s North West

If you have any questions about how Renmark Homes can assist you in building your new home, please contact us on 1300 367 245, or visit our contact page for further options.