The Difference Between an Architect and Building Designer

Building Design Melbourne

If you’re looking to build a home, you will need the help of either a building designer or an architect. If you’re not too familiar with the building process, you’re likely wondering what the difference between these two roles are. While there are plenty of similarities, there are key differences that you need to know as a property owner.

In this blog, we’re going to compare the two roles and discuss why you might choose one over the other.

Keep in mind that the relevant building regulations and qualifications might differ depending on which state or territory that you’re in. Please check official government websites if you have any questions or concerns regarding the building process.


  • What they do

Simply put, architects will help you plan out your home. They are trained in both interior and exterior design. They also have extensive knowledge in both the aesthetic and practical aspects of a property. With such skills, architects will be able to help you create your ideal home through custom building designs that balance style and functionality.

Registered architects can work with both residential and commercial projects. With their technical drawing skills, they can create floor plans, blueprints and even 3D renderings of the property that’s being built. With these provisional documents, you and the builders will be able to spot any potential issues with the property and make the necessary changes.

Beyond creating visual plans, architects can also help you with selecting materials, budgeting, and acquiring all the necessary permits from the local council. If you need help with making your property more energy efficient, experienced architects can help you on that front as well.

Generally, their rate is much higher compared to that of building designers. Because of this, it’s best to hire architects for big-budget projects that require a lot of attention to aesthetic and practical detail.

  • Qualifications

Architects must complete a five-year degree in architecture and complete two years of practical placements. Before they can practice as a professional, they must also register as an architect with the relevant governing body. Additionally, they must meet all the insurance requirements in their state or territory.

If you’re looking to hire an architect, you must make sure that they have all the relevant qualifications and have met all the necessary requirements. If you don’t take the time to check this, you run the risk of breaching building regulations in your state. Not to mention, you’re increasing your chances of getting substandard work.

Building Designers

  • What they do

Like architects, building designers have the skills to design both the interior and exterior of a building. They also have the drawing skills to create the necessary documentation for all kinds of residential and commercial projects. Additionally, building designers can help clients with other matters like acquiring permits, purchasing materials, keeping track of local building codes, and calculating labour hours.

Perhaps the main difference between an architect and a building designer is the depth of their work. Since architects are trained to work with the smallest of architectural details, they tend to spend a lot of time ensuring that everything is optimised. Building designers, on the hand, have plenty of skills in terms of overall design. However, they may not have extensive experience in working with the finer details of a building. As a result, it’s best to hire building designers if you’re working with a project that’s simple in its design and smaller in scale.

There’s also a considerable difference in their rates. According to, building designers typically charge 3-5% of the building costs, whereas architects charge 7-10%.

Building designers can be hired through a middleman, but they can also be directly hired by a client.

  • Qualifications

To be a building designer, you can have a degree or a diploma in various design-related subjects. You can even have a degree related to architecture and still become a building designer.

In the past, the biggest difference between a building designer and an architect was that building designers didn’t have to be formally registered in every state. The New South Wales (NSW) government, for example, didn’t require its designers to be registered with a governing body.

However, in June 2020, the NSW government passed a bill that required compulsory registration for all building designers. This bill aims to build a culture of accountability and reduce the amount of substandard work in the industry.

Despite this, you should still make sure that the designers you’re hiring are qualified and registered. If you don’t, you could end up with an inferior and, quite frankly, unsafe building/home.

There you have it, the differences between an architect and building designer. Though their jobs are similar in many ways, they are advantages in hiring one over the other. Before you hire anyone, it’s important that you assess the scale of your project, the limitations of your budget as well as your own expectations. If you need advice, you can always consult the local builders and architects in your area.