The simplest difference is a legal one. To be called an “architects in Miami” 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.”
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?…
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.
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.
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.
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.