Architect VS Building Designer – Which one do I need?

An Architect vs building designer is more capable of providing a better level of detail, but they more expensive.

Attention: The following information is intended to provide our clients with indicative general advice only and should not be relied upon for any formal engagements or agreements. For further information regarding the practices and standards of Architects please visit this website

If you require any design consultancy for your project whether large or small, you will need to engage the services of an experienced Architect or Building Designer to ensure the design meets council requirements and building codes. Most states in Australia require at least the services of a Registered Building Designer to approve and issue the final Construction Certificate / Building License.

However, there are differences between an Architect & Building Designer and you should be well aware of the differences. Generally speaking (but not always), an Architect has more experience, is qualified and is more capable of providing a better level of detailed design when compared to a Building Designer, however, they are most of the time (but not always) more expensive. Architects are recommended for larger, more complex designs / projects an in most states always required if the build is over 3 stories. Building Designers, are still capable of providing a quality design for most residential and commercial projects but are generally less expensive and better suited for smaller, less complex designs. Architects are in many ways Building Designers too but Building Designers are not Architects.


If you would like to chat further about the differences between our Architecture and Building Design services then please give us a call on 1300 936 740 and ask to speak to one of our Senior Consultants.

What is an architect?

To be legally identified as professional architect, a person must:

  • have a formal tertiary education / degree in architecture
  • be covered by the necessary liability insurance (this is required for registration)
  • be officially registered as an architect with the governing architecture body in their state or territory


Registration with the state architecture body is what defines an ‘architect’, for professional and legal purposes. Even if a person has several degrees in architecture and many years of professional experience, it’s illegal for them to trade as an ‘architect’ if they’re not officially registered as one.

Academically speaking, architects study both the art and the science of Building Design in considerable depth. Architects normally spend at least five years at university, covering technical design and other things like history and contract law. Graduates are normally required to do two years of practical work under a registered architect before they’re eligible for registration as an architect themselves.

Architects and building designers alike have the freedom to apply their own creativity, although this depends as much on the client and the brief as it does on the individual architect or building designer. Architects or building designers can be involved with the entire construction project (sometimes acting as the ‘contract administrator’).


What is a building designer?

Building designers were once known as draftspeople – or probably more commonly ‘draftsmen’. The name has since changed to reflect their evolving roles and skill sets.

These days, the role of a building designer extends into the design of functional, energy efficient and often spectacularly creative homes.

Building designers can come from a number of design-related backgrounds. This includes people with degrees and experience in architecture who aren’t officially registered as architects, as well as people who have extensive formal education in any number of design fields.


Required qualifications for building designers

In many parts of Australia, anyone can operate as a building designer with no qualifications or credentials whatsoever. There are no registration or licensing requirements for building designers in the following states and territories:

  • Western Australia
  • New South Wales
  • South Australia
  • Northern Territory, and
  • ACT


While anyone can operate as a building designer in these places, it’s crucial to remember that ultimately their work needs to fully comply with building and planning regulations, or it simply won’t be built. For that reason, you’ll need to choose carefully in these states and territories.

In Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, you have greater protection. Building designers in Victoria are required by the Victorian Building Act (1993) to be registered with the Building Practitioners Board under the category of Draftsperson, Class of Building Design (Architectural).

In Queensland, building designers must hold a current BSA Building Design License. In Tasmania, building designers working on projects costing more than $5000 are required to hold a Building Practitioner Accreditation.

Insurance and the necessary technical skills and qualifications (typically an Advanced Diploma in Building Design) are required in order to qualify for any of these accreditations / registrations / licenses.

It’s a good idea to look for building designers who are members of professional associations like the BDAV (Building Designers’ Association of Victoria) or the BDA (Building Designers Australia) too. Those who belong to these associations are likely to have done continuing professional development (or ‘CPD’), which means in theory that they’ll be up with the latest changes to local planning laws and similar issues affecting their work.


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Jake Robinson

Jake Robinson

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