Is hiring a building designer or architect better than using a builder’s design?

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designer/architect working on house plans

When you’re planning a home renovation or new build project, some builders may offer you contracts with free or low-cost design services. At first glance, these contracts may seem to give you better value for your money. But in most cases, it would be more advantageous for you to hire a building designer or an architect to produce custom house plans.

In this guide, we’ll help you understand some of the issues you may encounter when engaging a builder to do end-to-end service. We’ll also talk about the benefits of hiring a building designer or an architect.

Let’s get started!

three architects working on design

Building designers vs. architects vs. builders

First off, let’s define the following:

Building designers

A building designer is responsible for producing custom and detailed house plans. While they spend most of their time in the office, they also visit construction sites to measure and check the area.

In Queensland, Tasmania, and Victoria, they must register with the Building Practitioners Board.


Same with building designers, architects are responsible for producing construction drawings and conducting site visits. However, they must hold a master’s degree in architecture. Moreover, they must be registered with a state-based architecture board. Finally, as part of re-registration, they must show proof that they have completed a required number of hours of study and learning annually.


Builders can either be smaller independent builders or larger companies. Their role is to organise and coordinate the tradespeople who will complete the build. 

They must be licensed, insured, and registered and take on the responsibility for the build.

Should you hire builders for end-to-end service?

In some cases, builders offer end-to-end construction services. This means that they’ll be responsible for designing, drafting, and building your house. While this may seem like a good deal at first, here are some issues you might encounter if you go with this option:

No real savings

Some builders tend to blend their drafting fees together with their building costs to make it seem like they have low drafting costs. They may also completely blend all their drafting costs through their build costs so they seem to offer a free design service. 

As a result, it may seem like you saved money on the drafting or design service, but in reality, you actually paid more because of higher build costs.

No freedom to negotiate

If you agree to use a design from a builder, they will usually require you to choose them to execute the project. This means you’re now contractually bound to that builder. If you try to get a different builder to execute the design, they’ll ask for compensation for the design fees. 

In comparison, if you hire an independent building designer, you can ask for quotes from multiple builders and pick the one that offers you the best deal. It gives you the power to negotiate.

At Superdraft, we help you get the best build tender service quotes. We communicate with multiple builders and vet quotes on your behalf to save you time and money. Not only that, our team will organise quotes to do a proper comparison and make an informed decision on the builder you choose to work with. Request a free quote now!

Limited customisation

When building your dream space, you want to work closely with a qualified building designer or architect. After all, they are responsible for translating your vision into workable, detailed construction drawings. If ever you want a unique design feature in your house or if you want a floor plan that truly fits your family’s needs, your building designer should be the one who can help you make it happen.

If you simply go with a builder’s stock house plan, you won’t be able to communicate with the building designer. In fact, your builder might even be outsourcing the design and drafting services offshore or to another company. 

Because of that, you won’t have the freedom to customise your home plans. You can only make limited alterations, but in the end, it won’t be exactly what you wanted. 

building designer/architect making house plans

Benefits of hiring a building designer/architect

Instead of using a builder’s premade house plans, hiring an independent building designer or architect can be more practical and advantageous to you as a homeowner. Here are some key benefits you should keep in mind:

Design your home according to your lifestyle

Building designers take time to understand your lifestyle. As a result, they can deliver more interesting and creative designs that are more in tune with your needs. For example:

  • Situation A: Your family has outgrown the existing space in your home, but you don’t have the budget to move to another house. A building designer can look for underutilised areas and help you make the most out of the existing space.
  • Situation B: You want an upstairs laundry room but need someone to ensure that it won’t take up too much space or that the washer and dryer won’t make your bedrooms too humid. A good building designer can help you figure out a solution to these problems because they have experience in planning HVAC systems and electrical wiring.
  • Situation C: You’re renovating a heritage home and you’re not sure about the design changes you are allowed to make. A clever building designer or architect can help you find solutions so that you can have a home that fits your needs while also maintaining the culturally significant features of the house.

At Superdraft, we also use proprietary 3D visualisation software so you can see exactly what your project will look like before it’s done. That’s a lot better than relying on the symbols and patterns on 2D floor plans.

In the long run, having a house with a better design can give you value for your money because it increases your home’s resale value. 

Design according to your budget

Building designers are trained to make the building plans akin to your budget. They can adjust the floor plan or choose the right materials to make the project more cost-effective. Moreover, they can maximise the available space and provide layout options so that you get the most functional and comfortable home possible.

To help make sure that your project stays within your budget, Superdraft offers a build cost estimation service that allows you to get the most accurate and detailed build quote possible. Sign up for our platform to take advantage of this technology.

Meet overlay requirements

A builder’s premade house plan may not be suitable for your site conditions. If your land has unique features (e.g. trees, grading, etc.), then you might still need to hire a draftsman to modify the plans in order to meet local building codes and overlay requirements. Therefore, the final design may look quite different compared to what you initially agreed to.

For example, your house is covered by a flood hazard overlay and must meet minimum floor level height requirements. It should also be designed in such a way that it doesn’t affect floodwater flow. A building designer can produce a custom design that meets all these requirements, while still taking note of your needs and preferences. 

Fewer construction hiccups

Building a house requires several professionals to work together. Aside from your builder, you might need the help of a structural engineer, a plumber or an electrician. A building designer or architect can make site visits to ensure that everyone is on the same page and is working together to build the house according to your specifications.

Create energy-efficient designs

Engaging a building designer or an architect to create a custom passive design for your house will be well worth your money. They can design your house in such a way that it maximises natural light and heating, reducing your heating, cooling, and electric bills over time.

Creating a passive home with a builder’s stock house plan isn’t easy, particularly because the plans aren’t made specifically for your location.

engineer with compass

Frequently asked questions

Can I take a builder’s house plan to another builder?

If a builder presents you with a design that you like but offers you a build quote that’s out of your budget, you’re not entitled to present the designs to another builder. That’s because the original builder likely holds the copyright for those house plans. Asking another builder to use it has legal consequences.

Again, this is why it is important to hire an independent building designer or architect to complete the design and drafting phase. Once that’s done, you can present their plans to various builders so you can get the most cost-effective build quote.

How do I choose the right building designer/architect?

When choosing a building designer, it’s important to look at their portfolio of completed projects and their credentials. Most designers will be happy to give you photos of their past work so you can gauge their style and skill level. Some of them can also provide references from past clients.

At Superdraft, our unique designer match technology will match you with the right building professionals who are the correct fit for your project and design requirements. We also carefully vet the designers to ensure that you only get experienced and reliable people.

How is a building designers/architect paid?

Building designers base their rates on their experience, qualifications, and the complexity of the project. Some of them charge a fixed rate by the hour, while others charge per square metre. 

Start planning your home renovation project now

At times, builders give you the option to use their stock designs for your home renovation or new build project. While this may seem like a convenient option, engaging an independent building designer or an architect to produce a custom design is still more advantageous. They can create house plans that are suitable for your site. Plus, you can use their design and request quotes from multiple builders, so that you can negotiate for the best price. 

Here at Superdraft, we can help you find an experienced and dependable building designer or draftsman who can produce custom designs. We can also negotiate with builders on your behalf so you can get the most value for your money. Sign up for our free platform now! 

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