What’s the Difference Between an Architect and a Building Designer?

 In FAQs

This commonly asked question leaves many of us baffled, which is the last thing we want when starting a new build or renovation. Here at Homes by Elite, we thought we’d take the time to explain the difference between an architect and a building designer so you are adequately prepared for your next project.


In a nutshell, an architect is a licensed professional who designs everything from houses and other buildings to landscapes, skyscrapers, and even cities. They study both the art and science of building design in great depth and problem-solve with form and function to create the best possible outcome. To become an architect in Australia, you typically need to:

  • Have a formal tertiary education/degree in architecture (this usually takes a minimum of 5 years)
  • 2 years practical experience
  • Be covered by the necessary liability insurance
  • Be officially registered as an architect with the governing architecture body in your state or territory of operation

Most importantly, it is the registration with a governing architectural body that defines who an architect is. Regardless of the number of degrees and experience that person has, they cannot practice as an architect unless they have an official registration as one.

Depending on your specific requirements, an architect will be able to assist in your entire build process from initial concept to finished product. They will also ensure everything complies with Australia’s building rules and regulations. Architects are also trained to assess your practical needs and develop a brief with you that takes into account these needs, as well as your unique lifestyle needs. Homes designed by architects are highly sought after in the current housing market due to their unique layouts, integration of sustainable or energy-efficient features, and superior material selection throughout.


Building designers can come from a range of different backgrounds. These include TAFE graduates, unregistered architects, and quite commonly, ex-builders. Generally speaking, they can and should be able to do the same job, but tend to specialise in smaller, less complicated projects.

In most states, including New South Wales, there are no formal registration or licensing requirements for building designers. Whilst anyone can label themselves and operate as a building designer, this doesn’t change the fact that ALL work and designs still need to comply with building rules and regulations. The building designer will still be able to help you at every stage of the design and construction process, including with concepts, plans, specifications, and liaising with regulatory bodies to ensure compliant designs. However, generally, building designers have a more linear thought process compared to an architect and will usually your design and home improvement from the one you already have in mind.

It’s generally a good idea to look for a building designer who is a member of a professional association like BDAA (Building Designers Association of Australia) as it will show that the company or individual is competent to perform a range of tasks within the occupational framework.


Now you’ve gained a better understanding of the two… who do YOU need?

For obvious reasons, architects tend to cost more. You pay for their experience, knowledge, capabilities, and planning. With that said, building designers are more than capable of quality design in most residential and commercial settings and tend to have a wealth of on-site experience and practical knowledge.

At the end of the day, the choice is yours and it begins and ends with the design. You can get equally show-stopping results from architects and building designers however if you are looking to do something relatively simple, straightforward, and have a design in mind, a building designer is probably a good option. If you’re hoping to push boundaries, optimise functionality and create something a little more special, an architect is a better choice. We’d also recommend an architect for larger buildings and anything over three stories.

What matters most is that whoever you choose fulfills your individual desires. To analyse whether an architect or building designer is capable of this, it’s valuable to look into their previous work, style, experience, qualifications, accomplishments and of course, to pay attention to their enthusiasm. You want someone you gel with, who understands your specific needs. If they are helping to oversee the project, you need to be able to trust them and their opinion… as you could be working with them for a while!

If you are interested to know more about this topic, the team at Homes by Elite is more than happy to answer any questions to point you in the right direction. Feel free to get in touch HERE!

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