Architect or Building Designer or Draughtsman – What’s the difference? Is there a difference?  and who should you choose?

There’s actually no right or wrong answer to this common question. What’s best for you and for your project will not be best for someone else’s project.  When it comes to designing your dream home, architects, building designers, and even draftspeople can all perform that role to varying degrees.


Architect, Building Designer or Draughtsman

What do you value?

To make the best decision for your specific situation, for your project,around which is the right design professional for you,  ideally you want to have a good grasp of how important design, the design of your home that is,  is to you, 

A grasp on how big or small or even complex your project is, and how much money you can or are prepared to commit to the design process. 

People often shy away from the cost of design… worrying that it might not be money well spent but keep in mind Just because an architect costs more doesn’t mean that there’s never a need to engage one.

If you value design, looks, an efficient use of space, energy efficiency, or even desire  a bespoke or unique outcome or your project is complex and challenging then it could very well be worth your while to invest more resources at the design phase of your project by hiring an architect or a building designer

Don’t overlook the fact that the drool worthy homes you constantly see  on instagram or pinterest are not designed by draftsmen, they are designed by architects or even building designers. 

But if you’re happy with a slightly customised replica of a cookie-cutter design you’ve seen around the suburbs, then you probably won’t feel the need to shell out for the custom design services when a draftsman is more than capable of completing the task at hand.


Architect, Building Designer or Draughtsman

Look beyond ALL the advice

When you’re renovating a house or even building a new one, people will come out of the woodwork with unsolicited advice and they will tell you that ‘yes’ you do need an Architect, or building designer, or even a draughtsperson, and their advice will invariably be based on what they did, on their own experience or even on what they’ve heard or what they feel would be best – and often this opinion is based on price or cost alone or a good or bad experience they or someone they know had. 

So In order to help you make an educated decision, [remember we at the TZR are all about helping you make informed decisions for your project and encourage you not to base said decisions on hearsay or assumptions]  about whom you should work with to design your dream house first you should actually understand the difference between these three professions. 


Architect, Building Designer or Draughtsman

What do they actually do?

On the surface, and to the inexperienced, these three professions can seem almost interchangeable and many homeowners base their decision around which is best almost solely on cost. But you should know  There are some pretty significant differences in their levels of expertise and training, and they each have different skills and will each perform the task differently.


What does an ARCHITECT do?

An Architect is a licensed design professional with extensive education, training, and licensing. They are legally responsible for all work they perform. Typically, Architects are highly skilled in design and problem-solving. And this is the primary difference between the professions especially between architects and draughtsman and to some extent Building designer is their expertise and training in design. 

All Australian architects must be registered with the Architect’s Accreditation Council of Australia

So in order to legally call yourself an Architect and/or offer architectural services to the public, you must be registered.

To qualify for this accreditation, an Architect must have completed:

  • five years at university 
  • two years working in architectural practice,
  • pass an oral and written registration exam
  • and undertake ongoing education.

So all in all an Architect requires a high level of training from the get-go..

Architect, Building Designer or Draughtsman


A building designer’s skills can often closely align with those of an Architect, as they can effectively carry out the same tasks as an Architect (project delivery, documentation, and design) in a cost-effective way. 

Typically though Building designers tend to come from a range of different backgrounds. Many starting their careers as a draftsperson and then later acquire the necessary licenses to operate as a building designer.

An interesting fact is that even after gaining an architectural degree, a person is legally still considered a building designer until they take the required licensing exam. That means that you may be able to find a building designer with all of the education of an architect who simply hasn’t gotten certified yet.

It’s important to be aware also that In many parts of Australia, anyone can operate as a building designer. And by this I mean they don’t need any qualification or credentials whatsoever, to hang out a shingle and charge fees to design homes…

In these states, there are no registration or licensing requirements for building designers. 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.

It’s a different story however  In Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania, where there are stricter controls and as a result, you have greater levels of protection. 

In these states, building designers still have to be certified to work on certain types of buildings and they must individually qualify to work on residential homes. This gives them an extra layer of accountability and, therefore, credibility.

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.


VIC – required to be registered with the Victorian Building Authority  under the category of Draftsperson-, Building Design (Architectural)

QLD Building Designers must hold a current QBCC Building Design License. I

TAS – Building Designers require a current CBAS Building Designer Licence

The best place to start your search is to look for building designers who are members of the relevant professional associations 

VIC- Building Designers’ Association of Victoria
QLD Building Designers Association Of Queensland
AUS Building Designers Association of Australia
National Register of Building Designers 

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.


What does a DRAUGHTSPERSON do?

A  draftsperson is an expert in drawing up house plans.  They focus purely on the documentation and delivery of plans. 

An analogy to explain the difference between an architect/building designer and a draughtsman is to understand the difference between drawing and design.  To compare it to writing a book – an architect is an author – the creator who comes up with the plot and a draughtsman is the printer who types out the story and puts it into a physical form for others to ‘read’… they have no real input into the plot whatsoever.

Draftspeople typically don’t have any design education or experience, but they are usually skilled in using computer-aided design & drafting software (CAD) to create architectural drawings for construction purposes.

Some draftspeople will have formal education, some don’t. They may have obtained certificates, diplomas, or degrees in drafting, but they generally won’t have design training, nor will they typically have expertise with Local Council Planning codes. Their exposure to design is usually by way of converting design drawings to construction documents on the computer.

Note also that currently only Victoria and Queensland require drafters to be licensed. So in those states make sure they have the relevant class of registration to produce drawings for the construction of domestic buildings.

Like with a building designer It is also worth checking to see if your drafter is a member of an industry association, as they are more likely to keep up to date with developments in their sector..


What role does each profession play?

A building designer will typically handle the design and documentation of the building to approval stage, then hand the plans over to the builder and step away. For this reason, they focus on producing detailed, high-quality plans that can be interpreted without their involvement, and are therefore best suited to projects with standard construction elements.


An architect oversees the design, documentation and the delivery of a project, all the way through the construction phase to completion.although you don’t have to engage them for the entirety of your project/  They can act as an independent administrator of the building contract during the construction of the project. 

Since they have complete oversight of the design as it’s being built, they can incorporate more complex or non-standard design elements and building techniques.

The construction phase is usually the longest, most difficult and most stressful part of the process, so expert handling by an architect can be the key to a project’s success.


Your drawings still need to comply...

In Australia ,unlike many countries around the world doesn’t require the use of a design professional… You can in fact design your home yourself…But to acquire the relevant  building approvals it is necessary to have a certain level of drawing + documentation which will require the use of a Draughtsman skills as a minimum.  

And regardless of who you choose it is crucial to remember that ultimately the work needs to fully comply with building and planning regulations and be certified by a certifier/building surveyor. For that reason, it is very important to select the right one professional for your project.


Architect, Building Designer or Draughtsman

So which one should you choose?

An ARCHITECT might be best for you if...

  • Your project is larger in scale, or is complex in nature or if you have a difficult site that requires an innovative design solution;
  • Your design needs to be created from scratch, or you’re open to exploring alternative options.
  • There are complex or non-standard building techniques and custom-made elements that will require more detailed documentation and supervision;
  • You have a healthy budget and you want to invest in a professional who can oversee the whole process, from design, through managing the project during construction  to completion.

A BUILDING DESIGNER might be best if:.

  • The project is of a relatively small scale, and not overly complex;
  • You have a clearly-defined concept that needs professional execution to get the plans through approval;
  • Your project can be built using common construction techniques and does not require extensively detailed documentation and supervision during construction;
  • You’re willing to oversee the construction phase yourself in order to respect budget constraints.

A DRAUGHTSPERSON might be best for you if...

  • Your project is relatively small, like a quick makeover renovation
  • Little to no design input is required
  • You have a design concept that needs to be professionally drawn up.

Architect, Building Designer or Draughtsman

What about cost?

There is no doubt that there is a cost difference between each of these three professions and mostly that comes down to the level of qualification + licensing, and scope of services you need.  

Look,  there’s a perception amongst would-be renovators that an architect will always be the most expensive option. Whereas in fact, many Architects can and do prepare well thought out cost effective solutions to a specific design problem. and a high-quality experienced building designer can often charge a comparable fee to an architect. 

The most important thing that needs to be taken into consideration  is for the designer [whichever you choose] to give you a clear scope of the work they will provide under your  fee agreement so that you know what to expect and what you are paying for.

Remember that you’re paying for expertise, not just hours worked. A more experienced or better-qualified professional will typically be a  worthwhile investment in your future home and lifestyle. And keep in mind also that more time spent on the process doesn’t always equate to a better outcome.  If you’re working with the right person it is possible to get a good quality outcome in a timely manner.


Architect, Building Designer or Draughtsman

Does Architect = better design?

Depending on the challenges of your project, the difference between hiring a building designer and an architect won’t necessarily be reflected in the quality of the design.

You might assume that using an architect will guarantee a “better” design, given the extra level of qualification required by an architect. In reality, either an architect or a building designer for that matter has the ability to produce a thoughtful, well-executed design and can provide you with a great outcome. 

At the end of the day, the success of your project will often come down to the talent of the individual you hire, and whether or not they’re well-matched to the scope of your project.  This is why we always recommend that you spend the time choosing the right designer for your specific project.


Which will you choose? Architect or Building Designer or Draughtsman?

Remember there is no right or wrong choice here- like so many things when renovating or building your home, it comes down to knowing what you want to achieve, what is important to you, what you budget is and making choices accordingly.  And by having a good understanding of the differences between the professions you’re in a position to make a great choice for your project.

While every effort has been made to provide accurate information, The Zen Reno does not guarantee that this blog article is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use. It is for information purposes only and expert advice should be sought regarding how this issue might affect your particular project.

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