It is a little bit confusing for the unacquainted to understand the difference between Architect and Building designer as both design buildings. I am frequently asked the question “what is the difference between a Building Designer and an Architect?” it is a good question and to an extent the answer is not a great deal when it comes to the end result in some cases, it is a somewhat contentious issue, but really the major difference between the two comes down to the law, education and particular skills and knowledge. I am in a unique position to understand the merits of both – as I am formally trained and qualified as an architect (but not yet registered) having completed a masters of architecture at QUT but still yet to formally register with the Board of Architects and therefore am prohibited to refer to myself as an ‘Architect’ by law. I am also a registered building designer with the QBCC, which means I can legally provide drawings and advice to clients and submit plans to council. I can see both sides of the argument of Architect ‘vs’ Building designer. I personally know some amazingly talented building designers who with a 2 year TAFE diploma can draw circles around many local architects and vice versa I know some amazing architects who are on a different level to building designers or even their peers in the architecture field. It really comes down to a case by case basis and personal preference.


Building Designers are registered under the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC). While Architects are registered through the Board of Architects Queensland) BOAQ. Both Building Designers and Architects can hold several classes of license: low rise, medium rise, to open, these place limitations on the size and type of building the firm (or individual) can legally design and document. Architects in general have open rise licenses which means they are effectively allowed to design infinitely large high rise or skyscrapers (within the law) where as the majority of building designers commonly hold low or medium rise licenses meaning buildings up to 3-4 storeys, under special circumstances A building designer can also hold an open licence too, which effectively allows them to design skyscrapers but this is geneally redundant as the majority of the work is medium to low rise. It all comes down to designer’s specialty area of interest and requirements.


A building designer is required to have completed either a university undergrad degree in architecture or associated degree of Building Design, CU63 Diploma of Building Design and Technology, Diploma of Building Design through TAFE combined with two years practical experience. An architect requires either a three year bachelor of architecture and two year masters of architecture degree or a four year bachelor and one year post grad masters degree. This combined with 3500 hours logged work under the supervision of an architect, at various levels in order to qualify to sit both oral and written examinations with the Board of Architects it is only then after this arduous process that the person can claim the prestigious title of ‘Architect’ by law.

“75% of residential buildings are designed by Building Designers”


In general, building designers can perform all the same tasks as Architects although in some cases the building designer is less educated in areas such as passive design and sustainability and the scope of work is often less focused on schematic design and more focused on the pragmatic construction, which can translate to boring buildings which are some what un-resolved ( something I endeavor to avoid ). Historically an architect was the only option (aside from buying off the plan designs) The majority of people these days however choose to employ building designers rather than architects for both low budget and high end projects.

When commissioning the professional services of an architect or building designer , a client will no doubt have certain preconceived notions or expectations that they will be provided a pragmatic service and that he or she will deliver a structure or scheme that responds to site specific conditions, personal needs and particular budget of a project. Essentially that the programme should include an amalgam of; shelter, comfort and style, accommodating all the necessary functions of daily life, in addition to providing a particular aesthetic and /or a space or collection of spaces that offer a unique experience or an intangible sense of place. However the aesthetic values, ethos or in fact ego of an architect is always going to be engendered in a project, whether blatant or subtle this can equally dictate the outcome as much as the needs of the client, budgetary constraints or climatic conditions. A client when engaging the services of an architect, rather than simply employing a drafts person or building designer to document their own utopian vision of domestic bliss, is essentially contracting the services of a trained professional or group of professionals to engage in the process of critical analysis and detailed schematic services that extends beyond the scope of a drafting technician, who effectively replicates popular trends out of the pages of magazines or using default settings and components from a CAD package to interpret or in fact trace a client’s sketch or description. By engaging in the services of an architect you are in principle seeking a bespoke solution, that will no doubt be produced with an underlying personal agenda, it is therefore paramount for the client to select the most suitable candidate for the job in order to achieve the desired result.

Typical Fees Charged By Building Designers Architects are often thought of as a far more expensive option but this is not always the case if you look at this linked chart which highlights the average cost of a building designer Typical Fees Charged By Building Designers Building Designers Association of Queensland (BDAQ)


According to author Malcom Gladwell anyone willing to put in the work can potentially become an expert in any given field. It is no different in architecture and building design and there are always those predisposed natural talents which will always shine that much brighter regardless of formal training or a piece of paper “an extraordinarily consistent answer in an incredible number of fields … you need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good.”