On the surface, there seems to be very little difference between a building designer, a draftsman, and an architect. After all, the job of all three is basically to develop plans for a new building.
However, within the field of building design, each of these jobs fulfils a slightly different role, in different states within Australia there are different regulations and licensing, here in Queensland the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) require anyone who “designs” a building to hold a licence to do so. Let’s go over the differences between building designers, draftsmen, and architects.
A building designer is a pretty self-explanatory job; it’s someone who designs buildings. Building designers are not the same as registered architects, but they do fulfil many of the same roles as an architect in the area of building design, with the main exception being that under the QBCC a licensed building designer is not able to do full project management including project administration. As in all industries, every design practise does things slightly differently, however a building designer’s job includes creating designs for new buildings and/or renovations/extensions, as well as documenting these designs for approvals and construction, and giving the builders advice on the design materials. Building designers may have a variety of qualifications, such as a Degree in architecture (whilst not being registered with the Board of Architects), a diploma in building design, architectural technology, or similar.NB. There are three categories of licence for building designers – low rise; medium rise; and high rise, the category held determines the type and scale of projects a designer can undertake..
A draftsman is someone who specialises in producing the documentation of the designs and plans for a building. They don’t actually do any design work themselves; rather, they are responsible simply for ensuring that the building’s intended design is represented accurately within the plans.
Draftsmen often go to TAFE to learn the necessary skills for design documentation work, but it’s possible to become a self-taught draftsman and find work without any additional licensing or certificates. In Queensland draftsman are not permitted to design buildings under the regulations of the QBCC.
As we’ve already mentioned, architects and building designers are largely the same jobs. The main difference between the two is that you need significantly more qualifications to be legally considered an architect.
To legally work as an architect, not only do you need a university degree, but you must complete a level of field experience and then pass a licensing exam to become a registered architect under the Board of Architects. Architects must also pay to get re-licensed every year, which is part of what makes hiring an architect more expensive than hiring a building designer.
Put simply, architects cost more because they have received the most training of all of the jobs mentioned here. As for why you might want to hire an architect when it’s often considerably cheaper to hire a building designer or draftsman, it depends on the type of project you need help with.
So What’s the Go?
For most private residential projects such as new homes and renovations, along with many larger projects such as town houses or units, a skilled building designer will be more than capable of achieving a fantastic result and can help guide you with all aspects of the project. If you are looking at significantly larger projects such as large commercial developments or high-rise complexes then an Architect would certainly be advisable. Many people believe there is a level of prestige with owning a home that is “architect designed”, however as stated previously as in all industries there is the good and the bad, a quality, considered design by a building designer will not only meet your functional needs, but give the “wow factor” many look for, often with a more grounded approach to constructibility and budget, and close consideration to your needs, likes and dislikes.