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Thinking of building a new home or complex? Will you use an architect or
a building designer?
Both are involved in the design of buildings their appearance, layout,
structure, and so on. But whats the difference?
The simplest difference is a legal one. To be called an architect
in NSW, you have to be registered with the Board of Architects of NSW. The
title building designer can be used by anyone designing buildings.
But thats hardly even scratching the surface. Brian Basford is a building
designer and treasurer of the Building Designers Association of NSW. He suggests
that building designers are generally less expensive, and mostly involved
in less flamboyant buildings. Its horses for courses. Most architects
probably wouldnt want to design a single bedroom extension for a pensioner,
whereas Ive done a lot of that.
Brian also stressed that there are quite often overlaps between what architects
do and what building designers do. Theres no simple rule. But
no matter what the job, good building designers and good architects both
produce quality work, he says.
Architect Gary Kurzer agrees that architects are more likely to be involved
with more distinctive, up-market buildings. But not because of
cost. Architects work to your budget just like building designers.
The real reason is that architects are a little more likely to stretch the
boundaries and challenge convention.
According to Gary, you should generally choose an architect if you want more
than just a literal translation of your brief. My clients normally
have a rough idea of what they want. I take that idea and transform it into
something they love, but could never have imagined themselves.
The most important thing is knowing what you want from the service, and choosing
someone that suits your job.
And whether you choose an architect or building designer, remember,
qualifications are no guarantee of quality. Always ask to see previous examples
of their work. Ask for references from previous customers. Ask to see their
qualifications. Ask how long theyve been working. Do they have professional
indemnity insurance? Are they a member of an accredited body?
In the end, its like anything else theres no substitute
for common sense.
Thanks to Gary Kurzer, Architect, 0411044448, and Brian Basford, Building
Q: Are architects and building designers the same thing?
A: No. Architects must be registered with the Board of Architects of NSW.
Q: Will I get a better design from an architect?
A: Not necessarily. The only guarantee is a minimum level of qualifications.
Architects must have a Bachelor of Architecture degree (5 years) as well
as the demonstrated ability to deal with clients and satisfy their requirements.
Generally this means at least a couple of years experience in an
Q: Are building designers more in touch with builders and other trades?
A: Not necessarily. Architects are trained to deal with and manage all aspects
of the building project. It all comes down to the individuals experience
Q: Are Building designers would-be architects?
A: No. Building design is a recognised profession with its own national body
(the BDAA) offering 3 levels of accreditation based on experience and quality
but registration isnt compulsory. Many building designers have
the qualifications to register with the Board of Architects but they choose
not to because they dont think the name architect is worth
the ongoing cost of registration.
Q: Are architects more expensive?
A: Not necessarily. An architect will work to your budget like a building
designer. They can do anything from a simple design to very complex interior
and exterior detailing to superintendence of the building process. Your building
costs and ongoing running costs may also be less. For example, find out if
your architect is incorporating cost-saving measures into the building process.
They may also design to take advantage of natural lighting, ventilation,
heating, cooling, etc. which will save you less in electricity.
Q: How do I tell if theyre really an architect?
A: Call the Board of Architects of NSW (02) 93564900 or visit
Q: How do I look for an accredited building designer?
A: Call the Building Designers Association of NSW Sydney (02) 49264855
or visit http://www.bdansw.com.au or http://www.bdaa.com.au/index.htm.
Q: Where else can I go for further information?
A: http://www.architecture.com.au - Royal Australian Institute of Architects
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