What you should know when engaging an Architectural Designer Part 1

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3

Who can design your project?

The process of engaging an architectural designer can be like stepping into a world of unknown procedures, expectations and costs. We don’t engage an architectural building designer as often as we do see a doctor, solicitor/lawyer, accountants or other professionals. Don’t forget that architectural designers are professionals with qualifications, diploma’s, degrees and experience similar to other professionals mentioned before. So why don’t we credit these professionals the same as doctors, lawyers or accountants? Because most people don’t use these professionals on a regular basis.

There is an opinion out there that an Architect is very expensive to engage when designing your home, addition/extension or any building project, and therefore are out of the reach of ordinary people.

It is a fact however that 75% to 80% of all domestic building designs are performed by Building Designers, not Architects. These building designers are qualified professionals with a lot of hands-on experience in domestic, commercial, industrial type designs and knowledge of local council’s regulations and laws.


Architects are professionals that have university degrees and are members of the Institute of Architects in Australia. These Architects do charge a professional fee but often most of their work are in major cities, high rise buildings, skyscrapers, large commercial and industrial projects such as shopping malls and high rise home units; and most of their work is for expensive development projects.

Architects can and will charge 6% to 10% + of the construction costs and will take the project from a green-field stage to final hand over to clients. A domestic residence of $500,000 would incur an Architect fee of close to $30,000 to $50,000 to design. In some cases, this does not include Structural Engineering or other professional service required to meet Council DA and CC (Development Application and Construction Certificate). These types of fees are not within reach of most people who want to live in a well-designed home. These architecturally designed homes are often well in the range of 2 to 5 million dollars and more to construct/built.

Building Designers

Building Designers are professionals they have Diploma’s, Certifications from either a Technical College or TAFE and some University courses Degrees. Some building designers are not members of an association but reputable and successful designers are members of a State or National designers groups and have a commitment to achieve professional development (points) system, to stay up to date with all the latest planning, design and products developments within the construction industry. There are also different levels of Building Designers.

In NSW designers can apply for the highest level of recognition by applying and receiving the “Accreditation” certificate by submitting design projects and be judged on knowledge of architecture design and construction. A designer that has achieved the accreditation certificate can use his full title of “Accredited Building Designer” This level of building design has been recognized by the NSW Planning Department. For example, only accredited building designers and architects can design “Child Care Centers” in the State of NSW.

There are also building designers that are experienced ECO designers with a certificate in ECO design and SDS specialists, qualified in Sustainable Design. Environment-friendly design is the key to all sustainable design with water and energy savings that has become an important part of designing environmentally sustainable housing.

The costs to engage a building designer depends on the qualification of the designer, experienced obtained in years, the difficulty of the proposed design and the brief received from the client. In most cases, the fees for an accredited building designer will be between 2% and 5% of the construction value. A domestic residence of $ 500,000.- could incur a designers fee close to $ 10,000.- to $ 25,000.-

In most cases a designer’s quote includes costs and time that will take him to produce and finalize the required design. Time and expenses for an average 250 SQ M constructed residence can usually range between $ 7,000.- and $ 10,000.- which may or may not include the Structural Engineering Details.

Most architectural/designer business owners are often a one-man operation and conduct business by designing and drawing full concept architectural type building plans for the customers.


Draftsmen are not designers but have drawing certifications from either a Technical college or TAFE. Draftsmen are usually employed by either architects or building designers. They draw up architectural design works that have been designed by either the architect or building designer who owns the architectural/building designer’s company. A draftsman will get instructions from these professionals on what and how these architectural designs are to be drawn up.