Architect or an Architectural Designer? :


One of the most important decisions to make in the home building process is deciding who will design your home. This is the part where your dreams, needs and ideas are turned into bricks and mortar. Whether you’re creating a design statement or an everyday family home, the person you choose to design your home needs to understand your vision.

Do you want your house to portray your personality? Do you want your home to be a feature design? Does your design need to be functional… efficient… have room for later additions? Or perhaps you have a tight budget to stick to.

Even if you’re managing the build of your home yourself, you’ll need a qualified professional to create plans for council, building specifications and a set of working plans.

You have a few options when it comes to choosing who will design your home. Many of you will avoid this issue completely by going down the route of a franchise or group home builder company. Such 'Design and Build' companies have their own Architects and Architectural Designers they work with, either on contract or in-house. However it is still an important distinction to know so as to avoid confusion.

The question is… who should you use?



What’s the difference between an Architect and an Architectural Designer  



An Architect designs and plans your home. An Architect’s five-year university qualification and rigorous professional preparation means he or she has a thorough grounding in the art and science of building design. It also means he or she can register as an Architect, and therefore use the title of Architect, which architectural designers cannot.

In New Zealand, architects’ registration is supervised by the New Zealand Registered Architects Board (NZRAB). A prerequisite of registration is a degree in architecture, three years’ work experience, and a rigorous registration assessment. Architects are required to re-register with the NZRAB every five years. Many architects are also members of the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA), which on behalf of NZRAB runs a Continuing Education Programme in which Architects must enrol. By choosing an Architect, you can be sure that you will be working with someone who has many years of education and experience behind them.

Hawthorne home, building nz, architect or designer, build me, construction

Hawthorne Home, Designed by Architect firm Mason & Wales


Architectural Designer

Like an Architect, an architectural designer may be involved with a project from concept to final completion. An architectural designer is a Licensed Building Practitioner(LBP) who will most likely have some tertiary qualification relating to design and building, if not an architecture degree, but they will not have passed the requirements of the NZRAB. An architectural designer can create custom plans, and should have full working knowledge of the building code and local resource consent requirements. Some architectural designers are members of the Architectural Designers New Zealand Incorporated (ADNZ). Membership is not a requirement of being an architectural designer, but it does mean that these members have have had their skills assessed and have proven themselves to be competent professionals.


The Little Black Barn House, Architectural Designer, building NZ, build me,

The Little Black Barn House, designed by an Architectural Designer from The Draughting Company


What is a Draughtsperson?

Historically, a Draughtsperson would work behind the scenes to help develop an Architect’s concepts. These days it’s not uncommon to see a Draughtsperson out on their own. A Draughtsperson is ideal when you require plans for a basic build, something that doesn’t require a high level of aesthetic. A Draughtsperson is perfect if you’re building an addition and require detailed drawings for a plumber or electrician. They will also need to be LBP certified for any Restricted Building Work. Sometimes the terms Draughtsperson and Architectural Designer are used interchangeably.



Who should I choose?

If you’re planning a complicated build like a commercial building or a showcase residential home, then an Architect is probably the way to go. Otherwise, an Architectural Designer is more than capable of carrying out most residential projects, and in most cases will be more affordable. Many people make their decision based on the person, their portfolio and their people skills rather than their exact qualification.

architect or architectural designer, building nz, architecture, build me 

The choice on who you use is completely yours! But before you decide, there are a few questions to consider that may help make the decision easier.


Who’s going to understand my ideas?

Working with a designer is a long-term relationship, don’t rush in! It’s important you get along with the person who is going to turn your idea into reality. Check out their previous work and make sure their style is a good match to your own.

The build process often requires changes along the way. It’s important that you can establish a good working rapport with your designer. Tackling any issues that arise is easier if you’re both on the same page.

Creative flair can’t be taught. So, if you’re after a project with wow factor, make your choice based on style and previous experience, rather than qualification.


Who’s going to give the best value for money?

Most of the time, an Architect will be the most expensive option. But you are paying for the highest level of skill and creativity. When considering how much you’ll spend on design, it’s worth thinking about what your long-term goals are. A home designed by an Architect has a perceived added value when it comes to re-sale.

If you’re looking for a less expensive option, an Architectural Designers is more than capable of creating an innovative and unique design.


Who’s going to give the best design?

Whoever you use, it’s important to work with someone who not only understands your tastes but also understands what you need out of your new home. Steer clear of a designer who is only interested in using the latest trends so they can update their portfolio!

Think about what you want out of your project. Is there something that’s important to you – a green home, future capital gains, or a particular design style? Perhaps your home needs to serve a specific function like a home office or a granny flat for a family member.

An Architect or an Architectural Designer will inject some inspiration and flair to your ideas. Just make sure the designer you work with is LBP qualified and capable of adhering to building codes and local council requirements.


Finally, a tip from one of our readers: Make sure the designer has adequate professional indemnity insurance cover. It's all too common for building designs & specified materials to have flaws that end up costing a fortune to put right so PI is a must!

 architect or architectural designer, building nz, architecture, build me

How do I find an Architect or Architectural Designer?

Get out and find house design styles that you like. Find out who the designer is and make contact. Personal recommendations are good. It helps if your designer and your builder have worked together previously. Get referrals for a designer before you engage their services.


There are a number of professional organisations where designers are registered such as NZRAB, NZIA and ADNZ.


Find a designer now in the Build me. Directory (Note: we are currently building our Directory and are looking for professionals to showcase).


You could also browse the NZ Homes articles which have links to the designer of each house.