Should I Hire an Architect or an Architectural Designer?
Read on to unpack the differences – and similarities – between these two professions
So, does that mean choosing an architect or an architectural designer? What does each one do and how might you pick between them? We asked three experts to explain the difference.
Professional advice from: James Hood of Model Projects; Emilie Mauran of EMR Architecture; Lior Brosh of Brosh Architects
The most obvious difference is accreditation. “The professional title of ‘architect’ is protected by law and can only be used by an architect registered by the Architectural Registration Board [ARB],” Lior Brosh says.
“An architectural designer is not a role that’s governed by a body, so technically anyone can use it,” he continues. “It might be used by someone who didn’t finish architectural studies, for example, or didn’t go through or complete the training and qualifications that are required by law in order to become an architect. They are therefore not part of the code of conduct an architect is obliged to follow.”
So, the distinction lies primarily in qualifications and the accountability they bring. “Architects are registered with the ARB, and some are Chartered Members of the Royal Institute of British Architects [RIBA], too, whereas architectural designers are not,” James Hood says.
It brings with it a level of accountability that an architectural designer is not subject to. “Architect is a regulated profession that holds us accountable to a high set of standards and a code of ethics,” Lior says. “So if anything goes wrong with your project, you can hold your architect accountable.”
Accredited architects have a requirement to follow the RIBA formal stages, too. These stages are set out in the RIBA Plan of Work, which ‘organises the process of briefing, designing, delivering, maintaining, operating and using a building into eight stages’.
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Not necessarily. “If someone is an architectural designer, it doesn’t mean they haven’t done the same or a similar degree as an architect; it might just be they haven’t gone down the full accreditation route,” James says.
They can usually offer a very similar service to an architect. “For domestic projects, this doesn’t limit them from carrying out all the work required, from submitting planning drawings to building control submissions,” he says.
“An architect training is seven years of university, including a minimum of two years mandatory vocational experience, and covers everything from sketch design, planning and construction drawings to contract administration on site,” Lior says. “That means an architect can provide a full service for your project.
“An architectural designer can be a very talented designer and provide a full service as well,” he says, “but just make sure they can show evidence of a track record of work and recommendations before you decide to hire them over an architect.”
“The work is the same for both, often going through a process of concept design, planning application and technical design for building control and tender. The level of detail depends on the individual practice,” James says.
Both architects and architectural designers will be heavily involved in the design process of the project, but Emilie Mauran believes an architect has the edge when it comes to what she calls “the bureaucracy aspect” of the project. “He or she can coordinate with other specialists (structural engineer, fire engineer, etc) through the different stages of the renovation,” she says.
“Not necessarily,” Lior says. “It’s a free market and anyone can charge what they wish to be competitive.”
Fees come down to the individual company and the level of service they offer, rather than whether the professionals are architects or architectural designers. “It’s important to check what you’re getting in terms of service, drawings and documentation at each stage when reviewing fees,” James says. “Fees will vary depending on the company, location and size.”
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“In terms of credentials, they may be less qualified, but some may have more experience,” James says. “An architectural designer can be equally as creative as an architect.”
It also comes down to personal preference and how you respond to the architectural designer’s previous projects. “You might choose them simply because you like their previous work and they’re very good at it,” Emilie says.
It’s a good idea to find out how long they’ve been in business and what level of insurance they have. “I’d ask to see case studies and references from past clients, and look at the level of work they cover,” James says. “Not all companies will produce bill quantities and carry out the tender phase, for example.”
Obviously, this can be because both types of professional are employed within one practice, but that’s not the only reason. “It could come down to the mix of the team or it could just be for marketing and keyword purposes,” James says.
The bonus for you, the client, is that a large practice with both architects and architectural designers will give you a range of talent to work with. “You might think you want an architect,” Emilie says, “but you may be attributed an architectural designer because they’re the best person for your specific job.”
Have you worked with an architect or an architectural designer? How did you find the experience? Share your thoughts in the Comments.