While architects and architectural designers perform many of the same duties, there are several key differences between them. In this blog post, we will discuss the similarities and differences and advise on which is best to hire depending on the nature of your project. Keep reading to find out more.
What is an architect?
Before we delve into the difference between each role, let’s first look at each profession separately to understand their function better, starting with architects. Architects are professionals trained in the art and science of building design. They develop the concepts for structures and turn them into images and plans, which evolve into homes, office buildings, and other facilities.
Architects’ roles are multifunctional: blending diverse disciplines in a creative process while serving the public interest and addressing health and safety matters. Before becoming fully qualified, architects are required to pass the ARE (Architectural Registration Exam) administered by the NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards).
The ARE test measures critical and technical architecture knowledge–not design but the health, safety, and welfare of buildings, their inhabitants, and the environment. However, legal practice in one state doesn’t mean the architect can perform the same services in other states.
- Salary range: Architects generally receive the benefit of higher salaries than ADs.
- Diversity of role: Architects generally enjoy a healthy mix between office work and hands-on work.
- Working in a creative field: It’s no secret that architecture is a highly creative field. Due to the nature of the role, architects can think big-picture and come up with innovative solutions.
- Cost and difficulty of exams: ARE is renowned for being a grueling, expensive exam that is beyond the means of many young graduates.
- Stressful job role: Meeting the client’s requirements, dealing with the contractors, and balancing other duties can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety within the role.
What is an architectural designer (AD)?
The term architectural designer (AD) refers to a building designer who is not a registered architect. ADs work with architects in the process of creating and documenting design projects. ADs receive their OJT (On-Job-Training) experience through this process. Unlike architects, ADs are not required to take the ARE, as they are primarily focused on the design aspect of architecture, and qualifications in related fields often suffice. A fully-qualified architect must sign off plans produced by an architectural designer. Laws in several US states prohibit architectural designers from designing commercial buildings or those with more than three stories. ADs are often less paid than architects and may not have studied architecture at a third-level institution.
- More flexibility: Unlike licensed architects who can only practice their profession in their state residence, architect designers, even without an architectural license, can design in almost every state.
- Fewer exams/training: ADs are not required to take the ARE exams, saving them money and time.
- More time to focus on creative outputs: As ADs are not as governed as architects and do not need to deal as much with documentation, they have more time to focus on creativity, such as design and aesthetic project elements.
- Salary range: The disparity in pay between architects and architectural designers (ADs) can often be significant, with ADs typically receiving a lower salary.
- Licensing issues: All states require that architects be licensed, but the licensing of designers is a gray area, and many states exempt the design of single-family homes from architectural licensing, causing a roadblock to ADs working on specific projects.
- Lack of autonomy: an AD cannot provide stamped documents to the building department, as required by various jurisdictions for a construction project. Therefore, they are highly reliant on the architect’s approval, which in some cases may lead to a feeling of a lack of autonomy.
What are the significant differences between architecture and architectural design?
One of the most significant differences between ADs and architects is that an AD cannot provide stamped documents to the building department, which various jurisdictions sometimes require for a construction project. This responsibility must be signed-off by a registered architect, and they are highly governed. Another difference is that an architect cannot call themselves an architect or even an ‘intern architect.’ In this case, they risk the state architect’s board reprimanding them and potentially putting their future license in jeopardy.
When do you need an architect, and when do you need an architectural designer?
There are many instances in which an architect is more suitable than an AD and vice versa. The deciding factor will largely depend on the nature of the project. Suppose your project relates to remodeling or new home construction. In that case, an AD may be a better fit for your needs because architectural design focuses heavily on functionality and aestheticism, which fits well when remodeling or renovating a home. An AD can make sure the aesthetic considerations meld with the structural requirements of the project and that the space is both liveable and aesthetically pleasing. A designer or design/build firm can handle most residential remodels.
An AD’s expertise may suffice in the following circumstances:
- Single room remodels
- Remodels you’re managing yourself but need assistance in executing design aspects.
- You are doing a light remodel of multiple rooms and want a coherent aesthetic appearance
- You need an AD to design the remodel and then an architect to sign off the final project.
What are the construction laws?
Keep in mind that laws governing licensing of design services vary from state to state. All states require that architects be licensed. Still, the licensing of designers is a gray area. Many states exempt the design of single-family homes from architectural licensing. As a result, you do not need an architect to stamp new home construction or house remodeling plans in Massachusetts. We showcase these details in the following declaration:
The preparation of plans and specifications for and the supervision of the construction, enlargement, or alteration of any building containing less than thirty-five thousand cubic feet of enclosed space, the computation to be made according to rules to be established by the board; Any single or two-family house or any accessory building thereto; Any building used for farm purposes;
If you’re not in Massachusetts, please use this resource to see if an architect needs to approve your house plans.
Are there other requirements to consider when remodeling or building a new home?
Two licenses are essential requirements when remodeling or building a new home:
- Home Improvement Contractor (HIC): A holder of a HIC registration is not required to pass an examination. The holder must register with the state by paying an application or renewal fee and paying a one-time fee that is deposited into the Guaranty Fund administered by OCABR.
- Contractor Supervisor License (CSL): A holder of a Construction Supervisor License (CSL) must have passed an examination that demonstrates knowledge of the state building code. Any work involving a building’s structural elements generally requires a CSL.
Whether your contractor is required to have both a CSL (Construction Supervisors License)
and a HIC (Home Improvement Contractor) depends upon the scope of work of your project.
Generally, construction projects require both a licensed and registered contractor. However, if your contractor does not hold a valid CSL but the work they contract to perform requires it, they must obtain a CSL or hire an active Construction Supervisor Licensee to supervise the project.
For more information about these requirements, please visit this government resource.
Design-build versus design-bid-build: how to know which best fits your project
Depending on the nature of your specific project, you will select a design-build or a design-bid-build. Let’s break down the differences to determine the right fit:
Design-build features a construction firm offering their designers in lieu of a separate architect and being responsible for the construction of the project. Design-builds are advantageous for those looking for a single entity to manage the entire project, as builders and designers work hand-in-hand to provide design, engineering, and implementation services. Through this streamlined form of communication, conflicts between parties are eliminated, as is mediation from the designer to the builder. Another advantage is a faster timeline due to eliminating a bidding process.
Design-build is a better fit for the project if:
- The project is complex.
- You follow an expedited timeline, or if you care about the schedule.
- Cost and quality of deliverables are a top priority.
- You want to reduce risk and involvement.
When looking in the marketplace for design-build services, determine if companies excel in design, build, or both. If you like a company in building, decide whether or not they have a dedicated design team or hire a designer on a project basis.
At Feinmann, we have a robust design component that consists of architectural designers, interior designers, kitchen and bath planners, and selection experts to ensure we can deliver a home you love for the way you live. Please find out more about our design-build options here: How to Choose a Design-Build Company. You can also discover more design-build tops in our blog: All You Need to Know About Design-Build.
Design-bid-build is the most traditional project delivery method and best appeals to low-cost bid seekers. In this method, the owner contracts designers and builders separately. The design firm delivers 100% complete design documents. Then the owner solicits bids from contractors to perform the documented scope of work. The low-cost can occur as contractors conduct competitive bids and get the most competitive pricing. With a design-bid-build, design and construction have more distinct roles, more independent, and clear-cut ownership, which makes liability more apparent.
Despite its many benefits, design-bid-build projects also have their drawbacks. Firstly, design-bid-build is more high-risk because designers and builders have no contractual obligation to each other. As a result, the owner assumes the risk associated with the design document completeness. Furthermore, contractors are bound solely by the contents of documents, which can cause mistakes, variations, and gaps in expectations.
In summary, design-bid-build is a better fit for the project if:
- Design changes in the project are less likely to occur.
- The project is so simple that it is wise to do competitive bidding to lower costs.
- The owner is comfortable with managing designers and builders.
- The owner doesn’t mind a longer timeline.
We hope you have enjoyed learning about the differences and similarities between architects’ and architectural designers’ roles. If you would like to learn more about the services that Feinmann offers, please feel free to contact us to discover more about our excellent design-build team.