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Does your project require an architect or designer?

So you want to renovate or build a new home. You’ve visualised what you want it to look like, but you’re not sure where to begin when it comes to those crucial first design steps. This is where a design professional such as an architect or building designer can help. They can finesse your idea, draw up the plans and turn your dream home into reality. Here’s what you need to know.

When to seek professional help

Before you bring in the big guns, you need to first consider the project type, the aesthetic you’re after and the level of support you need.

Project complexity: When it comes to projects that require structural work, consulting an architect or building designer is a must. Similarly, if your site is awkwardly shaped, you have a complex design in mind, or you just want to do a simple ground-floor extension, a design professional would be well placed to help.

Design: If you’re quite design forward, or want something out of the ordinary, an architect or building designer can help bring your vision to life. Alternatively, if you’re really not sure what you want, a design professional can present you with an entirely new home concept. (Note that a heritage architect may need to be included in the design team for certain projects.)

Time: Overseeing a large build or renovation is time-consuming work. A design professional can project manage the entire build for you, including working with the builder and obtaining necessary approvals.

How much do architects and building designers charge?

While the initial financial outlay for a design professional can seem like a lot of money, it’s a valuable investment in making sure the job is done right from the outset.

While costs vary widely between individuals and locations, on average, you can expect a building designer or architect to charge anywhere from 3-8% of the total project cost for floor plans, or up to 15% to manage the project from start to finish*. So, if you build a house that costs $315,000, you will be paying between $9,500–$47,000 in expert fees.

Another (albeit much smaller) cost to bear in mind, is the initial consultation fee. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss your ideas, ask questions and work out if an architect or designer is the right person for the job. Always ask if they would be prepared to offer an initial consultation free of charge, but bear in mind, popular professionals are more likely to charge for their time.

How do I find the right design expert?

When it comes to finding the right architect or building designer for your job, it pays to go with someone who aligns with your taste and principles. It’s also important that you feel listened to by your chosen professional.

Building designer Owen Kleidon, Director of StruXi, believes that good designers will always focus on maximising client satisfaction.

“Our belief is that if we ask the right questions, and marry excellent design with form, structure and the required process, we will achieve the best possible outcome for our clients,” Owen says.

Here are some good places to start looking for an architect or designer:

  • Scour the websites, portfolios, testimonials and social media channels of designers and architects, then make a shortlist of those that appeal to you most. By seeing the projects they have worked on, you will get a sense of their preferred aesthetic and what kind of projects they specialise in.

  • Ask friends and family for recommendations. Or, if there’s someone you already have in mind, ask them for a couple of references from previous clients, as well as builders and other contractors they’ve worked with.

  • For architects, you can start by searching the Australian Institute of Architects’ Find an Architect website. Or, try the Find an Architect service from ArchiTeam, an architects’ association.

  • For building designers, check out the search function on the Hipages website, or try the Member Directory for Design Matters National, a leading professional body for building designers.

  • The Building Designers Association of Australia has a list of accredited building designers, while Queenslanders can search for a designer through BDQ (Building Design Queensland), the peak body for building designers in that state.

Can I just use a builder instead?

It depends on the scope of the project, but yes, you may be able to simply engage the services of a specialist builder instead of a design professional.

Design-and-build builders offer a one-stop-shop solution for many people looking for a faster, more cost-effective way to build or extend a home.

Often these specialist builders use pre-existing designs and will complete the plans, get the necessary approvals and build your home or extension. However, you won’t have any say over the tradespeople or contractors used as they will all be part of the one team.

While it may all seem a bit overwhelming, once you do some research and talk to a few people, you’ll find the expert who’s the right fit for you and your home – whether that’s an architect, building designer or specialist builder.

For more tips on how to assemble your project dream team, click here.


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