The Difference Between An Architect vs Architectural Designer







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Starting to plan your renovation is exciting but it can also be confusing to know which design professional is the best person to help with your project.

With design professionals working on everything from giving you design inspiration, to submitting your planning and building control applications, as well as project managing and sourcing the best builder, getting it right is so important. 

We cover the different types of architectural professionals, including architects, architectural designers and architectural technologists, so you know who will be best suited to your renovation.

If you need some help finding an architect or designer, we can match you with the most suitable ones for your project.

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Side return extension with stylish Corten Cladding by London based CCASA Architects


An architect will have completed 7 years of training (both university and in practice) and the term 'architect' is protected by law, meaning you must be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) to legally call yourself an architect. 

Many ARB architects and practices are also Chartered Members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

An architect's training covers everything from the design process and planning, all of the way through to the construction, so an architect will be able to offer you the complete end to end service for your renovation project. 

Architects are extremely creative and so can come up with some amazing ideas if you have a blank canvas and want your renovation project to be design lead. Equally an architect will be suitable if you have a clear brief and ideas on the design but you need someone skilled to lead you through the process.

A qualified architect tend to be the most expensive option due to their extensive training and skill set.

Architectural Technologist

An architectural technologist will be a member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) and the training will focus more on the science behind the architecture, design and construction process.

Architectural technologist expertise are on bridging the gap between the creative design and the actual construction. That's not to say that they won't be creative and there are many that can help on the design aspect of your renovation project.

If you are planning an extension, loft or garage conversion, or have a clear design brief, then an architectural technologist will be able to do all of the plans and completion of the project for you.

So what is the difference between an Architect and an Architectural Technologist? 

An architect will have spent a lot of their time studying the design process through to the construction, whereas the architectural technologist will have focused their training on the science and the practicalities of the construction process, although many will have a strong eye for design.

If you have a clear idea of how you want your extension or conversion to look and your design brief is straightforward, an architectural technologist should be able to meet your needs. If you need some inspiration on your project, or want a real design makeover, an architect will be the best place to go to.

As architect's fees are generally higher and many will work on projects of a certain value, so they may not take on something like a straightforward loft conversion. An architectural technologists fees might be slightly less, so this is great news if you already have a design brief or you are planning a straightforward project.

It is often common for firms to employ both; once the architect has completed the design brief and planning, they will hand the work over to the architectural technologist to complete the construction drawings and the specification for the builders.

Architectural designer

An architectural designer is a term that is informally used to cover all of those within the residential architecture industry. It can be used to describe architects and architectural technologist, and those who are not qualified. 

An architectural designer is not a term that is governed by a body, so make sure that you do plenty of background checks to ensure that your architectural designer has the experience for your project. 

You will want to see examples of their previous work, references from past clients and visit their previous projects. You should also check what insurance they have too.

There are many great design firms who are not qualified Architects or Architectural Technologists but will have a keen eye for design and will be skilled at creating technical drawings for your renovation project. Just be mindful that they may not be qualified and make sure that who you are choosing is the right person for your project.

Who else might be involved in the planning process?

There are other professionals that may be involved in the overall process of planning your project.

Architectural technician

Working closely with architects and architectural technologists, the technician works on preparing technical information to help with the project as well as assisting the preparation of applications for regulatory bodies. 

An architectural technician will work within a practice rather than on their own.

Interior designer

There are many interior designers who can help on your renovation project, focusing on spacial flow, re-design and the finished interiors look. They should be members of the British Institute of Interior Design.

Structural engineer

A structural engineer will be responsible for producing the structural calculations that are required for building regulations and also used by your builder. If you are carrying out any structural changes then you must have building regulations approval and therefore will involve a structural engineer. 

Architects and architectural technologists will have a structural engineer either in their firm or someone who they work with, however if you are working on a simple and small project that doesn't require planning permission, you may want to work directly with the structural engineer.

To find out more about structural engineers and your project, read our article Do I need a structural engineer for my home renovation?


The surveyor will assess the overall condition of the building and also advise on any issues such as the Party Wall Act. If you are carrying a large renovation on a run down property it is worthwhile appointing a surveyor at the outset to identify any issues that you may otherwise overlook.

Project manager

Most design professionals will be able to carry out the project management role for you, if you don't want to take this on yourself.

Large projects often do benefit from this, particularly if you don't have the time to dedicate to your project.

You can also hire a project manager who can do this for you. Typically they are paid on a percentage of what you spend and will liaise with the builders, architects and help source products for you.

A final word....

Many organisations will be able to cover off the end to end process of your project and use different professionals at each stage. Based on your brief, they will provide an estimated cost based on the complexity and who needs to be involved.

There is no law requiring you to work with an architect or architectural technologist on your renovation or to submit your planning permission, however there will be so many benefits including a smoother planning application, removing the paperwork hassle and a a greater eye for design and structural detail. 

Always ensure your architect or architectural technologist is a member of the respective body and has sufficient professional indemnity insurance.

If you need some help finding an architect or designer, we can match you with the most suitable ones for your project.

Find an architect or designer

Published: November 24, 2020

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