If you’re considering a substantial commercial renovation or new build, an architects and/or a designer will get you to your goals faster and better. But what’s the difference between architects vs designers, and who do you need?

When building or substantially remodelling your office, you need to have the right people on your team keeping you in budget, on time, and in full compliance with the law. In addition, you’re going to need an objective sounding board that can help you plan for the uses of your space. Here are a few questions about architects and designers that may help you make a decision.

I know what I want to do, why do I need either?

It’s easy to get excited about a new build/renovation project, but mistakes are costly. When renovating, project creep is common. You should always expect the unexpected. You need a professional to keep you up to code and maintain the structural integrity of your building, especially as issues arise. Otherwise costs and liabilities for your business add up quickly. In addition, an experienced design professional is better aware of the options and range of materials that can achieve your goals. They can also give you a clearer picture of what your plans will look like in reality, heading some problems off at the pass.

What’s the difference between an Architect and a Designer?

Generally speaking architects focus on building structure, and designers focus on the shape, layout, and look of the interior space. That doesn’t mean that an architect can’t also be good at design or that a designer isn’t familiar with building structure and architecture, but they’re coming at it from primarily different angles.

For a new build or for major renovations that have to be up to code, an architect will draft and submit plans to your local building authority for approval. In any renovation where codes apply, you can’t begin construction without that approval. Architects are also liable if something goes wrong (without an architect, you are fully and solely liable for repairs and damages). Designers are not necessarily licensed or liable. Both architects and designers can act as project managers for your renovation which eases your burden, saving you from splitting time between managing your renovation and running your business.

So who do I want?

If your commercial new build/renovation project involves the exterior of the building, an add-on, or moving, removing or adding walls, then you want an architect. An architect will help you avoid major issues, and can match the qualities of the existing building. They’ll keep you to code, and they’ll give you a realistic budget and timeline.

If your project involves re-configuring, updating, or re-imagining the layout of your space, a designer is more economical and will work keep your ideas in brand, and practical for your needs. It’s likely they’ll still submit their drawings to a structural engineer to ensure safety and code compliance. But a good designer will be thinking about the space from the perspective of the employees, customers/patients, products, supplies, and uses that your space has to accommodate.  Both architects and designers are going to bring experience, hands-on design knowledge, and a fresh eye to your renovation.

What’s my next step? Contacting us is a good step. We make designs a reality through all phases of your new build or renovation project. We have trusted partnerships with both architects and designers and can create a team with the best people, customized to the needs of your business.

If you have a specific designer or architect in mind, consider contacting other businesses through your local business association and see what experiences your colleagues have had. When choosing an architect, the Architecture Canada Electronic Directory will be able to give you local, fully licensed architects in your area, but always check their references yourself before engaging anyone. When you do engage an architect, or a designer, always write a clear contract that outlines their deliverables, milestones and budget.

You can find some examples and language for contracts with architects here, and contracts for interior designers here.