Many builders have an “in-house” design team that will draw up your building plans as a
service to a client. However, ownership of the plans will remain with the builder, and you
will be locked in to that builder if you wish to use that design.
For one-off designs, consumers can choose architects or draftpeople/designers. The
choice can be a difficult one.
It has been suggested that architects are more innovative and creative, particularly when
designing a “sustainable” or environmental home. However, a number of building
designers are extremely creative when given a specific project brief.
Many builders regard designers and draftpersons as more practical and better able to
design house plans to a budget. Creativity and innovation can (but does not always) result
in higher building costs.
Architects often offer the added service of overall project management and supervision
which is not generally available through designers.
Smaller builders often engage a draftsperson who can produce drawings to comply with
the Building Code of Australia. This draftsperson will usually know the builder’s
requirements and design the building in line with the builder’s and the client’s needs.
However if you wish to draw up a set of plans which will be “hawked around” seeking the
lowest price, a fully detailed and architecturally specified design may be best to ensure
that your quotes are meaningful, and that you are comparing apples with apples.
Cost and ownership of the plans are also considerations. Architectural fees can be
expensive. Also, an architect is engaged under a contract for services (not a contract of
service) and therefore will retain ownership of the copyright in the drawings unless the
contract under which the architect was engaged gives that right away. The architect is
free to use all or part of the plans for other customers. The difference between getting
plans from a builder and from an architect is the extent to which the owner has an implied
license to build from the plans. With an architect, there is an implied license allowing the
owner to build with the plans but it does not extend so far as to allow the owner to copy
or amend the plans for other purposes. So remember that use of a project builder’s inhouse
design team will mean that ownership of the plans remains with the builder. In any
event, most builders will not price another builder’s plans for fear of becoming involved in
a breach of copyright dispute.
Contact either a Master Builders member or contact the Building Designers Association
or Australian Institute of Architects for designers and architects.