In short, no – there’s no legal requirement to engage an architect for a renovation project. The key consideration is the value that a design professional could bring to your project. A skilled home design professional can help you optimise your project, offering advice on budget allocation, navigating regulations, selecting a builder, and overseeing their work. Early builder discussions for cost estimates are wise, but accurate quotes require comprehensive drawings. Design is crucial for project success, ensuring satisfaction, saving time and money, and avoiding unexpected issues. Detailed drawings foster effective communication with builders, preventing disputes and extra costs. If you decide professional help is needed, the article will guide you in selecting the right experts
Renovation project pictured above by interior designer Heidi. See her full profile and shortlist her studio for your home project here.
Architects services for a renovation
In our previous article titled “Do I need an architect or interior designer?” we delved into the specifics of whether an architect or interior designer is most appropriate for a renovation project. In that discussion, we emphasised that an interior-focussed architect is typically the more suitable choice compared to an architect who primarily deals with the external structure and shell of buildings. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that any architects with substantial experience in private residential projects should possess significant expertise and competence in interior architecture and interior design as well.
Whole house renovation
Most suited to a: Interior-focussed architect or interior architectural designer.
This could entail a significant overhaul, including the possibility of completely reconfiguring the house’s interior layout. It’s a substantial undertaking that demands effective project management skills and expertise in space planning. Given the potential for structural changes, the involvement of a structural engineer may also be required.
‘Knocking through’ for open plan living
Most suited to an: Interior Designer or Interior Architectural Designer.
While you might assume that removing structural walls necessitates an architect’s involvement, it may be more appropriate to engage an Interior Designer or Interior Architectural Designer for this project. However, it’s crucial to enlist the expertise of a structural engineer to determine the necessary beam size for your new opening. After addressing the structural aspects, the focus shifts to optimising furniture arrangement and selecting finishes to unify the space into a functional and harmonious environment for your family.
What is an interior architect?
Expanding on the previous point, the scope of work for an interior architect encompasses many of the traditional responsibilities of an architect and those of an interior designer. The title ‘architect’ is safeguarded by the Architect’s Registration Board, signifying that the professional is a certified architect with added proficiency and background in interior design. Alternatively, the term ‘interior architecture’ can be used, which may not necessarily imply architectural qualifications. In any case, it’s advisable to inquire about your design professional’s qualifications, experience, and expertise before hiring. Interior architecture experts are typically well-suited for residential renovation projects, especially when the majority of the work involves internal spaces.
What about a builder that has an in-house design service?
This route is called ‘design and build’, where the building company also do the design work and drawings for you. There are pros and cons of Design and Build. But in any event, we’d recommend having a meeting with their design professional, and carry out the same checks below as you would with an independent design professional, before you enter into an agreement with the building company.
Before you appoint your design professional – a checklist
In summary, with an architect (ARB) you can be assured of high levels of experience and training to undertake the full range of architectural services. If your project is relatively simple and uncomplicated, you may choose to speak to the other types of interior/architectural designer mentioned above. If so, I’d strongly recommend this checklist before appointing them:
- Do they hold adequate insurance to protect you from errors in their work (Professional Indemnity Insurance)?
- If not, their drawings and specifications should not be used for construction. Instead, the design liability could to be passed onto your builder. For example, the architectural designer could prepare preliminary drawings for planning only. Then, the contractor can develop the design into detailed construction drawings and take responsibility under their own design insurance (note this insurance needs to specifically cover the design liability, which is different to a builder’s usual construction liability insurance).
- Have they done similar projects before? Ask to see examples when you meet.
- Get references from their previous clients.
How to find an architect, interior designer or interior architect?
If you’re still unsure which design professional you need, I would recommend posting your project to Design for Me. You can describe your project and even mention your confusion.
We will send your request out and you will receive personal messages from architects, interior architects and interior designers, who believe they are well suited to your requirements.
- Quickly see who’s interested in your job
- create a shortlist
- invite up to three for a no-obligation consultation
- It’s free!
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