To start, you should know that there are many differences, and you’re paying to get a certain skill set and expertise for your money. Knowing who you should seek to hire to best fit your needs can be confusing, but a little research can help distinguish the differences in cost, specialties and responsibilities of each.
An architect is a licensed professional with a college degree in the design of buildings or the building environment who is required to perform to a certain set of standards or risk losing their license. The education, experience and training of an architect is focused on the aesthetic design of buildings and the elements – space, structure, mechanical systems, sustainability – that make a structure work. An architect will ultimately be concerned with the architectural facets of the building as well as the space around it, and can manage the construction process. Most importantly, an architect works directly for you, does not answer to anyone else, and is bound by a code of ethics.
A building designer is not regulated and has no legally defined boundaries, education or training requirements with regard to designing a home or building. Many designers belong to organizations that require certification (such as Certified Professional Building Designer) and are limited, by law, to the size of building they can design. They should be able to facilitate the building process from design concept to final working drawings, assemble needed documents needed for approvals and construction, and can provide advice on local regulations. A building designer can be retained to oversee the construction process, and can have a similar expertise as an architect.
To put it simply, a home builder is commissioned by you to build a home, and will build the structure to meet the parameters you have set. Ultimately, builders and architects work hand-in-hand, but a builder can build a home without the services of an architect, while the opposite is not true. A builder is in charge of the actual construction of a structure and is concerned with codes and regulations surrounding the build, as well as ensuring the construction matches the blueprints. Builders have a number of concerns from different parties to manage and are responsible for coordinating engineers, architects and contractors to meet costs and schedule.