The inside job … building designer

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Building designer Alastair McDonald says his job is more complicated than people think.
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Building designer Alastair McDonald says his job is more complicated than people think.

Building designer Alastair McDonald says his job is more complicated than people think.

Name: Alastair McDonald

Job: Building designer at Ecotecture Design Group

My job in a nutshell: My job involves design, documentation and administration of building contracts. We have four building designers in our firm, working on roughly 30 projects at a time. I’m a director of the business so I do design, but also — typically of a small business operator — I’m responsible for marketing, workflow, quality control and accounting. I’m also president of the Building Designers Association of Victoria, which is our industry association. We [often] get asked about the difference between a building designer and an architect; there’s not much difference other than a different level of registration and qualification. A building designer can offer the same services an architect does.

How did you start out? My parents have four businesses. One is construction, so I was exposed to that at a young age. It was the creativity of my profession which attracted me. I first worked for an architect for a couple of years and I’ve got an advanced diploma in building design and contract administration — in Victoria that’s the typical qualification [in my field].

A great day is: Landing a really exciting new project. Also, delivering a project — it could be two or three years down the track, and seeing the look on your client’s faces. It’s very rewarding.

A challenging day is: Getting caught up in red tape. Town planning can sometimes request information on an application that [can] feel irrelevant, and that can bog you down.

I’ll never forget: When I landed my first project after I started my business in 2001.

I was 21 at the time. I probably quoted way too little but it was exciting to get it underway.

Most people don’t know: How much is involved in designing and constructing a building…Being creative is just a small percentage of what we do.

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