Residential ArchitectureWhat’s the Difference Between an Architect, Design-Build, and Builder?

What’s the Difference Between an Architect, Design-Build, and Builder?

What’s the Difference Between an Architect, Design-Build, and Builder? / architecture firm
Modern House in Austin, Coxist Studio

As you are planning for your home renovation or custom home, it’s important to understand all of your options so you can choose the partner that best fits your needs.

Below, we’re breaking down the differences between an architecture firm, a design-build firm, and a builder.

Architecture firm

With a focus on design, architecture firms design and plan buildings and spaces. Architects are trained to understand how people function and how to design with that in mind to create something that’s lasting. What architects ultimately bring to the table is a high level of design, an eye for details, and a deep understanding of space. Architects also know all the technical aspects of a building together along with the codes that must be followed.

There are various services offered by residential architecture firms that range from solely providing drawings of house plans to working with clients throughout the construction phase.

CoXist, for example, is a full service architecture firm. We work with a homeowner throughout every stage of the process. From designing the space to helping select contractors, to being the liaison during the construction phase. Our role is to handle the project from beginning to end.

Inverse House, Texas by Coxist Studio
Inverse House, Texas by Coxist Studio


Design-build firms are exactly as they sound — they offer both design and building services as one package. Unlike an architecture firm, design-build firms will have both architects and contractors on their team which means everything is done in-house. When you work with a design-build firm, you are essentially hiring an entire team.

Keeping the design and contracting on one team helps create a streamlined process that can be beneficial to both timeline and budget. Rather than bidding out to different contractors and selecting the ones you want to work with, you are limited to using the design-build firm’s in-house contractor. which is something to keep in mind if you want more options.


When it comes to the homeowner-builder relationship, there are a couple different scenarios. While you can hire a builder directly, you’ll most likely be receiving a standardized, builder-grade home. However, if you want a custom home, you will need to work with an architect in addition to a builder.

Another important distinction to understand is the relationship between an architect and a builder or contractor. If you choose to work with an architecture firm, they would essentially be the liaison and act as a mediator between the homeowner and the builder. This is especially beneficial for those who are building their first home or may not be familiar with the construction process as the architect can help bridge the gap and answer any questions along the way.

Ultimately, if you are interested in a new, standardized build you would choose a builder. If you are drawn toward the streamlined process a design-build firm offers, then they may be a good partner for you. And if you are looking for a custom, design-focused home, then you would want to work with a residential architect. At the end of the day, it’s important to understand what you’re looking for and what each of these options has to offer so you can find the best partner for your home project.

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