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The difference between an architect & an architectural technologist

Last modified: 2020-01-28 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

One day, if you have the opportunity to visit an architectural firm, you’ll find that architects and architectural technologists work hand in hand to design residential and industrial projects. These two professionals are directly related to the field of architecture and their mission is to create flexible and safe structures. 

However, it’s important to remember that architects and technologists don’t have the same responsibilities or the same fees. Moreover, they depend on two distinct sets of professional skills.

Do you know if your construction or renovation project requires an architect or technologist? Discover the difference between these two professions to better assess your needs. 

House plan

Architect vs architectural technologist: training areas

The architect comes from a university background, which means that a professional architect holds a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in architecture. In Canada, this degree must be obtained at a university that has been approved by the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB). In addition, all architects in Canada must have a permit issued by the appropriate provincial or territorial association. In Quebec, architects must be part of the Ordre des Architectes du Québec. 

On the other hand, the technologist has completed a three-year college education and has a DEC (Diploma of college studies) from a CEGEP or specialized school. The architectural technologist obtains this professional title the moment they join the Order of Professional Technologists of Quebec (OTPQ). However, a technologist has no obligation to join this order in order to practice their profession.

The seal of the professional member of the OTPQ offers a guarantee of both quality and professionalism. Note that a technologist must not be confused with an architectural technician, who has completed one or two years of training leading to a DEP (diploma of professional studies).

architects and technologists working around plan

The difference between an architect and a technologist

Before you even try to find a contractor for your construction or renovation project, you’ll have to turn to an architect or an architectural technologist. This will allow you to identify your needs, draw the plans, calculate the budget and help you in administrative procedures. 

As you can see, these two professionals are both able to create your plans and specifications before making bids to find a contractor and file an application for a building permit with your municipality. It’s important to mention that most municipalities now require plans that are signed by a professional. The technologist or architect will be able to take part in the project from beginning to end. Thus, it ensures the respect of the plans and controls the execution of the works carried out by the contractor. 

The difference between these two professionals is established at the level of professional responsibility that is governed by the Architects act. In general, a technologist can manage a project to build or renovate any single-family house without any problems or restrictions. However, if we're talking about a townhouse or a semi-detached house, a restriction of 3200 square feet or less applies. 

In addition, it's possible for a technologist to take part in different industrial or commercial projects depending on the type of building, while also respecting the rule of 3200 square feet or less, which also applies in this case. For more specific information, check out the Architects act, sections 16 and 16.1.

Larger residential projects, like apartment buildings, are reserved for architects because they are trained to handle projects of greater complexity. The architect can design and implement any architectural project without restriction and can intervene in all types of buildings and structures. 

Architect tools

Professional orders (OAQ and OTPQ)

Architects and architectural technologists depend on two totally different sets of professional skills. In Quebec, the right to the title of architect is conditional on having a valid membership with the Quebec Order of Architects (OAQ), whose mission is to “promote the acquisition and maintenance of a high level of competence of its members with a view to achieving a distinctive and high-quality built environment that is a source of pride and collective identity,” says Christine Lanthier, communications consultant and publisher at the OAQ.

 “A member who does not pay his OAQ dues will lose their membership and will no longer be able to provide the services that are exclusively offered by architects, in fear of being prosecuted for illegal practice. Also, they do not benefit from the coverage of the Architect's Insurance Fund for their professional liability in the case of possible lawsuits for errors and omissions” she continues.

Unlike the OAQ, the Order of Professional Technologists of Quebec (OTPQ) brings together professionals with varied profiles. Technicians in computer science, industrial design, chemical engineering, as well as food processing, the OTPQ is not related to the field of architecture. However, this order supervises Quebec technologists who practice applied science. It ensures and increases the protection of the public. 

Do architects and technologists need an RBQ license?

The simple answer is no. The RBQ license (mandatory for many contractors in Quebec) is only required for a general or specialized contractor as well as for general and specialized builders-owners. However, like most construction professionals, architects and architectural technologists must adhere to Building Code standards in the design of plans and specifications. Moreover, these documents must be available on-site at the request of RBQ inspectors. In this way, the Regie manages to ensure the quality of construction, as well as public safety. 

Person working on house plan

Technologist or architect: how to explain the price variation?

There are several factors that play a role in defining these two professions. As you can imagine, the fees of an architect are higher than those of a technologist, which can be explained in part by the coursework they’ve undergone, as they are university-level for architects and college-level for technologists. 

Another factor resulting from the price change is professional liability insurance, which is more expensive for an architect because they have more responsibility and work on larger and riskier projects.

On the other hand, the contribution to each of the professional orders is different. The regular contribution of an architect to the OAQ is $1239.99, while that of the OTPQ costs $555.89 (price for the year 2018/2019). It should be noted that architectural technologists are not required to join their profession in order to practice, unlike architects. The difference factors make the services of architectural technologists up to 60% cheaper than an architect.  

There are several methods for calculating the fees of an architect or a technologist. Thus, the price can be fixed according to a percentage related to the value of the work, to the construction surface, just as it can be relative to a fixed formula or directly to the hourly cost. It’s important to note that the price will be higher for transformations than it is for newer constructions because of the number of benefits when it comes to transforming a structure. 

Approximate costs for the services of a technologist

  • Between 2% and 7% of the cost of the project for the construction or renovation of a new house (depending on the quality sought)
  • $50 per hour for a project of more than 25 hours
  • $75 per hour for a project less than 25 hours

Approximate costs for the services of an architect

  • Around 10% of the construction or renovation project 
  • $77 per hour for an intermediate architect (5 to 10 years of experience)
  • $92 for a senior architect (10 to 15 years experience)

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