Choosing a Designer for Your Custom Home

Investing in a new custom home, cottage, or a modern renovation/addition to your forever home, can be both time-intensive and a large financial commitment. There are many steps in the processfirst —and perhaps the most important—is choosing the right team of professionals to collaborate with you to achieve your vision for the project. Both designers and builders need to collaborate not only with each other, but also with you as the client, to ensure a successful design and an accurate, functional completed product. To hire a capable designer, we first have to explore who can design your home

The designer you hire should be able to: design any and all structures in compliance with the Ontario Building Code, carry insurance, and have experience with the construction process. Many people believe only licensed architects areallowed to design custom buildings. However, Building Code Insurance Number (BCIN) designers are just as qualified to design your residential project. The bird’s eye footprint can be up to 6,500 square feet per floor and over 3 floors. If your proposed project is under 19,500 square feet then read on.


In 2006, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing introduced Bill 124 in Ontario, to establish a larger group of licensed housing designers who are knowledgeable in code-compliant small building design. Architects and BCIN designers are both tested on the same material pertaining to small buildings, however architects are tested on additional material dealing with large-scale commercial buildings.

To summarize, Bill 124: 

  1. Mandates insurance requirements for all BCIN designers, and registered firms
  2. Regulates permit applications
  3. Sets timeframes for inspectors to process building permits
  4. Overall enforcement to ensure building code requirements are followed by officials, and inspectors

Designers carrying a Building Code Insurance Number (BCIN) must pass 2 exams: the general legal exam and the house or small buildings exam. BCINs can either be issued to an individual or a firm, and each type must be renewed annually, so your designer is always up-to-date on his licensing and insurance! Due to the thorough exams and proof of insurance outlined by Bill 124 BCIN designers are more than capable of successfully following necessary municipal by-law regulations, and applying for permits on behalf of the property owner. 

Benefits of hiring BCIN designers: SERVICES AND CAPABILITIES

Since BCIN designers are able to design *small buildings* up to a maximum of 19,500 square feet over three floors, hiring a BCIN designer can be advantageous to your home or cottage project from budgeting and scheduling through to construction management. 

BCIN designers are cost-competitive. People often spend more money for the same product designed by a licensed architect and wait twice as long. Some skilled BCIN designers can offer a more streamlined design/construction timeline. 

Not only does a shorter timeline mean you’ll get your project built faster, but also more efficiently. A firm such as smpl Design Studio brings experience designing and securing permits for hundreds of homes since its inception, operates effectively with builders and brings a wealth of knowledge to the table for our clients immediate benefit.

Thus, choosing a BCIN designer such as smpl can eliminate inflated timelines, extra design fees, and increase ease of problem solving and decisions during the project’s build. 


Above and beyond being properly certified and insured, great designers should be advocates for the client throughout the process. Successful design is largely rooted in the compromise that comes from blending a client’s lifestyle and aesthetics with successful design principles and all within a budget. It is important for a designer to educate his / her clients on every aspect of the design process, from foundation to roof, in order to reinforce the collaboration that comes along with the creative process. This is your family’s home we’re designing, so we want to ensure all aspects of the project make sense for the way your family unit lives on a daily basis.

While the client is the priority, a strongly executed design will emerge when the designer also has a good relationship with the chosen builder. A positive relationship with builders is made easier through a good designer’s extensive construction knowledge that can aid in collaboration before the build, and quick decision making throughout the construction process. smpl has over 40 reputable builders in our network whom we can recommend when the time comes to decide what firm is best to build your project.

At smpl Design Studio, where our office has a BCIN licensed professional, we pride ourselves on our amazing internal team, consistent implementation of our core design values, professional qualifications, in-house structural and municipal/conservation planning expertise, and strong client and builder relationships. On top of our more competitive timelines and design fees, we ensure we visit every site and carefully consider all the unique aspects of the surrounding context and client necessities. Our extensive experience and knowledge of the design, permit, and construction process allow us to continue designing extraordinary homes for amazing clients. 

We look forward to connecting with you to collaborate on a gnarly design, catered perfectly to your lifestyle!

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