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Commercial Architecture, Explained

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It can be easy to overlook, but a place's architecture greatly influences one’s experiences within a building. In turn, the architecture of a building is also shaped by the client's goal to do with the building.

What does commercial architecture do? Commercial architecture is the kind of architecture used for businesses that aim to make a profit. It is also a unique kind of architecture.

What is Commercial Architecture


Commercial architecture encompasses architecture that relates to performance and providing a service or product. Ergo, commercial architecture and buildings comprise shops, offices, warehouses, restaurants, etc.

What Makes It Unique

There are processes, and in the definition itself, commercial architecture stands out from its other fellow architecture types. Although by name, the processes are part of the basic architectural processes, there is still quite a difference in the details and considerations of commercial architecture and especially in certain elements.

With one look, the basic processes followed in many types of architecture seem the same. Whether a project is commercial, residential, institutional, etc., it tends to follow the same set of basic steps:

  • Site evaluation

  • Design conception

  • Design finalization

  • Blueprint creation

  • Permit documentation

  • Construction administration

The Unique Factors:

The following is what makes commercial architecture unique from other types of architecture.

  • Business focus - Compared to other forms of architecture, commercial architecture intensely focuses on the client’s business needs. The design and the structure of the building have to be engineered in such a way that it can accommodate the type of business run within the facility. In addition, the design should make the client’s business goals more attainable. Compared to residential projects where the space accommodates a small group of people, commercial architecture has to satisfy the business, the customers, and the employees, thus making it more challenging.

  • Consumer-focused - Architects involved in commercial projects must understand how customers and those involved with their client’s businesses behave. This requires a firm grasp of sales psychology and familiarity with consumer trends. Most importantly, commercial architects investigate how various design choices can influence how consumers behave, make decisions, and perceive the client’s brand, products, and services.

  • Tailored for business operations - The consumers’ preferences have a role in the duties of commercial design. Commercial architecture also requires the best approach design for their client’s specific facility type and specific business operations, especially to adjust for merchandise, certain equipment - and the storage need of the business. An instance would be if the business client is a producer of fresh beverages who may need their facility’s design to provide large temperature-controlled storage areas. Such a client could also need spacious loading bays that allow delivery vehicles to access these storage areas and maintain stable transport conditions easily.

  • Strategic thinking - If you are a commercial architect, critical and future-oriented thinking is a crucial skill you will need. You’ll need to have business acumen for future developments. The architects also need to design a facility that will be suitable for many years to come. Architects working on commercial projects should also spot opportunities to give their clients a competitive edge, adapt to market trends, and allow business growth. In this case, a commercial architect's best tool is market research.

Types of Commercial Architecture

Types of Commercial Architecture

There are diverse types of buildings and structures that fall under commercial architecture. Some are single- or mixed-use buildings; some types have multiple ones merged into a single building.

The types of commercial architecture are:

  • Offices - They are the most prominent type of commercial architecture type. Businesses of all sizes often host multiple companies within a single building and space. The office buildings often have open floor plans, allowing flexible space that can be retrofitted for a diverse office layout.

  • Retail - Businesses that sell goods and services to the public often find their homes and footing within retail spaces. Successful retail architecture can increase foot traffic and sales, making it a vital aspect of any retail business. When it comes to retail spaces, there is a multitude of design strategies that help attract customers like large windows and very attractive interiors.

  • Hospitality - Spaces for hospitality like hotels and inns are designed to provide accommodations and services to the public, including hotels, resorts, and restaurants. Moreover, they provide a welcoming and comfortable environment for guests from around the world. Comfortable seating, warm lighting, and tasteful decor can help to create a memorable experience for guests and can offer exposure to local arts, history, and cultures.

  • Industrial - The spaces for businesses that manufacture or store products are industrial spaces. They accommodate the efficient and safe execution of an industrial process.

  • Institutional buildings - Schools and other governmental and public entities are housed within institutional buildings. They have large and complex structures and designs so that they can adjust and be used for a variety of activities and other services. The architecture for institutions focuses on functionality and accessibility. They also often serve as a hub for cultural development

  • Mixed-used developments - Commercial projects are often developed to accommodate several of the abovementioned types onto a single site.

  • Planned unit developments - It is also called a PUD. A PUD project often incorporates green spaces and walking paths, making it more attractive to residents and businesses. One of the key features of PUDs is their flexibility. They can incorporate a wide range of design features tailored to the specific project's needs. For example, a PUD might include a mix of commercial and residential buildings such as retail stores, offices, restaurants, apartments, and single-family homes.

How To Design Commercial Architecture

Designing Commercial Architecture

Before you start your design, there are many elements you should consider first.

Commercial architecture is a broad term covering a multitude of builds. They can range from small shops to large buildings. The top elements and tips for designing commercial structures are the following:

  • Purpose - First, a commercial architect must consider what the endgoal of the project is. The goal purpose of a commercial building design is to house a service, purpose, or product. After deeming the purpose of the structure, the requirements will then have to be considered. This might seem like an afterthought for some, but this note is crucial: basic requirements can be overlooked when too much attention is paid to fine details. The space and the users who will interact with the structure are those who will most likely gain from the building so their comfort and user experience are considered the top priority. When in doubt, you should consult your client and their needs as well. Don’t neglect a stockroom and distinctive display methods if they require a shop design. Understanding how a commercial building will be utilized is the deciding factor for how a commercial building is produced.

  • Users - A building design cannot be repurposed and redone for all uses. Architects, ideally, should produce unique and bespoke spaces for every project that they are assigned. Some projects already have a target audience and users in mind - the design of the building should mirror that. For example, a hospital will need designated departments and sections to group services and their employees. The way customers and people interact with the building varies greatly and needs to be in the forefront of any design. It will also depend on the kind of project your client has given you.

  • Environment - A critical factor for commercial building architecture is whether the building should stand out or adhere to its surroundings. If you want your company to attract new customers, then you should have a unique office design. However, if you are designing a commercial space, being aligned with its surroundings and environment can be quite a strategic move. For example, using the same stone for construction can prevent controversy over straying too far from the area’s established visual topography and aesthetic. Subtle design accents also work to create attractive facades without being too obtrusive. A building’s exterior, moreover, is also as good as its interior; its exterior may also might create a larger and more impactful first impression on the people who interact with the building.

  • Outside the box - Imagine this: you’re the one in charge of designing a shop for a company. You need to make the exterior nice to look at. You also want to entice the customer towards the tills. It’s possible to have some fun with the product. Producing a striking commercial building will not only help mirror and expose the company and brand to more people, it will also help establish the brand in the way it wants to be positioned. As a result, the design you make has to translate that.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should get commercial architecture services?

Almost every commercial business that needs help to improve an existing facility or develop a new property should get commercial architecture services. All kinds of businesses can also benefit from working and parenting with a skilled architectural firm that specializes in commercial architecture.

What are good examples of commercial architecture?

Great commercial architecture examples are the Gherkin in London, from the United Kingdom. Other examples include the Holbourne Museum in Bath and Selfridges in Birmingham. The latter has a polarizing design, but it still proves the power of commercial architecture's artistry.

Another great example found locally is the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay. It has an impressive and attractive design that optimizes its space for entertainment and shopping. Moreover, another great example is the Canva office in Makati. More often than not, the best commercial buildings have the needs and goals of the business clients at their heart, making them so attractive.

20 Years With APL Architects

Commercial buildings are some of the most common types of buildings. Yet, more than not, we tend to underestimate the thought that goes into their design.

APL Architects is one of the best architectural firms in the Philippines. We possess over 20 years' of experience providing excellent architectural services to clients. We specialize in townhouses, residential and commercial establishments. Contact us today!

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