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To the untrained eye, commercial and industrial construction projects may look similar in many aspects. After all, both involve building larger structures. Most people even use the terms interchangeably. But the two types of construction processes couldn’t be more different.

Commercial and industrial construction projects incorporate many different businesses and industries like the buildings themselves, zoning, products, land, and more. Industrial construction deals mainly with the construction of businesses in the manufacturing sector. These include power plants, refineries, manufacturing plants, and solar wind farms.

On the other hand, commercial construction focuses on businesses with the sole motive of maximizing profit. They may include retail centers, restaurants, sports facilities, grocery stores, and education centers.

People outside the construction industry may not see much of a difference between a commercial construction site and an industrial construction site. But some of the main differences stand out that help distinguishes between the two construction projects.

1. Site Planning/Location

For industrial construction, buildings are designed primarily to produce and dispatch finished products to commercial spaces such as shopping malls or office buildings. As such, contractors must build these industrial facilities in locations with easy logistics access. They are built near large airports, seaports, railheads, or other industrial areas where the bulk finished products can be easy to transport.

Many industrial activities also involve large machinery throughout the day, necessitating building industrial constructions away from residential or thickly populated areas.

On the other hand, commercial construction focuses on providing service. Therefore, they surface in places that are easily accessible to all people. Most commercial construction sites are centrally located city areas for easy access by all.

2. Building Exterior

Because industrial constructions primarily focus on manufacturing, producing, and transporting products, they require sufficient space to accommodate heavy machinery and technical components. Industrial constructions also require space that can accommodate bigger trucks to transport raw materials into the buildings and finish products out without difficulty.

The necessity for large plots of land also means industrial constructions are best suited for places away from populated areas. Industrial constructions require the necessary external infrastructure to ensure product manufacturing and transportation flow smoothly.

In contrast, commercial constructions are designed to allow access to as many people as possible. These buildings should have enough space for foot traffic, allow employees to complete their work, and clock out without any problem.

Commercial constructions must, therefore, have all the necessary facilities to ensure smooth business operations. These may include having enough parking space, easy access to roads, arrangements for orderly traffic flow, and other transportation services.

3. Building Design/Interior

Because industrial establishments are designed to meet high safety standards to protect staff and surrounding properties, their construction designs may take longer to develop. Industrial complexes must also meet a high level of functionality to ensure they can manufacture and produce materials efficiently.

The focus of industrial construction is on coordinating the manufacture and distribution of products, putting extra emphasis on building functionality.

In comparison, most commercial buildings require less extensive design plans as they rarely handle hazardous materials. As such, they require fewer protective measures implemented into their structures.

Still, many commercial buildings must follow a standardized structure (less time to plan and implement) and meet certain safety standards. Different commercial constructions also have different standardized structures and safety standards. For example, a hospital may require more thorough planning and design than an office building or a retail space.

4. Supporting Infrastructures

Industrial buildings are designed to ensure the smooth installation and operation of heavy machinery. They are constructed taller, larger, and stronger to easily house heavy machinery and equipment required for manufacturing.

The electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems in industrial construction must be robust and have higher capacities. These infrastructures are oriented toward the heavy machinery used in manufacturing rather than offering comfort to employees working in these buildings.

In comparison, commercial buildings use central electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems to handle the building’s electrical, water, and air supply, respectively. These supporting infrastructures are necessary to guarantee the comfort and convenience of everyone who uses the facility.

5. Scale

Industrial constructions always favor logistics over housing or other essential services and are built in areas not easily accessible to the general population. That’s why most large-scale industrial projects are often developed in a way that makes it ideal for people to leave around them while still making them efficient in logistics, manufacturing, and production.

In contrast, commercial constructions tend to be clustered closer to the city center, making them easily accessible. This also makes housing and other essential services people need more accessible. Commercial contractors focus more on the building itself because other infrastructures have already been set in place thanks to city planning and zoning.

6. Project Management

Industrial projects vary in type, size, construction methods, and manufacturing processes conducted in the building. Most industrial construction processes require specialized skills, custom fabrication, on-site assembly, and large-scale installation for complete project management.

Industrial project management takes significantly more time, especially in the planning and development phase. Every project’s process is different because each industrial structure is different.

In comparison, commercial projects are more streamlined and use similar construction processes, materials, and techniques. Materials needed for building offices, malls, clinics, and fitness centers are the same. You can find almost everything you need for a commercial construction project in any hardware store.

And while there may be variations in the structure and design of each building, builders don’t necessarily require specialized skills to finish commercial construction.

7. Final Permitting

Although both industrial and commercial constructions require special permits from governmental bodies throughout the construction process, some vital permitting requirements distinguish these two.

Industrial construction requires permits from the local government, additional inspections, and approvals from relevant authorities, depending on the scale of the construction. Some industrial projects may also require special permission from the city, state, or federal government.

In contrast, commercial properties must have all the necessary occupancy requirements before starting operation. These may include permits from the municipal authorities, local planning and zoning boards, and/or specialized license from health departments to operate.

NOTE: obtaining permits for commercial constructions is comparatively faster than for industrial projects.

The Need for Specialized Contractors

Industrial and commercial construction projects are endeavors that drive businesses. Some companies also require the implementation of both structures, depending on the nature of your business. But while both construction types may have key differences, they go through pretty much the same construction stages. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because a process is similar that any construction company can do the job. There is still a significant difference between industrial and commercial design and construction. To make sure you get the best results, you will need to make sure to find a commercial construction company with the type of experience you need.

Hill Commercial Construction offers property owners the expertise needed through all phases of your construction project. Our team goes above and beyond the call of duty to help clients define and locate the best space for their construction needs. Contact us to find out how we can help you with your construction project.