What do Commercial Architects do?

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  • Written By: Andrea Campbell
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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Commercial architects are responsible for creating and overseeing the design of a structure. It is the architect's job to plan and draft potential projects. He or she may also build a scale model, and even supervise or manage the actual construction. This, of course, will require the architect to work closely with his or her clients. In addition to creating an aesthetic-looking structure, commercial architects are also responsible for estimating costs and staying on budget; ensuring the safety of the building's soundness, and making sure the structure has its required permits and is up to code.

As a licensed professional, a commercial architect may specialize in one type of building or design. Those architects, however, that are part of an architectural firm may work as part of a team managing a variety of types of projects. Being a commercial architect is typically expressed in contrast to a residential architect, and therefore, commercial architects typically focus on those structures other than single-family residences, like shopping centers, business complexes, hospitals, schools, or museums.


In designing a structure, especially a commercial one, the architect must consider many aspects involved in the structure. In addition to drafting the design plans and building scale models, he or she may also be responsible for creating a series of construction blueprints. These blueprints will need to take into account all of the layers of construction including the electrical, heating, cooling, plumbing, and ventilation systems. Depending on regulations that apply to the jurisdiction in which the structure is being erected, the architect will also be responsible for complying with applicable building codes, including disabled access. The architect will typically have input and control over design elements all the way through the completion of construction and possibly end when the interior designer takes over.

Successful commercial architects, typically, have a variety of skills in addition to being able to design commercial structures. They must be great communicators as seeing such complex projects to completion requires the coordination of a variety of professionals. Similarly, architects must also be able to manage and supervise contractors and sub-contractors involved in the actual construction. His or her skill set usually also involve decision-making, problem-solving, developing team leadership and keeping his creativity stoked along with continually learning.

There are a variety of other tasks a commercial architect may take on as well. Rather than coming in at the design phase, he or she might start earlier — at the pre-design phase. In this phase the architect may help select a suitable site, prepare an analysis of environmental and feasibility studies including square footage costs, and per person spatial requirements. He might then prepare and present those findings to the client for review and approval. A commercial architect may also have a hand in choosing contractors that will perform the actual construction of the structure and he or she might even help that client negotiate those contracts.

The required experience and education of a commercial architect varies among countries and fields. Typically, the commercial architect is a highly trained individual who has a college degree in architecture, engineering or building design. With the pervasiveness of computers, hand drawn designs are largely out of favor, and as a result the modern commercial architect is typically adept with computer-aided design and drafting software (CADD), and knows how to use Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology in order to create design plans, specifications and blueprints.


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