Everything You Need to Think About When Building a Commercial Retail Building

So, you have found the perfect location for your commercial retail building and you are ready to move forward. But you may be wondering what your next steps should be. Undoubtedly, there are a lot of things that need to take place before you are ready to open for business. You need to think about why you are building and if you really have a need for the commercial space. Ask yourself if this really is in the best interest of your company. Decide whether or not you are going to occupy the space or if you are going to lease it out to other retailers.

Once you have figured out all of that and a few more things, like if the space is going to accommodate the needs of your business or the possibility of expansion, it is time to get into the planning stage. Be prepared for this stage to last longer than you may want it to. You also need to pack your patience. There are often lots of setbacks and delays that accompany a commercial retail building project.

Hiring an Experienced Architect and Engineering Firm

You will need both an architect and an engineer (maybe even several) to construct blueprints for your building. An architect or architectural firm will draw up plans for your retail space to your satisfaction. The architect’s goal is to create a design that brings your vision to life, inside and out. And an engineer is responsible for taking the architect’s design and making it both functional and safe. Although their roles may overlap, they are both integral to your commercial building.

Omitting this step may save you some money up front, but not hiring a good engineer and architect can come bite you hard later. The last thing you want is to have a commercial space you can’t use because of technicalities and avoidable mistakes. You can even find reputable contracting and engineering firms from your lender or banking institution.

Beyond the plans for your retail building, you will likely need a variety of engineers along the way. Electrical engineers install and create lighting systems, alarm systems and anything else that will be running on electrical power. Mechanical engineers will make sure that your elevators and escalators are taken care of properly. Plumbing engineers will ensure that you have the proper plumbing that is capable of handling the needs of a retail space.

Because a retail building has so many different engineering needs, you should strongly consider hiring a multidisciplinary engineering firm like Cochran Engineering. You want a firm with a great track record that can handle the many requirements that commercial building entails. Choosing the right firm will make a big difference when it comes to the integrity of your structure and your infrastructure. It can also help keep your building schedule on time, ensure that you have all the necessary inspections, permits and licenses, as well as helping your project to stay on budget.

Another thing to think about when it comes to your building firm, is certification. Some contractors and engineers may specialize in green buildings. Green buildings are designed and constructed to conserve energy and other resources. They are often built with recycled and sustainable materials. These types of projects want to reduce their carbon footprint, causing less strain on the environment and the communities they are located in.


It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the zoning laws or zoning ordinances for your location. This is not something that you want to leave up to your contractor or engineering firm. Two heads are better than one when it comes to confirming the zoning needs of your building. Having to undo what has been done in order to meet your local zoning laws is not only a waste of time, but also a big waste of money. Your land or property needs to be zoned for commercial building.

When you find that you are properly zoned, you need to find out if your particular industry is permitted to be in that zone. Finding zoning uses is usually accessible online, but you may have to go to your county’s recorder to find out or to confirm. Some of the uses can get a little complicated, so be sure to read it thoroughly so that there are no misunderstandings.

In addition to usage, the building size is another thing to think about. You will need to consider the land to building ratio, or the floor area ratio. Simply put, it is the maximum building size for the lot size. This figure determines how well the land is being used. A low ratio means that the property is being used to its fullest potential, while a high ratio means that it is not. In some municipalities, you may be required to have future plans for land usage if your land to building ratio is too high.

Building Permits, Codes and Inspections

After getting through the game of zones, there are building codes, covenants, permits and inspections to get through. There are many systems and more that are affected by these requirements. When remodeling a retail space, it could be required that your additions be constructed of the same materials as the existing structure. If you are building in a historic district or another specially designated area, you may have to include specific aesthetic elements like, brick or art deco or stucco.

There are requirements and codes that govern the placement and function of plumbing, sewage, storm drainage, ventilation, water heaters, gas piping, fixtures, fire protection, building materials and so much more. You need to be familiar with these things so that you don’t waste time and money doing things that are not permitted.This is not a definitive list, so make sure that both you and your team are knowledgeable about what you can and can’t do and with what materials.

You will also need more permits than you may think are necessary. These permits allow you to alter an existing structure or build a new structure. Some of these permits may require a public hearing where members of the public and the area you want to locate your retail building can state their concerns regarding your project. They can oppose your project or make suggestions for your project that may make it better for the community. Be aware that in some circumstances you may have to finish projects that were already granted permits before you gained control of the property.

There may also be land developer restrictions that dictate signage, color choices, parking and more. You will also need a certificate of occupancy to certify that your structure is safe and fit for humans to occupy. But when you have a reputable and experienced contractor or engineering firm on your side to oversee your commercial building project you can feel more confident that you will not be making a lot of avoidable mistakes concerning municipal and building laws and regulations. In addition to hiring trained professionals, you can also call your local zoning office to confirm to clear things up.

During the construction as well as after the completion of the project, there are different inspections that need to be done. It is a good idea to schedule inspections at each step of your building project. The last thing you want is to find out when it is all said and done that things are not up to safety and health standards and have to be redone. The responsibility of scheduling these necessary periodic inspections falls on you, so be diligent when it comes to this part of the process.


Every building project needs to have construction insurance. If something happens while your project is in progress, you don’t want your project to be a total loss. You want to be able to clean up and restart. It can cover your business, building materials, natural disasters, employees and more. Commercial construction insurance is a requirement. There are many things that can happen, including injuries and equipment and property damage. Usually comprehensive coverage is necessary if you own your project.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Your commercial building needs to be ADA compliant if it is built after the passing of the civil rights act for Americans with disabilities. In fact, your facility needs to be ADA compliant even if it was built prior to the passing of the act. If you are remodeling or repurposing your existing retail space, you will need to remove all barriers to entry, install handicap accessible doors and entry, remodel the restrooms so that there is a stall large enough to accommodate someone with special needs and more. Not only is ADA compliance a legal requirement, it is also a great way to make all of your customers comfortable in your facility.

Construction is never an easy task. There are lots of things to consider and lots of people that are part of the process. You do not want to fall victim to poor communication, improper planning and poor quality building materials. If you are unfamiliar with building projects and all of the detailed and time sensitive wheels that drive a project forward, hire a commercial building specialist who can.

Steve Max
Steve Maxhttp://www.webzando.com/
A long time digital entrepreneur, Steve has been in digital marketing since 2010 and over the past decade he has built & executed innovative online strategies for leading companies in car insurance, retail shopping, professional sports and the movie & television industry.


Related Stories