Residential vs Commercial Design Process

The design process involved in residential architecture and interiors is dramatically different from that of commercial architecture and interior design. Residential architecture is focused on meeting a family's need for shelter and self-expression. Commercial architecture and design must strive to integrate the building successfully into the surrounding neighborhood and community as well as provide services and interiors to the tenants for specific business purposes. Consider the differences between the residential and commercial design process as outlined here.

Residential Design

The residential design process begins with the architect and continues with the interior designer. The architect must ensure the safety and integrity of the home, its conformity to building codes from basement depth to stair tread height, and the correct functioning of its infrastructure from plumbing to electricity. The interior designer provides the textures and colors of the space to create a safe, comfortable and harmonious living environment. Both the architect and the interior designer can also work directly with clients who purchase a custom-built home to develop a truly unique living environment. They in turn must build a working relationship with engineers, building contractors and construction trades people who will turn their designs into real, livable, functional spaces.

Commercial Design - Business and Industry

While commercial architects perform many of the same tasks as the residential architect, their responsibilities are increased many-fold by the size of the building envelope, its location and the myriad infrastructure services it must provide to the tenants. A commercial office tower may look like a condominium, but it has significantly different infrastructure needs, such as passenger and freight elevators, loading docks, washrooms, meeting rooms, cafeterias, and parking garages, among many others. Only after all these are in place does the commercial interior designer join the team. Commercial architects must also work with engineers and trades specialists on factory construction, meeting needs for security, safety and cleanliness to the point of sterility, in addition to all the issues mentioned above.

Commercial Design - Community Infrastructure

Still other commercial architects and designers specialize in health care facilities like hospitals, clinics and rehabilitation facilities. Their knowledge of materials that are easy to keep clean and sterile is a key factor in creating health care environments that help people get well faster. Government is another major employer of commercial architects and interior designers, on secondary infrastructure projects such as public transit systems, libraries, schools, fire services buildings, police stations, and court buildings.

Commercial Design - Hospitality and Retail

Hospitality and tourism architecture and design promotes not just comfort but luxury in entertainment premises, whether on land, on the water or in the air. Modern dance clubs, hotels and casinos showcase the teamwork of commercial architects, interior designers, and lighting and sound technicians.

Retail architecture has seen a 180-degree turn in the 21st century from the enclosed multi-story megamall to the smaller, more open rectangular mall with plenty of outdoor parking, more typical of the 1950s than the 1990s. The other phenomenon of contemporary retail design is the "big box" store, which has not yet yielded to the online retail experience.