What do Commercial Architects do?

Andrea Campbell

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.

Architects plan and design the construction of a building.
Architects plan and design the construction of a building.

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.

Commercial architects may be responsible for designing the blueprints for large projects.
Commercial architects may be responsible for designing the blueprints for large projects.

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.

The structures on which commercial architects work include office buildings and shopping malls.
The structures on which commercial architects work include office buildings and shopping malls.

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.

Commercial architects often build scale models of buildings before construction begins.
Commercial architects often build scale models of buildings before construction begins.

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.

Communication, teamwork and attention to detail are skills needed to work as a commercial architect.
Communication, teamwork and attention to detail are skills needed to work as a commercial architect.

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.

The home architect designs plans for building a house.
The home architect designs plans for building a house.
Construction companies may employ commercial architects who help design office buildings or other structures.
Construction companies may employ commercial architects who help design office buildings or other structures.

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