What is The Difference Between Commercial and Industrial Construction

There is a popular misconception that the construction industry is just about building houses and businesses.

The reality is that within the construction industry, there are several different types of construction that a company can specialize in.

Two of the most significant categories are commercial construction and industrial construction.

And although similar, there are some major differences in these two categories.

Industrial construction refers to the construction of a business that deals with manufacturing goods, like manufacturing plants, power plants, refineries, and solar wind farms.

Commercial construction refers to the construction of a business or venture that is done with the sole motive of gaining profit. 

Commercial buildings can include places like restaurants, retail centers, hospitals, private schools and universities, sports facilities, and grocery stores.

People outside of the construction won’t see much of a difference between an industrial construction site or a commercial construction site.

But to people inside the industry, there are several key differences between the two, and each has its own set of challenges. And for them, it is easy to spot the difference.

Read more about how to overcome remote work challenges in the construction industry.

In the article below, we will talk about several key differences between commercial and industrial construction.


From the very beginning of the building design phase, commercial and industrial construction differ.

Commercial buildings house service-oriented businesses, so the floor plans for their facilities need to promote foot traffic as well as tenant satisfaction.

Aesthetics, both interior, and exterior, also play a vital role in commercial design, whether you’re building a shopping mall or a big box store.

With industrial design, the focus is on coordinating manufacturing and distribution.

There will be an extra emphasis on functionality as well.

With industrial construction, logistics will always be more important than aesthetics, and the designs will center around efficient production and industry safety standards.


Finishing up your project is also very different when it comes to commercial and industrial construction.

Before the owner of a commercial building can open their doors when construction is done, they must finalize permitting and occupancy requirements that meet satisfy their local guidelines.

It is unlikely that you will ever need the approval of anyone other than your local planning and zoning boards with commercial properties.

With industrial design, however, you have to get approval from your local boards, but you also have to meet permitting requirements that comply with numerous standards that are set by local, state, and federal agencies.


From picking the location of the building, the size of the site, lot boundaries, and traffic patterns, every construction project, including industrial and commercial, starts with a detailed analysis of the physical environment of the project.

Office buildings and retail spaces depend on easy access for their clients and customers, plenty of parking, and friendly amenities for pedestrians.

On the other hand, an industrial site will need to plan for 24/7 shipping and receiving, access to major highways, and proximity to airports or train stations.


Commercial construction infrastructure lays out a pattern of plumbing, HVAC, and electrical connections to the various offices, retail stores, and shared public areas.

The centralized network is designed to operate according to the needs of the tenants.

Industrial infrastructure needs the same, but the system loads are focused on supporting heavy equipment with specialized installations that can maintain demanding production requirements and meet their industry-specific regulations.


When you’re building shopping malls, supermarkets, or business parks, in a commercial project, established vendors and tenants are key to success.

A general contractor working on a commercial project makes sure their project is successful by coordinating subcontractors and suppliers to meet their established goals.

With industrial construction, you often need materials and workmanship that go above and beyond commercial projects.

On-site equipment assembly, custom fabrication, and large-scale installations are a few things to consider in an industrial construction project, making it a bit more challenging.