Industrial vs. Commercial Construction

Construction as a whole is a field with a lot of variation in it. There’s a great deal of difference between the kind of construction that might get done for an individual– on a home, for example– and the kind of construction that might get done for a business. Even within this more specialized realm of construction, there’s more variety than you might think. Commercial construction and industrial construction are related fields, but their execution couldn’t be more different. 

As a business owner, managing a commercial construction project is a completely different ball game than managing an industrial construction project. If you’re only used to one or the other, there’s a lot that you’ll need to prepare yourself for! Knowing some of the major differences going in can be helpful, so here are the ones that you should be aware of.


The defining difference between industrial and commercial construction is that commercial construction must be designed to be appealing to customers and other visitors, whereas industrial construction prioritizes functionality above all else. 

This plays into everything when it comes to design, from aesthetic choices like landscaping and window placement to layout. A commercial space needs to facilitate the flow of crowds, whereas an industrial space needs to allow for production or storage. These different needs translate into very different design principles. 


The rule of form vs. function applies to the materials used in construction as well. Commercial construction is more likely to use supplies and materials that appeal to customers, whereas in industrial spaces, it’s more important for materials to be hard-wearing and tough than to look nice. In commercial space, you’re likely to find high-end fixtures, large windows, and stylish finishes. Industrial spaces are more likely to feature steel beams, concrete, metal siding, and other durable materials that can stand up to anything.

Permits and Regulations

In all types of construction, permits and regulations are a crucial part of a project. In industrial construction and commercial construction, the process is very different. This is part of the reason why both commercial and industrial construction are so specialized, and experience in one doesn’t necessarily translate to the other.

Commercial buildings need to be permitted as safe for occupants, and they need to arrange for parking for customers as well as potentially meeting specific guidelines, like food safety requirements, and local zoning requirements.

Industrial buildings, on the other hand, have to comply with other standards of safety and security, usually more to do with the type of work that’s going on inside than the flow of traffic through the space. 


“Location, location, location” isn’t a common saying for no reason. Where a commercial or industrial space is located is a huge part of the construction process, and depends a lot on the purpose of the space. Commercial spaces need to be easy for customers and other visitors to access in order to drive business. Industrial spaces, on the other hand, often need to be close to highways or other transportation hubs in order to get ready access to important materials, and to be able to easily ship out products.

Project Management

Managing a commercial construction project and managing an industrial construction project are night and day to each other. If you’ve never handled either, it can be incredibly daunting, but making the switch to one after you’re used to the other is equally difficult. That’s why it helps to work with a highly experienced contractor who knows their way around commercial and industrial construction. The expertise of a contractor like DESCCO Design and Construction can be just what you need to make your way through the process and wind up with a space that suits the needs of your business.

If you’re planning an upcoming commercial or industrial construction project, let DESCCO help you get it done right! You can contact us here for more information.