Commercial Architecture

Commercial Architecture Solutions for Retail Clients in
Ontario and Western Canada

Commercial architecture is about providing businesses with the best possible setting to serve their customers. Great commercial architecture is in the details. It creates a space that welcomes returning customers and invites new ones: inside and out. It speaks to a brand in every detail, and is highly functional for both guests and employees alike.

Successful projects require not only careful planning, but also a skilled architect and a highly capable design and engineering firm (ideally working under one roof). Together, they must have years of hands-on retail design experience with leading national brands, as well as an in-depth understanding of municipal bylaws around building and land-usage, branding requirements, and other common building and construction challenges.

When is an architect required?

When you need to create an original blueprint or design standard for a new business, choosing the right architect will make your business shine and stand out from the crowd. According to the Architects Act (passed by Legislative Assembly of Alberta), an architect is required to sign off on blueprints (that is, provide an “architectural stamp”) for commercial buildings that fall into the following categories:

Group A
(assembly occupancy)

  • 1-storey with a floor area greater than 300m2
  • 2-storey with a floor area greater than
    150m2 (per floor)
  • 3-storey with a floor area greater than
    100m2 (per floor)

Group E
(mercantile/business personal)
retail stores/offices*

  • 1-storey with a floor area greater than 500m2
  • 2-storey with a floor area greater than
    250m2 (per floor)
  • 3-storey with a floor area greater than
    165m2 (per floor)

Types of projects that
typically involve a
commercial architect:

  • Retail spaces (free standing, big box, strip mall)
  • Free standing restaurants
  • Gas stations, convenience stores and quick service restaurants impacted by architectural guidelines
  • Warehouse space
  • Industrial space

* These guidelines can vary somewhat by jurisdictions, as some have more stringent requirements than others.

An architectural stamp certifies that the design has been reviewed and approved by a professionally licensed architect, and that it meets all applicable land use bylaws, and building code requirements When do you need an architect vs. an engineer?

Winning design combines form and function – to maximize sales and improve efficiency.

Great design goes beyond aesthetics and timely completion. It weds form and function to ensure the space entices customers and works well for employees.

The look of a building is important, but most business owners know that the greatest benefits come from an optimized layout. Many studies have shown that store layout designs can have a positive effect on both consumer behaviour and purchasing decisions. [Read Commercial Architecture Trends for 2018]

Store layout can also have tangible effects on employee productivity and efficiency. Storage, till, and back of house areas can all be optimized to improve the employee’s ability to complete important tasks. An optimized backroom storage area can reduce the time and effort required to search inventory and restock the floor. This reduces labour costs and can free staff to better assist customers.

Other key decisions include lighting. It also extends to the placement of change rooms and feature walls (in retail spaces) or sinks, washrooms, coolers, and ovens (in restaurants). [Learn 7 Keys to Creating a Winning Architectural Design Standard]

How architects can adapt design standard to unique circumstances.

In franchise stores that must adhere to brand standards, design and construction follow set corporate design standards. That said, there are many factors that can alter the design and require a deviation from the template. This includes the size and shape of the restaurant, as well us unique bylaw requirements. From land usage issues to size restrictions, the architect can adapt designs to work without losing necessary functions or forcing the builders to make decisions that may not work within those guidelines.

In developments or communities with architectural guidelines in place, an experienced commercial architect can help tastefully modify the corporate design standard to meet unique design requirements, without sacrificing the integrity of the brand.

Other key decisions include lighting. It also extends to placement of change rooms and feature walls (in retail spaces) or sinks, washrooms, coolers, and ovens (in restaurants). [Learn 10 Secrets for Retail Design Success]

The architect’s role goes beyond the building.

In addition to the structural and interior design of the building, architects are also involved in planning design elements such as signage, and landscaping. In many cases, landscaping features play dual roles. They make the property attractive while serving important functional requirements: such as noise reduction and visual privacy for neighbours.

Architects are often responsible for representing clients at municipal or public presentations and hearings involving variance applications or architectural controls. [Learn more about working with Architectural Controls]

Why an architect is a key component of an integrated engineering and design firm.

The client always wins when using a fully integrated design approach that offers all architectural, engineering, design and project management services in close collaboration. This includes electrical, mechanical, civil and structural engineering, as well as permitting, construction management and construction sign-off services.

With one common approach, projects face fewer delays and less risk of error – as the architect, designer, engineer and project managers work together from the start to navigate the project to completion.

Another benefit to using a fully integrated design approach is having one point of contact for all essential design services. This eliminates the back and forth, the miscommunication and potential differences of opinion that can result when two (or more) design partners are involved. It streamlines the process and ensures the entire team is on the same page. Finally, it can greatly improve efficiency and help expedite a project.

Types of services a commercial architecture firm can provide.

Design firms, can provide many services in which to provide the client with a seamless building process from site evaluation to grand opening. These services include:

  • Feasibility Studies
  • Architectural Design / Concept Design
  • Preliminary Building Design (layout and 3D modelling)
  • Interior Design / Material Recommendations
  • Site Renovation / Regeneration
  • Brand Revitalization (interior and exterior upgrades)
  • Permit and Zoning Applications
  • Advocating for design at Public Hearings / Open Houses (zoning, architectural control hearings)

[Learn How Commercial Architects Charge for their Services]

Sustainable design solutions.

Today’s consumers expect businesses to be mindful of their environmental impact. But you don’t have a build a LEED certified building to make a difference.

Businesses can significantly reduce operating costs by making simple choices. A well-versed architect can incorporate technologies – such as efficient windows, LED lighting and sustainable building materials – into the design.

Have Questions?

Schedule a consultation today to speak with one of our team members about your upcoming project


We’ve been where you’ve been

CTM has been providing design solutions for retail clients in Ontario and Western Canada for over 25 years. We provide commercial architecture as part of collaborative, full-service offering and have worked for the biggest names in the Canadian retail petroleum, quick service restaurant, carwash, and retail sectors.

The commercial architectural design is provided by CTM Architecture Ltd., and is led by principal, Charl de la Harpe, Architect, AAA.

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