Commercial and Retail Design

Commercial and Retail Design That Works Harder

Smart Design is About Great Interactions

Whether you are developing a retail business, commercial building or warehouse, the design of your space will have a huge impact on your success. It is crucial that the floorplan fosters positive interactions. With customers. Among co-workers. Even between processes. Getting it right will impact your business for years to come.

Choosing an experienced engineering, design and architectural partner will also ensure smoother interactions throughout the approval and construction process. Let’s take a look.

What Design Services do You Require?

Before construction can begin, you will need to choose an integrated engineering firm and/or architect to create detailed drawings of the proposed construction. These blueprints and renderings cover all aspects of the building design:

Electrical Engineering

Outlines the layout of all wiring for lighting, outlets and servicing according to the needs of the business and building code.

Civil engineering

This includes all site work: grading, site access (ingress and egress), utility hookup, traffic modeling/parking, etc.

Mechanical Engineering

This encompasses all mechanical components, including HVAC (ventilation and heating), plumbing and gas line systems.

Structural Engineering

Covers anything related to the building structure, including outdoor features (including freestanding signage).

Architecture & Design

The architect & design team brings experience, vision and skill to exterior and interior building design, to combine form & function.

Permit & Zoning Applications

Completed drawings must be submitted to the municipality for approval before construction can begin.

EV Charging

Businesses that provide EV charging stations can increase customer dwell time. We assist with all electrical engineering, site design, and permitting.

TIP: Choosing an integrated design and engineering firm that offers all services under one roof will lead to a smoother, more efficient process.

Case Study


Learn how CTM helped VANS stride confidently into the Canadian market, adapting their American design standard to new stores in BC, Alberta and Ontario.

Read More

Can’t I Just Submit my Corporate Retail Design Standard For Approval?

If your retail business is part of a national or regional brand, you will be provided with a corporate design standard. These drawings serve as a template to bring continuity across all locations – and covers everything from the exterior and store layout to materials & finishes. Furniture to signage.

However, you still require the services of a professional engineering and design firm to
tailor these drawings to the exact dimensions and configuration of your specific space.

The design firm is vital to ensuring your build meets code as well as all municipal building regulations – which can vary from province to province, even from one municipality to the next. Hiring an experienced firm will expedite the approval process.

4 Retail Floorplans Designed to Sell

It is important that your design firm has a good understanding of your retail business. Who are your customers? What products will you be selling? What merchandise items complement one another?

Based on extensive research into consumer behaviour, most leading retailers follow one of four proven floor plans.

  1. 1. Grid Layout: The store is arranged in a series of straight aisles. This layout lends itself to large stores with a large inventory of items that are grouped to make things easier to find.
  2. 2. Loop Layout: This layout directs customers to browse merchandise along the outsides of the store, then funnels back to the middle for maximum exposure to merchandise.
  1. 3. Free-flow Layout: Counters are arranged to create angles in the store and allow for random browsing. This layout is suited to small spaces with limited inventories.
  2. 4. Mixed Layout: A mixed layout takes the best features from all of the other layouts to appeal to a diverse group of shoppers. Larger stores with vast inventories often follow this model.

Lighting: Putting Your Products in The Best Possible Light.

Determining a layout for your store will inform decisions around lighting. The electrical design team will need to know where to place fixtures and outlets for maximum impact.

Ambient lighting provides general purpose lighting that is functional yet also contributes to the customer experience you want to set. Florescent overhead lighting makes sense for stores with large inventories, as it provides plenty of visibility and is relatively economical. On the other hand, a boutique clothing store may seek softer, mood enhancing lighting to create a sense of relaxed elegance.

In designing the space, it is valuable to plan ahead so you can strategically place accent lighting to spotlight feature display areas (such as power walls or window displays). This will guide the placement of electrical work. You may even want floor or ceiling sockets or a window display, so you can add lighting without having to run an unsightly extension cord.

Tip: Smart lighting placement and design is shown to entice customers to stay longer and spend more.

Do I Need an Architect For my Commercial or Retail Design?

Retail or commercial buildings require the sign-off of a professional architect (an “architectural stamp”) if they meet or exceed certain criteria. Below are the requirements for construction in Alberta, as an example:

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)

These guidelines can vary somewhat by jurisdictions, as some have more stringent requirements than others. [Read: When do you need an architect vs. an engineer?]

Adapting Your Brand to Fit Architectural Controls.

Your retail brand is widely known and admired. All locations conform to the same corporate design standard. But wait a minute… the development or community where you’re building wants your store to reflect their established look or theme! They’ve put architectural controls in place that will impact the exterior look of your store. What do you do?

An integrated design and engineering partner with in-house architectural services can help you expertly adapt your corporate standard to fit nearly all requirements – while retaining the integrity of your brand. They act as an intermediary between your corporate office and the development/community to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. [Read: 7 Secrets to Working with Architectural Controls]

The Backroom: Thinking Beyond The Sales Floor.

Experienced retail design firms know the importance of the backroom area. It’s important to have ample amounts of easily accessible inventory storage. Space will largely dictate backroom design, and whether or not there is room for an office or simply a work desk. It is about making decisions that will have the greatest impact on sales. [Learn 10 Secrets for Retail Design Success]

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How Can we Help You Today?

CTM is a leading provider of integrated engineering, architectural and design services for retail and commercial businesses across Ontario and Western Canada. We’ve helped hundreds of retail clients open their doors. CTM has worked with clients at the corporate level and with individual owners, and have partnered with numerous commercial developers.

CTM’s Integrated Design, Engineering and Architectural Services include:

  • Site planning
  • Parking lot design/traffic modelling
  • Electrical, mechanical, structural and civil engineering
  • Landscape design
  • Architecture and interior design
  • Concept design (architectural drawings & 3D models)
  • Floorplan design and space utilization
  • Development and construction permits
  • Construction management
  • Site audit
  • Feasibility studies
  • Brand revitalization
  • And much more
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