Residential vs Commercial Construction: What's the Difference?

Find out the difference between residential and commercial construction.
September 6, 2021

Have you ever taken the time to notice the differences between residential and commercial buildings? You work all day in your office, watching people walk in and out of the building. At the end of the day, you go home to relax in your abode. Each structure serves a different purpose, and the way they are constructed have differences as well.

two engineers holding hard hats
Residential and commercial construction use different methods.

Defining Residential vs. Commercial Construction

There are mainly two types of construction: residential construction and commercial construction. Although their building processes may seem straightforward to the eyes of an average onlooker, construction methods used in each type are different, depending on the purpose of the completed structure.

Residential Construction

Residential construction projects are the building of homes and abodes meant for the average single family. These may be apartment, condominium, or landed properties, as long as their main purpose is to serve as a dwelling place and not for public or commercial purposes. 

Construction of residential spaces is generally simpler than construction of commercial spaces, as residential areas do not require as many permits and regulations as its commercial counterparts. 

Commercial Construction

Commercial construction projects include those where the building would be used for commercial purposes, such as offices, schools, libraries, hospitals, and more. These structures would need to withstand the weight of higher foot traffic and heavy equipment that is not required of residential structures. 

Some apartment complexes are considered commercial spaces, as they were built to be rented out for commercial purposes like offices, shops, and retail. These buildings will need to abide by the regulations set for commercial construction, even if tenants are a mix of commercial and residential space.

wooden model of family choosing home
Differences in residential and commercial construction can be seen in materials used.

What Are the Differences Between Commercial vs Residential Construction

At the start of a construction project, the type of construction must be settled before any planning or building is to be done. After all, there are stark differences between commercial and residential construction, and a contractor cannot simply make a residential construction commercial in the middle of a project. 


Cost is a big factor that differs between commercial and residential construction. Commercial projects are always going to be more costly than residential buildings due to the difference in usage, which changes the overall layout of the structure. A commercial building would need heavy duty equipment, and that greatly increases its costs. 

Unlike commercial spaces, a residential project does not require as strong materials as a steel frame, large scale equipment, or extensive necessary permits. Materials used, manpower hired, and time to completion are all factors that greatly affect the cost of building construction differences between commercial and residential spaces.


Permits for commercial buildings and residential buildings differ per regulation. Permits for commercial projects are much more strict than ones for residential construction. The reason for commercial permits being stricter is due to its usage, which will affect a greater number of people if left unregulated. 

Additionally, commercial buildings would need to abide by the building codes and state laws, which differs depending on its location. Some states may have a height limit for commercial buildings, while other cities might have specific requirements for their sewage systems, electrical outlets, or water pipe systems. 

The general contractor would need to be well versed in the requirements of both residential and commercial construction in order to properly establish each type of structure. Commercial structures would benefit from employing a contractor that specializes in commercial building, as the contractor would be the most knowledgeable in the subject.

Construction Materials

Construction materials in commercial construction and residential construction differ based on the relative strength of materials to the purpose of the building. Residential projects typically house a few individuals at a time, and furniture would be of standard weight and size. Hence, residential projects require less reinforcement, and usually make use of a timber frame for its structural integrity. 

On the other hand, construction for commercial projects is heavy duty, as the completed building should be able to withstand high foot traffic, particularly if the building is set for public use like malls, hospitals, and recreational structures. A timber frame will not suffice to carry the weight of that many people, as well as any furniture or heavy equipment that may be needed to operate in the building. Instead, steel frames are used to reinforce the building.

Additionally, the equipment for the two types of construction project are different, which contributes to the cost of the construction project as a whole. Compared to residential projects that are usually only 1-3 stories tall, a commercial construction project that plans to build a skyscraper would need large scale equipment like cranes to do the heavy lifting.

scale model of house surrounded by architectural supplies
Different construction types require different permits and contractors.

Finding a Building Contractor

When onboarding any construction project, you will need to ensure you get the most suitable building contractor that can build your structure according to your specifications, and in the most structurally sound manner. 

There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a building contractor. Besides being able to do the job right, you need to take into account the costs, as well as the expertise of your chosen contractor. After all, building projects are no small feat, and they are costly no matter which type of structure you are considering to establish.

Consider the Experts

When looking for a contractor that can bring your vision to life, check out our offered services here at ColeBuild Singapore. We are determined to get your building up and running in the most efficient, safe, and cost effective way possible. Give us a call, or send us an email, and we can discuss where we can start to make your dream home or office building a reality.

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