difference between commercial and institutional architecture?


this might sound a little silly, but I was wondering if someone could help me clarify the differences between different types of architecture, because sometimes I am not sure I am correct. if someone says they specialize in "commercial and institutional architecture" i am not 100% sure what that means:

institutional - architecture related to a specific organization or establishment, like hospitals, jails (or are they civic buildings?), nursing homes, etc

commercial - architecture related to commerice, like stores, banks, etc. or are banks instiutional? is this word synonymous with "retail"?

retail - same as commerical (it doesnt just refer to clothing, right? it refers to anything that can be bought or sold)

civic - having to do with a city, like police station, jail, etc (police station is also institutional)

mixed use - commercial + residential

any thoughts?

Feb 23, 09 1:36 am

institutional is schools, hospitals, and the other programs you mentioned.
commercial is office space. (not stores)
retail is goods for sale, shopping, not just clothing.
you have civic correct. also can include arenas and rec centres.

This is all based on how the firms i've worked for have defined their work. Hope my 2 cents helps.

Feb 23, 09 2:04 am  · 

but the word commercial just means having to do with commerce. and stores are commerce, right? so retail = commercial, no?

what are banks?

what about public vs private? are civic bldgs always public?

what are museums? they are both commercial and instituional, right? or does that depend on who is funding the museum, whethers its a private museum or its funded by the city?

Feb 23, 09 2:06 am  · 

fixy -

i've always broken it down like this: institutional, be it public or private, almost always deals with programs which are of a non-profit (literally or perceptually) type. the literal and perceptual is the key - most of these started out as non-profit once upon a time, but are not necessarily there any more. examples include:

museums and their derivatives (almost every museum is privately held, whether or not a government contributes money to their operations).
hospitals (although these get lumped in with healthcare these days)
parks and recreation (governmental types - although these get lumped into 'government' more and more)
schools - secondary and university
non-profit foundations

commercial is, as implied, anything to do with commerce. it could be office (say for a law firm) or a shopping mall. retail is a subset of commercial, but not all commercial counts as retail.

civic buildings can be public (caltrans) or private (disney concert hall). for me, that's a kind of catchall for buildings which are publicly accessible - meaning, like disney, i can go there when i'd like. that's not true of the harvard club in new york, though, so i'd leave that one in 'institutional'.

Feb 23, 09 8:43 am  · 

banks used to be institutions, i think. now they're retail.

all these things have fuzzy definitions and can drift different ways depending how the different labels become useful. you've got a pretty good handle on it, fixy.

Feb 23, 09 8:56 am  · 

The difference IMO is between if the client is going to occupy the space or will lease/sell to others. Big difference between willingness to invest upfront on features and systems that improve long-term value of using a facility versus those seeking profits from others.

So building a corporate HQ is closer to being institutional versus a typical spec 'commercial' building.

A developer is a very different client to engage then a professional facility manager/director of operations/other executives typically on an institutional project team.

Feb 23, 09 10:04 am  · 

does thinking about this in terms of IBC help clarify things?

Feb 23, 09 10:14 am  · 

well, you guys are very helpful! the fact that there are so many posts here shows that the lines between the definitions are kind of i will ask my studio what she thinks the differences are exactly and get back to u! thank u!

Feb 23, 09 1:50 pm  · 

sorry, i meant i will ask my studio *professor*

Feb 23, 09 1:50 pm  · 

hi guys, here is my studio professors opinion:

"Institutional for me really is about schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.
Jails actually fall under public buildings (or civic buildings) so the PAB also is a civic building.
Commercial - retail, banks, etc.
Museums are civic more than institutional though they can be considered institutional, especially if they are affiliated with an institution such as a university, etc.
Museums are not commercial.
Civic - public buildings, cultural institutions (like museums) - there you have institutions being a subset of civic sometimes.
Disney concert hall is definitely civic, but could also fall under the subset of institutional.
mixed-use - you have it right."

Feb 23, 09 5:19 pm  · 
vado retro

The definitions are not murky. Look at an IBC codebook or Chings Building Codes Illustrated.

Feb 23, 09 5:51 pm  · 

i agree with u in some respects, the IBC divides occupancy groups into mercantile, institutional, assembly, and residential.

however it seems to me that those IBC definitions sometimes contradict the colloquial definitions. i.e., according to the IBC hotels go in the residential category (R-1: transient sleeping in rooms for less than 30 days), but it seems like in casual conversation, when someone says that they do residential architecture, they mean houses, not hotels.

and also, according to the IBC institutional means occupancies where ppl have special restrictions on them (i.e. old age homes) but i feel like when ppl say "i do institutional architecture" they mean museums and important cultural icons...

my only point is that i think there are some differences between mainstream definitions of these categories and IBC definitions.

what do u think?

Feb 23, 09 7:01 pm  · 

I tend to avoid the "Civic" label entirely.

Residential is single and multi-family housing as well as some mixed use developments.

Commercial is offices and other tenant fit-outs with the exception of retail stores and restaurants. This includes financial institutions, but mainly the offices and non-public services.

Institutional is private and public institutions - schools, recreation centers, community centers, fire and life safety, jails.

Healthcare is hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospices and doctors offices.

Retail is restaurants, stores and other places where goods and/or services are exchanged. This may include bank lobbies and other financial institutions where public interaction occurs.

Government is any work that encompasses the previously named distinctions but is performed for a government agency.

Feb 24, 09 9:20 pm  · 

For commercial architecture there are very specific market requirements as to what works and what doesn't. These differ somewhat across international borders but in countries like the US they're fairly fixed. For example, it has been said that there are between 17 and two dozen sellable commercial building and housing typologies/floorplates in North America (and still allowing for all the possible, architecturally interesting, permutations of these basic ones).

For example, a leasable mid or highrise commercial office building must have a certain amount of usable distance on either side of the core (and economically speaking, on all four sides of the core), generally accepted to be 40'-50'. Thicknesses/core-shell ratios, which are less are generally not economic to build. Thicknesses that are much more means difficult-to-lease dead space (too far from windows/natural lighting, etc). So most developers will stick to the template.. its the least risky approach.

Different rules apply to various types of institutional buildings. Generally speaking, programming and the use of client-specific program books as an integral part of the design process are more commonplace with institutional buidings than they are for commercial ones. These allow architects to design in a bespoke manner to exacting client requirements (for say a museum or a university research lab building).

Feb 24, 09 9:36 pm  · 

What a great post!

What would you consider a canine salon / spa? (No boarding overnight, just grooming and haircuts)

Commercial or retail?


Nov 2, 17 4:40 pm  · 

and libraries? public, then it'd be civic ?

Feb 17, 18 7:48 am  · 

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