Diversifying? Some Basics About Light Construction
Light commercial construction is a competitive $50 billion–a–year industry, according to NAHB’s National Commercial Builders Council (NCBC). It can offer home builders an option to buttress their businesses when the residential market is in a slowdown, or when the residential component of a new community has been completed but commercial development is just getting underway.
Light commercial projects can range in size from less than 7,500 square feet to more than 100,000 square feet. These include banks, community centers, schools, houses of worship, restaurants, movie theaters, small shopping centers, self-storage facilities and office buildings.
Before diversifying into light commercial construction, however, home builders should understand the opportunities available, as well as the key differences between residential and commercial building.
Easing Into Commercial Construction
Diversifying into commercial construction is much easier for small- and medium-sized home builders who have some basic knowledge of light commercial construction and are willing to apply their talents, resources and skills to smaller projects.
Many builders begin diversifying into light commercial by building self-storage facilities. These are easy-to-build, self-contained structures that, like houses, are often wood-framed. Unlike houses, however, they are generally steel-sided.
Strip malls and small shopping centers can also provide home builders with a reasonable introduction into light commercial construction. Strip malls are generally easy-to-build, single-story construction. Shopping center construction generally uses structural steel. As builders gain confidence and knowledge with these one-story projects, they can progress to more two-, three- and four-story office buildings.
Note the Differences Between Commercial and Residential Customers
The differences between customers in residential and light commercial construction are quite striking.
In residential construction, customers usually have little or no knowledge of home construction.
In commercial work, customers tend to be familiar with construction projects. Either they have already built a light commercial project or they have experience working with one. Either way, these costumers tend to be well-informed of construction practices.
When a problem or crisis does occur, the commercial customer is less likely to panic than the residential customer. Commercial customers are aware that problems can occur and tend to be much more patient than residential customers under similar circumstances, although they also expect more from their builder.
About three–fourths of the NCBC members began their careers in residential construction.
Adding a light commercial construction component is a process that involves hard work, but more importantly, planning. The NCBC provides a variety of useful services to assist residential builders who are interested in diversifying into light commercial construction or expanding into new commercial areas. These include networking, publications, industry information, education, recognition and advocacy.
For more information, visit the NCBC section of the NAHB Web site. To become a member of the council, click here (link available to NAHB members only).
'How-to' Manual About Light Commercial Construction Available Through NCBC
“Light Commercial Construction for Home Builders: A How-to Manual for Diversifying Your Business,” available through The National Commercial Builders Council (NCBC), can help residential builders who are considering diversifying into light commercial construction.
The manual identifies three key areas for home builders who are diversifying into the industry:
- Building for investment (either solo or in partnership with a client)
- Working for a stand-alone client
- Pursuing public construction projects
The manual explains the differences between residential and light commercial construction, methods of contracting, OSHA requirements, building materials, licensing issues and codes and standards. It reviews the common types of light commercial buildings and points out the differences between residential and commercial customers.
For more information about the manual or the NCBC, e-mail Nick Lashinsky at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8455.
‘Moving to Commercial Construction’ Available at BuilderBooks.com
“Moving to Commercial Construction,” available through BuilderBooks.com, offers the general contractor, subcontractor and designer several step-by-step methods that will make the move from residential to commercial building a successful one.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.