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  • Writer's pictureMaria Luisa Castellanos

Miami Architect Creates The Ultimate Guide to Successful Commercial Building Construction:

Key Steps and Proven Strategies

Mixed-use building design by United Architects
Mixed-use building design by United Architects

Are you embarking on a commercial building construction project or a mixed-use building and looking for insider tips and strategies to ensure its success? Look no further! In this ultimate guide, we will walk you through the key steps and proven strategies to make your commercial building construction venture a triumph!


From conceptualization and design to pre-construction planning and project management, we've got you covered. As Miami commercial architects and experts in coastal construction, we have decades of experience in the Miami construction industry and are here to share our knowledge and expertise with you.


In this comprehensive guide, you'll learn how to effectively navigate the various stages of commercial building construction. We'll provide you with invaluable insights on budgeting, site selection, sourcing materials, managing contractors, and more.


Whether you have some construction experience already or are new to the world of construction, this guide will equip you with the essential tools and techniques needed to ensure your project is completed on time, within budget, and to the highest quality standards.


Don't leave the success of your commercial building construction project to chance. Read on to uncover the key steps and proven strategies that will set you on the path to success.


Step 1: Conceptualization and Design


The first step in any commercial building construction project is to conceptualize and design the building. This involves defining the project's goals, identifying the target audience, and developing preliminary floor plans and a site plan. It is also important to consider the building's budget, site constraints, and local building codes. For the floor plan and the zoning study, you will need to hire an architect. An experienced architect will be familiar with the zoning and building codes and can help you with the preliminary floor plans and the site plan that will comply with applicable regulations.

  • Define the project's goals. What do you want the building to achieve? What are its primary functions? Who will be using it?

  • Identify the target audience. Who are you building the building for? What are their needs and expectations? This will determine the size, layout, and features of the building.

  • Develop a preliminary floor plan. This will give you a general idea of the building's layout and size. A modern office building will normally have a much larger floor plate than it did in the early 20th century. It will also have a larger floor plate than a residential building. A modern office building will have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), while an apartment building with more than 4 units will have to comply with the Fair Housing Act.

  • Consider the building's site constraints, and local building codes. These factors will all impact the design of the building. What are the climate and soil conditions? Is it in a flood zone? In fact, prior to buying the property, you should check on the soil conditions and do an environmental study. You don’t want to buy a property that has pollution as this will be costly to remediate. In Miami, we use the Florida Building Code.

  • Consider the zoning code. What is the zoning code for the area where the building is located? Is it in unincorporated Miami-Dade or one of its 34 municipalities? From the zoning code, you will determine the setbacks, the maximum lot coverage, the maximum buildable area, the minimum green area, the landscape requirements, the allowable height of the building, etc.

  • Consider the building’s budget. How much money are you willing to spend on the project? This will help to narrow down your options and make sure that the design is feasible. For this, if the budget is critical to you, hire a cost estimator or a general contractor with a cost estimating department who will help you put numbers together.

The conceptualization and design phase is an important step in any commercial building construction project. By taking the time to carefully plan the project, you can increase the chances of success.


Step 2: Pre-Construction Planning

The pre-construction planning phase is essential for ensuring the smooth and efficient execution of your project. This phase involves obtaining the necessary permits, securing financing, and hiring contractors and subcontractors.

It is also important to develop a detailed construction schedule and budget. This will help you track the progress of the project and ensure that it stays on track.

It is important that along with the plans, the specifications for all the materials are selected prior to starting construction, or at least, the long-lead items are identified, and plans are made to procure these.

  • Adjacent infrastructure. Before you spend a lot of money on architects and engineers, make sure you research the adjacent utilities. For commercial buildings, a sewer line is essential. And it is not any sewer line, but a sewer line of sufficient size for what you intend to build. Much of Miami has no sewers at all. The right size water line is also important. If you are doing a 3-story building or higher, you will have to have sprinklers. This could cause the county to require a larger water line. Enlargements or extensions of water and sewer lines are expensive. This alone could kill the feasibility of a project. If you need to move a pole for your project, you will have to deal with FPL. To replace a light pole, you will likely have to do a photometric study of the street. You will have to provide lighting to the new standard, not the existing one.

  • Adjacent street. Does your city or county plan on expanding the street? If so, they will want a dedication of part of your property for the expansion. If the street is owned by the state and not your city or county, you will have to deal with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). They are not easy, and they get an opinion on the sidewalk and the street trees. The City of Miami, if that is where your project is located, will require street trees and a minimum sidewalk size. They are difficult also. The county will also require street trees and possibly a sidewalk.

  • Hire the right A/E Team. Who will be responsible for the different aspects of the project? This will include the architect, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and other professionals. From the very beginning, you should have the architect on board. As the project progresses, the architect will be hiring the other necessary professionals. These will include the structural, mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers. Sometimes you may also need specialty engineers for other aspects of the project, but these are the typical required engineers. They will take the project from conception to final building permit plans.

  • Obtain the necessary permits. This will vary depending on the location of the building and the type of construction. In the City of Miami, this process is cumbersome and could take over a year. Miami-Dade County is generally much easier.

  • Secure financing. This will be necessary if you are not paying for the project out of pocket. Avoid closing on the loan until you have a permit in hand unless the interest is guaranteed. Interest rates vary and you could have a problem if you close too early and then the bank wants to raise your rate. They could keep your deposit and closing costs. Read the contract carefully. There are reasons that allow a bank to foreclose on a current mortgage. Commercial loans are nothing like residential loans.

  • Hire a general contractor. This will involve getting bids from different companies and selecting the ones that are the best fit for the project. The general contractor will generally pick his own subcontractors, but at times, the owner will pick the subs.

  • Develop a detailed construction schedule and budget. This will help you track the progress of the project and ensure that it stays on track.

  • Manage risk. There are many risks associated with any construction project. It is important to identify and mitigate these risks as much as possible. The biggest risk generally is the time involved in building the project. Delays to the contractor may have to be compensated to him by the owner. On the other hand, delays by the contractor could cause the need for additional sums of money. This is a liability to the contractor, but it will be difficult to collect. It would likely entail hiring an attorney and suing the contractor. So, pick the general contractor carefully! This subject will be discussed more deeply at a later date.

The pre-construction planning phase is an important step in any commercial building construction project. By taking the time to carefully plan the project, you can increase the chances of success.


Here are some additional tips for pre-construction planning:

  • Get everything in writing. This includes contracts, bids, and schedules. Make sure the schedule is updated on a regular basis during the construction phase.

  • Be clear and concise in your communication with the project team. All communication between the contractor and architect should be in writing.

  • Be prepared to make changes. Things don't always go according to plan, so it's important to be flexible.

  • Stay organized. This will help you keep track of all the details of the project.

Step 3: Construction


The construction phase is the heart of any commercial building project. This is where the building takes shape and your vision becomes a reality.


It is important to closely monitor the construction process to ensure that it is being completed according to plan. You should also be available to address any issues or concerns that may arise.

  • Manage the construction process. This includes ensuring that the project is completed on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards.

  • Hire the architect and engineers for this phase. If you hire you’re A/E team to do periodic visits to the site to review the progress of the work, you will be more assured that the contractor is following the plans. These professionals will be your eyes and ears during this phase. Since they created the plans, they are the people most familiar with the design and can be very helpful in reviewing the construction.

  • Resolve any issues or delays. Things don't always go according to plan, so it's important to be prepared to address any issues or delays that may arise. Any questions or issues need to be resolved immediately. You cannot afford to allow the construction to stop. Make sure that any potential errors or omissions are reviewed by the A/E team and that any change orders are signed by you, the owner, prior to execution. Do not give verbal orders to the contractor under any circumstances.

  • Communicate with the project team. This is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the project is progressing smoothly.

  • Inspect the work as it progresses. This will help to ensure that the work is being done correctly and that there are no defects.

  • Make payments to the contractor. This will be done in accordance with the contract. Before you give him the initial deposit, make sure he has all the required insurances in place - liability, workmen's compensation, and builder's risk. And after the initial payment, make sure you get partial releases of liens from the general contractor, his subcontractors, and his suppliers.

Some contractors bill according to the progress of the work on a monthly basis, while

others bill on a predetermined schedule.

Here are some of the key things to consider during the construction phase:

  • The quality of the work: It is important to ensure that the work is being done to a high standard.

  • The safety of the workers: It is important to create a safe working environment for the workers. This is the most important concern on the project. If someone is hurt or dies during the construction, it will stop the work and cause problems for everyone involved. On large projects, a person should be delegated the work of reviewing safety conditions.

  • The budget: It is important to stay on budget as much as possible.

  • The schedule: It is important to complete the project on time.

The construction phase is the most visible part of any commercial building construction project. By carefully managing the process, you can ensure that the project is completed successfully.


Step 4: Post-Construction

Once the construction is complete, it is time to move on to the post-construction phase. This phase involves commissioning the building, making any necessary repairs, and obtaining a certificate of completion from the county or municipality.


It is also important to track the building's performance over time to ensure that it is meeting your expectations.

  • Commission the building. This involves testing the building's systems and ensuring that they are all working properly. Keep all the equipment guarantees in a safe place and make sure that the maintenance of this equipment to keep the guarantees are followed or the warranties may be voided.

  • Make any necessary repairs. This may include fixing any defects that were found during the construction phase. Prior to closeout, make a punch list of all items. Give a copy to the contractor and give him a set time to complete all the items. If these items are never finished, you may be entitled to a deduction from the contract sum.

  • Hand the building over to the owner. This will be done in accordance with the contract by the general contractor once the project is accepted by the owner.

  • Track the building's performance. This will help to ensure that the building is meeting your expectations.

Here are some of the key things to consider during the post-construction phase:

  • The building's performance: It is important to track the building's performance to ensure that it is meeting your expectations.

  • The warranty: The contractor may have a warranty on the work that was done. This will cover any defects that may occur during the warranty period. The warranty period is normally one year. Make sure everything is working well before the warranty period is over.

  • Insurance: It is important to have insurance for the building. This will protect you in case of damage, loss, or accidents in your new building.

By following these tips, you can ensure that the post-construction phase of your project is smooth and efficient.


Key Steps to Ensure Success


In addition to the four key steps outlined above, there are a few other things you can do to ensure the success of your commercial building construction project:

  • Choose the right team. The success of your project will depend on the quality of the team you assemble. Make sure to hire experienced and reliable professionals who are committed to your success.

  • Communicate effectively. Communication is key to any successful project. Be sure to keep your team informed of the project's progress and any changes that may occur.

  • Be prepared for challenges. There will always be challenges in any construction project. Be prepared to deal with them promptly and effectively.

  • Stay on budget and on schedule. It is important to stay on budget and on schedule as much as possible. This will help to avoid costly delays and overruns.

By following these key steps and strategies, you can increase your chances of success with your commercial building construction project.


If you would like a qualified team to work with you on a project idea you have, call me, Maria Luisa Castellanos, R.A., LEED AP, at 305-439-7898 or email me at MLC@UnitedArchs.com one

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