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  • Writer's picturecourtney riddle

5 Innovative Materials for Developing a New Commercial Building

Commercial buildings are subject to diverse demands in 2023. They must be energy efficient, sustainable, customizable, and aesthetically pleasing. And that is just a starting point.

A man sketching a design for a commercial architecture building

Fortunately, there are dozens of innovative materials that can help you meet all of your goals when designing a commercial building. To help get you started, the following breakdown looks at 5 of the most trendy products being used in new commercial building construction.


1. Prefabricated Steel

Steel has been one of the most popular materials for commercial buildings for many years. However, the use of steel, particularly prefabricated steel buildings, will become an increasingly preferred choice for retail locations for a number of reasons, including:


  • By fabricating the steel building off site, less time is spent on real estate development. This decreases the amount of time required between closing on a parcel of land and making the first sale. This ultimately results in increased profitability for retail business owners.

  • Steel reflects the sun’s rays, rather than absorbs them. This along with having the proper p roper steel building ventilation can help commercial buildings control utility costs during the warm months of summer.

  • Steel comes with all kinds of eco-friendly benefits. If the building ever needs to be demolished, steel is a recyclable product. If not, due to its outstanding durability, the building can be repurposed as it stands for a second life.

  • Steel requires very little attention to maintenance and upkeep, as it is completely resistant to fire, mold, and insect damage.



Steel also has many energy efficiency benefits. It is a highly reflective material that absorbs fewer of the sun’s heat waves than many other materials. It also has a low thermal mass. While materials with high thermal mass will store and release heat even after the sun goes down, causing HVAC systems to work overtime, steel quickly returns to the desired ambient temperature. Combined with a strong continuous insulation system for your commercial building, building owners can expect to save significantly on energy consumption and energy costs.


Steel is also a popular choice for prefab storage containers. Many commercial businesses are using transportable storage solutions to free up interior space and save on costs associated with commercial storage and warehousing. Given their durability and relatively low cost, prefab steel storage containers are an ideal choice for this purpose.


2. Acoustic Ceiling Insulation



Given that most retail centers are open, sprawling spaces, a noise dampening system will be necessary to keep the space from sounding like a closed-air carnival. To this effect, most buildings will employ some sort of acoustic ceiling insulation to help absorb noise.


While equipping buildings with sound insulation is important, be aware that there is a wide range of efficacies between acoustic insulation products. Many manufacturers will boast a high noise reduction coefficient as proof that their product is highly sound absorbent (NRC is measured between 0.0 and 1.00, with a 0 rating indicative of no insulation and a 1 rating indicating 100% sound absorption).



However, this rarely tells the whole story of how insulative a product is. True NRC is a result of the sound-absorbing material and its geometric design as a final product. Some materials, when tested by themselves, will have an NRC close to 1, but when designed for consumer use, the rating declines significantly. Therefore, it is critical to choose a product that has been sound tested in its final state to guarantee the best results possible.


3. Polished Concrete Floors

The flooring in retail buildings must be extremely durable to withstand heavy foot traffic and the constant sliding and repositioning of merchandise and shelving. As such, polished concrete makes for one of the best options on the market. Some advantages of polished concrete floors for commercial spaces include:


  • A more slip-resistant finish than other types of hard flooring

  • More cost effective than epoxy terrazzo

  • Remains nonporous and scratch resistant with polishing every six months

  • Available in a wide array of finishes to match the interior ambience of diverse spaces

4. Hurricane Grade Windows



Although hurricane grade windows are popular as retrofits or replacements in adaptive reuse projects, they also have a ton of utility for new commercial buildings. Capable of withstanding winds of 250 MPH and projectile debris traveling over 100 MPH, the best storm windows perform just as well against tornadoes, blizzards, or incessant rainfall as they do against tropical storms. In addition, modern storm windows can be fabricated in many unique designs to enhance the curb appeal of any type of retail center.


5. Foundation Waterproofing


A 2020 study found water damage to be one of the leading causes of lost income for businesses. Among the ways that water can wreak havoc for a retail property include:


  • Damage to goods or merchandise

  • Creating an unsightly exterior or parking lot that repels customers

  • Posing hazards within the building that require sections to be closed off



In a worst-case scenario, water will seep into below grade areas of the building, causing foundation damage that is difficult or impossible to repair. In such a scenario, the business would be looking at months of shutdown.


Therefore, when planning a new commercial building, be sure to include steps for waterproofing foundation walls. Be aware that a waterproof foundation is different from a damp proof foundation. A damp proof foundation will typically use a type of spray-on seal that protects the foundation from passive water infiltration. This may not be sufficient in areas of heavy precipitation where the foundation is confronted with significant hydrostatic pressure, making a waterproofing system advisable.


A waterproof foundation will add permeable membranes to the foundation walls. These membranes will direct water down to a drainage board and away from the building via a system of underground pipes. Combined with an effective above-grade waterflow infrastructure, this system can help ensure that even the heaviest downpours will never reach your building’s foundation.

Get Creative With These Innovative Materials for Commercial Buildings

Commercial buildings must be designed to satisfy diverse demands in 2023. With this in mind, prefabricated steel, acoustic ceiling insulation, polished concrete floors, hurricane grade windows, and foundation waterproofing are 5 of the best options when designing a new retail space.




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