Understanding 3 different varieties of commercial buildings and their subcategories.

Any commercial contractor knows that “commercial” properties aren’t a monolith. They can vary from a company’s corporate campus to a massive factory to a duplex. The general nexus of these types of buildings is that they are owned as an investment. That is to say: they were built to make money. Let’s look at the 8 main types (and sub-types) of commercial buildings and see just how different they can be.


1. Industrial Buildings


Industrial buildings come in a lot of flavors, but there are a few specifics that separate them from other buildings. They are typically large, have an easily-accessible flat roof, numerous HVAC installations, docks for loading/unloading, and multiple high-voltage power distribution points. There are also various types of these buildings.




This type of building produces things, and can come it two varieties: heavy and light manufacturing. As you may have guessed, a heavy manufacturing facility produces heavy equipment. These are things like tractors, cranes, and steel, and large industrial parts. These buildings tend to be gargantuan and have very special zoning, power, and other requirements. A light manufacturing facility can produce smaller, often consumer goods, like textiles or glassware. These buildings are much smaller and can often be found inside of cities.




Think of an Amazon Distribution Center. These buildings are often tremendous big box shaped structures. The ceilings and walls can be high to support the stacking of many goods on top of one another. They may also be built specifically with the goal of loading trucks or trains, and thus have a more specific build.




This is an industrial building that does more than manufacturing/storage. You might find an office space in this building with an area for building whatever is designed in an office. These buildings are denoted by their high amount of offices compared to other industrial constructions.


2. Multi-Family/Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs)


Single-family houses are generally not considered commercial properties, but those with more than one are. Although MDUs serve to house people, they are primarily owned as an investment.


Duplex, triplex, and quadruplex


These housing units that can have 2, 3 and 4 families respectively are MDUs. They are often owned by beginning investors who are renting out a unit trying to make a profit on their own residence. These types of buildings are found in just about every real estate market.


Garden apartments


These apartments are the next step in ownership for many real estate investors after “plex” properties. Garden apartments are usually 3-5 stories with 50-400 units (depending on how many buildings there are on the property). They will have both rentals and condo units, with some rooms on top with private balconies, patios, and decks. Common spaces include patios, gardens (of course), and pathways. Some will include extra amenities, such as leisure rooms, pools, clubhouses, laundry rooms, and gyms. Buildings like these have their own addresses, parking lots, and central entrances.


Mid-rise apartments


Mid-rise apartment buildings are usually 5-12 stories, with 30-120 units per building. They are most-often built in urban locations and have elevator surfaces.


High-rise apartments


These buildings are almost always found in much larger markets/cities. They usually feature multiple elevators, professional management teams, and over 100 units per building. Generally, once an apartment complex reaches above 12 stories it is considered a high-rise. If it goes above 40 floors, then it will be regarded as a skyscraper.

The apartments and plexes we mentioned cover most of the commercial property building types. For a look at all the types of apartments offered and their specs, check here.


3. Offices


Offices are used by professionals of all types, including business, medical, dental, tech, and more. A basic office building can be high or low capacity, possibly including one or more elevators and HVAC units. They can be single story all the way up to high-rise.

Office buildings generally have 3 subclasses: class A, B, and C.

Class A: These are considered the best of the best offices, with top of the line construction and location.

Class B: Denoted by quality construction but less desirable location.

Class C: These buildings may be cheaper or falling into disrepair. They are also usually in fairly undesirable locations.

Other office buildings include:


Medical office suite


This is generally a larger space or building divided into smaller spaces, including exam, waiting, and treatment rooms. There is often plenty of plumbing, HVAC, and electrics. Another signature of the medical office suites is the prevalence of custom-installations. These can include dental chairs, x-ray machines, various types of refrigeration for medical samples, and large lab equipment.




These are sometimes stand-alone buildings, or found within a larger apartment. The exterior will be run by the manager, while the interior run by the business/business owner(s). Generally, whoever is leasing or owning the office condo or suite will be in charge of maintaining it. These areas can be a single unit in a building, but they can also be a whole floor or wing. They can also be found in malls, shopping centers, and industrial complexes. 


Central Business District (CBD)


CBDs are found in the hearts of big cities with big markets. They are usually high rises with numerous offices found in the down town economic zones. CBD’s are typically Class A office buildings.


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