Deena ElGenaidi
Published on:
July 11, 2022
min. read

A Quick Guide to Commercial Building Facades

Depending on the location of a commercial property and the type of business it houses, the outside of the buildings may look wildly different. This outside structure at the front is known as the facade, and there are many different types.

What Is a Commercial Building Facade?

A commercial building facade is the front of the building, so in a commercial building, the facade is what you see on the outside of a commercial building. Commercial building facades are designed to attract patrons to a business, protect the interior of the building from external damage, and allow airflow through the cavity between the building and the facade.

Why Are Commercial Building Facades Important?

Commercial building facades are important to give a building a sense of brand and aesthetics. “Building facades are critical, as they can make or break a building’s attractiveness,” said Tomas Sulichin, President of Miami real estate brokerage RelatedISG Realty’s Commercial Division. “It is what gives the building curb appeal and sets the tone for its design.” Well-designed facades can bring more customers to a retail building, for instance. Many facades are designed with the environment in mind. In a city that gets a lot of rain and wind, commercial building facades need to be able to shield the building from that type of weather. Some commercial buildings are part of a city’s history and their facades can be preserved. In the case of adaptive reuse, the goal is often to keep the historic charm of a building while updating it for modern uses.

Types of Commercial Building Facades

There are many types of commercial building facades, said Matt DiBara, aka “The Undercover Contractor” and CEO of DiBara Masonry. Some of those include lightweight facades, heavyweight facades, and subcategories under each of those, DiBara said. “Lightweight facades, which are typically like your metal and glass — that’s a lot of your high rise buildings,” said DiBara. “And then you’ve got your heavyweight facades, which weigh more, and there’s more metal framing in there. And then prefabricated facades, which are facades that basically are pre-made. And there’s also what are considered to be traditional, which would be your stone, your brick.” DiBara added, “If you really wanted to simplify it, you can say most skyscrapers are lightweight and heavyweight facades, and then your capital buildings and your churches are more traditional — usually concrete.”

DiBara noted that skyscrapers usually don’t do traditional designs in their facades because it’s more expensive to build and maintain.To break it down even further, some of the different types of facades include:

Post-Modern Building Facades

Developers and architects are getting more creative with commercial building design, and the appearance of the building is no exception. Popular commercial building facades include honeycomb, curtain walls, and homeostatic facades, which also help regulate heat and save energy.

Glass Facades

Especially popular in office real estate, glass facades allow for plenty of natural light. They also look sleek and professional. You should know that you have options for glass facades. A long-time problem with glass facades is that during the hottest hours of the day, that beautiful natural light can heat up the building. Today, you can get glass glazed to prevent heat loss or gain, or you can opt for homeostatic glass which automatically regulates heat. Lastly, solar shading, which comes in glass or metal, can help strategically position your facade to block light and heat at key times of the day.

Masonry Building Facades

Who doesn’t love the classic look of stone and brick? Especially useful for restoring older buildings, masonry veneer systems are the modern solution to an age-old problem. Though they are pricier than traditional brick and mortar, they provide enhanced performance in the form of superior moisture and temperature control while providing the look of brick, stone or tile. Of course, any decent contractor will also offer traditional services, like brick, stone, tile, clay, stucco, pre-cast concrete and cement facades, too.

Metal Commercial Building Facades

Easy to work with and often cheaper than fancier facades, metal building facades come in lightweight aluminum, durable steel, and metal composites. You can achieve a stylish, rustic look by opting for weathering steel, also known as Corten steel. Over time, this look increases its appeal as it literally weathers the elements. You can also choose the increasingly popular panel frame facade, as seen on new apartment complexes and office buildings.

3 Commercial Building Facade Ideas and Examples

These three commercial building facade ideas are cutting-edge examples of how something as simple as a facade can make for some extremely attractive commercial real estate investments.

1. One Thousand Museum in Miami

One Thousand Museum in Miami is a luxury condo tower. The sleek, steel-blue facade snakes its way up the building, mimicking the nearby beach and glamorous nightlife in Miami. “The late Zaha Hadid created this luxury condo tower so that its facade approach set the tone for the building and emphasizes its exotic design,” Sulichin added.

2. Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn

The Barclay’s Center is a great example of a rustic steel facade, made specifically out of weathering steel to look leathery brown. Weathering steel develops a fine layer of rust that serves to protect the building against moisture and stop the corrosion process. It also has aesthetic appeal for many designers and architects.

3. The Maverick in Chelsea, Manhattan

The Maverick is a 20-story commercial building in Chelsea, built with acid-etched precast concrete panels. It’s a perfect example of how creative architects can get with the most basic building materials. The building facade was designed to be aesthetically pleasing and capture the sun at different angles. Punched windows were added to the facade panels for dimension and privacy.

6 Factors to Consider When Designing a Commercial Facade

Facades are both aesthetic and functional. A successful project will consider the perspectives of people involved in visual design, architecture, development, construction and investment.

1. Height

The main factor to consider when designing a commercial building facade is the height, DiBara said. With taller buildings nowadays, concrete, brick and stone are not as commonly used.

2. Lighting

“The reason for that is because we place a greater value on light being able to come through the buildings,” DiBara explained. “Modern design now is all about natural lighting, way more than older buildings.”

3. Maintenance and Material

Maintenance is the next big factor to consider. “The reason that you see a lot of high rises with glass is because the maintenance on glass is very affordable,” DiBara said. “It just has to be cleaned. Whereas metal, you have to treat it. Stone and brick and concrete are all affected by weathering and have higher maintenance costs.”

4. Location

Sulichin also noted that location must be taken into account when designing a commercial building facade. “For more traditional commercial projects, you might want to go with a particular look and budget that fits in with the area’s other facades,” said Sulichin.

5. Weather

And when it comes to location, weather becomes a consideration as well. So you want a facade that will be able to sustain the type of weather in your building’s area.

6. Design

And of course, visual appeal is crucial for building facades. You want to be able to attract customers, tenants, etc. through your building’s facade. “For example,” said Sulichin, “if you are creating a luxury nightclub in an important part of town, the facade you choose for that building must be something elaborate that will both invite and attract guests to enter.”

When Designing a Facade, Make Sure to Have All the Facts

Before settling on a commercial building facade, make sure to understand the different facade options that are available to you, taking into account all of the considerations in terms of height, location, weather and more. It’s always a good idea to complete your due diligence and get the advice of an architect or designer who can help you decide on the right commercial building facade for your individual needs.