Wednesday, Mar 21, 2018
HomeIf Your Home Could SpeakHow your architect can help you make money in commercial design

How your architect can help you make money in commercial design

Most commercial clients arrive in our offices absolutely certain they know what they want; and, in terms of the project type or category, they do. The shopping center client wants an arrangement of lettable space with a way for customers to reach them. The commercial office client wants rental space that can be flexibly arranged and rearranged. The resort client wants a hospitable place where he can be paid to host travelers.

What the client usually does not know is how his dream money-machine will be translated into concrete and steel. He also does not often realize the extent to which the design solution proposed by his architect will impact his income. Consider the following:

  • There are two malls on the same traffic artery in central New Providence which also share similar catchment areas and potential customers. Yet, one is extremely successful while the other appears to barely survive. Why?
  • A new strip shopping center recently opened on Carmichael Road, across the street from a dramatically failed center. The new center is doing very well almost in the same spot as the failure. Why?
  • One condominium project on Cable Beach is boasting of tremendous success, selling units at near $400 per square foot, while a nearby one has failed to sell at less than $300 per square foot. Why?

There are many such examples we can cite. What makes one project a financial success while its twin fails? It is often a problem with the design concept. In any commercial project, there is something called a generic business concept –the principles that guide the project’s economic success. If the architect is unaware of the generic business concept, the project’s success is largely a matter of luck. Take, for example, the development of the design concept for a mall or a shopping center.

The key to the generic business concept for a retail shopping environment is an understanding of the hierarchy of shopping types:

  1. Primary or anchor store – the reason people visit the mall or shopping center.
  2. Secondary or support store – a secondary reason to visit, often as an add-on to the primary reason.
  3. Tertiary or impulse store – businesses that get spur-of-the-moment business from being near the primary shopping.

The basic idea is that the drawing card (primary shopping) brings customers to the location, the support (secondary shopping) expands the circulation of the targeted shopping and the impulse shopping (tertiary shopping) benefits because they’re located strategically to be exposed to the primary traffic.

The generic business concept

The mall’s concept places two primary occupancies at the ends of a pedestrian path, and then places a collection of secondary and tertiary shops along the path. To attract the traffic needed, tertiary shops are located near the entrance/exits of the primary shops. The secondary shops are placed further away.

Of course, most malls are more complex than this basic model, with multiple primary shops, public assembly spaces and other social spaces, but the principle remains the same.

A strip mall or shopping center also has a generic business concept driven by the levels of shopping. Again, the primary shopping is responsible for attracting the customer traffic, but the path between the shops is for secondary exposure. The primary exposure is from the parking area, and the location of the parking in relation to both the primary shopping and the other levels of shopping is critical. Two of the most dramatic failures on New Providence owe their failures completely to the fact that the parking for the primary shopping does not expose the secondary or tertiary shopping.

The design process is all about the developer’s ability to maximize profit, whether by increased rental or user rates, or by attracting maximum traffic. Understanding the generic business concept is what helps the architect increase the chances that the developer will make money.

  • Patrick Rahming & Associates is a full service design firm providing architectural, planning and design services throughout The Bahamas and the northern Caribbean. Visit its website at and like its Facebook page. The firm’s mission is to help its clients turn their design problems into completed projects through a process of guided decision-making, responsible environmental advice and expert project administration.




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