Commercial vs. Residential construction: why do you have to choose?

I run into MANY construction industry professionals.

They can be at various events:-conference, continuing education seminars, or even through an introduction by someone I already knew.  Although, there are many such events, I find them to be mostly not so helpful….Most of those chance meetings stay as  typical networking events which mean  to talk a little about each others businesses, swap business cards, and telling each other to stay in touch.  Of course, most of the time I don’t even remember how I got those business cards in the first place, let alone to plan for the future meetings!


Recently, I had a rare chance to have one of the most productive networking meetings.  I met Robert Price and Michael Fleming from Equinox Development Inc , a construction company in Toronto which has the similar business philosophy as our firm, Studio Jonah: working on both residential and commercial projects together, instead of focusing on one sector.   It is rare to find construction company having both commercial and residential projects, and I see the advantages of such an arrangement looking at their beautifully executed residential/commercial projects on this entry.  While discussing/comparing the different aspect of our businesses, I had a chance asking all their “secrets” about their industry, and how to select the right construction company.  These gentleman were generous to share their knowledge with us and our readers.  Please share this entry with your colleagues and add comments and questions at the bottom of this blog!  We will let them come back to answer more questions.




What kind of prep work can potential clients do before starting to look for contractors/construction company? –

You should ensure you have some form of a drawing to base your numbers on, and if possible a level of finish quality in mind, on a good-better-best scale. If you have specific materials or appliances etc.. already chosen this can only help refine any pricing as well. Otherwise, your contractor is using a lot of guess work to provide you a number. Without detailed drawings and any additional information, always keep in mind that what you will be receiving from a contractor should be considered a budget or an estimate, not a quote. A simple example is flooring a contractor could give you a supply only price of $2.99 sq/ft from home depot but what you want and need is an installed price for a premium floor that is really $14 sq/ft installed. That is a huge difference in cost over your 800 sq/ft of flooring you have to replace.


“We love to help our clients stay on budget and give them the space they had always dreamed about, and that takes planning, tracking and proper execution”


Any secrets  to hiring the right contractors/construction company? –

You want as much transparency as possible. Ideally, how the contractor is getting paid should be clearly delineated on the budget, not buried in the various line items. Be sure you can ask to see all supplier invoices and that they will be shown to you if/when you ask. Be sure you know what percentage if any your contractor is making on the project from the beggingin and that it is clear on all invoicing. Also be sure your contractor is insured and that they will be resposible for ensuring anyone they hire or bring on to your project is also insured. If they aren’t insured how serious are they about what they do and the quality they produce?




How do you approach the “what’s your fee ” question without knowing too much about the scope of work? As an architect, I deal with this all the time 🙂 – 

see above. The fee should be clearly shown as a seperate line item. Commercial project fees often range depending on the size and scope of work involved. Residential fees are a little more complicated because there are often more specialist trades involved in a residential project which means more management, therefore higher fees. 10-15% is the norm residentially. If the fees are lower than that, the contractor could be burying some margin in other line items. Everyone needs to make money, just be wary of fees that seem too low. That likely means the contractor is making up for the low fee somewhere else.


“we have taped out an entire kitchen on a plywood floor to give the client a good visual of how the space will feel”


Why the Equinox Group should be selected over others? 

We are project managers and as such have a vested interest in working with you right from the beginning of the design process through to the end of commissioning all your systems and appliances so you are living in your dream space. We go through the entire process with you and help with all the decisions along the way, from spacial conceptualization during design (we have taped out an entire kitchen on a plywood floor to give the client a good visual of how the space will feel) to visiting tile shops and looking at plumbing fixtures. We like to have the design completed and the material chosen before staring construction. It helps us have a concrete starting point for construction and allows for easy budget and schedule tracking during constructiuon. Many general contractors want you to hand them an incomplete set of drawings and no materials specifications package because they know they will make all thier money from charging for changes, which in that case would be almost everything. We love to help our clients stay on budget and give them the space they had always dreamed about, and that takes planning, tracking and proper execution which not a lot of people do.