- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 08 Nov 2019
Commercial property definition
Property can be defined as something that a person or business has legal title over. Having legal title over property provides the owner with certain enforceable rights. Property may be categorised as tangible (‘real’) or intangible. In the built environment, tangible property refers to real estate or land, whereas ‘personal property’, or chattel, is all that which is not ‘real property’.
The word ‘commercial’ relates to things that are concerned with or engaged in commerce, that is, activities that are intended to make a profit. In its broadest sense therefore, commercial property (or commercial buildings or commercial premises) typically refers to property or buildings that accommodates activities intended to make a profit. This might include shops for example.
The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order categorises uses of land and buildings. Developments may not be used for purposes that are not within the use class for which they received planning permission. However, there is no single use class that might be considered to encompass all commercial property, but rather there are a range of classes, including: A1. shops, A3. food and drink, B1. business and so on.
Changing the use of a development from one class to another may require planning permission, although changes of use may be permitted without the need for a planning application for certain allowable uses (for example, changing a restaurant into a shop).
This becomes more complex however, as there are a number of types of building that whilst they do seem to encompass 'commercial' activities, they are generally not described as commercial. For example, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) differentiates between commercial and industrial buildings.
In its methodology, ONS suggests that ‘private commercial’ includes:
Whereas ‘private industrial’ includes:
Commercial property serves a vast array of purposes supporting public and private sector business and services, such as government, service industries, education, healthcare, manufacturing, telecommunications and other civil infrastructure.
- Auction buildings.
- Department stores.
- Financial and professional services buildings.
- Mixed use buildings.
- Motor vehicle sales entities.
- Shop units.
- Wholesale buildings.
For more information see: Uniclass.
Given the variety of conflicting definitions available, it would be wise to make clear which is being used when referring to commercial property.
See also: Shops and commercial premises definition.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
Another year of growth, says BSRIA.
Property practices to help tenant retention.
Fire rips through HPL cladding in Bolton.
Disturbing complacency over short courses.
The new science of building engineering physics.
How new technologies and processes could impact on energy efficiency and wellbeing.
BRE launches the BREEAM Data Centres Annex Pilot.
Replacing lanterns and overthrows in Great Pulteney Street.
Will market-led regeneration work without state intervention?
The New Towns