top of page

Industrial Construction vs. Commercial Construction - Understanding the Difference

The Difference Between Industrial and Commercial Construction

Industrial and commercial construction: are they the same or different? Actually, both. The two types of construction are similar in demand, basic infrastructure needs, and project management, yet different in purpose. Industrial construction mainly consists of building warehouse structures and manufacturing facilities, while commercial construction refers to buildings that aim to serve the public, such as retail shops, neighborhood strip centers, office spaces, car washes, and convenience stores.

The Demand

Dewitt Tilton Group, one of the most successful construction companies in the Savannah and Lowcountry regions, specializes in both. “There is a huge demand for warehousing near the ports outside of Savannah,” according to Chris Tilton, President of Dewitt Tilton Group. “Right now, businesses are in need of more warehousing due to the staggering costs of ships sitting unloaded at the ports. Every day that a container stays on a ship, it costs close to $300. It is very important that the containers get unloaded and into warehouses where they will be held until delivery to the end users. Dewitt Tilton is heavily involved in the construction of many of these in-demand flex space projects in our region. They are often a 25,000 square foot building, which would most likely have a thousand square feet of office in the front and the rest would be warehouse,” he says.

The Market

The entire area around the ports and north along the I-16 corridor is exploding. Tilton’s company has multiple ongoing projects in Savannah, Richmond Hill, Hinesville, Midway, and beyond. A groundbreaking was recently held for the new Hyundai “metaplant,” an electric vehicle facility and adjacent battery plant that could bring up to 10,000 jobs and another hundred thousand jobs indirectly to the surrounding region. “We're actually working with a Korean company now that builds the axles that go right onto the Hyundai vehicles,” said Tilton. “The company is interested in us building a large warehouse and office building. In addition, with that kind of development, there will also be a need for more commercial construction with lots of retail commercial businesses and restaurants. We've actually got three commercial retail projects going on right now on Pooler Parkway. This market benefits not only from the ports and Hyundai but also from Gulfstream and tourism. That makes this area a hotbed for both industrial and commercial construction.”

An Analogy

When Chris Tilton describes the difference between industrial and commercial construction, he uses the following analogy: “I was in the high-end residential business for years and I equate that to putting 250 small, delicate puzzle pieces together. When you deal with commercial construction, there are fewer and larger puzzle pieces that need to fit together. In industrial construction, it's more like five very large concrete pieces that need to go together. It's all about scale. So, as a business owner, industrial construction is the easiest with fewer pieces and the people to manage.”

The Site

With industrial construction, the building site needs to be much larger than for a commercial project. According to Tilton, “We start at 20,000 square feet; however, we build projects up to 400,000 square feet. Many times, you need a truck dock at the rear. You need a 165-foot turning radius to get those trucks in and out. You have to have either heavy-duty asphalt or seven-inch concrete. It can't be your typical residential or commercial driveway. The parking areas need to be built for big trucks carrying heavy loads. Typically most of the warehouses are going to be dock height, which means the side of the building is 40 inches above the parking area. And you'll have levelers that go to the trucks where they can offload.”

Infrastructure and Project Management

The approach to project management is similar for both commercial and industrial construction. To be successful, each project requires the integration of various components like plumbing, water, sewer, and fire suppression lines, plus storm water drains and massive amounts of paving. “With special projects such as car washes, there is a tremendous amount of infrastructure that you don't see and it requires a very special touch. Building car washes is one of our company’s specialties; we have built four of them and more are in the works,” says Tilton. With project management, the level of oversight depends on the number of people on the project site.

Our Reputation

Over the past eight years, Dewitt Tilton has become a major player in both industrial and commercial construction in the Coastal South Carolina and Georgia markets. “We have a strong reputation in the commercial and industrial construction market because we pay attention to each intricate detail. We also take pride in our ability to complete a building in seven or eight months. Our competitors are taking up to two years to finish a project. If you're building a 12-bay multi-tenant commercial building and you have tenants coming in, they can start collecting rent a lot quicker. We are known for getting in and getting out, which makes our clients very happy. We've won many awards over the last couple of years. We have earned five-star ratings from every one of our clients because we treat every project like it is our personal home and it makes a huge difference.”

Work with Dewitt Tilton Group

If you are considering a commercial or industrial construction project in the Coastal Empire or Lowcountry region, give Dewitt Tilton Group a call! From trees to keys, our team lives and breathes the building and design process with a full understanding of the intricacies of industrial and commercial construction. Call us today at 912-777-3404 or visit our website at

bottom of page