Thursday, November 6, 2014

Design Workshop: Is a Phased Construction Project Right for You?

Squaring a project’s goals and budget — often two very different things — is a common problem architects and homeowners confront in a project’s earliest planning stages. The two almost never align when we begin. Working to reduce the size of the overall project is the best way to affect the cost early on, when little is known about the structure, its finishes or any of the details.

Reducing square footage, however, doesn’t have to be drastic. In phased construction, you purposefully plan for and delay building select components of a project. In the long run, the overall cost to build a phased project is higher, but the startup costs are substantially lower. This allows a smaller initial project to be constructed, and a strategic master plan provides the structure for future additions as finances allow. A smaller initial project footprint, as we’ll see, also leaves room to change your mind along the way.

If you absolutely can’t part with any square footage in your plan, you might consider the following when evaluating whether phasing is right for your project.

Advantages of Phased Construction

  • A lower initial investment. Spreading the cost of construction over a longer period of time can allow larger undertakings to be done in affordable pieces. Sometimes it’s the only way a project is attainable.

  • Shorter construction time. A smaller scope of work results in an abbreviated construction schedule.

  • Experience. Living in your partially completed home can offset the cost of housing during a long-term construction endeavor. It also helps to inform future decisions (you’ll know how you actually use the home), and it gives you a real-world sense of the scale of your home — many people have a hard time understanding scale through drawings alone.

  • Allows for design changes. Living in your home may reinforce or alter previous design selections. You may decide you don’t actually need the work planned for future phases or that the separate guesthouse you planned for in phase two might actually work better attached to the home.


  • Complexity. For all parties involved, a phased project is inherently more complex. There are more drawings and more trips to the site; there is more coordination … the list is long.

  • Longer time to fully realize the project. Phasing purposefully delays construction. An incomplete home is acceptable to some, but for others, life in a work in progress just isn’t enjoyable.

  • Higher overall costs. Few things get less expensive with time. Delaying the purchase of materials, labor, design and engineering means you’ll probably pay more. Financing and permitting costs must be factored in too.

  • Living in a construction zone. Many phased projects leverage the fact that you can live in a part of the home during construction. But working around finished spaces (and homeowners) makes for inefficient workflows for all of the building trades. Dust, debris, construction traffic, work schedules and noise are just a few of the hazards that make for stressful times and must be managed. Contractors and homeowners alike find these situations disagreeable for different reasons, and most people underestimate their tolerance for the general messiness of construction.


Design Workshop: Is a Phased Construction Project Right for You?

Design Workshop: Is a Phased Construction Project Right for You?

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