Could it Just Be a Phase?

Could it Just Be a Phase?

Architecture February 02, 2016

To phase, or not to phase, that is the question. In fact, it’s an excellent question, often asked by our clients when they are considering an office redesign.

There are certainly pros and cons to structuring a project in parts and at specified intervals. It’s wise to do the comparisons up front to make the right decisions for a company and its employees early, both from a cost and convenience standpoint. Bring your architect and construction team into the conversation at this kick-off point; you’ll likely gain valuable feedback about the process and what it entails.

Lately we’ve been having this talk with our own clients. In fact, three recent proposals we’ve sent out called for multiple phasing options so that the clients could remain in place as much as possible during construction. So, what should a company consider when deciding on phases for its projects?

Below are four types of office design phasing methods and the pros and cons of each:

Refresh. Updating finishes such as paint, carpet, pantry laminate or other cosmetic components, can give new life to an existing space. Phasing allows a company’s employees to stay put during the process, which is obviously a positive. But this type of work typically is done during evenings or over the weekend, which means overtime costs for labor, a costly option when compared to typical day rates. However, given the amount of work involved in relocating (and its attendant costs), this remains a pretty popular option for many clients.

Partial retrofit. In many cases, offices from a decade or two ago—or more—are being demolished and replaced with a more open plan and/or mixed public and private meeting areas. These office spaces are more modern and appeal to multiple generations, including the often-discussed millennials. This process, which is called a partial retrofit, requires construction, as well as new furniture. Phasing may be helpful here, depending on the degree of which the construction will have on the entire floor or a given space. (Some companies are able to work around the construction.) On the flip side, phasing may not be the best choice if the space’s occupants are sensitive to dust or noise. Plus, the cost of working around occupants is typically 15 to 20 percent more than if a space were unoccupied.

Space sharing. If an office space was originally designed with the idea of subleasing at some point, accommodating a new tenant may not be a major headache, especially if the electrical, plumbing, HVAC and wall systems have some degree of flexibility in place. Then, with a few shifts of desks and other furniture, phasing a move in may be seamless. The downside, however, is that it may be necessary to relocate existing employees to a temporary space during the rearrangement before sharing a single floor.

Total reno. Phasing may be in order if you are completely renovating, consolidating multiple floors, refreshing a brand or installing a benching solution to increase office density. If it’s time to align your culture and space, but you still like your location and neighborhood, phasing may be the best way to go. Talk with your architect and construction manager or general contractor about a plan that targets core spaces and hits key milestones so that staff can be shifted in phases. For instance, a main conference room and reception area could be tackled first and the human resources staff with offices near those two areas could temporarily work out of smaller conference rooms on the floor above them. This concept of finding and utilizing “swing space” and then returning to offices when construction is complete allows main operations to continue so that it’s as much business as usual as possible. The major downside with this type of phasing is that the project time may be extended. What could have been a straight 12-week build may stretch out many more weeks, making it more expensive than moving to a new space due to construction costs.

With all four of these possible routes, proper scheduling and realistic cost estimating are critical. Ideally, anyone considering a phased project should talk it through with their team of professionals and all appropriate parties during lease negotiations.

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