When and Why to Consider Construction Phasing and Sequencing

Commercial renovations or building additions can take months to complete, creating the potential for significant operational inefficiencies. Construction phasing and sequencing may be an ideal approach to help organizations avoid disruptions while still making progress on their expansion or renovation.  

Is a phased construction plan right for you? Does construction sequencing have a downside? How does phased construction work? Here, we’ll walk you through what you need to consider when planning your next steps.

What is Phased Construction?

Construction phasing and sequencing is an approach to building expansion or renovation that completes the construction process in phases rather than linearly, allowing a company to remain operational and continue to bring in revenue.

During the planning process, the project owner and construction manager will work closely together to outline when and how various portions of the project will take place to minimize disruptions. In general, phased construction is made up of several series of smaller building projects that take place at different times rather than working on an entire project at one time.

Construction Phasing and Sequencing Costs

As far as project costs are concerned, there are two sides to the coin when considering whether to take a phased approach to construction.

On one hand, phasing a project can help an organization maintain cash flow because they can make a lower initial investment and won’t have to pay for the entire project at one time. A company will pay for each phase as it is completed. This alone necessitates phasing for many organizations.

On the other hand, a phased approach will typically cost more in the long run. That’s partially because, while your organization benefits from greater efficiencies, construction efficiencies decrease due to added complexities, longer timelines, disjointed scheduling, separate permitting, design iterations, and other elements that need to be repeated for each phase rather than completed all at once.

Even so, it’s the right decision for many organizations based on their business model and their financial situation.

Ideal Applications for Phased Construction

Renovation or expansion has the potential to interfere with work functions for weeks or months at a time. Phasing and sequencing is a way to help an organization maintain operations while onsite construction takes place.  

While any organization can benefit, there are some industries that are particularly suited to a phased approach. The following are some examples of businesses and organizations where phasing might be appropriate.

Law Enforcement Centers

Displacing an entire workforce in a law enforcement center is untenable. Remodeling separate areas of the facility at different times helps to maintain critical operations without putting officers, inmates, or the community at risk. For example, contractors can set up a temporary, fully functioning 9-1-1 dispatch center while they install new systems and updates in the permanent location. When the switchover time comes, it can happen seamlessly.

Schools and Universities

Major construction work in classrooms and other public areas often takes place in the summer when fewer students are on campus. During the school year, non-public areas like mechanical rooms can be worked on. Some campuses also choose to renovate an entire floor at one time during the school year and temporarily move classes to other areas on campus. When one floor is done, they can move on to another floor.

Sports and Performing Arts Facilities

Activities in sports stadiums and other types of venues are often seasonal, allowing construction crews to work off season. In the example of an athletic park, work may partially occur during baseball season in administrative offices or a party deck, still allowing the maximum number of attendees in the bleachers. 


Production floors need to maximize uptime and get orders out on time. Shutting down equipment for a prolonged period of time isn’t acceptable. A manufacturing facility undergoing construction may need to move some equipment to a temporary location while construction crews work in an area. Or, if the company only has first and second shift workers, construction crews could adapt their schedules to accommodate those shifts by working overnight.


Phased construction for a hospital, nursing home, or other healthcare facility is often done out of necessity to ensure that patient care is not impacted. Multiple measures to minimize disruption in healthcare facilities are taken in addition to phasing, stressing the importance of a construction manager who specializes in collaborating with healthcare administrators and personnel. Flexibility is also key, as construction crews may need to halt work in the event of emergency procedures or shift to another area if an opportunity arises.

General Commercial Construction

Whether it’s retail or a service-oriented business, phasing can minimize downtime. It can benefit any company that needs to work in tandem with a construction schedule and/or spread the cost out over time.

It’s important to understand that, while disruptions will be minimized, they won’t be eliminated. Workers and patrons may still need to deal with some distractions and additional noise. Likewise, some workers may need to be displaced during construction, and added safety measures will need to be taken.

How to Plan for Phased Construction

Meticulous planning is required for phased construction, often as part of the design and budgeting process. A construction manager will need to oversee all the details and develop schedules for each phase, stressing the importance of getting them involved as early in the process as possible.

As part of the planning process, the construction manager will help determine the order in which each phase should be completed and when. They’ll also work closely with the project owner to assess where employees will need to be temporarily moved, when necessary. It’s the responsibility of the construction manager to execute the plan with pinpoint accuracy, yet remain flexible enough to adapt in the event a business need arises.

Phased projects require more drawings than a traditional approach, showing each phase and any additional requirements such as temporary restrooms, corridors, barriers, dust suppression, or emergency exits. The phasing of HVAC, plumbing, electrical, communication systems, and other utilities also needs to be factored into the drawings and timelines.

Phasing has the advantage that some changes can be made to a design if a project owner changes their mind. This can also be a disadvantage, however, because it could lead to scope creep.

The key to avoiding phased construction mistakes is to work with a commercial construction company that can conduct a thorough assessment and provide recommendations that include various options. By partnering with The Samuels Group, you’ll work with a team that has extensive experience in phased construction design and can walk you through the complex process. Contact us today.

Is construction phasing and sequencing right for your project? We’re happy to answer this question in addition to the others listed in our complimentary guide below. Be sure to download 10 Questions to Ask a Commercial General Contractor to aid in the conversation.

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