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Strategic flexibility: phasing for uncertainty

Saturday, 10 January 2015

One of an occasional series

Phased development can be a practical approach to project planning for a number of reasons, including financial, strategic, and operational flexibility.

Building a new facility in rational phases and allowing future occupants to fit out their own spaces is a strategy often used in the commercial development that institutions can adopt.

Many clients know they will need expanded facilities in the future, but cannot determine specific funding streams at planning outset with any certainty. Often, having additional space will open up new program opportunities such as research grants. Building generic core and shell space that can flex in the future allows institutions to react to the ebbs and flows of funding streams. As the building is planned, the architect and administration should clearly articulate what level of use should be accommodated in the building’s core and shell design.

To meet institutions’ often technology-heavy programs, the shell and core will need to be more robust than that required for a speculative office building. Important considerations include proper floor-to floor-heights, adequate MEP capacity to allow for high intensity use, and required structural stiffness for high-tech research.

- Luke Voiland, AIA

Luke Voiland is a principal at Shepley Bulfinch whose phased Health and Biomedical Science Building 1 at the University of Houston opened in 2013. Design for the next phase – Health and Biomedical Science Building 2 – is now underway. For a copy of the Shepley Bulfinch briefing paper “Building over time: phasing projects to maximize value,” please email

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