The Master Planner's Corner: The Importance of Phasing in Master Facilities Planning

By Robert A. Pratt, AIA , Principal, Planning & Design

It is often said during master planning, begin with the end in mind. While the end result is obviously very important, the journey to get there is just as critical. There are several principles we have learned during the course of our master planning engagements.

Consider each phase as frozen in time

During each phase, departments must remain fully operational to care for patients safely and efficiently. Construction logistics, operations, and budget are considerations when determining the best direction for that phase of the project. Whether the phase lasts a month or a year, that layout will be what serves the patients and community during that time. One of the most complex of these exercises is for emergency departments. The 24-hour operation, multiple patient types, and multiple entry points require careful planning.

Phasing may influence the final outcome

Once operations are analyzed for each phase, there are often key components that need to be moved so that the department will function continuously. In the case of the emergency department, there are many of these critical components such as trauma and triage. Diagrams that show areas completed and areas under construction for each phase can help identify where potential gaps in continuous operation exist.

Pick up momentum

Building enthusiasm for what is to come is important to carry staff and patients through challenges presented by complex phased projects. Take whatever opportunity you have to tell the story about the future vision. We have master-planned several projects that relocated the main entry to the facility. The temporary entry was turned into a gallery displaying images of the great investment in the future that the health system was making. In addition, don’t forget about the areas that aren’t part of the project. An inexpensive cosmetic upgrade can yield outsized positive results.

Operations improvements should start now

In our master planning work, we help determine the optimal flow and patient experience. Once we have worked together to map out new flows, we recommend these start being implemented to the extent possible. Occasionally, there are structural reasons that make this implementation difficult. However, it helps make the transition to the new location much easier. Similar to the momentum discussion above, this can have a positive boost to morale as the caregivers see improvements.

With more than 30 years of healthcare planning and design experience, Bob Pratt has held leadership roles in a wide variety of healthcare projects totaling more than $1.7 billion. He has earned a reputation as a leader in innovative construction techniques and has been recognized with numerous design awards.