Develop a workable floor plan

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Jun 01, 2005


Dan Chapel
A well-designed floor plan is the single most important element in any building project, and to get it right, you need to consider hospital functions, decide on room sizes, maximize your useable space, and arrange cabinets and equipment strategically. Unfortunately, there's no perfect design formula that works in every case. Of course all successful plans offer efficiency and convenience; the right plan makes your workday go more smoothly.


Plan #1: 2,735 square feet
Several key factors will determine what type of floor plan works best for your team, including:
  • the size and configuration of your building site
  • the size of the hospital or kennel facility
  • the medical and ancillary services offered
  • the personality you're trying to establish for your practice
  • the organization of your practice, and
  • the total number of doctors and staff members.


Plan #2: 3,000 square feet
As you consider building the basic plan, try to think in terms of work zones. For example, with the most traditional "front, middle, back" configuration, the front zone is the client area, including the waiting, reception, and exam areas. The middle zone focuses on medicine, including the laboratory, pharmacy, treatment, imaging, and surgery areas. The back zone contains the patient wards, runs, and utility support spaces.


Plan #3: 4,672 square feet
The key, of course, is to set up efficient traffic patterns within and between your zones. The best floor plans minimize both traffic jams and travel distance. Now, when you start talking about large hospitals, specialty practices, or emergency centers, this most basic plan won't apply, though your goals for the floor plan remain the same.

One key feature that drives the floor plan is the number of exam rooms—which is influenced by the number of doctors. So setting the number of exam rooms is a key first step.


Plan #5: 3,100 square feet and Plan #4: 5,000 square feet
In a small hospital, you'd traditionally line up the exam rooms, and the width would drive the size of the floor plan. As practices get bigger, there are too many exam rooms to set in a line. When you hit this point, you'd start creating groups of exam rooms. For example, in a specialty practice you might group exam rooms for special services, while in a large general practice, you might group several exam rooms for each doctor.


Plan #6: 3,481 square feet
On the pages that follow, you'll see a variety of floor plans. I've marked the traffic flow for doctors, team members, and clients—which is a good step for you to take when you start planning your floor plan, too. Give each team member a colored pen, and let them mark where they walk in a day. If a lot of lines cross, that's a traffic-problem area.

For each of the plans presented here, I've indicated key decisions the owner and architect made. I also tried to highlight features that make each design different and potential pitfalls to think about as you plan your new hospital.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dan Chapel, AIA, is owner of Chapel Associates Architects Inc. in Little Rock, Ark. As a featured design speaker at the Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference—held in Kansas City, Mo. in August—Chapel will give attendees advice about site selection, and building and finishing materials. Please send comments to