Austin Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center (AVES) gets stuff done. The team managed to squeeze seven specialties (surgery and orthopedics, internal medicine, critical care, oncology, radiology, rehab and fitness, and dentistry) into an 11,081-square-foot leasehold in Austin, Texas. The dense floor plan, designed by Wayne Usiak, AIA, of BDA Architecture, was praised by experts in veterinary hospital design and earned a Merit Award in the 2016 Hospital Design Competition.
“Our floor plan was designed to promote a multispecialty collaborative approach to patient management while providing dedicated workspace for each individual department,” says Lindsay Vaughn, DVM, DACVECC, one of the seven owners of AVES.
Here are some design “truths” that the team discovered as they built their new hospital.
Sometimes less is more. It all started with a concrete slab. This conversion project was originally an undeveloped portion of a strip center. There were no walls, ceilings or floors. CEO Ryan Buck said this was ultimately a plus.
“The advantage was that there was no demo required and no existing infrastructure to work around,” Buck says. “We didn’t have to build the exterior structure and had a ‘blank canvas’ for the interior.”
Plans change. The original lease for AVES was 8,956 square feet, but about a month into the design planning, the team realized they were going to need a bigger boat so to speak. Good thing they had signed a contract with a right of first refusal for the adjacent open space.
“We realized that we needed more room to accommodate our programming and vision for the future,” Buck says. “We exercised our right of first refusal (or in this case acceptance) on the adjacent space, which took our total hospital space to 11,081 square feet.”
There will be problems 24/7. Clinics that don’t close tend to come with their own unique set of problems and this project was no exception. AVES’ two biggest hurdles? Hours of operation and signage. (The building had a previous restrictive covenant preventing operations 24 hours a day and the neighborhood associations banned significant signage on the building because of the “scenic highway” on the adjacent road.)
AVES owners say don’t be afraid to set up meetings with the local neighborhood associations and coalitions to negotiate terms (like they did). It will most likely delay your project, but you might just walk away with approval for a 24/7 facility and a monument sign at your veterinary center’s entrance (like they did).
Start marketing now. Buck says it’s never a bad idea to hire a marketing firm to help with the launch of your new hospital. “It doesn’t need to be a firm that focuses only on the veterinary industry,” he says. “Picking one that doesn’t have a lot (or any) experience in veterinary can help curate fresh ideas to help your brand stand out.”
The best part of the planning process? Vaughn says it was the ability to design and build every part of the hospital from the ground up—literally. “This allowed us to take into consideration the needs of each individual specialty and department,” she says.
One final world of advice from this Merit Award winner: “Think long and hard before going with vinyl composition tile,” Buck says. “While it is cheaper, it’s also a pain to maintain. We have VCT in some areas of the hospital and wish we'd spent a few more dollars for another material.”
Want to see more photos of this hospital? Click here for a full photo tour.