When pets walk into Bigger Road Veterinary Center they see blue skies, large oak trees and small cottages. Sure, the skies are painted, the trees are building columns and the cottages are exam rooms, but these design disguises are a welcome change of scenery for clients and their four-legged family members. The Bigger Road team dedicated the design of their 9,105-square-foot-conversion clinic in Springboro, Ohio, to creating a Fear Free practice. We’d say they succeeded, considering they earned a Merit Award in the 2016 Hospital Design Competition. And many clients think the trees are real.
“We’ve had several clients ask us how we keep the trees alive in the winter,” says John Talmadge, DVM, one of four co-owners of Bigger Road.
So, here's how to make like a tree and leave outdated designs in the dust. Take home these takeaways, courtesy of the Bigger Road, and design your own more pleasant, lower-stress clinic:
What do clients want? Ask them!
Rather than guessing what pet owners wanted to see in their second clinic, the Bigger Road team went straight to the source. They conducted a focus group with clients and asked:
> What are we doing well?
> How can we improve?
> What services would you like us to add?
Clients were honest about wants and needs, and Bigger Road took their comments to heart.
“Our online pharmacy and wellness plans came directly out of this feedback,” the owners said in their Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition application. “Our clients also wanted an environment that truly helped them celebrate the relationship with their pets.”
When it comes to design, the sky’s the limit
In a era when dogs and cats are more like family members than pets, the Bigger Road team knew they needed to create an atmosphere to match that shift.
“The goal was to reinterpret the veterinary clinic as an ‘indoor walk in the park’ and create a familiar, non-threatening environment for pets and owners while maintaining a functional and efficient plan for the practice,” says Dana Shoup, AIA, of Bon Builders in Vandalia, Ohio, the primary architect on the project.
Corridors were transformed into “outdoor paths,” clinic walls turned to stone, and street lamps were brought indoors. Murals of outdoor scenery throughout the clinic reinforce the theme, and mailboxes outside each “cottage” serve as a secret exam room availability system.
“The best compliments we receive come from pet owners who say pets seem more relaxed in the new environment,” Shoup says.
Expand your horizon
Another huge takeaway from the focus group was learning more about pet owners’ biggest challenges when it comes to veterinary care.
“The most limiting resource for most of our clients isn’t money, it’s time,” the Bigger Road team said. “They said they wanted us to be successful and looked to us to provide the services we were previously referring to other local businesses.”
This is why the clinic expanded services to include:
> Behavior and training
> Day care services
> Physical rehab/underwater treadmill
> Integrative medicine
> Herbal medicine
> Cold laser therapy
After Bigger Road expanded its services and designed a low-stress experience, veterinary care is now a walk in the park for pets.
Want to see more photos of this hospital? Click here for a full photo tour.