Patience and persistence pay off

Patience and persistence pay off

Nothing went according to plan for Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, Calif. And everything turned out for the better.
Apr 01, 2011

Sometimes the best-laid plans … get changed, changed, and changed again. In the case of Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, Calif., the doctors found their Plan A quickly sliding down the alphabet. It wasn’t by choice, but the results speak for themselves. Their 14,000-square-foot, 18-­exam-room practice won a Merit Award in the 2011 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition.

Adobe Animal Hospital had been a fixture in Los Altos for nearly 45 years. In the past seven years, the two original owners sold the practice to the four current owners, who quickly outgrew the space. They started making plans for building a new facility, and found those plans changing again and again.

In 2007, with the economy still intact, the owners found a one-acre parcel of land for sale about two miles from the existing building. They entered into contract, approached the city, and went through many committees and a zoning change before obtaining planning approval a year later. With a conditional lending commitment from the bank, everything seemed on track. Then the economic bubble burst. The bank pulled financing on the project, and the owners were left with a difficult decision: Push ahead, trying to salvage their plans, or find another place to build at a lower cost.

Thankfully, in March 2009, an alternative location became available at a more reasonable rate. “We struggled with the idea of abandoning our project, losing a huge amount of money, and moving in another direction,” says co-owner Dr. Brian Maxwell. “We really tried to find a way to make the first plan work, but in the end decided it was best to move in another direction.”

The second-choice location presented challenges of its own. The first plan had included 19,000 square feet with 60 subterranean parking spaces on an odd-shaped lot. With the new building, they had to morph that plan into a 14,000-square-foot, square-shaped leasehold space. The new practice includes 18 exam rooms, a doctors’ station for 15, a two-station outpatient treatment area, a three-station dental suite, a four-station ICU, and a three-room surgery suite. The practice boasts one exam room per 780 square feet; the industry standard is one per 1,100 square feet.

“It all worked out this way for a reason,” says Dr. Maxwell, who headed up the design process. “We are so much better off here than we would have been at the first location. I have no regrets except that we lost a lot of money and the process took longer to complete.”

On the up side, the practice saved roughly 40 percent on construction costs compared with they would have spent just a couple of years earlier, when the economy was still strong. And the first plan would have taken nearly a year to complete. This one, however, was completed in just five months, on time and within budget, helping to offset some of the initial losses.

With four practice owners, 19 associates, and more than 100 team members, the practice owners could have been tempted to make all the design decisions themselves rather than muddy the waters with everyone else’s opinions. But at Adobe Animal Hospital, Dr. Maxwell and his colleagues took a team approach, which extended to even the tiniest details of building the new practice.

Dr. Maxwell spends half of his time practicing medicine; the other half is dedicated to management. And during the building process, that included overseeing two committees made up of team members and led by two practice managers. “There were too many moving parts for one person to deal with on this project,” Dr. Maxwell says. “Without the practice managers, we couldn’t have pulled this off.”

The first committee focused on the design of the building itself; the second committee busied itself with the interior design details. Each committee included Dr. Maxwell, co-owner Dr. Jennifer Koga, both of the practice managers, and at least one representative from each practice department.

“We really wanted everyone to be involved and feel ownership of the project,” says practice manager Summer Holmstrand-Irmiter. “And it helped everyone better understand why we couldn’t include everything they wanted, once they understood the ins and outs of the project.”

Holmstrand-Irmiter helped oversee the groups and take ideas back and forth between them. She also led them in creating a new spa-like vision for the new practice.

“We brainstormed certain words associated with the spa theme,” Holmstrand-Irmiter says. “If we got stuck, we went back to those words to see how the idea fit in. That helped us focus our plans.”

The little details those staff members provided made all the difference, she says. Suggestions from receptionists, technicians, and doctors who work in their areas each day helped personalize the space and make it more comfortable and workable for everyone.

All headaches aside, the doctors and staff are thrilled with the results. “It took us more money and time than we anticipated, but we have no regrets,” Dr. Maxwell says. “And my advice to others? Make sure you have the time to commit to the project before you get started. And don’t be afraid to push for what you want.”

Adobe Animal Hospital
4470 El Camino Real
Los Altos, CA
Owner:Drs. Brian Maxwell, Jennifer Koga, Nancy O'Day, Jane Johnson-Ricker
Associates: 17 full time, 2 part time
Hospital team: 94 full time, 8 part time
Practice type: Small animal
Building size: 14,000 square feet
Exam rooms: 15
Runs: 24 indoor
Cages: 77
Parking spaces: 36 client, 30 staff
Construction: $1.8 million (building only; excludes land purchase, landscaping, parking lot, etc.)
Site improvement: $8,403
Professional fees: $250,875
Equipment: $1,000,000
Furnishings: $141,745
Computers: $601,137
Year built: 2010
Mark Hafen, AIA
Animal Arts
4520 Broadway, Suite E
Boulder, CO 80304
(303) 444-4413

For more photos from Adobe Animal Hospital, click the 'Next' button below.


Comfort and convenience: In keeping with the practice's spa theme, the reception area features rich colors and materials, deep gray porcelain tile flooring, a glass reception desk, and a mosaic tile wall that sets off the hospital logo.

Exam room

Inviting touches: Each exam room features rich colors, built-in benches, and pet photography to personalize the spaces.


Central treatment: A three-room surgery suite, a three-station dental suite, a chemo room, radiology, the lab, an oversized ICU, a quiet ICU, and isolation all revolve around the central treatment hub.

Outdoor play area

After-work snooze: A night room gives team members a place to rest.