This practice gets an A on the test of time
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Did the folks at Veterinary Economics know what a hit they had on their hands when they printed the first-ever hospital design articles in 1965? It's 42 years later, and an annual Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition is still going strong. Those first articles eventually spawned a Web site, special magazine supplements, and a national conference where veterinarians learn from the best how to build the hospitals of their dreams.
Whether the Veterinary Economics team knew what was in store or not, no one could've been prouder than Dr. Philip Zand, owner of the first hospital featured: Golf-Mil Animal Hospital in Niles, Ill.
Dr. Zand's dream hospital's biggest claim to fame in that 1965 article was its soundproof and odor-free design intended to appease nervous neighbors who'd had a bad experience with a local kennel. Dr. Zand picked a location surrounded by growing Chicago suburbs, planned it out with adequate parking, and built a hospital with low-maintenance but attractive furnishings, counters and tables, and equipment.
Dr. Zand, who has since passed away, always praised his hospital's design, according to Dr. Bryan Haag, who, along with his wife, Dr. Sara Mey, bought the facility from him in April 2006. With minor adjustments, the "major bones" of the building still stand, Dr. Haag says. The two doctors' problem now is a good one: They need to grow.
"We've had double-digit growth since we bought the hospital," Dr. Haag says. "We're feeling cramped, so now I'm hoping to add on." The growth has been fueled by adding technicians, providing more team training, and making aesthetic improvements to the building and landscaping.
A look at the updates
There's the new sign that replaces the yellowing one that was almost as old as the building. The hospital has also changed its name to Golf-Mil Veterinary Hospital PC. "People have said they saw the new sign and never noticed us before," Dr. Haag says.
Hiring professionals has helped. Dr. Haag used a graphic designer to help with the sign and clinic branding on promotional materials. And an accountant took much of the financial work off his hands.
"The hospital is utilitarian, but it has held up very well," Dr. Haag says. "The hardware is excellent. The floors and counters still aren't stained after 40 years." Still, the team needs more room. And parking is at a premium. The 16 spaces that were plenty for Dr. Zand's staff and customers in 1965 are crowded in 2007. Dr. Haag hopes to lease parking space from the Niles Historical Society next door. The once-convenient exit and entrance on Milwaukee Avenue is now sometimes snarled by increased traffic on the four-lane road. Without a nearby traffic light, the only other option is using the alley behind the hospital. Drs. Haag and Mey haven't made a decision on what to do about that yet.
The future of Golf-Mil Veterinary Hospital may include a new second story or an add-on first-floor room or two. The 42-year-old building is strong enough to support such additions, Dr. Haag says. "The building is amazing," he says. "An inspector looked at it and told us, 'They don't build them like this anymore.'"
Want to see before and after photos of the changes and continuity between 2007 and 1965? Check out the ...