Turn your veterinary practice green

Turn your veterinary practice green

No, not with paint. Veterinary architect and green machine Heather Lewis has ideas to make your veterinary practice friendlier for the environment, your patients and, yes, you.

Natural light is more than welcome at 2017 Hospital of the Year McGregor Boulevard Veterinary Clinic in Fort Myers, Florida. Photo courtesy of Stuart Gobey, Island Studio PhotographyLet’s be real here: We all want to work in spaces that make us feel better. That’s why going green is so important to the interior quality of the space you’re in. Much of the time, people consider green actions to be saving resources or reducing energy, and those activities are important, but no one really thinks about how it affects your experience with space. Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, partner at Animal Arts in Boulder, Colorado, and HospitalDesign360 speaker, has three green ideas to share with you, and explains why they’re the better choice.

No. 1: Hit the lights

Raise your hand (to shield your eyes) if you’re not a fan of artificial lighting. Lewis is with you all the way.

“We all want to work in spaces full of daylight, not artificial light,” she says. Because of this universal truth, Lewis says the availability of natural light is something you should take into consideration before your practice is built or bought. “Natural lighting makes such a big difference. Thinking about it from day one is important—it’s difficult because clients want things a certain way, but that doesn’t mean having an overlay right out of the gate could hurt.”

Upgrading the lighting, whether going natural or upgrading your fluorescents, Lewis says, is a great way to physically create positive change. “High-quality light fixtures use so much less energy than they used to,” she explains. “The most savings comes from lighting systems—you can save tons by investing in lighting.”

No. 2: Greener means cleaner

Another pro tip Lewis has to offer: Switch up your cleaning products.

“Choosing materials and finishes that don’t give off gas or using greener cleaning material that’ll help indoor air quality can help a veterinary practice exponentially,” Lewis says. “There are a lot of compelling reasons to consider it, the biggest one being the benefit for veterinarians, since they spend so much time at work in those spaces.”

In other words, it has to do with good work spaces as well as good cleaning features. “If you’re using bleach or something that makes a lot of smells, that’s harmful for you and the animals around you. And a lot of other things we use to clean are harmful, inside and out. Let’s make a decision that’s good for the environment and good for us,” Lewis says.

No. 3: Site seeing

There are going to be instances where you simply cannot make the greener choice when building your hospital. That’s why Lewis says to look at the opportunities that already exist around you.

“A green move would be to choose an existing building to make into your veterinary hospital,” Lewis says. “This is actually a really big picture way of recycling. The greenest building is the one that’s already there.”

If you’re having trouble finding the ready-made veterinary hospital of your dreams, Lewis says to pay attention to the configuration of the site you’re considering. “If you only have access to the north side of the building, and you’re already in a northern building, you can’t use daylight. If that’s a priority to you, talk about it when you’re making first decisions. Think about what site you’re buying or where you’re building,” she says.