There is no way that as a veterinarian you can know all you need to know about the construction process, so you have to depend upon a cadre of people throughout the duration of the project. After the building is complete, you will be living with the product they helped you put together. For this reason, it’s important that you find a team of people you can depend on, and that you also have an easy and immediate relationship with. The two key players in the design process are the architect and the contractor. Coupled with the practice owner they form the triad that drives the project. Here's more from Mark Hafen at the 2012 Hospital Design Conference held in conjunction with CVC Kansas City.
Architect. The architect is your ally and the first and most critical component of the design team that you will retain. He or she should be a resource that knows the issues you face in building or expanding a veterinary facility and can guide you through the design process. Ideally, the architect should have firsthand experience in the design and construction of a veterinary facility. He or she should be a good listener and be responsive and sensitive to your needs. The architect will often retain structural, mechanical and electrical engineers who will work for him or her to provide the necessary design and engineering. While using a “veterinary design expert” is not a requirement, many practice owners find that it’s worth the investment.
Contractor. This person is responsible for actually building the project. He or she will also be responsible for developing a price for the project and will most likely be the intermediary between you and the local government agency. The contractor will be responsible for permits during the construction and for securing the final Certificate of Occupancy. After the architect, the contractor is probably the second major player that needs to be retained.
Other members of the team are selected and assembled by the architect or contractor and might never meet or talk to you:
- Attorney. Someone to watch out for your legal position, rights, responsibilities, and commitments.
- Accountant/practice management consultant. While a consultant is not required, an accountant is. Many veterinarians are conversant when it comes to the economics of a project, but often there are tax ramifications that are significant. A consultant can bring a fresh perspective or can help you avoid project or practice pitfalls.
- Banker/lenders. Financing is critical to your project viability. Establish a relationship with a reputable lender early in the project.
- Realtor. If you are expanding on an existing site, then a realtor is not required, but with a new acquisition they are necessary. Be sure your Realtor represents your interests.
- Facilitator/planner. You may need to retain a facilitator who knows the politics of building in your selected location. This is more frequently the case in urban, highly-developed sites. This person can help you get through the zoning, planning, and building department with the minimum amount of pain and anguish.
- Civil engineer. This person is retained directly by the practice owner. The civil engineer’s responsibility is to work with the architect to design and engineer the site development work, grading, and storm drainage.
- Soils engineer. He or she will be the one to investigate the buildability of the soils on your site.
- Surveyor. An accurate and current survey is critical to every project.
- Owner’s representative. On occasion, practice owners find it helpful to retain an expert to help them keep track of the project and assist with decisions.
- Construction manager. Sometimes a construction manager can be retained to help keep an eye on the construction process.
- Special inspector. Often building departments and even banks require that you have special inspectors monitor construction. Talk to either or both when you are in the process of “pulling” the permit to determine if this will be required.
These people are here to guide you from establishing a program to the completed building. Their collective experience and knowledge will speed you through the process. Retain people who have experience and knowledge in the design and construction of veterinary facilities. They bring value, will streamline the process, help you make good decisions, and ultimately help you avoid pitfalls. Your responsibility as the practice owner is to ask good questions, listen carefully, and make decisions in a timely manner.