Conference room: The 430-square-foot conference room is an important room in the hospital, says Dr. Dwight Gaudet. "From
operational decisions to performance evaluations to interviewing, everything happens in the conference room," he says. The
carpet (at left) makes the room cozy and comfortable. (Photos by William Porter, William Porter Photography; and Doug Cody,
Bay Area Event Photography)
With 13 owners, 16 associates, and nearly 200 employees, Veterinary Surgical Associates and Veterinary Medical Specialists
could run the risk of losing the personal touch. One facility big enough to house all those people—and the animals they care
for—would be enormous. That's why managing partner Dr. Dwight Gaudet and his colleagues have expanded their practice into
separate buildings throughout the San Francisco area. "We branched out into multiple sites so that we didn't become too big
in any one location," says Dr. Gaudet. "We don't want to lose a sense of community and familiarity as a team, and we don't
want to give the impression of being impersonal to clients either."
Treatment area: A workspace that measures 890 square feet, the treatment area includes an island of cages for centralized
care coordination and outpatient housing. (Photos by William Porter, William Porter Photography; and Doug Cody, Bay Area Event
As a result, the practice consists of four separate facilities. That said, this facility in Campbell, Calif., won a 2008 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition Merit Award. And it isn't small at all. It boasts nearly 13,000 square feet.
Building for better business
Special procedures: The 160-square-foot special procedures room features a wall-mounted anesthesia unit and an alcove for
out-of-the-way positioning of the endoscopy tower. (Photos by William Porter, William Porter Photography; and Doug Cody, Bay
Area Event Photography)
In the San Francisco area, finding space to build from the ground up is next to impossible—and cost-prohibitive to boot. After
conducting geographic studies, the doctors narrowed their ideal location for the newest facility to a 10-mile radius, keeping
in mind that most clients don't like crossing bridges or going through tunnels to conduct their daily business. The four hospitals
are networked together with 20 to 30 miles separating them from each other.
Isolation: Cubbies above the cages keep towels organized. (Photos by William Porter, William Porter Photography; and Doug
Cody, Bay Area Event Photography)
When Dr. Gaudet and his team found a church facility for sale in the heart of their ideal practice location, they jumped at
the chance to buy. While a church might seem an unlikely choice for a veterinary practice, Dr. Gaudet says that after gutting
the building, they didn't face any big design issues. Their main design philosophy? Take care of your team members, and they'll
take better care of patients and your business. "We try to maintain an ecologic perspective to what we do," he says. "Everything
is interrelated and interconnected. The environment we work in affects us in a subliminal way. Things like sound control,
aesthetics, and the quality of materials can affect staff turnover, burnout, and employee satisfaction. We keep our physical
environment and our emotional environment front of mind when designing a facility."
Floor Plan (Photos by William Porter, William Porter Photography; and Doug Cody, Bay Area Event Photography)
For example, the Veterinary Surgical Associates and Veterinary Medical Specialists (VSA/VMS) team members enjoy great sound
control with plenty of insulation; tile and stone elements that give the facility a sense of warmth and the outdoors; water
fountains that calm and soothe; and warm, inviting furnishings and artwork that provide a balance between refined and comfortable.
Exam rooms: Small radius-edged exam tables take up little space in the exam rooms, as doctors prefer to examine most patients
on the floor. Each of the eight exam rooms features a flat-screen monitor mounted on a swing arm for data input and client
education. (Photos by William Porter, William Porter Photography; and Doug Cody, Bay Area Event Photography)
Another example of how practice members play into the design: The staff break room and conference room are loaded with comfort
and style. "Colleagues often talk to me about expenditures, about not wanting to spend much on these aspects of the practice,"
says Dr. Gaudet. "I remind them that we spend much of our lives here, so we ought to enjoy it."
Learning by doing—again and again
Exterior: Built into the shell of a former church, Veterinary Surgical Associates and Veterinary Medical Specialists sits
between residential and industrial areas in the heart of the doctors' desired south San Francisco Bay location. The 12,976-square-foot
facility offers dual entrances for the two practice entities and plenty of space for growth. (Photos by William Porter, William
Porter Photography; and Doug Cody, Bay Area Event Photography)
The team members at VSA/VMS aren't amateurs when it comes to building projects. Having weathered eight construction projects
in just nine years, they've learned a few lessons. And they've just learned even more, having recently completed construction
on a 16,000-square-foot facility in Dublin, Calif. In addition, they'll tackle an expansion project at another facility. The
practice had previously leased space to an emergency clinic; that clinic is now moving to an adjoining building, freeing up
space for the VSA/VMS critical care department to expand.
Dr. Gaudet, one of the original two co-founders of VSA/VMS in 1992, says that the high tuition for such lessons pays a dividend
in accomplishing more and more of what the team initially envisioned. "Each time we build, we make mistakes and learn from
those mistakes," he says. "Experience is the best teacher—though a very expensive one! The process does get easier, but we
also face new challenges each time."