Is 1,400 square feet too small for a veterinary clinic?


A tight leasehold footprint could squeeze out this prospective practice owner.

If you watched the Home and Garden TV channel, you've likely seen a new trend in home design-tiny houses. (Click here to see them. You want to, trust me. They're AWESOME.) These homes, often built on 200 square feet or less, maximize their potential by creatively using hidden storage or multipurpose items in as many places as possible.

Is the same possible for a veterinary practice?

At 200 square feet? Honestly, probably not.

But our experts might have good news for a Veterinary Economics reader who wants to know if a great hospital can fit in 1,400 square feet of leasehold space.

Double the fun!

Using one space for many functions maximizes what can be done with a small space. Animal Emergency Center of West Houston in Houston, Texas, has a combination treatment area, pharmacy, laboratory, ICU and doctor's workstation-all in 450 square feet-according to Wayne Usiak, AIA, NCARB, of BDA Architecture. Separately, he says, those spaces would take use between 750-800 square feet, or 40 percent more space.

This area serves as space for five different functions at Animal Emergency Center of West Houston, saving them space on their floor plan.

Make your architect work!

Location is key in choosing where to set up your practice, but remember it's not forever. In many cases, a startup won't stay in the exact same spot through the years as it matures into a bigger business. So, if the small space offers the best option to establish the business, find a way to make it work, Usiak says.

“Make it your architect's job to identify everything critical to support your business, then to creatively find a way to get it all in the available space,” Usiak says. “Think of it like a sailboat. In just 500 square feet, sailboats have four staterooms, a galley, a living room and a couple bathrooms, and they're suitable for eight people to live on. They do this by using every available nook and cranny.”

The treatment area at Melrose Animal Clinic in Melrose, Mass.


Watch the width!

It's not just about the total square footage, warns Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, of Animal Arts. Keep an eye on how wide the space is.

“I recommend caution if the space is less than 24 feet wide,” Lewis says. “Very narrow spaces tend to be tough. That said, it's reasonable to at least do a first pass at a floor plan to test the viability of your 1,400-square-foot space.”

The treatment area at Melrose Animal Clinic in Melrose, Mass.

With smart design, Lewis suggests that a 1,400-square-foot clinic could contain the following:

> Two to three exam rooms

> Two treatment stations

> Surgery room

> Radiology room

> Small ward space

> Reception area

> Small office/break space



Slow your roll!

Not every architect agree that 1,400 square feet is a smart investment. Take Dan Chapel, AIA, NCARB, of Chapel Associates Architects, for instance. He suggests that for a typical two-exam-room clinic with minimal animal housing and staff areas, you don't do less than 2,400 square feet.

Melrose Animal Clinic made a smaller leasehold space work for them, even winning the People's Choice award from the Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition in 2013.

To make the above calculation, he uses a “rule of thumb” that multiplies the desired number of exam rooms by 1,000 to 1,200 square feet. The results of this calculation contain the number of square feet necessary to practice “normal” veterinary medicine, he says.

“Working that formula backward, in 1,400 square feet (roughly the size of two two-car garages), there would be room for one exam room-but just barely,” Chapel says. “There would be medical functions the practice couldn't provide and decisions about what to leave out that would have to be made.”


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