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5 ways to keep costs down while building


Veterinary design projects are a serious investment. Use these tips from Dan Chapel AIA, NCARB, to help you keep it manageable in the process.

Face it: Building or remodeling can feel like you're spending money left and right. Save some money with Dan Chapel's tips. (Getty Images)1. Don't build more than you need

Chapel suggests designating 1,000 to 1,200 square feet per exam room, but if you cut it down to 800 or 900 square feet and you reduce hospital size by as much as 25 percent. Here are some space-saving strategies:

Exam room pods. Use high-density scheduling. Arrange three or four exam rooms to allow your medical team to work them simultaneously. Consider a single-door approach to save space by eliminating one of the exam room access hallways.

Resource room. This multi-purpose room can be accessible to reception, treatment and doctor's offices to be used as a library, meeting space, client consultation space or a staff workspace.

Greeter's station. Checkout can happen anywhere these days, especially in exam rooms. This lets the receptionist break out of the typical front desk. A greeter could interact with, and direct, clients from a much smaller greeting kiosk with a smaller footprint.

Practical ward space. Building too much hospital ward space is a common mistake, Chapel says. Be realistic about how much hospitalization you really do and dedicate the space saved to other areas of the hospital.

2. Measure twice, cut once for your land and your building

Buying the right piece of land can save you a lot of money. Before you buy, make sure you can build without excessive expenses like blasting rock and access to utilities, Chapel says. Thoroughly planning-with an experienced team of professional design consultants-in the pre-construction process can minimize the need for potentially costly change orders.

3. Set a smart timeline

Allow a reasonable amount of flexibility for a project to be finished. Delivery delays, inclement weather and other problems out of your control are part of construction survival, Chapel says, however, trying to force the acceleration of a project, though additional workers or overtime will add to costs. Expediting equipment and materials, or asking for special delivery times increases material costs. Rushing through a project are when mistakes occur, and often cost additional money to be corrected.

4. Scrutinize your systems

Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems can be two-thirds the total cost of your hospital (the other one-third are architectural elements). Sometimes engineers specify some of the most expensive fixtures or system components in the market. Chapel suggests seeing if your architect and engineer can work together to substitute less-expensive products if they perform in a similar manner. Here are other things to consider for a more affordable MEP system:

Heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. Depending on your type of medicine you practice and how many animals you house, consider reducing your system's air-change rates-maybe even a smaller unit.

Air filtration. Consider removing or reducing this. HEPA filtration-while nice-isn't always necessary in general practice surgery rooms.

Floor drains and sloped floors. Add these judiciously. They're expensive. If you skip floor drains and sloped floors, you can also use less-expensive flooring materials in those areas.

5. Shop for affordability

Furnishings and equipment are a huge expense in any veterinary project. Chapel suggests these cost-saving shopping tips:

Wait to buy equipment. Do you need all of the toys this instant, or could you wait until you've recovered some of the construction expense?

Bundle as many items as possible through your suppliers and distributors.

Check for “scratch and dent” or discontinued items for sale at reduced prices.

Purchase prefabricated items. Specially designed dental or wet tables are usually much more affordable than custom-made units.

Think outside the “veterinary box.” Stainless steel sinks, tables and counters from the dairy or restaurant industries can work just as well in animal hospitals.

Investigate used equipment.

Negotiate for the best price.

Reduce the amount of cabinetry you need.

Purchase serviceable-but inexpensive-furniture like chairs, tables and mirrors from big-box stores like IKEA. Are they bruised and beaten-up? Buy new ones.

Now go forth, armed with your cost-cutting knowledge and get to planning the project of your dreams!

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