The best way to make room for veterinary equipment


The plan to build first, buy veterinary equipment later just won't cut it-and could cost you thousands of dollars more in the long run.

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Radiology done right at Bridgewater Veterinary Hospital in Bridgewater, N.J. (Paul Tighe, Normandy Studio)

It's a question Wayne Usiak, AIA, hears year after year: “Can't you just design for the worst-case scenario and then I'll pick the equipment after my new veterinary hospital is built?” The short answer is no, he says.

“There's really no rule of thumb you can use before you pick the equipment. You need to know what machine you want to use right down to the model number,” says Usiak, a senior partner of BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, N.M. “There are just too many variations across machines.”

A few electrical difficulties

To start, electrical service characteristics can drastically change your plans, Usiak says. Let's say your engineer dives in and designs the electrical service in your hospital, but then you later choose a piece of veterinary equipment that has a totally different set of electrical requirements. This could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in additional electrical equipment to accommodate your practice's needs, he says.

For example, some MRI machines are electromagnet, and others are permanent magnet. Permanent magnets are really heavy and require special structural force considerations underneath them, Usiak says. While electromagnets don't have these requirements, they do have other specific needs.

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Goodwin Animal Hospital & Pet Resort in Pike Road, Ala., opted for the hydrotherapy pool. (Gary Mattison)

Hydrotherapy hazards

When it comes to hydrotherapy, you need to decide whether you want an underwater treadmill, pool, or both for your veterinary practice. As you can probably guess, totally different kinds of infrastructures are required for these different rehabilitation options, Usiak says.

“Some veterinarians even want to install one of those endless pools-with a current that patients can swim against,” Usiak says.

However, Usiak warns there are many factors to think about when installing a hydrotherapy pool. For starters, he says, the pools will either be above ground requiring a ramp or stairs, or below ground, which comes with the added complexities of excavation, permanent construction, remote filtration equipment, and so on.

“You need to know what you're going to pick right down to the specific piece of equipment before we can design for it in terms of space, utility requirements, power characteristics, and infrastructure,” Usiak says.

That's why Usiak's planning advice involves less preparing for future equipment and more thinking about the services you want to provide from the start. Then, he says, you can go to your architect and say, “These are the two MRI machines I'm considering, these are the two CTs I'm deciding between, and this is how I envision rehab.”

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For rehab, All Pets Animal Hospital in Katy, Texas decided to go with an underwater treadmill. (VJ Arizpe of the Photo Shop)

Become well-equipped

If you narrow your choices down to a couple pieces of equipment, then your designers can advise accordingly. You may realize you don't need as much floor space for that model. Or you may choose a different piece of equipment because your favored model would require a whole new transformer.

Communicate with your architects and engineers about your equipment needs, and they can design an infrastructure that will be most cost effective, Usiak says.

Click the Next button for a list of quick questions to ask reguarding equipment in your remodel

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Animal Neurology, Rehab and ER Center in Commerce, Mich., is equipped with an underwater treadmill and overhead lift system for therapy sessions on larger, non-ambulatory patients (Jerry Olynksy, On Location Photography)

4 quick questions reguarding your remodel

Before you pick up the sledgehammer, Wayne Usiak, AIA, suggests discussing the following questions with your architect or engineer.

1. Can we get the equipment into the building?

2. Are our corridors wide enough and doorways adequate, or is an outside wall available?

3. Will my electrical service be adequate?

4. Will my floor support the equipment weight?

Remember: If you must remove a wall to enlarge a room, make sure it's not a supporting wall for the roof, Usiak says.

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