Building small? Don't shrink yourself into a corner

January 31, 2018
Dan Chapel, AIA, NCARB

Dan Chapel is president of Chapel Associates in Little Rock, Ark., a nationally recognized firm specializing in animal facility design. His firm has participated in the design of more than 500 veterinary hospitals, boarding kennels, and animal shelters. Past projects include two Veterinary Economics Hospitals of the Year and several Merit Award winners. Chapel is a nationally recognized expert in the field of veterinary architecture, and has served as a featured speaker on topics of animal facility design at all major veterinary conferences. He has spoken at every Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference since 1981 and has served on the Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board since 1985. For a list of articles and video by Chapel, click here.

Veterinary architect Dan Chapel has squeezed a practice into a Winnebago but ultimately says that the size of your hospital should be driven by what you want to accomplish inside.

If you're trying to save money by cutting square footage wherever possible, Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference speaker Dan Chapel, AIA, NCARB, says it can be done-to a point. Chapel likens the scenario to the "tiny house" craze.

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"You can do a lot of things in a very small space if you're very creative, particularly with storage," he says.

How low can you go?

Stashing inventory and gear can only get you so far, however. Eliminating floor space will eventually lead to a point where there simply isn't enough room to perform the basic functions of a veterinary hospital.

Take your exam rooms, for example. No matter how savvy you are with storage, you'll still need space for a table, the pet, the client, the client's kids and the client's ginormous handbag, Chapel says. Don't squeeze yourself into a corner and prevent your practice from providing the all of the services you want to give your patients and clients.

Chapel says that the historic rule of thumb has been to budget for 1,000 to 1,200 square feet of total footprint per exam room, though he's seen that allowance go as low as 800-but not without sacrifices.

"Oftentimes, in those sizes, I have to come back to you and ask, 'Doctor, what can you do without?'" he says.

Watch the video for more details on small, sensible design: