My community helps me re-energize

March 23, 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.

Learning and networking at veterinary conferences helps me recharge my batteries.

One of the guiding principles in my work life is to keep clients front of mind. In architecture school, the discussion of lofty, esthetic features of a building always wins out over mundane issues like a building's functional design, cost or maintenance. Seldom mentioned is the client, who will pay for these buildings. I imagine veterinarians may share a similar experience in veterinary school, where the emphasis may be on providing a solid medical education and the client is an amorphous idea instead of a real pet owner. We both must use our training and experience to assist clients. As a veterinary architect, my goal is to help the client construct the most functional, attractive, cost-effective building possible. 

With my wife, Shelly, in Maine. | Photos courtesy of Dan Chapel

Organization is the key to efficiency

The artistic side of architecture is certainly more sexy than the clerical nuts and bolts of the architectural office. Still, I wish I'd learned the art of organizing project work and the importance of good note- and record-keeping earlier in my career. I'm often juggling design work on several veterinary hospital projects at one time, and these projects are all in different stages of completion with different timelines. Good project organization is the key to the successful, efficient, stress-free and yes, profitable delivery of veterinary design services. After more than 40 years of practice, I'm still trying to master this facet of my business.

Beaux Chapel, feline project consultant.

Inspiration through community

This sounds like I'm seriously flattering the team at the Fetch dvm360 and HospitalDesign360 conferences, but I swear this is true-I get inspired every time I attend a veterinary conference-especially a veterinary hospital design conference. I've dedicated my entire professional life to helping veterinarians design and build the best animal care facilities possible, and it's fun and motivating to interact with past, present and potential clients. I also think everyone enjoys sharing their expertise (read: showing off). I get to do that through presentations and one-on-one design sessions. After all these years, I still get excited as I prepare my talks and anticipate the conferences I attend.

With my son Tristan after the Arkansas 5A state championship.

Zen-and efficiency-through the to-do list

My efficiency tip is to create a daily or weekly to-do list. This need for structure probably originates somewhere in my military background. The to-do list is a time-honored system that's beautiful in its simplicity: work out what needs to be done and in what order, write down the tasks, do them, then cross them out. My family thinks I'm crazy, but I would be much more so without my to-do lists. They've helped me function for years.

Dan Chapel is president of Chapel Associates in Little Rock, Arkansas, a nationally recognized firm specializing in animal facility design. His firm has participated in the design of more than 750 veterinary hospitals, boarding kennels and animal shelters. He is also a frequent speaker the HospitalDesign360 conference.