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Out of the woods
This veterinary clinic fits in with its earthy surroundings.
The owners of Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic in Ballston Spa, N.Y., won a 2008 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition Merit Award with their brand-new, 9,554-square-foot veterinary facility. But the way they tell it, they should've won an award long ago for the highest production in the smallest space.
Drs. Eric Andersen and Danica Salamun, a husband-and-wife team, bought Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic not long after graduating from veterinary school in 1996 and 1998, respectively. After working for a short time in separate practices in Oregon, they'd moved east to be closer to family and immediately began asking about practices for sale. "We met the owner of this practice on our first trip," Dr. Andersen says. "A year later, we closed the deal."
Natural look: Set in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic fits in nicely with its environment. Earthy colors and materials give it the lodge feel the owners wanted. The facility sits on a high-visibility corner lot.
The only kink? Their "new" practice was located in a 1,200-square-foot facility built in 1932. "We were a very busy three-doctor practice with just two exam rooms," he says. In fact, the practice had no reception area. "Clients would walk in and sign their name in a book, then wait in line," says Dr. Andersen. "It was a very antiquated system, and we needed a change."
Rehabilitation room: This room is dedicated space for the underwater treadmill. The rest of the rehabilitation work for patients is done on the treatment area floor.
'Pay-as-you-go' goes well
A mile and a half away sat a corner lot with high visibility—something Drs. Andersen and Salamun's facility lacked. However, they needed to purchase the two adjacent properties from separate owners to make a lot big enough for a veterinary practice.
Exercise room: People get exercise, too, at this clinic. There's no underwater treadmill, but there is other equipment to help employees burn off stress.
Financially, Drs. Andersen and Salamun were in a good place. Their rent at the time was just $1,500 a month; with only six people on staff and a large clientele, overhead was low and production was high. But the couple still couldn't afford to put 20 percent down on the new facility all at once. Fortunately, the bank offered them a pay-as-you-go plan. The doctors worked hard to keep their production high and paid 20 percent of each building phase along the way. "All the money we generated during the building process went directly to our down payment," Dr. Salamun says.
A look at the numbers
The doctors made time to visit the practice in progress at least twice a day. But they always made sure these trips to the construction site were first thing in the morning, at lunch, or after hours so as to not interfere with client hours. Dr. Andersen made most of these trips in the beginning, while the basics were being hammered out. Dr. Salamun's time to shine came later, when she helped make many of the décor decisions.
Floor Plan: Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic
Merging with mountains
Situated at the edge of the Adirondack Mountains, Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic needed to fit into its environment. "We wanted the building to add to the community," Dr. Salamun says. And apparently, it worked. "Often when we try to give people directions to the clinic, they say they already know where we are because they remember the nice look of our facility."
Most importantly, the doctors designed a space large enough to accommodate their growing practice; they say they planned for 10 years of growth and will reassess future expansion then. Flow was also important. The hospital is laid out to facilitate traffic from public to staff areas and from minor procedures to major. A central circulation spine connects support spaces such as doctors' offices, storage, and wards, with clients moving from front to back for procedures. Dogs and cats (and their owners) wait in separate areas.
Dental suite: Doctors can perform dental procedures at Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic without Âdisrupting the rest of the treatment area, says Dr. Eric Andersen. The hydraulic wet table is "fantastic," he adds. Natural lighting and digital radiography round out the amenities.
"Once we got in place the basics that are essential to a good working environment, we were able to add the fun, personal touches that make it special and client-friendly," Dr. Salamun says. "For example, our large reception area, a meditation garden, and a special kids' room all cater to our clients."
Doctors' office: The first-floor doctors' office offers a bright, airy space for associates to return calls, catch up on paperwork, and get out of the treatment area for a bit. Each doctor has a space of his or her own. The practice also saved some money by buying furnishings online.
Dr. Salamun says she and architect Brad Rabinowitz worked together on selecting warm, earthy colors for the client areas of the hospital, fitting in with the mountain-lodge ambience of the building. "We wanted an Adirondack feel, something good-looking but not pretentious," she says.
Owners' office: The second floor didn't appear in the original floor plan. But it now includes separate offices for the owners connected by a bathroom with a shower. Dr. Salamun's office has a built-in corner day bed with storage for their children's toys, though Dr. Andersen admits he's napped there once or twice.
In the staff areas, she and Rabinowitz let loose with brighter colors and more whimsical designs, such as a checkerboard-patterned floor in the staff lounge. The doctors also sprang for a deck for staff relaxation time and an exercise room. The staff areas are all housed on the second floor, which wasn't included in the original plan. That plan had to be changed—zoning regulations on the lot restricted the size of the first floor and didn't accommodate a staff lounge or owners' offices. The only way for the builders to go was up.
Your hospital design source
Drs. Andersen and Salamun are thrilled with the outcome of all their hard work, but they give much of the credit to their knowledgeable construction team. "Our architect communicated well with us," Dr. Salamun says. "He really seemed to understand what we wanted, and we enjoyed a team effort on this project."
Sarah Moser is a freelance writer and editor in Lenexa, Kan. Please send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.