Pouncey Tract Veterinary Hospital in Glen Allen, Va.

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Dr. Brad Zubowsky had a plan to own two hospitals ...

Dr. Brad Zubowsky had a plan to own two hospitals—13 years after settling into his first facility, he bought a plot of land nine miles away to house hospital number two. But one day, a mental light bulb flashed and he realized that owning two practices wasn't his thing. "I'm particular about how things look," he says. "Cigarette butts on the sidewalks, animal waste in the yard—I couldn't worry about what was going on at two practices." So his associates purchased his first practice, and he started from scratch with a new hospital. The situation, he says, worked out great for everyone. Dr. Zubowsky's new facility, Pouncey Tract Veterinary Hospital in Glen Allen, Va., won a Merit Award in the 2008 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition. His facility was also named best hospital in the 6,500-square-foot and smaller category.

(Photo by Lee Brauer, Lee Brauer Photography)

Time and budget crunches

Dr. Zubowsky and his team had to be out of their previous facility by Oct. 31, 2006, and be open for business at the new facility by the end of the year, a plan that Dr. Zubowsky says was a bit of a stretch. "I was going to be in trouble financially if we didn't meet that timetable," he says. The most difficult task was pushing to get the occupancy permits on time. "I grayed hair that year—building and selling—and if everything didn't go right, I was going to be the owner of two hospitals," he says.

And the inevitable happened: The project went over budget. "No matter what you do, every detail adds up," he says. "If a piece of equipment isn't installed on time, it costs money. Or if the Virginia Department of Transportation says you're going to put in a turn lane in front of your building, you have to put in a turn lane." During the 60 days before closing on the new building, installing that turn lane cost Dr. Zubowsky $87,000. If he hadn't completed the job, the VDOT would have refused to grant the occupancy permits. "Those are the things that give you ulcers," he says, "when you have to go back to the bank and say, 'Guys, I need another $90,000.'"

Exterior: The hospital was designed to have strong visual appeal on all four sides so that it matches the style and character of the neighborhood. The outcome was a building that looks more residential in character than a typical veterinary hospital. (Photo by Lee Brauer, Lee Brauer Photography)

(Photo by Lee Brauer, Lee Brauer Photography)

Another reason for high costs, Dr. Zubowsky says, was that the building had to be aesthetically pleasing from all four sides in order to comply with zoning restrictions and to please nearby residents. "We're an island surrounded by residential developments," he says. "And I wanted to be sure those folks were happy to have us here."

Zoning restrictions called for a brick exterior with no blank or empty walls—there had to be windows on all four sides of the building. But the kennel posed a problem because it backed up to a housing development. To combat noise, contractors built a glass-block wall inside the exterior wall, but from the outside, the windows looked just like rest of the hospital. "I was paranoid about the noise and wasn't sure how well the acoustic barriers would work," Dr. Zubowsky says. One day, when he had five howling Labs in the kennel, Dr. Zubowsky went outside, stood in the yard, and listened. From 10 feet away, he couldn't hear a thing—much to his relief.

Waiting area: Built-in bench seating allows for a comfortable view of the gas log fireplace. (Photo by Lee Brauer, Lee Brauer Photography)

Making improvements

The things that Dr. Zubowsky didn't like about his previous facility ended up being the inspiration for what he did include in his new building. To spark even more ideas, he asked his team members—some of whom had been with his practice for 17 years—what they wanted to see in a new hospital. He also asked them what they didn't like about the old building. At the top of their wish list was more of everything: treatment tables, exam rooms, and procedural areas.

Pouncey Tract Veterinary Hospital

In addition to a lack of space in the old building, traffic flow was a problem. So in the new hospital there are two side-by-side hallways leading to the exam rooms, which allow clients and pets to come and go without running into each other.

Dr. Zubowsky made an effort to improve on the size and flow of his practice, but he also made sure not to overlook the little details. New exam rooms feature built-in wood benches instead of chairs that can scuff the floor. The building is equipped with a central vacuum system and dustpans for quick and easy cleanup. Deliveries are left in a service room until the team can get to them—so delivery people don't bang up the practice's doors with their carts. The ventilation system was engineered to provide a continuous turnaround of air. Chrome edges and finishes in the medical areas of the hospital created a polished and professional look, Dr. Zubowsky says.

Dental suite: Ceramic tile floors, custom cabinets, and solid-surface countertops complete the dental suite. (Photo by Lee Brauer, Lee Brauer Photography)

Treatment area: A larger treatment area was tops on team members' list of must-haves in the new facility. (Photo by Lee Brauer, Lee Brauer Photography)

One new feature that Dr. Zubowsky particularly loves is the cat condos in the reception area. He has an agreement with the local humane society to house cats for about five days and find them homes. The program has been a hit with clients. "Not only do the cats engage clients in the waiting area," he says, "but they also bring comfort to someone who may have just lost their pet and is thinking of adopting a new one. It's a win-win situation."

It's also been a win-win situation for his practice and the surrounding neighborhood, despite the sticky design regulations he faced. Dr. Zubowsky didn't want anything about the look of his practice to lower the value of the homes around it, and he says it's actually improved home values in the area. "Everyone has been very happy with the facility," he says. "Clients even say, 'I wish it was my house.' It makes me happy that I accomplished what I set out to do."

Pouncey Tract Veterinary Hospital

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