A remodel to remember in Cape Cod


With its bold rooflines and floor-to-ceiling windows, this veterinary hospital could easily be mistaken for an upscale beach house. Talk about #hospitaldesigngoals.

In his veterinary renovation project, Dr. Burns wanted to blend modern influence with traditional Cape Cod architecture. He also wanted to gain visibility from Mid-Cape Highway and bring more natural light into the practice. We'd say installing the 30-foot-high bold rooflines complete with dozens of rectangular windows definitely achieved these goals. "We have much more ambient light during the day, and many people comment that the facility looks beautiful while illuminated at night," Dr. Burns says. (Photo courtesy of Steve Dunwell, Steve Dunwell Photography)

The team at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, just doesn't quit. That's right, they remained fully operational throughout a 7,980- square-foot renovation, kept clients and pets happy during the process and took home a 2016 Hospital Design Merit Award to boot.

How'd they pull it off? Thomas Burns, DVM, owner of this veterinary hospital-that could easily be mistaken for a gorgeous beach house-reveals some of the secrets to their success.

Go after what you want

If you know exactly what you want in your new hospital, don't be afraid to come right out and express your vision-no matter how crazy it may seem. Your architect will work with you on whittling down your wish list and setting realistic goals, but first you have to share your dream.


The treatment area was expanded and rearranged to provide better doctor/staff workflow and visibility from the practice manager's office, ICU and the pack-and-prep area. Some of the new treatment room features included custom cabinetry, finishes and lighting. Cost-saving tip: Use what you've got. Existing equipment was utilized to contain costs, including two stainless steel treatment tables. A dental area was added to isolate messy procedures. (Photo courtesy of Steve Dunwell, Steve Dunwell Photography)

For example, when Dr. Burns approached Warren Freedenfeld, AIA, of Rauhaus Freedenfeld & Associates in Boston, he had five guidelines in mind:

1. Design a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital and boarding facility on the existing site of the 40-year-old practice.

2. Add some serious curb appeal, integrating elements of the charming Cape Cod vernacular design.

Welcome to this warm reception area with unique cathedral ceilings (1) and large open spaces (2). The custom reception desk, with designated areas for check-in and checkout (3), is in the prime position for monitoring the entire area--including the clinic's retail alcove. Ocean-colored mosaic tile (4) decorates the front desk and pet paintings (5) line the surrounding walls. (Photo courtesy of Steve Dunwell, Steve Dunwell Photography)

3. Make the hospital visible from Mid-Cape Highway.

4. Stick to a limited budget.

5. Oh, and don't close our doors during any part of the process. 


Work through the madness

Dr. Burns admits that it was difficult to stay open during the renovation and addition phases. However, it helped that his clients were understanding and very encouraging throughout the process.

“I think some of our clients may have even felt part of the process, helping us to evolve to the next level of patient and client care,” Dr. Burns says. “Done right, it can even bond clients further to your facility.”

There weren't any secret plans in this hospital. His team shared the vision for the new facility with clients early on through architectural renderings in the lobby and social media platforms.

Share the good news

The Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod's team is very social. In fact, they took to Facebook to announce when new sections of the remodeled clinic were complete. One of their posts revealed that the eight (there were five originally) exam rooms were renovated and ready for patients.

"Do you like our new exam rooms?" one of the posts reads. "If not, we might take it a little personally-we have eight of them! The additional exam rooms in our new facility allow us to operate more efficiently. One of our many client care goals is to keep wait times down. Clients often remark that our wait times are minimal. After all, we value your time!"


Another update focused on the reception area and the clinic's cat-friendly practices.

"Looking forward to Monday morning! Our reception area is ready to serve you. Even the catwalk is ready in Exam Room 8! Max [the Macaw] and fish coming soon!"

“We've had a lot of positive feedback online regarding the new facility,” Dr. Burns says.

For the first time in the history of veterinary care, cats will not want to leave the exam room. Well, not this exam room anyway. "The dramatic new cat exam room incorporates a surrounding network of custom cat play structures," explained Warren Freedenfeld, AIA, in the hospital's competition entry notebook. We're talking a carpeted "catwalk" (1) that wraps around the room, a spiral staircase cat tree (2), a towel warmer and custom bench seating (3) for clients and cats. If you look out the window (4), you'll also spot bird feeders that are a perfect distraction for feline patients. (Photo courtesy of Steve Dunwell, Steve Dunwell Photography)

For starters hundreds of people have “liked” the new clinic online and dozens have shared their excitement about the new space:

Linda: Gosh, that is a beautiful place! I would love to have a home like that! Lucky animals!

Kathy: It looks great! See you for the kitties' annual soon!

Derek: Tigger can't wait! This will be his first vet visit!

Dianne: This is an amazing idea. With all the wonderful innovative additions to your clinic. You're the cutting edge of animal care!

Dr. Burns says this positive feedback is why it's so important to get your clients involved. After all, their pets are the reason for the remodel.

“Get clients enthused early in the process about your plans,” Dr. Burns says. “Soon they will become your biggest cheerleaders throughout the process.”

Want to see more photos of Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod? Click here for a photo galley.

Ashley Griffin is a freelance writer based in Kansas City and a former content specialist for dvm360.



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