Quadrupling the square footage of this veterinary hospital required some fancy footwork for Winslow Animal Hospital in Sicklerville, N.J.
With revenue doubling twice in a mere six years and one expansion already under his belt, Dr. Philipe Coudrai knew it was time to build a bigger facility. He’d started his practice in a 2,000-square-foot ranch home with just two exam rooms and had quickly run out of space. Winslow Animal Hospital in Sicklerville, N.J., added two exam rooms, but even that didn’t offer enough room.
“I realized that the exam rooms are where we generate the hospital’s principal revenue, so we needed a much larger facility to handle the continuing growth in my community,” Dr. Coudrai says.
So Dr. Coudrai found a site half a mile from the original facility with five acres of land and an existing ranch home. He purchased the site in 2005; in 2006, he relocated surgery and dental suites to the 1,000-square-foot house on the property, and began his expansion plans in earnest. For four years the team transported pets to and from this surgery center in a cargo van while continuing to grow the business and planning the new construction. “The rancher served as a bridge between the old facility and the 10,500-square-foot facility we occupy today,” Dr. Coudrai says.
The new building not only gave his practice room to grow, it also earned Dr. Coudrai a Veterinary Economics 2011 Hospital Design Competition Merit Award. Judges particularly noted the practice’s well-thought-out floor plan, pleasant reception area, and attractive finish materials.
When you’re going from a four-exam-room, 2,000-square-foot clinic to a hospital with 10 exam rooms, foot fatigue is a real concern. In an effort to save staff members’ feet, Dr. Coudrai put extra effort into designing a floor plan free of unnecessary steps. “Minimizing walking distances for staff members saves time, saves their feet, and helps everyone be more productive,” he says.
For example, he designed the reception desk to sit a mere 20 feet away from the lab to keep receptionists’ walking manageable when they’d dropped off urine or stool samples brought in by clients. “I also wanted the doctors to be easily accessible and close to the work areas, so I placed the doctors’ office immediately adjacent to the treatment room with windows on three walls for greater visibility,” Dr. Coudrai says. He also modified the pod concept by running five exam rooms along each of two hallways, connected by a work station, which was then intersected with the reception area and lab-pharmacy. “A lot of practices line their exam rooms up one long hallway, but I think that stretches things out too far,” he says. “This modified design makes more sense for us and keeps everything accessible.”
Photos by Stavra Kalina, Stavra Kalina Photography
RESEARCH BRINGS REWARDS
For four years, Dr. Coudrai performed research to help plan his perfect hospital. A 4-inch-thick binder holds years’ worth of Veterinary Economics Hospital Design articles saved in plastic sheets for easy reference. “I highlighted what I liked and presented the articles to my architect and interior designer,” he says. “Visiting other recently built animal hospitals was a critical resource as well. I asked other owners what they would have done differently and tried to learn from their mistakes.”
Dr. Coudrai also learned about veterinary hospital design by attending the Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference—twice. “The things I learned during the lectures helped me communicate my vision to my architect,” he says.
The research didn’t stop there. When it came to designing the reception area—and choosing the general feel for the entire practice—Dr. Coudrai cites a common refrain from consultant Mark Opperman, CVPM. “I remember Mark Opperman saying, ‘Do you want your practice to be a Ritz Carlton or a Motel 6?’” Dr. Coudrai says. “Of course, I wanted to be a Ritz Carlton, and that thought shaped my practice philosophy.”
While he didn’t want to chase away clients by making them think the practice was overpriced, he did want the building to evoke a spalike feel. Between the color selection, the waterfall feature in the reception area, an expansive waiting area with decorative columns and varied lighting features, and the use of decorative tiles, the practice offers a relaxing atmosphere.
“Clients love the design, and we can definitely tell that pets are less stressed immediately upon entering,” he says. “More space and lots of natural light set the mood for a much more relaxing visit. And this mood extends to our clients and staff members, making for a better experience all around.
Despite the construction project going on all around them, the doctors and team members managed to keep the practice up and running the entire time, thanks in part to a complicated, phased-construction plan. First, the crew built the entire expansion. Once finished, surgery moved into the new facility. And thus began an eight-month rotation of services, moving in and out of spaces and waiting for various parts of the hospital to be finished.
“It took a whole year of planning to make it work this well, but we never missed a single day of work,” Dr. Boulay says.
RAISING THE LEVEL OF CARE
In keeping with the practice’s efforts to raise the level of care for all pets, the doctors included a conference center that seats 150 for all kinds of continuing education efforts. The hospital offers CE for local veterinarians, team members, and the general public, and they hope to eventually hold national meetings.
“We want to give back to our community by helping educate them about all things pet-related,” Dr. Boulay says. “The local community has provided us with a successful practice. The more you raise the level of expertise in the community, the more the pets benefit.”
Dr. Boulay says the doctors see their practice as an extension of the veterinary community at large. Family veterinarians are specialists in their own right, he says, and he wants his practice to be seen as an extension of that care. “When general practitioners need more specialized care or equipment that they can’t provide in-house, we want to share in getting that pet healthy again,” he says. “We don’t want to take the place of that veterinarian, but to work with him or her to give patients the most comprehensive and advanced care they may need. And this facility is a great way to offer the best care possible.”
Winslow Animal Hospital
640 Sicklerville Rd.
Sicklerville, NJ 08081
Owner: Dr. Phillipe Coudrai
Associates: 4 full time, 1 part time
Hospital team: 19 full time, 16 part time
Practice type: Small animal
Building size: 10,500 square feet
Exam rooms: 10
Runs: 11 hospital indoor
Parking spaces: 25 client, 25 staff
Construction: $1.6 million (building only; excludes land purchase, landscaping, parking lot, etc.)
Land purchase: $451,000
Site improvement: $643,887
Professional fees: $466,197
Year built: 2009
Jeffrey Grogan, Jeffrey L. Grogan Architects
906 Fayette St.
Conshohocken, PA 19428
A touch of tranquility: The expansive reception area evokes a spalike feel, putting pets and clients at ease. Decorative mosaic floor tile leads clients to the reception desk, which features quartz countertops.
Park it: Park bench seating in the exam rooms continues the relaxing feel of the reception area.
Let the light in: The treatment area features four skylights for natural lighting, a must-have feature for Dr. Coudrai.
Walking in water: Located just off the waiting area in the canine rehabilitation and puppy training room, clients can peek in at the aquatic treadmill and watch treatments while waiting, enhancing client awareness of rehabilitation services.