Simple approach: Stunning results


Sometimes a simple approach is best. Such is the case with the Animal Clinic of Sterling Heights in Sterling Heights, Mich., which features clean lines and an uncluttered approach to design.

Walk into some veterinary practices and you might feel right at home. Patients' pictures adorn the walls, colorful fabric covers the benches and chairs in the lobby, and bright, cheery walls welcome clients to the practice. The Animal Clinic of Sterling Heights in Sterling Heights, Mich., is not like many practices, however. Practice owner Dr. John Wilson took a streamlined, minimalist approach when designing his new facility, an unusual approach that paid off, gaining the practice a 2009 Hospital Design Competition Merit Award.



The first thing clients notice when they approach the facility is the large glass curtain wall that surrounds the client waiting area. This striking feature bathes the lobby in natural light and provides a bold contrast between the front of the building and the brick rear. A look into the lobby reveals stark white walls, industrial lighting, and gray bench seating. Exam rooms contain similar design features, save for one colorfully painted wall in each room.

So why the minimalist approach? Dr. Wilson's primary goal was to impress clients with the practice's service, not its fancy design. "We wanted to build a very nice building, but more importantly, we wanted to be able to move people in and out to minimize client waiting," Dr. Wilson says. "Our focus was on efficiency." So after careful planning and discussions with his architect, Dr. Wilson decided that he wasn't interested in a huge, elaborate building. He preferred to dedicate most of his time and money to build a simple, sustainable facility that provided maximum impact.


This philosophy carries over into the doctor and team member areas. Free from clutter and distractions, employees can focus all of their energy on treating patients and providing high-quality customer service. And the building lives up to Dr. Wilson's description as an "efficient envelope," with features like low-emissivity glass, lighting occupancy sensors, and higher-than-normal insulation values in both the roof and walls.

A look at the numbers

So far Dr. Wilson's vision has paid dividends. He projects revenues to be up 10 percent this year, and both clients and employees are thrilled with the building. "Many clients came to us in spite of the old building," he says. "They appreciate the new one very much." The facility has also sparked improvement in employee retention and recruitment. "The flow is well-thought-out and works for the volume we have," Dr. Wilson says. "It helps the general attitude of the staff."


For the most part, the construction process was painless, Dr. Wilson says. A preexisting relationship with the project architect helped him relax and leave many of the nitty-gritty details to the experts. "At the beginning of the project, we talked about philosophy," Dr. Wilson says. "I told him, 'You present to me what you think will work.'" Dr. Wilson's trusting ways resulted in an environmentally friendly, efficient building that fits in perfectly with the growing neighborhood—a mix of commercial, industrial, and residential architecture.

While Dr. Wilson has a few minor regrets—he wonders if perfect veterinary flooring even exists—there are very few things he'd change about the Animal Clinic of Sterling Heights. And why would he? Team members are happy, clients rarely wait for more than a few minutes, and business is thriving. "The best part of the project was seeing my ideas come to life," Dr. Wilson says. "You think about these things for months and years, so to see your own experiment put into place is exciting."

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