Urban edge, green style


The city is best known for its steel production, but Pittsburgh, Pa., has a new crop of buildings that strive to be environmentally friendly. East End Veterinary Medical Centre brought this approach to veterinary medicine, with pleasing results.

In a city that ranks among the highest in the United States in LEED-certified square footage, one veterinary practice is well on its way to claiming that green-living title for its own. East End Veterinary Medical Centre in Pittsburgh, Pa., enjoys not only a clean floor plan but also an environmentally sound approach to construction—with a decidedly artistic flair. The leasehold practice, co-owned by Drs. Andrea Cangin and Kenneth Fisher, earned a 2009 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition Merit Award for its well-thought-out plan, great use of space, and strong use of color.


When Drs. Fisher and Cangin met in 2005, they quickly realized they held similar ideas about the type of practice they each wanted to own. "We were on the same page philosophically about practice management and about how to build a practice," Dr. Fisher says. "I never really wanted to go it alone. I've seen a lot of people burnt out with solo practice. I have a family and wanted a good balance between the two, so sharing the load was the way to go."

Photos courtesy of evolveEA and Drs. Kenneth Fisher and Andrea Cangin

With a few years of experience under their belts—along with opinions on how (and how not) to practice—they decided it was time to open their own clinic. One thing they decided right away was to physically separate the front and back of the hospital to create a clear division between client areas and staff areas. "We want to keep our focus on our appointments, without distraction from clients who catch us in the hallway," Dr. Fisher says. To keep communication flowing, the doctors installed an intercom system. If an urgent situation arises, the doctors can answer via intercom or direct receptionists to put clients in an exam room, where they can talk in private as the schedule allows.

Reception area: The desk and ceiling are the focal points of the reception area, with a built-in fish tank in the reception desk and a lower ceiling over the desk to shade the sun. The lowered ceiling also extends to the vertical opposing wall, becoming shelving at the window and a display system behind the desk.

In a 3,000-square-foot leasehold facility, space is at a premium. This, too, influenced the doctors' design decisions. For example, they installed pocket doors between exam rooms and the treatment area to save space. One minor drawback to this decision is that the doors aren't as soundproof as regular doors, but they were necessary for their convenience in tight spaces.

The room is built to resemble an art gallery more than a pet hospital, complete with artwork on loan from nearby galleries.

But what drove the building most was the doctors'—and their architect's—desire to design with the earth in mind. "We didn't plan to go green from the outset," Dr. Fisher says, "but the plan evolved because of the architect we chose. The more she explained her ideas, the more we realized how good it would be for our practice and the setting we're in.

Floor Plan: East End Veterinary Medical Centre


To continue the envioronmentally friendly efforts, the project architect chose recycled drywall and built into the contract a plan for reducing on-site construction waste. The design team also used low-VOC content when possible, no-added-formaldehyde plywood for the casework and architectural highlights throughout the facility, and a drop ceiling containing recycled content. "Much of the work involved in making our practice green fell to the contractors," says Dr. Cangin. "It wasn't really much more expensive for us, though we didn't compare all the prices; it was just more work for the builders to find recycled materials or dispose of our waste properly."

Space to sell: With little square footage to work with, the doctors have made efforts to use every square inch. Here, shelving is used to display retail products in the reception area, blending functionality with the practice's interesting architectural features.

The doctors' efforts to create a green practice didn't stop with the building materials—they also extended to equipment, including practice management software. "Right off the bat we agreed on going paperless," Dr. Cangin says. "I liked the software I had used at another practice and wanted to use that here."

A look at the numbers

The doctors also chose to install a digital radiography system with the knowledge that fewer chemicals and materials make for a better environment. "The digital radiography was a bigger upfront expense, but that's the way the veterinary industry is going, and Dr. Cangin and I really liked the idea of reducing waste in our practice," Dr. Fisher says.

Exam rooms: The computers, screens, and equipment are all built directly into the cabinets in the exam rooms. Bold colors and built-in benches give the room an artistic feel. Clients enter through traditional doors, while the doctors use pocket doors to enter from the treatment area.


Located on Ellsworth Avenue, an area of Pittsburgh known for its art galleries, the veterinary practice stands out—and fits into its environment. "Our reception area has a gallery feel to it," Dr. Fisher says. "We've decorated it with artwork that we've purchased as well as pieces that nearby galleries have donated or loaned to us or that our contractor gave us. It's a win-win arrangement for all."

Runs: The doctors paid special attention to animals' health needs by including features like nonslip flooring, individually controlled radiant floor heating, and dimmable lighting.

And the artwork isn't limited to the walls. "Dr. Fisher wanted a fish tank in the waiting room," Dr. Cangin says. "Our architect took it one step further and built it right into the front desk. She took the perspective of pets and placed it where dogs and cats can see it."

While the doctors enjoy working in a beautiful, well-planned facility, they're waiting for one more award of sorts as icing on the cake. They're currently finishing the process to become one of the first LEED-certified veterinary practices in the country.

Sarah Moser is a freelance writer and editor in Lenexa, Kan. Please send questions or comments to ve@advanstar.com

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