Planning the fit out of your veterinary practice is usually equal parts exciting and challenging. Whether it’s your first site, or the latest link in a long chain, it’s always a time of great optimism and opportunity. Emotions will also be running high and there is sure to be plenty of decisions to be made.
Every veterinary fit out project is a little different. Everything from the type of property (new build or existing structure) to the services to be provided will impact what’s required. There are also a number of planning and design considerations that need to be carefully thought through.
Here our experienced team share their biggest watch points for anyone designing a veterinary practice.
1: The location of your practice
At their core, veterinary practices are local businesses. While some people will be willing to travel for a top-notch service, most of your clientele will live locally. This should be top of mind when selecting a property.
Once you’ve identified areas with a strong demand for veterinary services, you need to find a suitable property. Usually, your choice will be fairly limited, and you may need to monitor the market for a while. Although, practice patience when finding a property, rushing this decision can have significant detrimental impact on your business.
When working out whether a property is right for you, it’s important to consider practical elements, like carparking. Such conveniences can have a significant impact on the experience of both your clients and your staff. There are also minimum requirements for these features that you will need to meet to get your veterinary design approved.
2: The size of your practice
The number of consulting rooms you need will be a major consideration when planning the fit out of your veterinary practice. This will help determine the size of your practice and dictate the other amenities you require (bathrooms, carparks, etc.).
This decision is entirely yours to make. It should be based on how you plan to run your practice and the space you’ll require to do so. It should also take into account any expected future growth.
Once you have worked out what you need, an experienced veterinary fit out specialist can help you finalise your design. They are also able to help you come up with creative ways to get the most from your space.
3: Planning restrictions and the services you want to provide
When designing your veterinary practice, there are a range of planning requirements you will need to meet. These will vary slightly depending on whether you’re building a new property or converting an existing structure.
Broadly, there are three layers of planning you will need to adhere to:
- The Building Code of Australia (BCA): This is a set of minimum requirements for the design of all new and refurbished buildings. You will need to meet these standards for the construction of your veterinary practice to be signed off.
- State Government statutes: These define different zoning types and could impact the location and design of your veterinary practice. They are particularly important if you’re planning to offer additional services (like boarding), as these may only be allowed in certain areas.
- Local Government development controls: These are administered by the local council and used to assess building and change of use applications. While there is usually some flexibility in these, it’s always best to plan within the existing rules.
4: Accessibility requirements
Among the requirements set out in the BCA are a range of building standards (AS 1428.1) regarding accessibility and mobility. These are particularly important if you’re converting an existing space as you may need to retrofit ramps, widen doorways, and install new bathroom facilities. Accounting for these changes early in the design of your veterinary practice could save you time and money later.
5: The time and cost of local council approvals
As there is no set timeline for getting approval from the local council, this needs to be carefully managed. Working with an experienced veterinary fit out company can help with this as they should understand the process. They may even be able to recommend ways to expedite your approval.
When choosing who to work with on the design of your veterinary practice, budget is an important consideration. While some consultants guarantee council approval, they will often recommend expensive solutions to simple problems. Companies with experience in both design and construction of veterinary practices will usually adopt a more pragmatic approach to planning requirements.
6: The time and cost of connecting services
When designing a veterinary practice, most local and state government authorities will require a separate approval for connective services such as sewer drainage. This process can take several weeks, so it’s best to kick it off early to avoid any delays.
The same goes for your power and internet connections. While these are fairly easy to organise, the actual connection can take time. Arranging these services early will make sure that you’re set up and ready to go on Day 1 in your new veterinary practice.
7: Keeping dogs and cats separated
This may seem obvious but is often overlooked in many designs. As every vet knows, it’s best to keep dogs and cats apart – particularly in shared spaces, like the waiting area. This separation will help keep the peace and should reduce the stress levels of the pets, their people, and your staff.
Thankfully, there are plenty of simple solutions for this, like installing screens and carefully planning client flows. As these are significant design features, they need to be thought about early in the planning process.
8: Creating a fear free environment
Where practical, you should aim to incorporate the latest learnings from animal behavioural research into the design of your veterinary practice. Particularly when it relates to ways to reduce stress. Stressed animals and owners create undesirable environments in which no one wants to be in.
Luckily, often, the recommendations provided are cheap and easy to implement. Planning for them early and incorporating them thoughtfully will make for a better patient and client experience. This is where input from veterinary design experts can be invaluable.
9: X-ray shielding requirements
X-ray technology has improved significantly over the last couple of decades. As a result, the extensive shield arrangements that were once commonplace are no longer needed. Although, some protections are still required but these can be easily incorporated into the fit out of your veterinary practice.
10: Oxygen and scavange pipework
This is one of the more detailed and specialised components of a veterinary fit out. Working with a builder who understands these vital systems and has experience installing them is of utmost importance. This will help guarantee that all work is done correctly and in accordance with the relevant standards.
11: Getting your final approval
There’s nothing worse than finishing your build and not being able to move in right away. Not only is this frustrating, if you have been operating out of a rented space, it could cost you significantly.
Thus, it’s critical you work with a veterinary fit out specialist who understands the final certification process. Such an expert will know to gather the relevant documentation throughout the build to streamline the final approval process.
Want more information?
Cyclo Group are veterinary design, construction, and fit out specialists. Our team have extensive experience in designing and delivering tailored, fit for purpose spaces. We also understand all the relevant standards, regulations, and requirements; and can help make sure your new practice meets them.
Contact us today to discuss your plans and how we can help.