Designing healthcare facilities run hand-in-hand with highly specific rules and regulations that ensure safe, hygienic and well-functioning medical environments, and design considerations for veterinary practices are even more specialised. In these spaces, designers not only have to think of patients and staff, but also the practical and hygiene factors that come into play when animals are involved. Similarly, the patient journey in animal healthcare facilities extends beyond the care services that are provided in other healthcare spaces.
This article takes a brief look at some of the most important design considerations for veterinary practices to make sure everyone who enters the space is accommodated, respected and well taken care of.
Design objectives and building regulations
The first major consideration in the design process is the operational nature of the practice or clinic. Factors like which animals will be cared for, whether space is needed to accommodate animals overnight and how many examination and surgical rooms are needed, will steer the direction of the design. In the design and construction of veterinary practices, the specific building regulations and health codes of the country or area need to be followed closely to avoid problems in the future. Some of the health and sanity considerations in animal care facilities might include:
- a construction that prevents animals from escaping or injuring themselves;
- sufficient provision for the hygienic disposal of waste;
- examination rooms that are separated from the office or reception area;
- walls, floors and fixtures made of materials that are easy to clean and disinfect, and does not accumulate dust or germs;
- public entrances that do not run through another business;
- hygienic storage and lock-up facilities for medicine and health equipment, along with a sanitary preparation area for food, and
- sufficient storage and disposal facilities for animal carcasses.
Safety and hygiene
Strict health codes need to be followed in vet practice design to maximise the hygiene of the space and protect the health of both animals and people. Providing separate entrances and/or waiting areas for sick and healthy animals will reduce the risk of spreading germs. Ensuring that animals are isolated as far as possible by providing a spacious waiting area with various zones for different animals, will help prevent potential conflict and stress among pets. Signage and demarcation tools can effectively be used in this regard to promote better wayfinding within the facility and keep animals separated from each other.
In the design of veterinary practices, materials are an important consideration. Designers can enjoy more freedom in the creation of office areas, waiting rooms and any other retail or entertainment additions to the space such as a coffee shop, pet food/toy store or children’s play area. The materials used in the design of these zones should facilitate a warm and welcoming environment, and allow for quick and easy cleaning to offer hygiene benefits.
Consideration should also be given to noise and odour control. Smart HVAC systems must be incorporated into the design to promote thermal comfort and air quality inside the building. A well-functioning air ventilation system will ensure any odour is eliminated instantly to avoid an unpleasant experience for clients and staff. Noise control is vital to the patient journey and overall experience at the vet. A loud barking dog in the waiting room definitely won’t help to calm the nerves of another four-legged patient in the examination room next doors! Acoustical ceiling tiles and interior walls placed in the building structure will help to create sound barriers and decrease noise.
Vet practice design needs to be future-proof to leave room for changes and expansion opportunities. More and more vet practices are adding extra revenue streams such as dental cleanings, grooming, daycare services and retail/hospitality offerings to invite clients to visit the facility for reasons other than medical care for their pets. Modular and flexible design allows designers to adapt the veterinary healthcare model as market needs evolve.
Healthcare facilities are also increasingly employing telehealth services and curbside pickup/drop-off options to regulate traffic on-site. An animal care facility that offers daycare services for pets will benefit from a separate drop-off/collection point to prevent congestion inside the building, as well as a safe and isolated outdoor area where animals can play throughout the day.
The design of any healthcare facility needs to function as a tool that removes stress and anxiety from a potentially traumatic and taxing experience. The reception/waiting area is the first step in achieving a peaceful environment for both patrons and staff. Consider the latest trends in healthcare design that take inspiration from home and wellness spaces to create calming conditions: the use of natural elements, earthy tones, comfortable seating, bright colours and warm lighting. These design techniques are all aimed at elevating the patient journey for both people and pets, as well as delivering a serene working space for staff at the clinic or practice.
Designers are increasingly prioritising sustainable design and building practices — natural light, energy-efficient operations, plants and greenery indoors, and reclaimed and locally sourced materials and furniture. These natural elements are proven to create tranquil environments to help keep patients calm before and during their appointments.
The layout of the practice will also contribute to the comfort of the patient journey as well as workflow and productivity. The floorplan and means of relaxation (seating areas, a play area for kids, a water drinking station for dogs/cats etc.) will dictate the traffic flow. Where will people gather in the waiting zone? Will a person waiting with their dog need to pass by ten other dogs to reach the exam room? What about the pathway to the bathrooms, or a kitchen area for staff? The waiting zone needs to be as peaceful and uncluttered as possible to minimise the risk of chaos or discomfort.
Innova Design is a leading company in the feasibility, design, construction and fit-out of healthcare and commercial spaces across Australia with over 27 years of experience in managing healthcare rollouts nationwide. Innova Design is part of Greater Health in partnership with Space for Health, a professional team of health planners, architects, interior designers and project managers who specialise in healthcare design and construction in Australia.
Contact us today to get in touch with our in-house experts and start planning your next medical design or construction project.