smaller can be better.

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Amazingly enough renovating an existing building versus building new is probably the single best thing you can do to create a "green" project and minimize your impact on the natural environment. If you look at a typical building approximately half of the construction is made up of the "shell", i.e. the foundation, exterior walls and roof. If you are able to confine your renovation to the interior  and keep the shell you then are going to effectively save half of the carbon footprint.

The next best way to minimize your carbon footprint is to build-out your clinic within an existing lease space. The savings are actually very similar to a renovation that occurs within an existing building shell. A lease space has the added benefit of effectively sharing the building shell and site development (like utilities, parking and landscaping) with the other lease spaces. Obviously I would not choose to do a renovation or lease space based strictly on the impact to the environment, but it is nice to know that these are environmentally sensitive strategies. 

Strategies that will help create a better veterinary hospital design environment include:

  • Maximizing the amount of natural daylight. Scientists have reported that day lit environments increase occupant productivity and comfort significantly
  • Support young mothers by creating a "breast pump" alcove or nursery for children of staff.
  • Minimize physical stress on staff by providing tables to lift heavy pets, and design work station to be ergonomically correct
  • Provide a place to store waste materials that will be recycled.

And speaking of recycling, how about recycling pets? Be sure to include a pen in your lobby for adopting out shelter pets.

Most of these ideas are small and alone they might not rock the world, but if all of us do a little something we can make a difference. Going back to Marcario,

"Were living in a time when it's so important for business to drive this new economy, this new view, this aspirational future of business as a force for good".

Veterinary hospital design and priorities.

Recently I drove across town to visit a veterinarian who had just bought a small, falling down clinic in a funny, funky mountain town.

He had given up a high powered corporate job in the veterinary world to go back and practice veterinary medicine hands-on. Now he owned a two exam room practice beside a river, where he could literally fish off the deck outside his first exam room.

He had made a choice. In fact we all make choices every day big and small.

Two years ago I started smaller can be better because I thought the veterinary industry, and particularly small veterinary practices, were facing a crisis and because I thought I might be able to help. I still do. I left a larger corporate design firm where I was one of the Senior Principal (whoopee!). Now I run a one man design firm that, like the veterinarian I visited, is hands-on. That was my choice.

Others are also making choices. Recently I read an article about Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia the sports apparel company. Under her leadership Patagonia has quadrupled their revenue while pursuing investments in sustainable products and manufacturing. Marcario said "Doing good work for the planet creates markets and makes (us) more money."  As a specific example of their emphasis on sustainability, Patagonia had started a Worn Wear program where people who have bought and then worn Patagonia clothing can return it to Patagonia, where it is refurbished and sold anew.

Like Patagonia, no single choice is going to turn the world around or save the world, but each of us can do small things every day.

Both the veterinarian I visited and I made choices that reflect our priorities... namely as regards the natural environment and our work environment.

Probably one of the biggest decisions you will  make in your personal life is to build or expand our clinic. It is also an opportunity to act on your choices... potentially to make the world just a little bit better.

That's why in addition to advocating for better natural and work environments I am donating a portion of smaller can be better's proceeds to a non-profit organization that is working to make our world safer and better.

mark r. hafen, veterinary hospital design