By Frank Chapman
Executive Vice President of Medical Construction
Davie Construction Co.
I have been helping DMVs build their practices for 40 years. During any week, I manage close to two dozen projects across the country. I am contacted daily by veterinarians who want advice about starting their construction projects. My first advice is, “Please, let us help research your location before you buy.”
PLEASE DO NOT PURCHASE ANY PROPERTY until you have spoken to us! It could be the perfect place to build a phenomenal pet hospital. But there may also be something about the location that requires an investment that could add hundreds of thousands of dollars to your project and wreak havoc with your schedule. This warning isn’t meant to instill fear but to save you from the heartbreak of underestimating what is needed to make that seemingly perfect property viable for construction.
The good news is that we can identify any issues of concern BEFORE you purchase the location and help you make the most cost-effective decisions. We will assess the viability and provide recommendations based on extensive experience and effective remediations. The areas we will analyze include:
- Grading: I recently worked with a client who needed to buy 65,000 cubic feet of soil to make a lot flat enough to build on. The added expense increased the site package cost by $400,000!
- Fire Hydrants: If you don’t have a fire hydrant closer than 400 feet from your property, your city or town will insist you pay for the installation before building. The average cost of adding a hydrant is $100,000.
- Soil Conditions: Geotechnical testing will determine that you aren’t building on contaminated land. Knowing the history of the location is extremely helpful. Expenses add up if you are on an old dumping ground or if there was a gas station on the site. Leaking underground storage tanks can be problematic. The biggest offenders are dry cleaners. Did you know their dumped chemicals can contaminate city blocks?
- ADA Regulations: Different states follow different versions of these laws. A requirement for a turning radius changing from 5 feet to 5 ½ feet can require larger bathrooms and hallways than you anticipated and maybe a larger building altogether.
- X-Ray Equipment Shielding: Although today’s radiography technology requires less energy emission and gamma rays, lead shielding considerations can impact the layout and size of your new building. We have a physicist on call to provide shielding reports that we submit to the appropriate state X-ray board to remove that potential issue.
- Parking Spaces: Your local zoning laws will dictate your parking lot size. The average spot is 9″ x 18.” But if you build in Palm Springs, CA, the requirement is 12″ x 22.” Medical practices require one spot for every 250 square feet of office in some areas. Yours will vary depending on your location and the local laws.
- Infrastructure Limitations: It’s common for smaller towns growing quickly to have a moratorium on sewer and water taps. One of our clients faced this limitation, but we were able to find a creative solution acceptable to the town planners.
There are three time-tested steps to our preconstruction process, and each one serves a specific purpose in laying the groundwork for a successful project. Schematic planning is the first step, followed by design planning and final construction planning. I can’t stress how important it is to have every member of your team involved in each step. We love architects and work with a terrific group specializing in veterinary practices. Sometimes, our clients have their own architects, and we welcome them into the process. However, we are entirely budget-driven, so if they introduce design suggestions that will increase costs, are difficult to source, or impact the functionality of the building, we will make our concerns known.
Are You Ready?
It’s not unusual for us to start working with clients several years before they break ground on their new veterinarian practice. While it may seem premature for some doctors to begin planning so early in the process, we have never heard anyone say, “Gee, Frank, all those planning sessions were a waste of time!” Our owner surveys always identify our comprehensive preparation and open communication at every step of the process as reasons why they would work with us again and heartily endorse us to their colleagues.
You can contact me at:
Office Direct: (336) 940-6679
Mobile: (336) 466-8726