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Building Design for Animals

Article by Wayne Usiak, AIA, NCARB

Evidence Based Design for the Veterinary Facility

Over 30 years of research has proven that the physical environment has a profound effect on patient health and staff performance; not only in human hospitals, but in veterinary facilities as well.

In 1984, environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich discovered that patients in rooms with outdoor views recovered more quickly than those in an enclosed space. Since that time there has been an increasing interest in studying the effect of the environment on the healing process.

A new brand of research – called “evidence-based design”- evaluates how changes to the built environment affect patient outcomes, healing process, staff retention, reduced stress, and even reduced costs. This research is human medicine based, but the significant findings that have come from it can also be applied to the veterinary hospital.

In the area of staff centered concerns this is relatively straight forward – after all staff is staff, whether human or veterinary medicine based. When translating human healing to companion animal healing, the task becomes less direct.

With animals, the sensory perceptions of dogs and cats are typically far more acute than humans. Therefore, those results from the studies that are based on a change of sensory perception will be even more relevant, and beneficial, to animals.

Making connections with nature through windows, views and gardens, natural daylight access, positive distractions, reduction in environmental stress and lighting levels are all important areas of concentration. These are the ways where evidence-based design can be incorporated into veterinary hospitals and truly make a difference on the healing process, staff performance and improved patient outcomes.

By embracing the principals proven in human medical facilities, a veterinary facility can also see some of the outcomes proven from these studies, including:

  • Reduced nosocomial infections
  • Reduction in medical errors
  • Reduced pain medications required
  • Improved patient rest
  • Reduced staff stress
  • Reduced hospital length of stay
  • Improved staff/client communication
  • Increased client satisfaction
  • Reduction in staff illness, injuries
  • Increased staff production
  • Increased staff wellbeing/satisfaction

There are many ways that a veterinary architect like those at BDA can integrate evidence-based design strategies into a veterinary hospital and they are well worth considering for the benefits they provide to owners, clients, patients and staff.




Wayne Usiak gave a lecture about this topic during the 2020 Fetch dvm360 Virtual Conference. Read more about this topic and Wayne’s session here on dvm360.com.

To read more about evidence-based design and the research being done visit www.healthdesign.org.