John Stouffer, Animal Care Project Architect
Equipment coordination is fundamental to the space planning and programming phases of every Animal care project. Whether you want to reuse existing equipment or purchase new, the space required, and coordination time may be more than you think.
Let us start with existing equipment. This can include dog runs, cages, cabinetry, wet table, grooming table, exam tables or even a reused autoclave. It is imperative to coordinate these items with the proposed floor plan early. This helps to avoid space conflicts or electrical outlets in the wrong place late in construction. A lot of these items have standard dimensions across the array of manufacturers, however there are always that one or two that can have odd dimensions. Obtaining the exact sizes of these items is part of the design process. The adage of measure twice, cut once applies here – everything must fit! Regardless if there are existing cut sheets and details, it is best to verify. The design team should have the measurements either acquired by an onsite visit or from the owner; and prior to building framing being completed, the contractor should also verify. It is recommended to have the team sign off on the dimensions and new locations of the relocated items before drywall hanging starts.
New equipment may seem easier, but still requires attention to detail. Obtaining cut sheets and having many conversations with vendors to understand the requirements is very helpful. Also, of equal importance is understanding if you change a selection once the design is complete, it may not fit the provided space and should be re-checked. Utilize your vendor, conduct meetings with them and your design team. Some equipment may also require additional connections and coordination with utilities. For example: cat condos with glass covers require additional ventilation which can easily be missed. Also, any floor/trench drains and the location of those within runs is crucial. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the pros/cons of the location and types of drains within runs (if any). You may have a wet/dry system instead of drains. In this case your vendor will typically layout the locations of the ports. Coordination with the design is critical here. Double check that hoses can reach all areas needed. Cages may need to be coordinated with med gas locations; Isolation cages may need added exhaust. All great questions to ask your vendors. Schedule a meeting with the collective team prior to ordering equipment and ensure all parties understand what is involved.
One very important thing to note with ordering new equipment is the lead times. The length of time it takes from the order being placed to arrival on site should be understood early in the design process. You would not want to have a new facility without a place to house animals. Some lead times can be up to 14 weeks for equipment after the sign off on the shop drawings. This is important! Everything may be ordered, but the clock does not start until the final approval. Have the collective team sign off on the drawings; not just the owner or architect – but have the contractor verify built walls, note the added mechanical requirements, confirm the drain locations, etc. Review all important visual items with your designer as well: colors, door swings, material types, etc.… The entire team should be copied on all correspondence emails. Make sure everyone is in the know of when the items are being delivered and who is installing them.
Lastly, do not overlook sequencing. Cages can be designed to be integrated with other elements such as cubbies, with power, med gas, or a platform base. Which gets installed first? If the cages sit on a base, the base can be built first and have the finished floor product applied and rolled up the base. In order to fit, the base will have to be coordinated with the cage dimensions. Cubbies and/or power above the cages is coordinated with a similar manner. These items should be discussed frequently during the design process and have continued conversations during the construction meetings.
Even the most well-intentioned team can miss a coordination item. Be prepared for this possibility and ask the team to help provide multiple solutions / options when challenges arise. Focusing on the details up front and making final selections early will help ensure the process runs smoothly. Maintaining consistent team communication throughout design and construction will provide the most important result – you as a happy client in a highly functioning space!