Veterinary building specialist ACD Projects has seen the problem affect many types of practices – both those that have not been modernised in the last 15- 20 years and those built more recently on a tight budget. Not only can patient welfare be compromised but the comfort of clients and staff can be affected – all of which can have an impact on profit.
The simplest solution to cooling a hot building is usually to open windows but that’s not an option in most practices - not only because of the risk of animal escape but also due to security, noise and contamination concerns. Both cooling and sometimes even ventilation may be inadequate as a result.
There are some cost effective solutions for those who are considering renovating or planning a new build, says Alex Darvill, MD of ACD Projects (main image). Supplementary cooling can be hard to supply on a budget since although simple portable units are often relatively cheap to obtain, as well as issues around space, it’s easy to forget the impact of running costs, “It’s almost like having a heater on during the summer and you would always think twice about leaving a heater on when it is not really needed.”
While a cooling system can be installed in one corner of a room and then extracted in another, this process simply expels the hot air. A heat recovery device can be fitted within a system and could actually recover up to 80 per cent of any cooling or heating energy. Underfloor heating represents another opportunity and if the correct equipment is installed can actually cool the floor as well as heat it. However, this can only be done on major refits or new builds.
Venting up to 8 air changes per hour of heated or cooled air is costly and Alex believes vets have an opportunity to make significant savings as well as to improve staff, patient and client comfort, “One option is a central unit that distributes cooling throughout the building. Sometimes space does not allow this but it should at least be considered, especially as the differing needs within the building can be quite complex.”
Consulting rooms, prep rooms, radiography, theatres and animal holding and recovery areas or wards may all benefit from different air flows, all pre-defined in best practice guidelines. There may be potential to cool some areas and drag the air through into other rooms (considering cross-contamination and odours) and to ventilate from the second room.
“Simply moving air does not cool the temperature in a room. It is a misconception that when people feel air is blowing past that they are being cooled, but this is not necessarily the case,” points out Alex. Warm air entering the practice from outside may be heated up still further by body heat, computers and veterinary equipment, which may result in significantly higher temperatures within the building.
Planning concerns and worries over upheaval often mean that practices put off making the changes they need but being able to enjoy the benefits of fresh, clean air and controlling temperatures in a cost effective manner are clear advantages and make practices more pleasant places to work, as well as ensuring the safety of patients.
Alex says that rather than take precipitous action during the next heat wave, practices need to be able to discuss their options and receive reliable advice, “Here at ACD Projects we’ve been involved in the planning, building and renovation of numerous veterinary practices and animal shelters – from small one or two man practices all the way up to university and referral facilities, including the new Fitzpatrick Referrals Oncology and Soft Tissue Centre in Guildford. We bring that experience to every practice; we’ve seen what works, know what can be done on a budget and what is worth spending on now to save money longer term and as a result improve profits.”
To discuss planning, renovating or trouble-shooting any building or design issue in your practice, visit www.acdprojects.com