Here are the main facts we started with: the clients had a site and a purpose for that site. They want to establish a state-of-the-art veterinary clinic. Their first thought, an understandable one, was that they should get a whole new building custom-designed for that purpose. They hired a design firm who proposed a completely contemporary building. The council, though, looked along the street of homes and felt that what was being suggested felt nothing like a house, and refused planning permission on those grounds.
The client had acquired the building because it had been a clinic for many years and so it seemed a suitable place for the services they were going to provide. But it had originally been built as a house and the council were insisting it should maintain that appearance, whatever was happening inside.
So our task was to design something that still resembled a house while making it large enough and well-suited for the veterinary clinic’s requirements. One of the reasons so much space was needed was that the clients were aiming for a gold-standard cat-friendly clinic, which has to have a separate waiting room for cats.
The whole plot was over 500 sqm, but the existing building was only 127 sqm. The rest of the area was taken up by unsightly car parking. We knew, then, that there was plenty of room to expand the building, making much better use of all that space. But could we add all that extra room and still end up with something that the council still felt looked appropriate in a distinctively residential, suburban street?
We decided to build out in almost every direction, including up. This would create the space on the ground floor for a comprehensive set-up, including the two waiting rooms, four consultation rooms, two operating rooms, separate dental and X-ray rooms, a cattery and a kennel. Plus, on the roof, we added dormers to allow for a staff room with a kitchen and a shower.
All told, we added an astonishing 147% more gross internal area. The question was: having met the client’s needs, would it be acceptable to the council? Had we managed to more than double the size of the building and yet end up with something that the planning officers felt still fit in with the character of the neighbourhood?
The answer was yes: the council was happy with the design and planning permission was granted.
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