• Hannah Skidmore, MBA

Retrofit an Existing Building or Build a New Facility?

Updated: Oct 25

Is it better to build a new facility or retrofit an existing building?


"Is it better to build a new facility or retrofit an existing building?" Our clients often ask us this question when determining if new construction or retrofitting is appropriate for their upcoming animal shelter, vet clinic, or animal hospital. Though each client must decide for their animal care facility, our engineers and designers provide expertise for decision-makers to consider. There is no denying - it's a big decision - whether to retrofit an existing facility and break ground on a new facility from the ground up.


Here are a few considerations from the DLI engineering and design experts.


Retrofitting an Existing Building for Animal Care Use


Retrofitting an existing building for your animal shelter, vet clinic, or animal hospital may be appropriate in certain situations.


Advantages to Retrofitting an Existing Building for Animal Care Use

  • Retrofitting may provide location benefits proximal to an organization's ideal demographic in an established area.

  • Retrofitting may also provide you with some infrastructure in engineered systems such as the HVAC system, electrical needs, and plumbing.

Disadvantages to Retrofitting an Existing Building for Animal Care Use

  • The infrastructure of an existing building may not be entirely adequate for animal care use. At DLI, we design mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems (MEP Systems) appropriate for an animal care facility's disease, odor, and noise mitigation needs. When retrofitting, this almost always means that we work with clients to redesign the existing MEP systems for better air quality, dehumidification, and drainage, among other things. Our DLI engineers can often create designs and plans that reuse the existing systems - but there is almost always a requirement to enhance the systems further to meet required animal care standards.

  • Sub-optimization is another potential disadvantage of retrofitting an existing building. Many clients try to fit their operations in an existing facility. Sometimes the predetermined space within the existing building does not allow for complete optimization for animal care use.

Though decision-makers may save a bit on the cost of buying an existing building initially, once the building is bought to the standards of care for animal use - there may not be overwhelming cost savings.


Building a New Facility From Scratch


DLI also works with clients who build new animal care facilities from scratch.


Advantages to building a new facility from scratch

  • Designing and engineering a new building offers organizations greater flexibility than retrofitting an existing facility.

  • When creating plans from scratch, DLI designers work with clients from start to finish to optimize the building for animal care use – specifically thinking of room locations and sizes.

  • When building new, DLI engineers provide plans for fully optimized MEP systems for animal care use.

Disadvantages to building a new facility from scratch

  • Depending on the site's location, clients may face initial costs with earthwork. Also, clients often face financial costs around be required to bring utility connections to the building, like water and sewage.

  • And, of course, there are expenses for constructing a new building that may cost more than acquiring an existing one.

Please keep in mind that the cost difference between retrofitting and building new is not usually as much as clients believe, but it does exist.


Are you Building or Retrofitting a New Animal Shelter, Vet Clinic, or Animal Hospital?


The choice between retrofitting an existing building or building a new facility can be difficult as there are many factors to consider. The animal care experts at DLI are here to help you make that decision along with other design and engineering decisions. We often partner with clients to provide recommendations on the topic.


Request a Consultation to Discuss Your Upcoming Project


Are you looking for design and planning services for your upcoming veterinary hospital or animal shelter project? Schedule a complimentary consultation with the Design Learned team today!


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