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Equine animal health facilities require special considerations to ensure an optimal facility that will benefit scientific research and education for years to come.

The study of animals is critical to advancements in science and healthcare—and it’s the animals themselves that are changing the way we design and build these significant research facilities. From accommodating their sheer size to coordinating and installing specialized equipment and technology, tailoring to the animals’ needs is equally as important as the research scientists and educators carry out within those walls.

Premier veterinary school programs across the country are embarking on large projects to both elevate their educational expertise as well as attract students. Whether it’s expansions to existing facilities to keep pace with the evolution of animal health and its research possibilities or constructing new spaces to provide an enhanced 21st Century learning experience for future veterinarians and scientists, there are special considerations teams must take into account when building these facilities, particularly those dedicated to equines.

Specialized Layouts

One of the first complexities of building facilities for equine research is the layout of not only the space itself, but also any adjoining buildings. Those using the space must have room to accommodate the large animal while also understanding how to position and maneuver the horse. Collaboration with the end users provides the most useful information on how a space will be used and enables the design and construction team to provide a comfortable and useful space for the horses.

In addition to designing the layout around the animals that will be studied, the products and materials required for these types of facilities are unique as well. Being that there is a lot of animal traffic, it is important for the design and construction team to find the appropriate balance between durable but comfortable materials, equipment, etc. Additionally, as the spaces are medical and surgical, they spaces must be easily cleanable, washable, and hold up well over time to high, heavy traffic.

Equipment Expertise

As expected, the equipment utilized within these facilities is unique, which presents a challenge unlike other research facilities. It is imperative teams understand how the equipment will be used to better coordinate and install it—and this exercise includes getting into the psyche of the animals that will use it. Equipment coordination must start as soon as possible in the project. Confirming equipment requirements, points of connection, and location early in the project makes the design and construction process much more efficient.

At the CSU Spur Vida building, there was extensive underground and equipment coordination for the in-ground water treadmill.  “The in-ground water treadmill is sixty feet in length and is a unique highlight for everyone, young and old, and the layout was essential to allow spectator viewing without distracting the horse while utilizing the equipment,” said Sarah Tough, JE Dunn project manager. The emphasis on this coordination up front allowed for efficient construction and timely execution of the equine sports medicine center.

Enhanced Technology Modifications

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and this includes both within the equipment as well as the classrooms and spaces to provide an immersive educational experience. At the Translational Medicine Institute at Colorado State University, the immersive experience includes multiple spaces to provide innovative education to college students and those seeking continuing education credits.  Spaces include an immersive classroom which uses a 270-degree screen and virtual reality options for learners to fully immerse themselves in their subject. The facility also includes a mock MRI room where they can simulate working on animals. “We worked extremely hard with the entire project team on the immersive classroom to balance the ability to provide the University with the latest and greatest technology, but also to give them the classroom with the balance of the facility,” said Tough. “This required careful planning, product selection, and construction sequencing that would allow for the university to wait until the latest responsible moment to provide direction to proceed with this work, allowing them the flexibility to ensure the equipment was just right.”

A Bigger Impact

Constructing animal health facilities with careful coordination and the latest and greatest technology to enable trailblazing research and education has far-reaching effects—in the advancements in their treatment as well as humans’. “The buildings JE Dunn has been a part of are helping to pave the way for continued advancement in both animal and human health,” said Tough. “Just as human healthcare is evolving quickly, so too is animal health in areas of orthopedics, immunotherapy, and cellular engineering advancements, and tailoring these facilities to maximize education and research benefits both.