The Monash Veterinary Clinic comprises four consulting rooms and two surgeries. The initial brief required a substantial amount of additional space, including an area for a dog wash for public use and separate cat and dog wards.

The project aimed to retain and reuse the derelict single- storey building, along with its existing basement. The upper slab, selected walls and roof were left intact, with the basement used as a starting point from which to build.

The new design by Timmins + Whyte was based around a cardboard box, which was intended to be reminiscent of someone taking their animal to the vet in a cardboard box lined with newspaper. This concept served as the inspiration for the interior palette and external detailing.

“The planning of the clinic is quite traditional and the façade was a product of this planning,” says Sally Timmins. The façade and reception area include packing tape details of Alucobond forming surrounds of the windows. The main canopy is situated like a flap of cardboard with a corrugated end and signage, which is a reinterpretation of the signage of cardboard boxes that shows ‘this way up’.

As the original building was opened, Timmins was faced with numerous issues, such as the existing building being surrounded by sand where the original digging for the moat was back-filled. This made it difficult to find decent bearing soil. The blinding concrete also ended up being a lot deeper than anticipated.

Substantial remedial works were required to the existing concrete floor slab following the removal of the existing tiles, with some substantial level differences to overcome. “The floor was grinded in places and bulk filled using Dura Floor level base and top coat. The basement was also sealed and re-tanked where necessary,” Timmins says.

She says if the issues associ ated with the existing building had of been known, Timmins + Whyte would have demol ished the existing building. “However, in retaining it, it assisted in keeping with the budget,” she says.

Building the new external walls and parapets so they would adequately marry into the existing roof structure also proved to be difficult, according to Andrew Lanskey, but the problem was overcome with suitable consultation. Some poor ground conditions were also encountered, which required further remedial work and subsequently added cost and time.

Timmins designed the building to face north and limited the aperture of western windows. She also allowed for a deep awning over the reception to the north, which allows winter sun in and limits exposure to the summer sun. Double glazing was also used, with ventilation to the wards supplied via mechanical means to minimise noise transfer.

As the builder, Lanskey found several aspects of the project challenging, including a contract programme which spanned only 12 weeks. The other main challenge was using the existing building structure and matching key elements. “Also suitably matching and neatly joining certain selected external cladding materials had a few challenges,” he says.

Some minor changes were required along the way. A raised timber floor was changed to concrete. The rear wall of the building was also specified as being a smooth render finish over fibre cement, which raised concerns that the type of finish might show imperfections on the substrate. After Lanskey consulted the architects, a textured render was adopted.

One of the main difficulties on the project was acoustics and containing noise in the dog wards from the rest of the building, as well as neighbouring buildings. To combat noise CSR Soundchek was installed in the ceiling and block walls with CFC over the top.

Armstrong vinyl was used in the reception area on the floor and wrapped up the walls, a requirement for cleaning at a vet practice. Timmins also wrapped the vinyl up the reception desk.

Issues between the builder and architect were addressed through guidelines as set down in the contract. This meant through “verbal com munication, compromises without negotiating the quality of the outcome and follow up explanations and confirma tions in writing,” Timmins says.

Lanskey says: “From a con struction perspective, the main lesson learnt relating to this build would be to not underes timate the implications of issues that can be encountered when existing elements of a building are utilised.”

Stephanie McDonald