New Build Vs. Renovation Vs. Expansion

If you’re looking to level up and redesign your veterinary practice, you’re likely considering renovating an existing building, expanding your current one, or building a new structure entirely.

Each of these initiatives is a step towards providing the best possible care for your patients and their owners, but deciding which project path to take depends on numerous factors (budget and financing, location, local regulation and zoning laws, infrastructure, future goals, timeline constraints, etc. all play major roles in the decision-making process). While you stand at the crossroads of which path to take, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons to consider before diving in.

Let’s start by defining the three types of projects.

A new build involves building an entirely new structure from the ground up. An expansion consists of adding onto the existing structure with new rooms, floors, or sections. A renovation is an improvement or updating of an existing structure, without changing its overall current footprint.


Habitat Veterinary Hospital was a new build project in Boise, Idaho that provided the owners full design flexibility.

Project Path 1: New Build



Customization: Building up your practice from scratch creates a clinic tailored to your unique vision. You can design the layout, choose materials, and install the latest equipment to meet your specific needs. New builds provide the most freedom of choice out of the three project paths.  

Continued Operations: If you’re an existing practice that is building a new facility separate from the current space, a major perk is remaining open for business during the construction and design process. You’ll avoid having to lose revenue and will minimize workflow disruptions, both challenges that expansions and renovations bring.

More ‘Green’ Efficiency: New construction projects typically incorporate modern energy-efficient systems, reducing long-term operational costs and environmental impact. The option to integrate locally sourced and sustainable materials, implement water conservation and indoor air quality efforts, focus on overall sustainable site development, and even build a practice that is LEED certified are all viable choices with this project path.

Compliance Ease: New buildings are often easier to bring up to code and ensure compliance with current regulations and safety standards compared to existing spaces with older structures.

Better Brand Reputation: A brand-new clinic can make a strong first impression, foster trust in your services, and attract clients and new talent to your team by having the latest technologies and a modern appearance.


Higher Cost: A new build is often the most expensive option. It involves land acquisition, construction, permitting and approval fees, and more that add up quickly and can eat up a large portion of your budget.

Longer Timeline: Construction can be time-consuming. An accelerated timeline can sound appealing to encourage but it can complicate project management and put a burden on your resources (and budget). The longer timeline of a newly built clinic can also mean holding off on caring for patients and opening for business until the facility is ready and complete. It can take several months or even years to develop and create an animal care space (longer if delays or complications occur), which can impact your budget and revenue if the practice is starting from scratch and not moving over an existing business.

Zoning and Permits Challenges: Navigating zoning regulations and securing the necessary permits can be a complex and time-consuming process. Each jurisdiction has its processes and peculiarities. Some will be conducted by the city or town, while others will be reviewed by the respective county or a state approval cycle.

Pure Paws Veterinary Care Clinic was an interior tenant improvement project located on the first floor of a 9-floor high rise building in busy New York City.

Project Path 2: Renovation



More Budget Friendly: Renovating an existing clinic or space is generally more cost-effective than building from scratch by avoiding purchasing land and many infrastructure costs.

Keeping Prime Location: If the existing building is in a prime location, renovation allows you to remain in the space and use a newly updated design to attract clients who are already familiar with the area.

Shorter Timeline: This project path typically takes less time than a new build, allowing you to get your clinic up and running quicker, or resume normal operations sooner.

Historical Preservation: If the existing building holds historical or architectural value, it may be important to preserve it for the community or the clinic owner. A renovation allows you to update the interior or certain features while keeping historical components intact.




Design Limitations: Layout and design limitations are common due to an already existing infrastructure. With a renovation project, the current build will take precedence and you may have to compromise on your ideal clinic design and vision.

Hidden Issues: Renovating an older building can sometimes uncover hidden problems like structural issues or outdated electrical and plumbing systems. This can lead to unforeseen costs and timeline delays.

Compliance Challenges: Adapting an old building to meet modern regulatory and safety standards can be challenging, expensive, and time-consuming.

Temporary Disruption: Renovating an existing building can mean halting your ability to care for patients all together or limiting the number of patients you see for some time. This can affect your revenue and budget. Construction can also interfere with your team’s workflow and can negatively impact the patient’s experience if it is not properly coordinated and planned for. If you want to remain in operation during this process, think about how phasing will occur, and which spaces and equipment are staples to your business (like the surgery suite or x-ray machine). The core spaces that must remain open will need to have an alternative or relocated space to live in while the renovation is occurring. Another consideration is moving the heavy medical equipment or built-in pieces for this relocation (like x-rays, CT scanners, etc.).

VCA Midwest Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center in Omaha, Nebraska took over the neighboring building to double its existing size. They were able to add on specialty areas with larger equipment like CT, MRI, Oncology, and Cardiology, plus a large meeting space for their DVM Continuing Education meetings.

Project Path 3: Expansion



Grow Client Base: Expanding an existing clinic allows you to grow the reputation and trust you’ve already built amongst the community. More space means an increase in services and abilities, giving you the chance to expand your clientele.

Keeping Prime Location: Similar to a renovation, if the existing building is in a prime location, this allows you to stay rooted at your original address.

Cost Savings: By keeping at least part of an existing infrastructure, expansions are typically less expensive than new construction.

Shorter Timeline: Adding onto an existing space is faster than building a new one, as some practices expand into a neighboring establishment that already has a structure in place.



Design Limitations: Expansions typically come with space limitations, which can influence your ability to meet the growing demands of your practice. You’ll want to look at your business goals and ensure the amount of space you’re expanding into aligns with the vision for the clinic.  

Temporary Disruption: Expansions often go in tandem with renovations. This project path can also require you to temporarily reduce your patient capacity, affecting revenue and business operations. It’s doable to keep your practice in business and operating during an expansion, however you risk hindering your patient experience and team’s workflow. Numerous challenges come with remaining open during an expansion, like possible sound disruption while developing into the new space.

A Final Note

As you consider which project path makes the most sense for your veterinary practice, seek input and advice from an architect, contractor, or developer who understands the specialty of animal care design. Embarking on any of these journeys can be intimidating, but having the right team on your side makes all the difference in not only the process but the success of your future clinic.

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Written By MD Architects

MD Architects is a full-service, relationship-based firm dedicated to providing superior planning, design, specifications, and construction guidance to animal care, human healthcare, and commercial industries.

March 2024

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