Veterinary Architecture: Why The Architect Next Door Won’t Do 

Ron Sholar, Architect

One of the foremost veterinary architects in America, Ron Sholar designed his first veterinary practice in the late 90s and attended FETCH in Kansas City shortly thereafter. Since then, Ron has designed veterinary hospitals and practice expansions across the United States through his firm, Sholar Architecture. Ask Jan for Help is proud to count Ron Sholar as one of its contracted Experts, with services available to our Members.

It is our goal at Ask Jan For Help to connect our Members with professionals who understand the unique needs of our industry, and architecture is no exception. Using email, text and high-resolution digital photography while working with both the client and contractors, Ron can seamlessly assist a geographically diverse set of clients, sometimes requiring no more than a single in-person visit to a build site. We’ve outlined for you a few of the ways his working knowledge of our industry has led to award winning designs that truly serve the needs of the practices he builds as well as their patients and families.

What Your Architect Next Door May Not Know 

Veterinary Practice Workflows

There is a particular exercise that Ron completes with each one of his veterinary clients: drawing out a floor plan and mapping the physical workflow of each role within the practice. Understanding these roles and corresponding workflows helps determine the amount of square footage necessary and how best to lay out the space to achieve maximum efficiency from an operations standpoint. After drafting a preliminary plan, Ron meets with the practice staff to walk through the drawings and discuss potential obstacles. This process can take anywhere from an hour to half of a day, but each minute is critical to building the best space possible for his client. He approaches this workflow assessment not only with the immediate needs in mind, but with considerations for growth should the practice expand in the future. Involving individuals from all areas of the practice can prevent costly mistakes.

Practice Needs Assessment

Ron’s early career was spent building banks—at first glance, not a natural precursor to veterinary practices, but upon closer inspection there are several similarities.  One is drive-up windows, an area of particular expertise for Ron and an emerging trend in veterinary medicine as practice pharmacies seek to offer same-day, convenient pick-up services that online competitors can’t match.  Ron works with his clients’ pharmacy team to determine whether a drive-up pharmacy is a good fit for their practice, both from a financial and wholistic service perspective, and this is just one of the many needs assessments he performs for his clients. Ron uses his clients’ inventory records to determine necessary shelf space for inventory, pharmaceuticals, diagnostic equipment and so much more. Knowing the right questions to ask about each and every function of his clients’ practices is essential to designing a practice space that will meet their needs today and into the future.


Understanding the zoning requirements for a veterinary practice may seem run of the mill, but an uninformed real estate broker can easily miss the critical facts. Knowing whether or not a building site is zoned for overnight stays is essential to building runs and kennels for patients who may be staying for observation or boarding. Sometimes it is the real estate broker who asks these questions. Ron has long-standing connections with quite a few veterinary real estate professionals, but there are times when the architect is the one who needs to ask the right questions; yet another area where Ron’s expertise has kept his clients from costly mistakes that are almost impossible to unwind.

Community Space and Marketing

As a true expert in veterinary medicine architecture, Ron also works with his clients to use every portion of their property to maximize their investment. At times, that space even lends itself to marketing opportunities, such as those available when a practice has enough space to offer outdoor movie nights or art spaces meant to connect a practice with its community members. These events and spaces can serve not only to increase customer loyalty but as marketing opportunities, where the space is shared with community members and potential new families and their pets.

Currently Ron is working with an Ask Jan For Help Member on a way to turn unused space with a walking path with alcoves for families to spend private time with their precious family pets prior to difficult procedures. Though a project like this is likely to happen in stages, with visions of individual procedure rooms built on the property in future years, it is exciting for Ask Jan Members to have access to an architect who can actively participate in the vision for a practice’s future.

Don’t Forget the Pets

Ron’s expertise impacts almost every aspect of his design for his clients. A proponent of Marty Becker’s Fear Free™ Program, Ron is always looking for ways to design facilities to be more comfortable for pets. This can mean larger waiting rooms with barriers to give animals and their owners a feeling of privacy or a design that eliminates waiting rooms and sees every patient moving straight to an exam room. More recently Ron has been incorporating less traditional exam stations in patient rooms meant to ease stress on pets. Once again, knowledge of the industry and the customers being served is key.

Whether it is rounding corners on a 30,000 square foot concrete animal shelter so that leashes do not get cut or frayed or fixing a layout for a technician who also serves as Practice Manager and needs easy movement from the office to a laboratory station, Ron knows the industry and provides his clients with expertise that few architects can offer. He is the type of Expert that Ask Jan For Help is proud to introduce to its members.

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