Lead Architect
Susan Bjerke, AIA

Project Location
Helena, Montana

Architecture Firm
Bjerke Architects PLLC
2905 N Montana Avenue, Suite 202
Helena, MT 59601

2014 Citation

Alpine Animal Clinic

Alpine Animal Clinic is a state of the art veterinarian clinic that has redefined the standard of small animal care in Montana and significantly enhanced one of Helena’s major intersections. The owner’s goals included investing in her hometown and establishing her independent, cutting – edge veterinarian practice in a bold fashion. Her vision further included providing an efficient, comforting and healthy environment for employees, clients and patients. Interior spaces filled with natural light coupled with efficient work flow compliments the atmosphere of the owner’s “nothing to hide” attitude relating to all animal care processes.

Three primary goals drove the project program: Create a clinic that is fresh, open, welcoming, upscale, and provides exceptional care. Secondly, create a building that would be cost – effective to own, operate and maintain. Finally, create a new standard for veterinary care in the Helena area.

In addition to re-using the distressed original structure, the project included coordination with the City Engineering and Building Department on site drainage, noise from pet play yards and control of pet hair entering the sanitary sewer system. Additional coordination with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality was required for the site, relating to the previous removal of underground fuel tanks and the remaining monitoring wells.

Phase 1 included creation of the fundamental elements of the veterinarian clinic: Lobby and waiting, six exam rooms, treatment, surgery, kennels, isolation, X-ray, offices and staff work spaces. The majority of the site improvements were included in Phase 1 (occupied in February 2009). After establishing the practice and building a strong client base, Phase 2 was initiated to provide rehabilitation/hydrotherapy, grooming, indoor luxury boarding kennels with indoor play yard, separate hospital ward for animal recovery, dental, CAT scan, laundry, a community room and additional offices (occupied in May 2012).

Adaptive re-use of the original building, improved building envelope, high-quality indoor air systems, low-e glazing, natural light, visual connection to the exterior, low maintenance/durable materials and reduction of the heat – island effect on site were key sustainability goals. Creating a quality work environment was paramount to meeting the owner’s goals of recruiting top-notch professionals and support staff. Abundant natural light is provided by incorporating skylights and clerestory windows to provide a supportive environment for workers, clients, patients.

Limited exterior site space and Montana’s long winters created a challenge to provide adequate exercise for boarded dogs. Creating an interior play yard, equipped with an integral cleaning system and perimeter drains, augmented the exterior lawn areas. The adjacent boarding area has abundant natural light through windows and a central light well, providing environmental cues for the well-being of the dogs, as well as staff. The architecture created through collaboration between client, architect and engineering team resulted in a building that supports a thriving veterinarian clinic and represents a significant reinvestment for one of Helena’s primary entrances.

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