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Community College of Baltimore County Essex needs a new veterinary technology center, and they need it fast.

Their current facility is outdated, and without a new home for their program, they’ll lose accreditation.

Peter Schwab, an associate principal at Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects, is up to the challenge.

Schwab and his team have been working to accomplish in a year what normally takes at least 18 months. He says they’re on track to do just that.


A creative learning environment

CCBC Essex has the only accredited veterinary technician program in the state of Maryland.

Their curriculum is rigorous.

Their students are dedicated.

But they’re a community college — where keeping the tuition affordable is a priority — so Schwab worked with the school to develop a creative learning environment within the school’s budget.

This was where Schwab could flex his design skills to serve the college while respecting their dollars.

The program is housed in the basement of a 12-story building, so a lot of the focus is on taking something small and dark and making it feel big and bright.

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Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects will leave the structure exposed and paint things like the mechanical systems and ceilings to make it feel as open as possible, Schwab says.

Ceiling clouds — lower hung ceilings that provide acoustic enhancement — will help define spaces like student workstations.

State-of-the-art LED lighting and colorful floor and wall finishes will help complete the visual transformation.

Veterinary technicians are sometimes underappreciated, says Shawn McNamara, Dean for the School of Health Professions at CCBC Essex. But now, these students are getting the space they deserve.

McNamara’s excited for the new workstations, which will allow four students to work together while assessing animals.

“This is going to make it a much more collaborative learning environment,” he says.

A working facility

The Veterinary Technology Center at CCBC Essex isn’t just a school; it’s also a low-cost clinic for teachers and students. At the clinic, they perform orthopedic surgeries, spay and neuter pets, and have been able to treat strays.

“It’s exciting to work on that kind of space,” Schwab says.

He’s an animal lover, so this project is close to his heart. He’s dedicated to creating a friendly and healthy environment for the students and pets.

After the demolition phase of the project, they’ll put in a moisture control system to keep out humidity and prevent mold, Schwab says.

Surgery and prep areas will have epoxy resin floors and a special, washable ceiling to keep things clean.

They’re also planning recovery spaces for animals, an office waiting area, and exam rooms just like any veterinary hospital, plus lots of flexible teaching spaces.

State-of-the-art equipment will fill the space and will help students hit the ground running when they graduate, McNamara says.

“We’re really excited because the space is going to take us where we need to be,” he says.

It’s also going to increase the number of students they can accept.

With the remodel, the program’s usable space is going to double. That means they’ll be able to accept 40 students a year compared to the 20 they’re limited to today.


An evolved space

Most of the veterinary technician students are “second career people,” McNamara says. They’re drawn to the occupation out of a love of animals and a drive to help them and their families.

The vet tech students are packing up and leaving the space now so it can be renovated.

“I’m totally excited about seeing the student’s faces when they come back to see what the space is going to evolve to,” McNamara says.

When they return in August, their big and bright new facility will be complete.