Oral Health Group

If you build it, knock it off… You’re not a builder

October 1, 2008
by Dental Practice Management

My publisher is renovating her cottage. She seems a little stre$$ed.

I am not a cottage person, unless by ‘cottage’ you mean bigger, newer and full of more high-tech amenities than my house.


Renovating versus building new. Keeping ‘heirlooms’ versus throwing away stuff that hasn’t worked since 1954. These and hundreds of other decisions can lead to hours and hours of fun family discussions.

You face the same dilemma when making choices about your practice. Urban or rural? Suburbs or downtown? Office building or strip mall? Medical office building or strip mall? Renovate or build from scratch? Folksy or futuristic? Theme or no theme? Energy efficient everything. Flatscreens, computers, waterwalls, parking and public transit, open concepts and nooks.

Restaurant quality food, hotel quality reception areas, spa quality spa amenities. Elegant lighting. Ergonomic furnishings. Efficient waste management. Privacy, confidentiality and security. Future growth potential. And let’s not forget about those restrooms.

Consider shapes and colors, interior detailing, cabinetry, floor planning, long lifecycles, moisture and mold, linoleum and vinyl.

You need to understand clearly what you want your office to be long before committing to a design.

According to Design for Health, a California-based architectural and space planning firm, here are some of the most common mistakes in dental design projects:

1. Overestimating the problem. Maybe you need a new office, maybe you don’t. Before increasing your lease payments and absorbing relocation costs, consider less costly solutions within your current office that would get you back on track. Just because things have gotten a little out of control doesn’t mean a move is in your future.

2. Selecting a location based solely on square footage.

3. Overlooking items when budgeting and scheduling. Moving expenses, start-up costs, phones, computer networks, sound systems, intercoms and security systems are but a few of the items that often get thought about late in the process. When evaluating these options, consider also life cycle costs and not just initial expenditures.

4. Underestimating the value of a good design. A skilled designer does more than just wrap a project in a pretty package. Design is, according to this design firm, a synthesis of many factors that are crucial to the success of your project: the functional, spatial and relational requirement of each of your spac-

es; the interrelationships between you, your staff and your patients; codes and life safety considerations; budgetary requirements; equipment requirements; consideration of the existing mechanical and structural conditions; and finally, the atmosphere of the created environment.

5. Excluding your staff from the process. Getting them involved will, at the very least, help them buy in to the whole mess!

6. Compiling a bid list from weak sources. Everyone has a friend who has used a contractor. Make sure the contractors on your list are truly qualified for your project.

7. Accepting bids from inadequate drawings. If you have not provided a complete set of working drawings and specs, there isn’t much to hold a contractor to the quality of construction you have in mind. This leaves the door open for the contractor to cut corners or charge you dearly for change orders and additions after he has won the bid and the competition is out of the picture.

8. Failure to coordinate changes. Make sure that all involved are aware of changes. It is easy enough to decide to move a wall, but the design for the cabinets may also need revision. Does it affect the fire sprinklers? Heating? Electrical? Someone who understands all the ramifications should coordinate the changes.

9. Taking on too much responsibility yourself. You are a highly trained and skilled dental professional. You are not a designer. Knock it off.

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