Case Study – Harborne Dental Clinic

New room

The old lab transformed into a gorgeous, light-filled room…!

When Dr Jane Connor first contacted us, she was looking at putting in a new hygienist room. The existing lab seemed like the obvious solution, but then, where to put the lab…?

She thought maybe it could go into a shipping container outside…? We’ve looked at doing this for other projects (funky, right…?), but for one reason or another it hasn’t been a successful option. Either the council couldn’t get their head around the idea or it’s taken away precious car parking space.

So, as we are really magicians, we made space out of nothing…!

Not really.

What we did is make better use of the space.

We’ve done really tiny labs in the past, so we quizzed Jane and her staff on how much room they really needed. In reality, not too much at all.

We looked through the practice and found a disused X-ray developing room being used for storage. And it still had a sink – bonus…! We gutted it a created a small, but useable lab…problem solved…!

New lab and office

Above – the old xray developing/storage room to a cosy, but function lab AND Below – the old OPG/storage room to a lovely office for two

But we still needed storage space…hmmm.

We reviewed the rest of the practice and found a windowless alcove being used as an office by Dr Andrew Connor. There was also another room with an ancient OPG which hadn’t been used for years.

This room has lovely natural light and we were able to convert it to a small, but useable office with desk space for each doctor. The main cost involved in this was removing the OPG – those things are heavy…!

A partition and door enclosed Andrew’s old office to create a great storage room…viola…!

All in all, a lovely project where Ego Squared got to do what we do best – make the best use of your space.

Would you like us to review how you use the space in your existing practice…? Check out more about our refurbishment packages here or use our contact form to talk to us now…!

How big should my new practice be…?


Three surgeries in 90sqm…!

Actually, the question is usually ‘What is the minimum size do I need for my new practice..?’

Both very good questions – I can’t believe I haven’t addressed it before…!

There are a couple of things to take into consideration when looking at spaces (once you’ve determined geography, demographics, parking etc).

Firstly, (and probably obviously) how many chairs do you want to fit into the space…? You’ll also need to take into account other equipment requirements (OPG with or without ceph, lab facilities etc). And of course, reception, waiting, staff areas, offices and toilets.

Also, look at locations of entries and windows, columns and the proportion of the space.

In our time we’ve done some pretty tight spaces – you want to make the most out of every square centimetre, right…?

The smallest space we’ve ever done was a two chair practice in 62sqm….!

We’ve also done three chairs (and an access toilet…!) in 90sqm…! (see above)

How did we do it…? I’m glad you asked…!

We’ve found the more square the space, the better. Why..? Because we can cut down on the dreaded passages…passage take up A LOT of space. And there is nothing worse than a bowling alley in your practice.

It is getting more and more difficult to convert houses to consulting rooms, too. You might be OK if you decide to convert a large federation house with lovely wide hallways, but look at an old 80’s place and we’ll probably need to demolish most of the walls (trust me, we’ve done it…!)

The access and mobility requirements are significantly different to when we first started designing practices (and a lot more complicated). It used to be that you only had to allow 30% (or one surgery) accessibility, but now consulting rooms must be 100% accessible. This means you need to be able to have the required circulations spaces going into and coming out of each door way, passages need to be a certain width and don’t get me started if you have to turn a corner….!

And, if you do have a property you think will work, feel free to email through the details to us – we’re always happy to give you our opinion…!



March Update

Morley Orthodontic Centre - LOVE this entry...!

Morley Orthodontic Centre – LOVE this entry…!

The year is flying…!

As usual, it’s been a little hectic in the studio. We’ve one practice in construction (this one is due to finish in early April – yay!), a practice refurb and a heritage house conversion that have just come back from tender, a change of use for a chiropractor, some additions to a previous client’s practice (we love it when client’s extend – means business is going well…!) and we’re working on a retail space at the Claremont Quarter (a client has come back to us for a refresh after designing his store 7 years ago…)

We would like to congratulate Dr Crofton Daniels on his new practice late last month…! We have been working tirelessly with both Crofton and his lovely wife Rebecca for over a year to create the most amazing practice.

I’m looking forward to getting our photographer in there soon and sharing it with you all. But I couldn’t help but share a pic of some artwork we commissioned by the talented Anya Brock to create a fabulous entry statement for the practice.

We’ve been busy personally too…! Our second daughter, Sukey, has started kindy this year. Anthony’s birthday was earlier in the month, our we had our wedding anniversary was last week and I managed to squeeze in some 40th birthday celebrations in February, too….!

We hope you’ve had a great start to the year and get a break over the Easter holiday.

Natasha (and Anthony)

Five benefits of NOT project managing your own fitout

file0001573465344Should you project manage your own fitout…?

Anthony and I have been working in the commercial fitout industry for nearly 20 years and both of us can safely say we would never project manage a job. It’s a very specialist (and extremely stressful) role.

But isn’t it just a matter of getting the trades to come in at the right time…?

This is definitely one important aspect of the job. And it’s one that I certainly struggle with getting my head around. (So I need the electrician to disconnect before demolition, then pre wire when the framing is up, then again to fit off…? This times 8 or 10 different trades…? Woah…)

No matter how hard we designers cover as many scenarios as possible, things still go awry. Whether it be a fabric that is suddenly discontinued (why do suppliers NEVER warn us this is going to happen…?) or a material is 12 – 14 weeks from Italy (the stock was available when we specified it 4 months ago…) or asbestos is discovered (really…?) or the original construction isn’t up to code (what do you mean the bathroom floor has no foundations…?).

All of these things take time and expertise to overcome.

Recently I took a project co-ordinator role for a cafe franchise. No design, just sorting out all of these components of the first four stores of their new role out…this was all I did – FULL TIME. It’s not difficult, but you need to be so very organised and it is extremely time consuming. I was co-ordinating with the operations manager, the project manager for the building, the project manager for the fitout, the architect, four different franchisees (and often their partners or admin staff), suppliers of lights and furniture, the signage contractor, the building owner or shopping centre management, local councils and the CEO of the franchise. Phew…!

So, we recommend the using a project manager and these are our five reasons why:

1. You have time to do what you do…fitting out can be very distracting for your business without adding extra stresses. And if you’re refurbishing an existing practice, please take a break – you deserve it (but please see point #5).

2. The project will be completed as quickly as possible – a project manager that has complete control of his schedule and his trades is imperative to a successful project.

3. You have the benefit of a cohesive fitout team that understand minimum down time is important. They come in, work quickly and cleanly and get out…perfect…!

4. You can sleep at night knowing that it’s all under control. Why should you pull an all nighter trying to figure out when to get the tiler in again as he’s been held up on another job…?

5. You can even go on holiday (it is possible, as long as you’re available…please don’t disappear in to the ski fields or to a remote island with no internet access).

We’d love to hear your experiences on either using a project manager or managing a refurbishment yourself…!

Getting the best design for your practice

Or ‘Is it important that your designer has a niche…?’

You want to be at the top of your game, right…? To know all the latest technology and techniques. To offer you patients the best.

Well, why wouldn’t you ask the same of the person designing your practice…? The person who can make or break how well you practice works.

When talking to potential clients, we often hear ‘I’ve got a mate who’s an architect…’ I’m sure your mate will do you a good deal and put together something nice. However, something nice might not be enough. Will they know the intricacies of your equipment and workflow (or even know the right questions to ask…)…? Not necessarily.

It’s important to work with someone who’s been there before. Who knows that every dentist works differently, to offer different options. We’ve worked with so many different dentists and specialists that we can often offer you a few different ways to do the same thing.

You may have been working a certain way because that’s how the practice was set up (often years ago by someone else). But when setting up a new practice, we can help with offering better, more efficient ways to work. Some things you might never have thought about. And when you’re spending all that money, you want it to be right.

Also, technology is changing all the time and, although we don’t claim to be experts on your equipment, we have a good knowledge on how things work, what space and services are required and where they fit into the workflow of your practice.

It’s not all about the practice looking good (although this is important), it’s about getting the best design for your practice, making the best use of all of the space, ensuring you and your staff are working efficiently and your patients are comfortable and happy to come back and recommend you. So don’t just opt for something nice. Go for a practice design  that will take you to the next level of your business.

How tendering your project is different to ‘getting a few prices’

Ego Squared - saving your practice money

Ego Squared – saving your practice money…!

Or…Another way your designer can save you money


What…? You mean a designer can save me money…?


Yes, we can…! Interior designers have a reputation for being snooty, fashion conscious, trend setters that just want to SPEND your money on lavish rugs and expensive decoration.


Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not true…! I guess there are some designers out there, like that, but we tend to avoid that sort of thing for commercial projects. After all, you’re in business to provide a great service and make money, not show off your style or showcase your collection of designer handbags.


Interior design to us is about getting the best out of your space, making sure the work flow, well, flows. We take into account your focus for the business, the demographic of your patients, how you and your staff work within the space and most importantly, your budget.


In a previous post, I talked about ‘How your designer can save you $100 000’ which you can read that here.


Did you read it…? What did you think…?


So, the other way that you designer can save you money is by tendering your project.


‘But can’t I just get my own prices…?’ I hear you say…well, yes you can. However, getting a few prices and tendering is slightly different.


In a tender, the time for preparing the pricing is defined. It starts when the documentation is received and finishes at an exact time. Generally, prices received after this time, will not be considered. This reduces the potential for collusion.


We’ve found when a client decides to ‘get a couple of prices’ there is the potential for the builders to either take their time in getting their price together or do it really quickly and estimate on the high side. There is also the potential to discuss pricing with other builders or trades and adjust their pricing to suit ‘who owes who a favour.’ Sad, but true.


We also have the benefit of being a source of work for builders, so they can see the benefit in doing the right thing by us.


Another issue to be wary of is if a design/construct company offers to tender your project. After all, these companies make money from both the design and the construction processes, so you even though they’ve given you the option, you may still feel obliged to construct with them.


I’d also be concerned about the level of detail on their drawings. The drawings might be ‘simplified’ due to the fact that their trades work with them all the time, and their could be a standard specification that you may not be privy to…In an ideal world we’d like them to be honest and upfront, but sometimes this isn’t reality.


Our recommended builders are all experience with dental/medical fitouts, they can read plans (bonus..!) and are all independent from us and each other.


It is very important that you have a clear, detailed set of drawings and specifications with everything accounted for and no stone left unturned. The builder will make allowances for any omissions in the documentation and estimates will ALWAYS be on the high side. And once you’re in construction, variations are always more than you expect.


We’ve found with our details and specifications, the room for error and variations (and the associated costs) are dramatically reduced (even negligible).


We then administer the project, making sure that everything is as we’ve agreed during the design process. We are available to the builder and you, our client throughout the construction and inspect the site when required. At the end we create a ‘Defects List’ for the builder to correct any inconsistencies. You can be involved as little or as much as you like. (We’ve had client’s go on holiday during the build and come back to a brand new practice…!).


By doing it this way, by getting together an amazing set of drawings and specifications and putting it out to tender to three builders, we’ve found that it is the best way to get a comparable, competitive price…!

Case Study – Marri Gum Dental

Marri Gum Family Dental

Marri Gum Family Dental reception

Our client first contacted us very early in the process of opening a new practice. Dr Adrian Eng had found a house which he thought suitable and was doing his research prior to putting in an offer – a very good move. The first thing we did was talk to the planning department of the local council to see what was required to turn a house into a dental surgery.

As suspected we needed to do a Change of Use application (changing from residential use to consulting rooms). This is a fairly straight forward process (as long as the development is permitted), but councils tend to take 6 – 8 weeks to do this sort of application. Fortunately, the owner of the house was willing to take an offer ‘subject to council approval’ on the understanding that it could be a drawn out process.

So, we started putting together the required information for this application. We obtained a contour survey and visited the house to measure up. And what a house it was…! A brick and tile house built in (probably) the 1980’s with four tiny bedrooms in 90sqm. The block was large with various, sheds, undercover areas, tiered gardens and space to spare. Which is good news as council required at 12 car parking bays (6 bays per practitioner…wow!). The house is set on the front half of the block with a driveway down the side of the house, so the parking would be out the back.

The original house...

The original house…

One of the first things we like to discuss with our clients is their plans for the business. Initially, the plan was to get the new business up and running with two surgeries, but in the future the intention was to extend the house to add another two rooms. We need to do three things:

  1. Design a two room practice within the confines of the existing house
  2. Design an extension to the house incorporating another two rooms, but with minimal interruption to the existing practice
  3. Ensure the parking would not be compromised when the future extension was completed, but was still functional until that time.

Starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start…!), we worked up some floor plans for Stage 1. Dr Eng’s original thoughts were to maintain the existing front door as the entry with reception in the lounge room and put the other rooms (surgeries, steri, office etc) in the existing bedrooms.

This was all very well, but we had a better idea…! As the majority of patients would be coming from the back (the car park), we decided to create a new entry through the window in the main bedroom (as you do…!) This might be considered extreme, but quite a lot of internal demolition was required to bring the space up with the current Access and Mobility codes which include the width of passage and doorways and the circulations spaces to these doors.

Marri Gum Dental floor plan

Marri Gum Dental floor plan

As you can see, the surgeries worked best in the existing lounge and kitchen areas with the steri/lab in the bathroom/laundry.

The old living room became Surgery 1

                The old living room                  became Surgery 1

The old living room...!

Look at it now…!

The location of the OPG will be the ‘cut through’ and ‘breeze way’ to the future extension as you can see below. By keeping the extension separate from the existing house minimises the changes required to the roofline.

Byford Consulting Rooms 10sept13 A02 (1) copy

The future extension allows for the OPG to have its own room, two new rooms (auxiliary and hygienist), doctor’s office (with space for two…!) and a nice size staff room with staff entry from the car park. By drawing up this ‘future plan’ gave the traffic management consultant the parameters required to develop the car parking.

This went to local council for ‘Change of Use’ approval. Ego Squared collated all the required drawings and drew up a report supporting the application. Then, as with all council dealings, we wait.

Once we received approval, we commenced full documentation. You can check out all that entails here.

However, as this was a complete ‘house to practice’ build, we needed some extras for building approval including:

  • traffic management plan (including car park layout, signage and lighting)
  • external access requirements (including ramps, handrails, tactile indicator locations, bollards etc)
  • landscaping plan (including plant names and locations, reticulation system, rain water garden, drainage and soak well locations, fencing alterations)
  • internal and external demolition plan
  • bin enclosure details
  • External rendering and roof colours
  • Main street sign design and detailing.
New entry at the back of the house

New entry at the back of the house

We tendered this project to three builders. As we always say our builders are all experience with dental, they can read plans (bonus..!) and are all independent from us and each other. This, together with our details documentation and specification is the only way to get a competitive price…!

You can check out the final product here.


How your designer can save you $100 000*

file7411252893790You noticed that little asterisk, didn’t you…? And you thought ‘Uh, huh, here we go with the big claims…’

Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s not a big claim with a lot of T&C’s.

The title should actually read:

‘How your designer can save you up to $100 000’

Because you know what…? We have done just that…!

The disclaimer part is this: we achieved this amazing amount of money for a million dollar project and not all of our projects have that sort of budget.

The point is though, is that we have saved the majority of our clients tens of thousands of dollars and that is the aim for ALL of our projects. Yes, your practice designer can (and should) save you money.

But how…?

Well, the quick answer is ‘by doing our job’, but that doesn’t tell you anything.

So, let’s start here:

When you first think of what an interior designer does, what are your first thoughts…?

  • Pick colours and fabrics
  • Select furniture
  • Design a kitchen

Well, you would be right. But what does a surgery or practice designer do…?

  • Pick the colours for you reception and surgery
  • Design the reception desk
  • Select some feature lighting and artwork

Again you would be right…! However, what do we at Ego Squared do…?

Well, that’s where it gets interesting…!

We get into the nitty gritty of what you and your staff need to operate your practice. We think of EVERYTHING, we will even ask you the viscosity of your preferred soap (I’m not kidding…!)

Here is the type of detail we go into as a standard process:

  • Site and location plan (or contour survey depending on the complexity) showing car parking, landscaping etc
  • Internal demolition plan
  • Floor plan showing wall and furniture layouts, circulation space (for Disabled Access and Mobility)
  • Wall and partition specification (including radiation and sound insulation requirements)
  • Door and window specification (including hardware, framing, hinging, door stops, door signs etc)
  • Ceiling requirements (cornicing, access panels, insulation, exhaust fans, ceiling features and bulkheads, air conditioning locations, fire sprinkler locations)
  • Lighting and switching (including emergency lights and exit signs, after hours lighting)
  • floor finishes layout (including skirting, coving and flooring junctions)
  • Services plan (including every power, data and phone point, security system locations, master switching, equipment requirements etc)
  • Accessory specifications (including soap and paper towel dispensers, computer brackets, sharps bins and funnels, monitor and TV brackets etc)
  • Internal and external elevations (to get an overall feel of the space – council want to see these to make sure each room is habitable)
  • All built in cabinet details (showing overall look and sizes, service points for accurate install and finishes locations)
  • Feature lighting, window treatment specification, painting and wall paper specification and locations, artwork, furniture, mirrors and other decorative items
  • Signage design and detailing (mainly internal corporate signs and glazing vinyls, but may also include external wall and main street signs)

And you thought the builder did all this…!

Someone has to think of it all. And it is so much better to get it all down on paper in the planning stage, so you and the builder don’t need to run around after every detail.

In early days, when I was ‘picking colours’ for a builder, I remember going to a meeting with said builder and all his trades. They all kept firing questions at the dentist ‘where do you want this…?’ ‘do you want a power point here…?’ ‘what do you want to do about that…?’ It was awful and exhausting and the client was so overwhelmed.

We don’t want that to happen to you. We know your time is more important.

Unfortunately, your builder thinks HIS time is just as important and he will charge you for this. The less he and his trades have to think, the more they just get on with it. Less time, less thinking, less money.

These scenarios are also when another money draining thing occurs – mistakes. And in the construction industry, mistakes and variations are costly.

We know you want to know EXACTLY what you’re getting and what you’re paying for. We don’t want you to pay for any variations unless absolutely, positively necessary.

And this is the best way to do…!

There is another way your designer can SAVE YOU MONEY is by tendering your project. But I think that is a whole other blog post which I will get to soon…!

In the meantime, if you want to know more how we can save you money, give us a call. We’d love to catch up for a chat…!

Why Your Designer MUST Do a Great Layout For Your New Practice

When it comes to deciding on someone to design your new practice, you want someone who knows your industry, has worked on other practices before, someone who can show you a plan on paper…right…?

Unfortunately, seeking the best design services for your new practice can be as difficult as buying a car. Think of the wide range of car makes and models available. You can get something basic that gets you from A to B, a family car, a smart car, something vintage, or something a little luxurious.

Before coming to us, our clients have often spoken to a number of people who say they could design their practice. There’s the other designers, the builder who has been building practices for years, the equipment suppliers who have teamed up with designer, their mate who’s an architect.

So why have they come to us…?

In a nutshell, they weren’t happy with the floor plans they were given. The workflow felt wrong, the space awkward.

To us, the floor plan is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the design process. You’re paying for every square inch of that space and it needs to pay its way. You and your staff need to feel comfortable, not to mention the patients. The flow of the space needs to be effortless.

And as we all know, a picture tells a thousand words, so I’ll stop babbling on and SHOW you some real life case studies.

Case Study Number 1

First up we have an orthodontist looking at just over 100sqm in a brand new mixed use, multi storey development. The first design (on the left) was not quite what he had in mind, so he came to us (our plan is on the right).

Daniel O'Connor - sketch and Ego2

What we did (on the right):

  • Maintained the existing WC and Kitchenette locations
  • Created a welcoming entry
  • Increased waiting area seating from 4 to 13 chairs
  • Minimised the passageways
  • Functional OPG with Ceph
  • Inclusion of a refresh/brushing area
  • Combined the steri and lab (would prefer to keep them separate, but the number of the chairs was the priority)
  • Added an extra chair into the open plan area
  • Orthodontist-friendly consult
  • Added a hidden cleaners sink
  • Complies to AS 1428.1 2009 Access and Mobility

Our client was able to achieve our plan for 5% more than he was quoted for the first plan. Each of the spaces functions well, but most importantly he got an EXTRA CHAIR in the space.


Case Study Number 2

Now we’ll have a look at general dentist nearly 80sqm in an existing medical centre. Again, the first design (on the left) was not quite what he had in mind, so he came to us (our plan is on the right).

Sippy Downs - sketch and Ego2

What we did (on the right):

  • Relocated the waiting area to the shared centre area
  • Reception to the lease line as permitted
  • Enclosed the surgeries for privacy
  • Provided a lab
  • Provided a Plant room
  • Provided a Doctors office
  • Plenty of storage
  • Complies to AS 1428.1 2009 Access and Mobility

By ensuring that all the rooms would be comfortable and functional for both staff and patients and knowing how far we can push the space, gave our client a more ‘bang for his buck’.

These are just two of the projects we have worked on that have significantly improved the use of the space. We are constantly horrified (a strong word, but accurate) at floor plans are thrown together, without any thought on the impact of the new business or value on what an interior designer specialising in your area can offer.

We’d love to hear your experiences in getting a floor plan….!


How Does Your Surgery Feel?

image_15smallWe’ve noticed that clients respond to their new surgery in one of two ways.

Some focus on how it looks.  They’ll say things like, “Ah that looks great”.

Others will say something about how the new surgery design makes them feel.

They’ll talk about the atmosphere of the whole place with comments like, “It’s got a great feel to it.”

There’s a gender thing going on here but let’s not dig ourselves into a hole on that one.

What I can say is that it’s particularly satisfying to hear people reflect on how a place feels.

That’s a more complex thing to achieve. It’s much harder than just making something pretty.

In surgery design we go after three things – the look, the function and the feel.

This means considering several layers including the architectural style of  your building, your personality and the nature of your client base.

What’s the key message about your practice?  Is it friendly and welcoming, is it exclusive and private?  What do we want patients to think and feel when they visit?  Do your patients feel comfortable and relaxed in your waiting area?

We think about you too. We think very carefully about how your surgery is going to perform for you and your team every day.

Are your tools within reach?  Is the work flow easy?  Are your personal tastes reflected?

We draw together a great number of building details to create the effects we want for your surgery.

We think about the space around people, the texture of surfaces, how the light falls and the feel of the furniture.

Sometimes good design can be about what you leave out as much as what you put in.

No single element stands alone in a fitout.  The wall colour will change with the light in the room as well as the colour of other finishes.  Elements need to work together and balance each other.

A great surgery interior design is achieved when individual elements blend together to create a pleasing overall effect.  Which might be described as how the room ‘feels’.

Sometimes we will present a set of swatches and surface samples to a client knowing that it’s going to be difficult for them to imagine how those samples might look in the finished room.

A client might point to one particular colour in a full set of finishes and say – “I don’t like that one.”

In the context of a small sample board the colour will look different from when it’s seen as part of the whole.  This is especially true when finishes are viewed from a distance.

Sometimes it’s easy to make a small change and keep the overall effect. If that’s the case then we’ll cheerfully do it.

There are other times when we think it’s important enough to argue the toss.  This is when we need to look our client in the eye and ask them to trust us.

I had such an occasion recently when a project was in its final stage.  A  pendant light was installed just before the wall paper went up.

Our client arrived and saw the light.  “I don’t like it.” he told us with some disappointment.

We encouraged him to wait until the room was finished and make his final decision then.

Once the wallpaper went up our client loved his new light. He could see how the overall effect really worked. How it made sense within the context of the entire space.

I’m describing what a professional interior designer brings to the table.

You’re after a fully integrated surgery that works for you, your team and your clients.

This isn’t about a pretty magazine picture. It isn’t about lots of little pieces that you might like individually.

Professional interior design is about hiring someone with vision and skill, to bring all the elements together, to create a highly functional space that looks and feels good.

You’ll have to trust me on that.