Archive for the ‘A Design Concept That Works’ Category

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…!



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.

Where do I start…?

Where to begin...?

Where to begin...?

That’s the question that Anthony and I asked ourselves when we recently decided to extend our house. Do we go to the bank first, talk to some builders, talk to the council…?

NO! We came up with the floor plan!

As the old saying goes: fail to plan and you plan to fail. When it comes to surgery interior design particularly, if you get the floor plan wrong, the whole thing could fall in a heap. It may look fantastic to start with, but if it doesn’t function properly eventually something will need to change.

Of course, you’ve worked in surgeries before, you know what works and what doesn’t. But what do you do if you’re starting with a clean slate? How many surgeries can I realisitically fit into this space? Where IS the best place for the steri, the lab, the OPG? Do I need an office and consult room? How much room should the staff room take up? Will I need six waiting chairs or 16?

And then the question that is often missed – what about planning for the future…?

We had a dentist approach us recently. I dutifully took his design brief and got the admin side sorted out. Then, during our programming meeting, we decided that Anthony would start the design process. Step 1: the floor plan.

He took away my briefing notes and the survey of the space. While getting his head around the space when he looked at my notes: the client wanted three surgeries. Three…? Are you sure…? He couldn’t possibly mean three – I’m sure you could get four… So, Anthony played around with the space and sure enough four surgeries worked really well together with everything else requested.

Our client was thrilled! Even though he was only planning for three rooms, giving him the option of four surgeries has given him a future expansion plan. He probably won’t fit out the last surgery until later, but at least the space is there ready and waiting!

So, the answer is: start at the very beginning with a floor plan! (You might even want to check out our ‘Limited Time Offer’)

The process…

Friends of mine, Glenn and Julia from OM4 are currently in the process of fitting out their new office (which they kindly asked us to design). It has given them a greater understanding about what we do – which is something that is difficult to explain fully unless you’ve been through it yourself.

Julia has her own eloquent explanation of the process. She compared it to having a baby. Designers are the midwives, taking measurements, making recommendations, offering advice, ensuring that what is developing can be the best it can be. However, what our clients ultimately decide upon is entirely up to them, whether it be a paint colour (home or hospital) through to how they decide to construct – DIY or head contractor (natural or cesarean).

The construction itself is the birth; stressful, scarey, exciting and hopefully not too painful with no unexpected surprises. Us, ‘midwives’ hover around offering advice and support as required and reminding our clients to breathe with comforting words of ‘it will be worth it in the end.’

And it is worth it. The result should be something amazing and fabulous and life altering and worth the hard work. Unlike kids however, a new practice isn’t to0 hard to ‘make good’ or change as it gets older and if it all gets too much you can always sell 🙂

This is our little project!

Architect? Interior Designer? Decorator?

There’s an age old (well, maybe not THAT old) struggle explaining what it is that we actually DO. Interior design conjurs up all these images of cushion scattering, curtains and pelmets and paint colours. I always say, this is about 10% of our job description and don’t think I’ve ever specified a cushion in my career, let alone scattered one!

This type of work falls into the realm of the decorator. Interior decorators come into your home or business and improve the aesthetics of the existing layout.

A designer, on the other hand, works with more structural elements to improve the space and then may use decoration to complete the overall look.

So, what about the architect? Architects, primarily design buildings. They may get involved in the interior design and decoration, however are more likely to engage a designer to complete the interiors. Larger firms have designers inhouse as part of the project team.

Who do you use to design your surgery?

It really depends entirely on your project. If you are looking to construct a purpose built building, I would recommend engaging an architect to design the building and an interior designer who has had experience with surgery design to design the inside. They will work together to get the best outcome for your needs.

However, if you are considering purchasing (or leasing) an existing space, I would get an experienced surgery designer involved.

And, if you want to refurbish an existing surgery, depending on how far you want to go, engage an interior designer with surgery knowledge and experience.

Last, but not least, if you are just looking for a little bit of a face lift (colours, furniture etc), a decorator will be able to help you.

Extreme Makeover

I just love watching all the makeover shows on TV. The English really know how to renovate and produce an incredible number of makeover shows!

My favourite theme is the budget/time over-run! I particularly like Property Ladder and I’m forever ohhh-ing and hmmf-ing at amateur property developers’ estimates of how long things will take and how much they will cost. Not to mention not taking host, Sarah Beeny’s advice – this girl knows what she’s doing!

Budget and time overruns go hand in hand in the construction industry. Having first hand knowledge of the industry, as a designer, I wouldn’t even consider project managing a job myself – it’s a very stressful and demanding occupation.

My advice is – do what you are good at and get advice from the people who know. I’ve found the most successful business people are the ones who surround themselves with experts!  

Reducing the Fear Factor

After searching ‘dentist’ on various blogging websites, a common theme appeared: ‘OMG, I have to go to the dentist’ with ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ high on the list of keywords. It amazes me that people are still afraid.

So how are you able to reduce or even remove this fear. Of course you can offer the obligatory synthetic relief (‘give me the drugs!’) but from a design point of view you can also sooth the senses.

Have a look at:

1. Colour – making your surgery (throughout) pleasing to the eye. Often people strive to get the waiting area as comfortable as possible, but one technique we use is ensuring one of the waiting room finishes is significant in the operatory.

2. Texture – as above. Using a varienty of textures throughout the surgery reduces that sterile/surgical feel. It’s important to get the right balance between clean/sterile and comfortable/relaxing.

3. Warmth – ambiance is extremely important. We understand that lighting in the operatory needs to be correct (especially for colour matching), but ensuring that the lighting throughout the rest of the space is warm and inviting.

4. Movement – ‘Give ’em the old razzle dazzle’ and distract with colour and movement. Often a television is used above the patients head or the good old fish tank. You might even have a passion for fine artwork (also covering the colour and texture elements)

5. Smell – aromatherapy is popping up everywhere at the moment. Don’t feel that you need to employ a specialist – a simple essential oil burner might just do the trick, or essense through the a/c system. One of our clients offered a range of perfumes and colonges at the refresh area.

6. Sound – music is often used to ‘calm the savage beast’. There are various systems available from a simple feed through your computer to volume and area controls to each room (so each work space has control of it’s own level and style of music)

7. Touch – one of our clients offered warm hand towels after a treatment. This is a simple gesture that is calming and soothing.

So, that’s a couple of ways to reduce the fear in your surgery – I’d love to hear of ways you have found useful.

Why your waiting room shouldn’t look like a shop.

Selling merchandise doesn’t mean turning your waiting room into a shop. Some retail presentation elements can be incorporated in your surgery to achieve more product sales. Your patients may not want to be sold to, however correct display can motivate a patient to buy rather than feel pressured into it.

We understand that your main focus isn’t selling dental products. However, increasingly we are seeing dental surgeries incorporating a strong retail focus. It makes sense that your patients value your endorsement of certain products. You are providing a purchasing opportunity for people when they are more aware of a particular need.

If you are considering refurbishing think about the following before talking to your designer:
1. What products do you think you patients would benefit from?
2. How much product do you want to sell?
3. How much product do you want to display?
4. How much storage will you need?
5. What merchandising/display stands are provided with the products?

Effective retailing is not just a display case. Our aim is to incorporate the presentation of products in an effective and integrated way. I like walking into a space where everything makes sense and nothing is over powering. Often an ‘off the shelf’ display cabinet just doesn’t cut it.

The Green Surgery

We have noticed an increase in our clients desire to explore environmentally friendly design principles in their surgery fitout. More and more commercial suppliers are introducing products to meet this new demand. Once “the green solution” was an expensive option. These days it is becoming more affordable.

In some instances the choice is no longer ours to make. Concerns about the environment have led to new building code legislation regarding the amount of energy consumed per square metre of commercial space. As the surgery requires high levels of effective lighting, designers are now turning having to turn to other types of fitting (eg LEDs or compact fluoros as opposed to metal halides or 12V downlights). These lights offer the dentists savings in energy consumption as well as regulation compliance.

We are constantly researching the practicalities and costs associated with these new eco friendly product ranges. Where it makes commercial and design sense to use them we will. However, if the option incurs significant extra cost we will advise you so that you can make the choice for yourself.

Priceless art work in a dental surgery design

As our own baby is due today I am reminded of family themes. I once met a dentist who told me about his kids drawing on the walls at home. In the dining room his toddler had drawn a picture of him with exaggerated personal attributes. He and his wife decided to leave it there to promote dinner party conversation. Apparently it made for some hilarious banter.

You might not choose this type of self promotion but you might consider your own kids art in the design of a family dental practice. Children’s art can be delightful in their use of colour and their simplistic world view. For parents if has special meaning and value. In this age of digital printing your own children’s art can be used to personalise your work place. You can get artworks printed on to canvas, fabric or wallpaper.

It is great for your kids ego as well as reminding you of your biggest fans and why you work as hard as you do. For your client base it creates a warm atmosphere and a talking point. It also reminds your clients that you understand the needs of families as you have one yourself. Have you seen family themes used well in surgery design? Send us an email with your thoughts.

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