Today is National Bike to Work Day! Did you ride your bike to the office this morning? If you did, would you have a place to put it? I’m amazed how few dental practices, especially the standalone ones, don’t have any place for patients and staff to lock up their bike if they ride one to the office. We’ve always found bike racks to be a creative way to add interesting features to the landscape. Adding a bike parking location is an easy and straightforward this to do as part of the parking and front entry design of the building. Additionally, adding bike storage is one of the key elements of the Sustainable Locations portion of the Eco Dental Association’s Green Doc program.
Archive for the ‘green dentistry’ Category
Stanford University’s Board of Trustees voted to divest the university endowment from coal. Following a strategy used to fight apartheid, a student group led a campaign against the carbon rich fossil fuel, and they are hoping this catches on with other large institutional investors. Coming in the same week that President Obama announced a renewed battle to fight climate change, one can only hope that Stanford truly is at the forefront in the fight against coal.
The odds of a large move against coal are not good. Europe has fallen in love with inexpensive coal from the U.S. As countries such as China and India continue to push their economies forward, they are going to need more energy and not less. With the U.S. on a new energy independence high, weaning the country off its low-cost fossil fuel isn’t going to be easy. Cleaning our air is going to have to be a global initiative and not a “one country going alone” approach.
As small business owners, dentists can certainly do their part by critically analyzing their practices and reducing energy consumption at every turn. As homeowners we can all make strides in reducing carbon by reducing our energy consumption, too. As communities, generating electricity from natural gas produces half the carbon emissions as burning coal. Along with recycling and water usage reduction programs we can all contribute in making great strides toward reducing the total amount of carbon emissions. We can also all join together in encouraging other large, institutional investors to divest from fossil fuels, and coal in particular. I remember when the world banded together and divested from South Africa and the sweeping change that brought. Let’s join Stanford’s Board of Trustees and make this a global change. We’ll all feel better – literally.
President Obama is on a roll this week announcing he’s making battling climate change a major priority for the remainder of his term. All we can say is, “It’s about time!” We don’t know about anyone else, but we’re tired of hearing and reading about all of the political back-and-forth over whether climate change is real or isn’t real. The science from what we’ve seen is pretty convincing that climate change is real and happening now. Just think about Katrina, Sandy, mud slides, and droughts. That all seems pretty real to us. We also don’t believe there is any point in arguing whether humans are the cause or not. That is a pointless argument. Carbon is the cause and humans are the only species on the planet that has the capacity to deal with rising carbon emissions. If we don’t act, who will – the dolphins or the rhinos?
Buildings amount for approximately 39% of all carbon emissions. This includes every house, office building, and factory. We were taught in accounting classes that if one wants to cut expenses always start with the single largest line item on the Income Statement. Well, guess what? A line item that amounts to 39% is a pretty large item and one that everyone has a hand in since we all live and work in a building of one form or another. There’s no opportunity to push the responsibility for change off on “the factories.”
We can all attack this problem by reducing the energy use at home and at work. Replace all lighting with LED that uses a mere 15% of the energy of an incandescent bulb. We can replace all water faucets and fixtures with Water Sense fixtures that use less water and are more efficient. We can all make sure we have plenty of insulation in the walls and ceilings of our homes and offices. (Okay, if we rent office space this might be a stretch, but we can seek out offices that are located in LEED certified buildings.) We can all recycle. If we’re a dentist we can join the Eco Dentistry Association and make our practices more efficient by becoming Green Doc Certified. If we’re an architect, engineer, or designer we can design to LEED standards whether our clients ask us to or not. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.
Let’s stop pointing fingers and passing-the-buck. Let’s join together and get serious about making change for the good and halting the effects of climate change. We have great faith in the capacity of mankind for great change and great good. For our own survival and that of every other species on the planet (except for cockroaches as we think they can survive anything), we have a rare moment to make history.
Do you need a floor that is easy to clean and easy to keep microbial free? One of the best ways to insure both features is to get one that is seamless. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. One if through a rolled vinyl material that has welded seams where needed. Another is through using terrazzo.
There are rolled vinyl products available now that contain recycled content and provide antimicrobial properties. Some can be seamed to a cove base to create a smooth, corner free transition from floor to wall that is easy to clean and prevents dirt attracting crevices at the edges.
This same seamless cove transition is possible using terrazzo where the base and flooring can be poured together to provide a great microbe free surface. Terrazzo is another green option as it can readily contain recycled materials as part of the aggregate and is produced locally to the project.
Especially in surgery suites where sanitation is of added importance we recommend either of these approaches to achieving a great looking, low maintenance, sanitary floor.
One of the critical ways to help create a memorable dental office experience is through appropriate lighting. Good lighting design will help a space really come alive. Lighting helps create and enhance the shadows and spots that transforms a room from ordinary to spectacular. We really feel it is a shame that so many dental offices have given so little thought to their lighting and merely thrown in a few “cans” and overhead fluorescent fixtures. These do nothing to create great light to work by, to create a memorable experience for patients, or to reduce the practice’s energy footprint. New regulations may help move things forward by eliminating the incandescent bulb from store shelves.
December 31, 2013 marked the last day that 40 and 60 watt incandescent bulbs could be manufactured for sale. This follows the elimination of the 75 and 100 watt bulbs a year ago. Incandescent bulbs only convert 10% of the energy they consume into light. While halogen, compact fluorescent, and LED’s are all still available, we prefer the use of LED’s above all others.
LED’s (light emitting diodes) use only 15% of the energy of a traditional incandescent bulb and less than half of a fluorescent. Plus, they contain no mercury that can wreak havoc with the environment if not properly disposed of. The range of colors (Kelvin) that are available in LED’s is increasing daily along with the amount of light (lumens) they emit. Given this it is easier to create a bright, sunlight true (kelvin above 3500) operatory and a warmer, yellower light (kelvin closer to 2000) in the waiting area.
“But, the fixtures are so expensive!” We hear this a lot, but mainly from contractors and not our clients, and this can be true – to a point. A room that would require nine (9) incandescent or compact fluorescent can fixtures may require as few as five (5) LED ones. So, not only is the dental office spending less on energy to illuminate the space they are spending less up front on total fixture and installation cost. Sounds like a win-win to us!
I’m just back from the Mid-Winter Dental Meeting in Chicago where the convention planning committee met to work on the details for the 2014 Green Dentistry Conference. The 2014 conference will be held 17-19 October at Sundance Resort in Utah.
The 2014 conference is going to be even more exciting than the inaugural event in 2013. The committee has already secured Gary Takacs to do a presentation on creating a green dental team that rocks. If you’ve not heard Gary before, he’s dynamic and dedicated to help dental teams thrive.
The handling of amalgams and their disposal will be another hot topic, as the committee is working to make sure the conference is packed full of hands-on, practical knowledge for improving both the energy efficiency and operation of the green dental office.
Of course, we’ll be doing a presentation on designing the green dental office of your dreams. Isn’t that what every dentist wants?
The conference will have more full-group presentations than last year. Our thought is that this will give attendees more opportunity to share ideas. This will also reduce the walking time between sessions and increase the time spent learning.
If you’ve not yet registered be sure to visit ecodentistry.org and get registered today!
Maybe it is just a function of living in the dawn of the 21st century, but technology has reached an ever present point that incorporating it into the design of a dental office just seems natural. By incorporating technology into the design we can improve both the operational efficiency of the office and the patient experience. We can also reduce the energy consumption of the office making the dental practice more environmentally friendly.
We’re working on two projects right now with clients to bring technology to bear in order to improve their patient experience. While the specific details vary slightly between the two clients, the end goal is the same – both clients want to improve their presentation capabilities while meeting with patients. Designing enhanced consultations rooms is really fun, as they pose different challenges than any other room in the dental office. The room needs to be comfortable, safe, soundproof (or at least sound deadening), and technologically easy for the dentist or presenter to maneuver through all of the material they want to cover with the patient. The room needs to create an environment that avoids putting patients in an uncomfortable “weak” position to the dentist so they are not on the defensive when making financial decision related to their care. We see consultation rooms that are so frequently designed that put the dentist in a power position relative to the patient and we wonder just how much work the dentist has to do to close a sale. Of course, seeing is believing, and with the ability to show patients exactly what is going inside their mouths through the use of digital x-rays and intraoral cameras we wonder why anyone would refuse to proceed with a recommended treatment. However, the more comfortable the patient is during the presentation process the more likely they will move forward with the treatment plan.
We mentioned the need to be soundproof, but HIPAA demands that no one walking past the consultation room or standing outside of if should be able to learn anything about what is going on inside. This requires careful design of the room for visual as well as sound protection of the occupants without just creating a dark, depressing cave.
We’ve had push back at times over the amount of square footage required to create a consultation room as many don’t view this as revenue generating space. We beg to differ. If this is the place that larger treatment plans are reviewed and agreed upon, isn’t it important to have a space that more deals are closed than in the past?
Reduce, Recycle, Reuse. The mantra of “Going Green.” While we work extensively with clients to incorporate environmentally friendly design into their dental office building and remodeling projects, we rarely see the opportunity to reclaim a really cool, abandoned or underutilized space and breathe new life into it by converting it to a dental office. Why is this? This can’t be because dentists aren’t hip and cool. Some of the hippest people we know are our dental clients. The answer must be a dearth of really cool properties that are suitable for a dental office conversion.
Whatever the reason we love what this small town in northern Indiana was able to do to give new life to one of its historic properties.
In the lap of luxury at Charley Creek Inn
In the railroad era, most hotels were clustered downtown near the train station for the convenience of travelers. With the arrival of interstates on the outskirts, 70 mile per hour speed limits, and chain motels, many of Indiana’s nineteenth and early twentieth century downtown hotels were demolished.
We’re working on a dental office design project right now and are struggling to find just the right color match between the floor tiles, countertop, and backsplash tile. Since the client really loves the floor tile, it is the backsplash tile that is being problematic. I’m sure, as a dentist you can relate. When working to build a new crown for a patient getting the enamel color just right so it matches the teeth around it is critical. If it is a shade or two off the tooth will stand out like a sore thumb and everyone will notice. The same is true in design. If something isn’t just right, the overall effect will be marred, and consequently, the impact from the design will be diminished.
There are multiple goals when creating a new design for a dental office:
- What is the branding message the practice is trying to send?
- What is the patient experience that the practice wants to be remembered for?
- How can the practice become more productive and efficient through better space planning and design?
- How can repetitive use injuries be reduced or avoided through better ergonomic design?
- How can the practice use energy and water more effectively and efficiency through green design?
- How can the practice make more productive use of its space through the application of technology?
These are just of a few of the questions that we ask our clients and ourselves on each project we work on. Hitting a homerun on all or most of these requires careful attention to details – just like getting the color right on a patient’s tooth.
Almost every office window has some form of window treatment on it, and in most offices these treatments are more likely to be a form of window shade rather than drapes. The shade, however, has a bigger role in life than merely looking good. The window shade needs to play an important role in helping reduce glare and solar heat gain. Did you know that the US Department of Energy estimates that buildings use 38% of all energy in the country and 67% of all electricity? Just imagine what a positive impact this will make on our environment if the total energy usage can be reduced by 5, 10, or 15 percent? Not to mention the positive impact this will make on your dental practice’s bottom-line through lower utility bills. Plus, if you’re trying for LEED certification, the right shade can help garner important Indoor Environmental Quality credits.
“But, I have a wonderful view out my windows! I don’t want to block that view,” you say. Well, there are ways to specify one’s shades and still reduce glare and solar heat gain and still keep the view. For example, a darker material will reduce the glare and improve the visibility through the shade, even when the Percent Open or amount of holes in the fabric is small. A lighter color fabric reduces the Solar Heat Gain but has a higher amount of glare. So, if you have a fabulous view out the windows of your operatories you’ll probably want to choose a darker fabric for the shades so offer your patients the best view and least amount of glare.
There are some new high-tech fabrics that push the envelope of solar management technology further. For example, now one can choose shade fabrics with metal on the outside that help further reduce solar heat gain. While there are aesthetic considerations when one views these materials from the exterior of the building, the energy savings can be worth the investment.