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.
Posts Tagged ‘LEED’
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.
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.
I spent most of today in the emergency room with my parents. My father called shortly after I arrived at the office and said he’d just called 911 because my mother had collapsed in the kitchen. I met him at the hospital where we spent the next six hours watching the staff perform all kinds of tests trying to determine what caused my mother’s collapse. As I watched the staff going about their examinations I became appalled at the sheer volume of waste generated by my mother’s brief stay.
As you’ve no doubt noticed if you’re a frequent reader of my blog, I’m a big proponent of green dentistry. I believe there is so much room for positively impacting our environment and reducing our carbon footprint by following the guidelines as set forth in the Eco Dentistry Association’s GreenDoc program and USGBC’s LEED program. While the hospital my mother was taken to achieved LEED Gold status when it was built, I was overwhelmed by the amount of waste generated. Virtually everything used in the examination of my mom went into a single, large trash container after it was used. This not only included the packaging for the bandages and syringes, but the plastic bedpan, wash basin, and staple gun, as well. Why are these things single use? I understand the need for sanitation and infection control, but isn’t there some more environmentally responsible manner of cleaning and reusing these things rather than sending them to a landfill? Not to mention the amount of energy it took to produce them for a single, five minutes of use.
The trip today makes me realize just why the cost of healthcare is so high. Effective cleaning agents can’t possibly cost as much as throwing these things out every time a patient uses them. What about someone who has a longer stay than my mother did? How much trash must they generate? Today’s visit also makes me better appreciate the mission of the Eco Dentistry Association and motivated to see if there’s some way to carry their message to other areas of healthcare. There is just something not right that an industry dedicated to making us healthier should be having such a detrimental impact on our planet.
One of the things I do to relax is to read Architectural Digest. Perhaps it is an occupational hazard but I find reading about all the exciting design details colleagues are doing all around the globe quite rejuvenating. In this month’s issue I was amazed when I read Margaret Russell’s (Editor) letter describing the amazing green design features of Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen’s new home. Gray water system for irrigation, photovoltaic panels that return power to the grid, eco-conscious use of recycled materials and eco-conscious recycling of construction materials – truly amazing stuff for a private residence. Okay, I’m quite aware that these two aren’t the average couple, but hey, if they can do this for their house, why can’t more dental offices that are in the business of helping people lead healthy lives be doing more of this? One of the most profound takeaways from this year’s Greening the Heartland Conference in Chicago is that research is showing building a green building has a very real positive ROI and doesn’t have to cost any more than conventional building methods. That’s amazing. All it takes is motivation and good up-front planning. The planning part is key. Those kind of results aren’t possible when the project is rushed or one decides halfway through to “go green.” Too often our clients don’t even call us until they are under-the-gun to get out of their existing lease and into a new space. The most cost effective project is never done under such circumstances. Don’t know where to begin in making your dental practice more green? Your best first stop is with the Eco Dentistry Association and their Green Doc program. But, I digress. Check out Tom & Gisele’s new home and be inspired. I’m going back to checking out the other amazing properties!
What kind of system powers your office? If you’re like most dental offices in the United States you have a traditional HVAC system that burns natural gas for the heat and pulls electricity for cooling. There is a better way – especially if you are trying to be a green dental office.
A recent study by the Sustainable Energy Group and the University of Wisconsin Extension found that geothermal systems’ total cost of ownership and operation outperform standard efficiency furnaces by 10% and high-efficiency furnaces by 7% over the course of the building’s life time. While you may say that’s not a lot of improvement, this calculation takes into account the higher upfront cost of installing the geothermal system, so the return is real savings that translates to the bottom-line of your dental office practice.
Here is a pretty good video that gives an overview on how geothermal systems work.
When coupled with a wind turbine or solar collection system, the dental office can start approaching zero net energy use. The presentation of SEG and UWE at the 2013 Greening the Heartland Conference looked at case studies, all in cold-weather climates, of buildings that are achieving net zero energy usage where the building size is consistent with that of a typical dental office. In fact, one case study was of a 1901, 2,055 ft2 historic home that is returning energy to the grid.
Before moving too far down the path on the design of your next dental office ask your design team to explore using geothermal. Doing so will probably make your pockets a bit greener, too.
Walking about Chicago last evening there are new bike lanes everywhere. In addition to the bike lanes the city has installed special traffic signals just for the cyclists in the bike lanes to help control the flow of traffic between cars, bikes, and pedestrians.
Riding bicycles to work and to appointments is becoming increasingly popular. More and more cities, just like Chicago are carving out sections of the traffic lanes on city streets for bike lanes to accommodate cyclists. My Kimpton hotel has bicycles that guests may use to get around the city. Just a couple of blocks away I saw a bike rental station where one can rent a bike and return it to any other rental station. New Yrok was just recently in the news for bringing CitiBike online. Cycling is big and it is a great way to help reduce greenhouse emissions and make the air we breathe healthier.
Locating your dental office near a bike lane, or helping to encourage the addition of a bike lane near your office will help encourage patients to ride their bike to their dental appointments. One of the surest ways to further encourage this is to actually have bike racks at your office for patients to park and secure their bikes once they arrive. We don’t believe any dental office design can truly be green that doesn’t include some way to encourage alternative transportation by patients and staff. Encouraging bicycle riding not only improves the air but encourages a healthier lifestyle, too. As a health professional doesn’t this just make sense?
We so often find that dental offices do not purchase appropriate furniture for their waiting rooms and offices. In an effort to save money and achieve a more relaxed, less clinical look, they go to their local residential furniture store and purchase upholstered chairs and sofas that are not designed to endure the rigors of commercial use – not to mention that most often the warranties on these pieces are voided if used commercially. There are ways to achieve a great, comfortable feel for a dental office waiting room and not sacrifice quality and endurance.
We are working on a project right now and the design theme is one of an old-time lounge. The chairs need a deep, worn leather look. While we love real leather, its price point isn’t very budget friendly and doesn’t necessarily offer the same level of wear and cleanability that a dental office demands. Instead, we’re looking at an eco-friendly faux leather manufactured by Ultrafabrics. These “leathers” have wear ratings over 200,000 rubs and can be cleaned with a 5:1 bleach mixture to promote a sanitized environment. Unlike other synthetic leathers, these fabrics contain no PVC and have zero VOC emissions for a health indoor air quality. Ultrafabrics also uses several energy reducing and eco-friendly processes in their manufacturing to promote a healthy environment. These are all factors that one should be conscious of when selecting the upholstery in a dental office design, especially one that wants longevity from the investment and is looking to promote a healthier environment.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. This is the mantra of green design. Well, the front reception counter is one area of the dental office that can incorporate recycled materials in a fun fashion where one doesn’t have to worry about strict sterilization and contamination requirements. Both concrete and terrazzo counter tops offer a fun way to incorporate recycled items into the design that can enhance the interior branding message of the dental office. Plus, just about any color imaginable is possible in the base resin materials of the both products. We’ve incorporated old coins, recycled mirrors, crushed glass, sea shells, and other collectibles and treasures into counter top designs. These items incorporated into the top provide a subtle means to career a design and branding message throughout the overall office design.
Another great green feature of both products is that they are manufactured locally and do not have a high transportation impact component. So many other counter top options are manufactured in only a few locations and have to be shipped long distances raising their carbon footprint.
While very durable for most applications and certainly good for reception areas, we don’t recommend their use in operatories or sterilization centers. The absorption rates are too high to really be applicable in these areas. Their relative low cost compared with other solid surface materials also makes concrete and terrazzo attractive design options. So, when you’re looking for ways to create a greener and more eco-friendly dental office design, consider using one of these options when designing the counters for your new space.