Do I Need to Hire a Dental Architect?

You’re not alone if you have contemplated hiring a dental architect. In fact, it is becoming more common in today’s competitive market for dentists when looking to design their dental office space and treatment rooms. The choices would seem to be between using the design services of a dental supply house or a commercial architect that specializes in dental office design, but the answer is dependent on the extent of build out, cost, and style factors. To address this, let’s look at three typical scenarios:

Remodel or Refresh of an Existing Dental Space -This type of scenario may involve a slight refresh or a major remodel of the entire space where the flooring, wall coverings, cabinets, etc. will be removed and even some walls tore down to build new ones. Even though it may be a major overhaul, it really doesn’t fit the needs of an architect or their time to get involved. This type of scenario is better handled by a dental supply house or a good dental contractor and interior designer. The contractor should be able to handle any of the permitting process required and consult with the interior designer to create the new look you wish to achieve.  An advantage of a dental contractor/interior designer team is that they will give you the freedom to select dental equipment for the best application and from any source.

Build-Out of Office Building or Retail Space – A complete build-out of an open space can become a complex project. Determining the best design and workflow to fit in the space requires someone with expertise to accomplish the office objectives as well as handle the utility runs and building code compliance. In order to handle these types of projects, it is always better if you can utilize someone with dental office space experience because they already understand the equipment needs and how the workflow and patient flow works best.

 So, in this scenario should you use the services of dental supply house or a dental architect?

The dental supply house can generally be less expensive and they have years of experience providing design, so the results should turn out without issue. However, the supply houses tend to be unimaginative and use cookie cutter designs that are based around a certain brand of equipment they promote. It is easy to end up with a bland design that doesn’t work best with new technology or how you wish to work. This scenario tends to tie the dentist’s hands in that they have to use the equipment provided by the supply house, which reduces the ability to negotiate. Additionally, their design may be heavily weighted towards calling out expensive cabinets that don’t fit with modern looks or current minimalist dental office design themes. You end up paying for a lot of extras that you wouldn’t normally purchase on your own.

A dental architect, on the other hand, will tend to cost more up front but save in the long run.  They can masterfully design your space to create the modern feel your patients and staff will appreciate, while embracing a workflow around mobile and modular dental technology rather than fixed cabinets. Since architects are independent of dental equipment companies, they are free to recommend styles that best fit your needs or work with the equipment brand of your choice. You will pay more for a dental architect, but save by not having to buy excess expensive fixed dental cabinets while achieving a truly exceptional design to separate your office from the typical office.

Complete Ground Up Building Construction– This scenario requires someone with structural design knowledge of the building itself while also having the ability to design the interior office space. This will require a commercial architect or a dental architect with structural design capability. Therefore, the design services of a dental supply house wouldn’t make sense since you will already be working with an architect. The cost of architectural design will be high, but you will have the ultimate freedom to create the space you desire and open up the selection of dental equipment and technology you wish to use.

So the extent and scope of your project ranging from a straightforward  remodel to a complete build-out will most likely be the determinant of whether to use a dental supply house, dental contractor/designer or a professional dental architect firm.   See ASI’s National Directory of Dental Architects for a listing of professional architects that specializes in dental office designs.

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