Going Green: How To Make Your Practice Eco-Chic
By Stephanie Morgan Clarke, RID, LEED AP, IIDA, Dir. Interior Design & Purchasing, EnivroMed Design Group
Bruce Morrison, Dir. of Architectural Services, EnviroMed Design Group
Going green is no longer the way of the future, it has become a current way of life. Consumers are more educated than ever about the impact we have on our environment and how our environment impacts our well being. Designing an environmentally conscious space shows your clients, your peers and the public at large that you care about their well-being and safety, allows you take advantage of a growing number of state and local government incentives, and can help boost press interest in your practice.
Once the decision is made to have a green office the next question you may ask yourself is how do I do it? How do I convert my existing office or build a new office and still preserve the environment as much as possible? Some common things you have likely heard are: replace all of your incandescent light bulbs with fluorescents, use finish materials with recycled content, use energy star appliances, install low flow plumbing fixtures and turn off your lights, computers and equipment when not in use.
Below we have provided several suggestions you may not yet have heard about or considered that will make a big impact on your way to "green utopia."
Establish a recycling center in your staff lounge. Check with your local waste disposal service to see what they accept and how they accept materials, and provide the necessary bins for your staff.
Purchase from manufacturers that produce recycled or recyclable versions of the materials you use every day (instrument bags, paper wraps, etc.)
Look for eco-friendly giveaways for your patients, like toothbrushes made of recycled yogurt cups.
Buy supplies that use as much post-consumer recycled content as possible, and avoid companies that over-package their products (e.g. boxes within boxes, or in larger containers than needed)
Construction Materials & Practices:
Most landfills contain 35%-40% of construction waste. Ask your GC to develop a construction waste management plan, on site separation of materials, police it & offer on site ship to separation facilities.
Use wood that has certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This label will let you know that the wood has come from properly managed forests. If you are using tropical wood that isn't FSC approved, then think of it as if the rain forest coming down into your building.
The most sustainable building is one that is already built. Choose a site that has already been developed, rather than disturb undeveloped land.
Water efficient landscaping. Plant foliage that is native for your area. Most native species will require little or no additional watering.
Purchase materials that are manufactured as close to your location as possible. LEED recommends a 500 mile radius or less.
Use low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints, carpets and wallcoverings.
Energy & Natural Resource Conservation:
Use power strips to plug in non-essential equipment that can easily be turned off at the end of each day. Power adapters (for cell phones, speakers, printers, etc.) all draw small amounts of power even if not plugged into a device.
Encourage employees to carpool, ride the bus occasionally and install bike racks to encourage people to cycle to the office.
Use motion sensors instead of manual switches where possible.
Choose exterior lighting that points down, has a top cover and turns off during late night hours. Light pollution has been known to negatively affect the migratory patterns of birds and other animals.
When building a new office consider incorporating these following alternate energy sources/systems:
Install a photovoltaic array (solar cells) to supplement electrical consumption.
Use a Geothermal heating/cooling system that cycles water deep into the ground to capture the steady temperature of and use it to provide heat in the winter and cooling in the summer.
Rainwater collection system to use for site irrigation.
Invest in an electronic controlling system that will allow you to adjust your heating & cooling system during office hours.
Install "dual-flush" toilets that use different water amounts for liquid or solid waste.
Office Procedures & Practices:
Use Digital imaging for all X-Rays. This eliminates the need for disposal of hazardous chemicals.
Go paperless- Digitize all of your records and use an online fax service. If you must use paper for printing, choose natural based inks, such as soy, and also print on recycled paper.
Use the most current dry-vacuum suction system rather than a water-based type.
Use an amalgam separator, and install a special water filtration system allows for the environmentally sound disposal of old mercury fillings to prevent pollution in local waterways.
Place plants in each operatory, they serve as a natural air-filtration system, as well as promoting a sense of well-being. Be aware though, they do require maintenance and have the potential to interfere with the overall look of your design. Be sure that the plant style and pot integrate with the overall style, and if your plants start dying you should invest in a plant service.
Use a water free hand disinfectant in conjunction with your regular hand washing to save on water and paper towels. Do not rely totally on alcohol based disinfectants, as these also destroy the beneficial germs that are on your skin, as well as dry it out.
Use non-toxic cleaners for cleaning and disinfecting your office. Before the advent of using plastic to wrap chairs, light handles, etc. hand cleaning was standard. Think of how many sheets of plastic are used per day that end up in the landfill.
Investigate the use of LED operatory Dental light fixtures.
Buy in bulk as much as possible, and use materials that can be put into smaller reusable containers.
In the future you will be seeing many organizations jumping on the green certification bandwagon. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the Green Building Rating System, developed by the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council). This rating system provides a set of nationally recognized standards in environmental sustainability for a building, site and/or interior space. Being LEED certified gives weight and authority to the effort you are making to build or restore your practice, and will add tangible value to it.
If you would like to learn more about how to make your office more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, then be sure to listen to our "Eco-Chic Dental Office Design & Planning" tele-seminar, that was held on March 30th, 2009 at 8pm CST. Bruce Morrison, Architect and Stephanie Clarke, Interior Designer discussed all of these issues and more.