The sustainable future of clinic refurbishment

June 5, 2024

Sustainable healthcare

In the ever-evolving world of healthcare, the importance of sustainability is becoming increasingly evident. Dental clinics, as integral components of the healthcare system, are not exempt from this shift towards eco-conscious practices. Renovating dental clinics sustainably is a crucial step towards creating a healthier environment for both patients and practitioners.

Dentists and clinicians naturally want their clinics to look millimetre perfect to reflect their brand values from the brickwork details to lighting details and then right down to how to the fabric of the waiting room chairs. But should practice owners start promoting the wellbeing of the planet as well as oral health?

In recent years, we’re seeing practice leaders shift their approach to sustainably led clinics that reflect their wellness ethos. The construction industry accounts for 39% of global carbon emissions so we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Whether refurbishing or building a new clinic, your business will play a key role in that.

What is sustainability?

Sustainability refers to the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It involves balancing economic, social and environmental considerations to create a harmonious and lasting impact on the planet.

What does it mean when building a dental practice?

In the context of a clinic refurbishment project, sustainability involves implementing practices and making decisions that promote social responsibility, minimise environmental impact and ensure economic viability throughout the project’s lifecycle. Today, we thought we’d share our thoughts on these three points and how they can help drive and reinforce your practice’s position as a force for good!

1. Promote social responsibility

In all our projects, we start off by asking who you are as a brand, dentist and individual. It’s a question that’s incredibly difficult to answer and has been met with a stoney silence in many an instance! What we hope to eke out of you are your core values as a human being. What’s important to you? What’s your unique selling point (USP)? We’ll take that and embed them into your building design.

Adopting a sustainable approach across all aspects of your clinic can tell a compelling story of how you, your team, and your practice collaboratively contribute to a healthier planet taking your practice message beyond the ‘I want to offer great dentistry’. Strengthen ethical practices as an integral aspect of your practice’s social responsibility.

2. Minimise environmental impact

Minimising environmental impact during a refurbishment project involves incorporating sustainable practices and making mindful choices throughout the project’s lifecycle. Here are some strategies to reduce the environmental footprint of your refurbishment:

Energy efficiency

When it comes to ramping up the energy efficiency of your existing property, we normally take the ‘fabric first’ approach.

We’re talking about giving your place a cozy upgrade by bringing the insulation and windows up to today’s building standards. Now, I get it – insulation and windows might not be the life of the party in conversation. But let us shift the focus to the key role it plays creating a well-insulated space – stealthily preparing it for a future of comfort and cost-effectiveness for you, your staff and your patients.

And it’s not just about the insulation! Consider bathing your clinic in the glow of energy-efficient lighting, using water efficient fixtures, having a top-notch HVAC system doing its thing, and throwing in some renewable energy technologies.

Now, with energy costs continuing to rise, it is time to weigh in on these savvy and efficient moves. Consider it a smart investment, not just for the eco-high fives it gets but also for the victory dance your wallet does over those energy bills.

Sustainable material palette

Our sampleboard for our clinic in Majorca included:

- Clay walls – which are recyclable, compostable and repairable whilst helping to regulate humidity and temperature.
- Recycled metal panelling
- Natural stone tiling with an epoxy coating
- Architectural textile meshes to create privacy screens.

Sustainable material sample board

Material selection

Advise your designer to give preference to sustainable and recycled construction materials, as there is currently a wide array available. While the healthcare sector adheres to stringent specifications for CQC compliance, there’s room for innovation.

In several projects, we are exploring the incorporation of sustainable construction materials like bamboo, eucalyptus, and even countertops crafted from recycled plastics! It is worth mentioning that while these materials might not be applicable across the entire clinic, they certainly find their niche in clinic design!

While the conventional practice of utilising vinyl across clinics is rooted in purpose, at Vita, we are actively working to break down the distinctions between healthcare design and hospitality. This involves a continuous effort to explore and experiment with new materials that can undergo thorough testing for CQC compliance.

Waste reduction

Typically, wastage rates for materials due to damage and over ordering is somewhere around the 15% mark. At Vita, we request that our surveys are all modelled in 3D and are taken from laser measurements which result in more accurate drafting and therefore more confidence in ordering accuracy and therefore less wastage. It should be an easy win and a significant cost saving for you and the contractor.

Prefabricated pieces that are built off site are also a great way to minimise wastage as the design will be millimetre perfect with little to no wastages occurring in the factory.

Reuse not renew

Of course, everyone typically wants to have a shiny new clinic with all the bells and whistles, but in every project and building, there’s a story and history. Why not celebrate these historical facets within your building and leverage them to craft a distinctive identity? In numerous instances, we’ve proposed preserving certain existing features in our projects.

It’s worthwhile to explore your surroundings before committing to a total overhaul. Opting for reuse not only lowers your overall construction costs and carbon footprint but, when executed thoughtfully, can genuinely contribute to forging a distinct and unique identity for your practice. But do beware – work carefully with your design team and the CQC to ensure these historical features don’t compromise your CQC certification.

Local sourcing

A common starting point for our projects is to explore offerings from local suppliers. This not only infuses a sense of community into your identity but also proves highly sustainable by minimising transportation expenses. It’s a straightforward yet impactful method of incorporating sustainable practices into your dental clinic.

The construction industry is changing. It’s crucial that we adopt a more sustainable construction methods right from the start of all construction projects. In the long run, this not only ingrains an ethical dimension into your brand but, if executed effectively, should also reduce your overall expenditure while promoting the wellbeing of our planet.