The Build-Up: It’s not quite plug-and-play

March 21, 2012

Square footage and a sensible arrangement of the equipment and workstations is important to creating a new dental laboratory or expanding an existing operation. However, if the space the lab wants to use doesn’t have the right infrastructure to support the lab’s expected uses, there better be a plan to install the pipes, conduits and connections, or the business will have no chance for success.

Square footage and a sensible arrangement of the equipment and workstations is important to creating a new dental laboratory or expanding an existing operation. However, if the space the lab wants to use doesn’t have the right infrastructure to support the lab’s expected uses, there better be a plan to install the pipes, conduits and connections, or the business will have no chance for success.

Everything from water, to gas, to air, to exhaust and electrical must be carefully considered and planned right from the start, said William N. Bernstein, LEED®AP, AIA, Principal with Bernstein & Assoc., Architects (bernarch.com) whose firm has designed dental labs, hospitals, medical device manufacturers, government buildings and more. Bernstein recently spoke with DLP about when a new or growing lab needs to start thinking about infrastructure issues and just how encompassing those considerations should be.

Q: What are the key infrastructure considerations when a dental lab is planning out a new space?

A: Key infrastructure considerations for a dental lab in planning out a new space start with an analysis of the lab requirements, followed by a comparison between the project requirements and the existing building conditions, and concluding with a detailed architectural/engineering plan to upgrade the building infrastructure to meet the project’s needs.

Q: How early in the process of planning a new or expanded facility should a lab begin assessing the infrastructure needs?

A: A lab should begin an infrastructure analysis as part of an overall feasibility study as to whether a proposed space or building is appropriate in all physical/spatial aspects-including infrastructure-for the proposed facility.

Q: Are there infrastructure needs that labs tend to overlook?

A: Many dental lab companies underplay the importance of the feasibility, planning and design phases of a dental lab project. Infrastructure requirements for current and future needs are a key component of the initial feasibility and planning stages.

Q: How should a lab approach “future-proofing” infrastructure for a new facility?

A: A key consideration in the feasibility/planning stage of any project should be future needs including allowance for growth and change. The client must make an effort to predict why, how and where the dental lab will grow and change in the future. Armed with this key data, the architectural firm can plan for the future with flexibility and capacity for future infrastructure needs built into the design.

Q: What are the possible consequences when a lab does not sufficiently plan for infrastructure needs?

A: Failure to undertake comprehensive due diligence during the feasibility/design phase can result in some cases in signing a lease or purchasing an unsuitable space or building. This can possibly lock the dental lab into a static mode, unable to grow or change because the facility cannot support any meaningful expansion.