Your lab, your design plan

March 21, 2012
Renee Knight
Issue 1

Whether you’re buying a new space or planning a major renovation at your lab, there’s plenty to think about before you get started. From the size of the space to how everything will flow, you’ll have to make some important decisions before the work can be done.

Whether you’re buying a new space or planning a major renovation at your lab, there’s plenty to think about before you get started. From the size of the space to how everything will flow, you’ll have to make some important decisions before the work can be done.

This process can be a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. We recently talked with Denice Murphy, founder of Funktional Design Group, about what it takes to create an efficient lab space. She’s been designing dental labs and dental offices since 2007.

Q: When opening a lab, what should you think about when choosing a space?

A: First, I have them go through what happens to a case when it comes through the door, especially if we’re working on a new building or doing a major reconstruction. I ask them how they process their cases and where they go in each step. Then we try to place everything in the space so people aren’t back tracking. That saves a lot of time and is a nice LEAN procedure. It’s much more efficient if you’re not moving back and forth. It usually ends up making a big “U” shape. I also try to make sure when patients come in they come into a nice area with natural lighting and that they don’t have to go through the rest of the lab.

From there we come up with three or four different options. They pick out which ones they like and then we refine. Sometimes you can’t get the perfect flow because you need plumbing in this area and venting in other areas but we try to get as close to that U shape as we possibly can.
Materials and finishes are important as well. Do you have the right flooring for each area, do you have right counter tops, the right colors? Some lab owners want a hard surface flooring in the lab area and others like carpeting. I stress to put carpeting in the area where you’re making the crowns so they won’t break if dropped.

The key is to create a functional LEAN space that looks nice. This is where people spend so many hours of their lives. If you can make it nice, people will work much more efficiently and it will be a happier place.

Q: How long does the planning process typically take?

A: It varies from client to client. Some have come to me before buying a space to make sure the space they like is adequate and they’re not locked into something that might not work. That’s ideal. But if they already have the space it’s a good month or two to plan, depending on how quickly they work out what they want to do. Some clients have a hard time envisioning the space. I can build a 3D model on the computer, and that really helps my clients see if they need a bigger space, if they’re wasting space or they need a counter top to be more efficient. This takes extra time but saves money in the long run. It’s much easier to make changes at this stage than after you start building.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in creating the right space?

A: Balancing the budget you have with what you want. This is the No. 1 thing I tell clients. Dream the perfect lab and don’t worry about budget in the beginning. Then apply your budget to your perfect lab. You are probably going to take things out, but at least you’re taking them out at a conscious level. Don’t assume you can’t afford something. It would be worse to build your lab and then find out later you could have afforded something you took out and it was something you really want. And remember, you can plan for additions. If you just dismiss it you may not have space for it later.

Another key is technology is changing. What a dental lab looks like now will be different 5, 10, 20 years from now. You have to plan for the future. So much more is digital so you have to have space for all those things. Don’t just design for now but think down the road.