Ok, it’s story time. This is a story about a dentist office renovation that is very close to my heart (and teeth). Since I am still relatively new on the architecture scene, this little renovation was the first project that I managed from soup to nuts: from initial design meetings with the client to final walkthroughs and inspections, I was there for it all. Here are a few of the valuable life/architecture lessons that I learned along the way:
- Listen to your client, and I mean REALLY listen. In a dental office, functionality is King and the best way to ensure maximum efficiency of the finished product is to meet often with the client to make sure all their needs are met. As designers, we tend to get crazy sometimes, but a valuable skill is the ability to check one’s ego at the door, scale back a design, and really consider what will work best for the client.
- Be flexible. When the General Contractor calls you and says there is a pesky column hiding in the wall and you can’t put the window where you want to, this is no cause for panic. Simply put on your problem-solving hat and get to work. This is what they pay us the big bucks for: being able to come up with creative solutions to problems that arise within real-world time, budgetary, and physical constraints. Luckily for me, the “fix” ended up functioning better than the original design, and now I know to ALWAYS get structural drawings for existing buildings.
- Be accessible. One of the biggest challenges of this project was its aggressive schedule, coupled with the need to remain open for the duration of construction. I worked closely with the client to develop a phasing plan, the General Contractor worked nearly around the clock, and I made myself available for speedy email responses and impromptu site visits.
In the end, we took an office that was dated and not functioning well, and turned it into a shiny, new, well-oiled machine for cleaning teeth. That doesn’t sound quite right, but you get the idea. We updated all the finishes in the office, re-configured the reception and administration area, added Doctor Workstations, and converted unused space into a new Hygiene Room. Not only did I learn some great lessons about project management, but I also gained a healthy respect for the work that it takes to plan and operate a successful dental office.