A FATHER-AND-SON TEAM of West Texas dentists didn’t set out to design a spectacular eco-friendly practice. As they went along, though, they realized they’d end up with the best results by thinking of patients and planet in nearly equal measure. “We wanted to be eco-friendly, but the main thing was building a place that would be welcoming and warm,” says Dr. Jack Lewright. “We created as relaxed an atmosphere as possible.”
Dr. Brent Lewright, Jack’s son, joined the business five years ago. “We realized we were going to run out of space,” the elder Dr. Lewright says. “We decided to build a new office to last me the rest of my tenure and take my son into the future.”
Such forward thinking found its expression in a number of eco-friendly features: Xeriscape landscaping that conserves water in often-parched San Angelo; an underground drip system; and innovative “rain chains” that disperse water from the roof to plants below. All exterior walls are made of recycled wood, and all lighting is energy-efficient LEDs. At 6,800 square feet, the practice is double the size of the Lewrights’ former space, yet energy costs have gone down by between 30 and 50 percent.
Good patient service, of course, is just as important as being kind to the planet. “Because it’s a priority to reduce the amount of radiation our patients are subjected to, we decided to purchase new X-ray units,” Brent says. The duo also bought an in-office milling system in order to expedite crown and bridge work, reducing the number of visits needed for many of these procedures.
“The purchase of a CT scanner will be in our future as well,” he adds. “It’s all been a big investment, but it has increased production 20 percent, which has helped offset the expenditure of leading-edge technology.”
The elegant, ecological Lewright Family & Cosmetic Dentistry opened in September 2012. Yet designing a practice that’s a laudable steward of the surrounding environment also means, in wind-blasted West Texas, respecting Mother Nature’s less appealing side — the practice’s lab walls and ceilings are encased in quarter- inch steel plates. “Using FEMA specs,” Brent says, “our contractors enclosed the whole lab area to be able to withstand up to an F3 tornado.”
That’s good news for patients, productivity — and sheer preservation.
Drs. Brent and Jack Lewright’s Eco-Friendly Tips
1. OUTLINE YOUR GOALS AND DESIRES.
How eco- friendly do you want your practice to be? How much can you afford? Remember that higher initial costs for a “green” build can often be recouped later on.
2. KNOW YOUR LOCAL ENVIRONMENT. Inner temperatures routinely hit 100 in the summer, then plummet as low as the teens in the cold months. Your prevailing climate will have an effect on the kinds of ecologically sound elements you end up incorporating.
3. HIRE A SAVVY TEAM. Don’t be afraid to reach outside your contact list for someone with green experience.