Hiring a design team Part 1: drawings

June 1, 2011
It is clear by your inquiries how unclear many dentists are about hiring design professionals. And the confusion isn't your fault when you are bombarded by a "fog" of professional AIA agreements and other dental design options that seemingly "take care of everything."

What do I need and why?

Jeff Carter, DDS, and Pat Carter, IIDA

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: dental office design, dental office technology, Dr. Jeff Carter, Pat Carter.

It is clear by your inquiries how unclear many dentists are about hiring design professionals. And the confusion isn’t your fault when you are bombarded by a “fog” of professional AIA agreements and other dental design options that seemingly “take care of everything.” No wonder you are uncertain!

Based on the expressed interests of Dental Economics® readers, we commit to you a three-part series on hiring a design team — those individuals, firms, resources (singularly or together) that through a design process will produce “something” that helps you price and construct your dental office.

We will begin simply with drawings — those rolls of blueprints in various thicknesses referenced for pricing and constructing your project. Notably, thickness is your first clue there is a difference among drawings, although we aren’t suggesting you hire designers based on drawing diameter (as interesting as that might be!). Rather, two key expectations should define what you expect from your drawings:

• Getting the design you want built

• Getting it built at the initial cost quoted by completion

There is a difference between drawings required to get your project built (permit drawings) and to price it effectively (priced drawings).

Permit drawings. To secure a building permit, each municipality has specific requirements for submitting drawings. These have expanded over the years including engineer/architectural stamp; ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliance; and mechanical, plumbing, electrical engineering. Permit drawings are important because they assure your project’s compliance with code, and responsibility (liability) by a registered professional (engineer or architect) for the work completed. Ask these questions to verify what is being provided:

• Will you provide an architectural/engineer’s stamp on my drawings? Can I secure a building permit from the drawings you will provide?

• If not, what other professionals will I need, and what will they have to provide?

In the dental industry, there are resources (dental design consultants or equipment dealers) that provide modified drawings that are not stamped for permit. Their objective is to affect your dental specifics, not assume permitting/construction responsibility. Therefore, permit requirements must be satisfied by others who generate additional work and service to your project. Combining “dental design” with “others” in drawings is a legitimate approach, but requires clarification of who is providing what to understand each provider’s level of responsibility, participation, and fees quoted. You can decipher this by asking these questions:

• If not stamping my drawings, for what are you responsible?

• Who will stamp my drawings and for what will they be responsible that you won’t be?

• How am I assured my drawings will be completed with no duplication of effort?

With multiple sources providing drawings for your project, it is appropriate to ask about the limits of their work and how, when combined, they will satisfy your project’s requirements. Permit drawings are defined by what is needed for a permit to build your project, not by the pricing and cost of your project, which leads us to:

Priced drawings. Drawings should detail the design and constructed intent for your dental office. As such, they become a binding contract with your general contractor (GC) for what is to be built at what cost. If something isn’t in the drawings, then it is subject to a change order. (See “Dental project cost overruns: understanding the ‘change order,’” from July 2010 Dental Economics®, or visit www.dentaleconomics.com and search for “change order.”) To assure effective pricing and limit cost adds, ask these questions:

• Will all materials (finishes, specific plumbing/lighting fixtures, cabinetry, ceilings, etc.) be specified in my drawings? If not, what will not be specified and when will these decisions be made and by whom?

• How will the GC price omissions in my drawings?

Allowances are cost placeholders for omissions in drawings. They are not actual costs for specific items, so you typically have cost differences between allowance and actual costs added via change orders during construction. Your project’s initial price becomes the final cost to the degree your drawings specify all aspects of your project at the time of pricing.Next month: Services — what are they and why would I need them?

Jeff Carter, DDS, and Pat Carter, IIDA, are owners of PDG- Practice Design Group. Located in Buda, Texas, PDG offers a full range of design and consulting services to dentists nationwide. For information, call (800) 511-7110 or visit www.practicedesigngroup.com.

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