Office design: navigating legal and regulatory issues

Construction and remodeling of dental buildings can require patience, planning, commitment, investment and vision. An important part of both processes involves anticipating and addressing legal considerations.

A broad range of legal issues may be involved, including but not limited to: civil rights laws, zoning laws, building codes, construction contracts and dental regulations.

A word of advice: be proactive in these matters and you’ll save a lot of money in the long run. The help of trusted counsel can help you meet design and construction regulations. Doing so can help you avoid a crisis down the road.

It’s important for your design planning to take into account the wide variety of federal, state and local laws that may affect your project. There are many aspects of office design that may be affected, including:

  • Handicapped parking
  • Curbs and ramps
  • Stairs and elevators
  • Doorways and halls
  • Door opening force
  • Restrooms
  • Public telephones
  • Drinking fountains
  • Carpeting
  • Floor surface
  • Fixed or built-in seating
  • Signage
  • Counter-top width
  • Emergence alarms
  • Shelving and coat rack height
  • Wall mounted protruding objects in pathways
  • Light switch placement
  • Exterior walls
  • Accessibility of diagnostic equipment, such as dental chairs

Compliance requirements may vary depending on whether you are building a new office, renovating an existing one, or moving into an office that doesn’t need any renovation. The interplay of federal, state and local laws varies from city to city. Your best strategy is to consult and rely upon competent professionals for advice. Your legal counsel can help you understand what is required, and draft your contracts in a way that protects you.

As you prepare to consult with your legal team, the following resources, provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, may prove useful:

The accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment issued by the United States Access Board may also be useful.

Additionally Building or Refreshing Your Dental Practice: A Guide to Dental Office Design from the ADA Catalog features helpful tips to help sensitize you to a number of legal issues. The Guide includes information on applicable laws that you may find useful.