Greening the Chiropractic Practice

 Dr. Mike Chambers, DC &  Dr. Tanya Chambers, DC
January 02, 2009
Written by Dr. Mike Chambers, DC & Dr. Tanya Chambers, DC
Building an environmentally friendly wellness centre
When the time came to expand their wellness centre, Drs. Mike and Tanya Chambers, of Stratford, Ontario, had a vision to not only grow their team of natural health professionals, but also to build an office that would be economical to run and environmentally friendly, or  “green”.

On a physical level, the undertaking has been a success but, more importantly, the project has served as an excellent example of professional collaboration. 

Most notable, perhaps, was the influence and assistance of Dr. Mark Foullong, a chiropractor from Orangeville.  While visiting several offices to collect ideas for the design of their own practice, the Chambers’ were impressed by the layout of Dr. Foullong’s office, in that it allowed for growth and efficiency in a multi-DC office.  Dr. Foullong graciously shared his architectural plans with them. These served as a tremendous starting point for the Chamberses’ own vision and design. Foullong’s office also served as a resource, to them, on many occasions throughout the building process.

Building the dream
Excavation and thermal systems
After months of designing, researching, and refining the plans for the practice, the 7,000 square foot project began with an environmental clean-up of a former industrial site.  This was the first project in Stratford, Ontario, to utilize the city’s Brownfield Development Program, which is a municipal program designed to assist in the clean-up of contaminated sites. 

Given the extent of the excavation required for the soil remediation, this was an ideal opportunity to install nearly 4,000 feet of piping for the geothermal heating and air-conditioning system in the space under the would-be parking lot.  The system uses no hydrocarbon fuels and provides in-floor heat to the basement and main floors as well as forced-air heat and air conditioning to all three floors of the office.  The system, itself, is nearly 40 per cent more efficient than a high efficiency gas furnace, and its efficiency is further enhanced by having the ability to heat, or cool, each floor independently.

Framing
The walls of the practice building were built using insulated concrete forms (ICF).  While initial construction using ICF is more expensive than traditional wood framing, it makes the resulting building 30-50 per cent more energy efficient. This, alone, is projected to lead to total cost recovery in just five to eight years.

Floor system
The floor system utilized in the office is called Insul-Deck and is a fairly new system.  It is designed for easy installation, while providing exceptional sound reduction as well as insulation between floors.

The insulation factor is an R-35, which is more than most traditional walls.  For this reason, it is easier and more efficient to heat or cool floors independently because there is less heat loss between floors. As well, the floor system was designed to allow for a four inch concrete overpour versus the traditional 1.5 inch concrete overpour used with most wood floor systems. This enhances the efficiency of radiant heat. 

Finally, the floor has been great at minimizing the noise, resulting from the dropping of the adjusting tables on the main floor, to the office space below. The result is that those offices are more attractive to potential renters.

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Lighting
Lighting for the building is accomplished with full spectrum, compact fluorescent lights.  This reduces the energy expenditure for lighting by about 88 per cent, saving approximately $5,000 annually in comparison to an equivalent amount of incandescent light.  Numerous large windows also serve as a source of passive solar light – and heat in the winter – again reducing energy costs.

effects on operational costs
Up to this point, the docs have been pleasantly surprised with their operational costs.  When comparing the utility costs of their old office – 3,000 square feet – with the new office -7,000 square feet – the operational costs have been substantially less, as hydro is the only utility in use.

Other environmental avenues
Efficiency and environmental awareness also includes record keeping practices in which paper is “out” and digital is “in”. The Chambers have installed a software system, which allows the doctors to
record and access all components of patient files digitally, including x-rays and other scans, while at each adjusting table.  The system has enhanced communication between the staff and the doctors, as well as served as a platform to access educational information for patients instantly.  Even more significant for patients is the ease with which patient care can be tracked when an individual is receiving treatment by multiple providers within the office. 

About the wellness team
Stratford Chiropractic & Wellness Centre currently has three chiropractors (Drs. Chambers and Dr. Pip Penrose), two massage therapists, a vitalistic physiotherapist and four naturopaths. The clients of the centre are thrilled to have access to various holistic professionals, who are in close enough proximity to make collaboration effortless. 

While expanding the wellness centre over the last number of years, the docs were very selective, adding only professionals with similar visions and approaches to health.  They believe this has been critical to the effectiveness of their team.

The business model of Stratford Chiropractic & Wellness Centre clearly
delineates between business and professionalism.  All of the providers in the building are independent contractors, and no individual profits are made from referrals to each other.  Referrals are made solely in the best interest of the patient – a strategy which should be obvious.  The relationships between the practitioners are, thereby, kept clean and professional.

While the entire building process spanned a stressful two years, the Chamberses feel it has been well worth the effort. 

However, they would not have been able to enjoy the journey, as much as they did, without the help and vision of their team.  Dr. Pip Penrose, and the exceptional support staff, have all exercised great patience in waiting for moving day and throughout the transition process.  The docs feel truly blessed, each day, to work in the company of great colleagues and friends in their “green” dream practice.

In the end, the project was a huge success with Stratford Chiropractic & Wellness Centre recently winning the “Builders Award” as the most impressive new commercial building in Stratford and the surrounding area. •

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