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Large Office, Small Footprint - Roanoke Practice is One-of-a-Kind in US, World

April 20, 2013

By: Dr. William Moore, Associate Editor, Component 5, Virginia Dental Journal

Roanoke dentists Drs. Randy Dickey, John Singleton, and Sean Lynch have recently opened a new dental practice, which may just be the greenest in the valley. The new facility was designed and built with the Passivhaus design standards for energy efficiency. It is the only dental practice in the world to meet the stringent standard and one of only a handful of buildings in Virginia to attain the certification. The new 5,500 square foot building took three years to complete. It boasts 14 operatories, 27 parking spaces, sterilization facilities, a lab, and offices for each of the doctors.

“We opened in January,” said Dr Dickey. “It has been a lot of fun to finally be in our new building. We’re all really excited.”

The Passivhaus (or “passive house”) concept originated in Germany in the late 1980s. The concept is a series of guiding principles and standards that lead a building to be ultra-efficient. Concepts such as “superinsulation” lead the building to be very thermally efficient and thus require minimal heating and cooling as compared with a conventional building. The buildings are designed and landscaped to maximize heat gain in the winter and deflect heat in the summer. This is done by carefully positioning windows to maximize afternoon sun exposure; the windows are constructed in a way as to promote net heat gain, even in the winter months. Landscaping is also used to dampen the amount of sun reaching the building in the winter. There is a focus on making the structure as air-tight as possible, as this leads to less demand for heating and cooling.

“When they built the building, they taped the frame from the inside and outside,” noted Dr. Dickey. “They then used vacuum pressure to check that everything was sealed.”

The dentists purchased a property down the street from their existing practice and built the new building from the ground up. Adam Cohen with Structures Design/Build, a Roanoke-based architecture and construction firm, oversaw the project. Mr. Cohen has a 25-year Green Building history and boasts Green Builder and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications.  By completing the Passive House Institute US training, Mr. Cohen became one of less than 100 United States designers to meet the certification.

While the practice is up and running at full speed, there is still a lot of unpacking to be done and the office is still sparsely decorated. Dr. Singleton is planning on using his love of photography to furnish the office with some of his best pieces. The energy savings from the Passivhaus design are expected to pay for themselves within ten years due to reduced energy costs.