Space saving solutions – Martin Oates

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  Posted by: Dental Design      11th May 2018

There can be no doubt that the housing crisis has had a significant impact on property development in Britain. Houses are currently the smallest in Europe, as the floor space in an average home measures between 76m2to 83m2 – which is a relatively substantial reduction from the nationally described space standard of 93m2.[i],[ii],[iii]Many dental principals are no strangers to converting properties into dental practices, but as buildings in the UK continue to decrease in size, greater consideration must be given to the space available in any property that is purchased. After all, a cramped practice cannot be conducive to providing high quality and efficient dental care. 

Presently, there is no statutory regulation of national space standards – which were made voluntary for local authorities to adopt in 2015 – meaning developers are not limited to how big or small they can build properties. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) says that space standards should be included in building regulations, but house builders argue that people in Britain are content with the size of properties. They have also warned that mandatory space standards could make the housing shortage worse, by stripping away the choice of homes available and preventing more people from buying.[iv]


As developers rush to build quickly and inexpensively, Britain’s homes have come to be described as ‘rabbit hutches’ too small to comfortably meet the needs of residents – but perhaps it is true that we have grown content with the size of properties. In recent years, some areas of the UK have seen a frenzy of office conversions, and this boom is largely credited to the introduction of the government’s more relaxed rules to allow office buildings to be turned into housing, without the need to go through planning permissions. Just like other new-build properties, these so-called ‘permitted development’ conversions are not required to meet space standards.[v]

Lack of supply in the property market has prompted developers to divide up vast commercial office spaces in order to create multiple dwellings known as ‘micro-homes’. Despite national space standards requiring flats to measure at least 37m2 in floor space, the UK now boasts thousands of micro-homes which are often smaller than recommended, but offer a cheaper alternative to those who have been priced out of regular houses or flats.[vi]‘Compact living’ offers a compromise where an individual sacrifices space, but can still enjoy the merits of living in a quality designed and affordable flat, based in a prime city location.[vii]

Given the choice, most people would most likely prefer not to live in a space no bigger than a Tube carriage, but micro-homes are slowly gaining in popularity, as more people seek simple, affordable and compact living.[viii]To successfully live in a smaller property, individuals must begin by utilising the space available in the most effective way – which is what many dental practitioners seek to do in the practice. Studies have shown that limited space in a building can have a negative effect on residents’ health and wellbeing.[ix],iiiConsequently, it is important that a practice is designed on the basis of creating a comfortable environment, with space to deliver the highest-quality patient care.

Keeping your practice free from clutter can be difficult to achieve but an experienced designer can help you make the greatest use of space. They will be able to make suggestions on the most ideal cabinetry, for instance, show you how best to lay out the building, or where the most suitable places are to store equipment and supplies.

Think about how you can make the waiting room of your practice more welcoming. A cold, sterile and empty room might make a dental phobic or anxious patient feel intimidated, so take time to consider how you can incorporate warm lights and colours into the aesthetic of your practice. Cosy furniture, interesting artwork and decorative plants can do wonders in creating a comfy and relaxing atmosphere that will put patients at ease. It is essential to use the space of a waiting room well, in order to develop positive impressions with patients – particularly if they are seeking out your services for the first time.

Where space might be limited, be creative about storage. Wall-mounted cabinets, shelves and equipment free up worktops, for instance, while advanced dental chair units ensure you are able to keep instruments close at hand. Equally, try to use space-saving products that can help you maintain an organised operatory. The Ultra Multibrush applicators from Dental Express, for example, are available as compact, simple and light weight dispensers that are easy to clean, disinfect and store away.  

Property in Britain may be shrinking in size, but that does not necessarily mean there is not enough room for dental practitioners to operate effectively. Success lies in how far practitioners can stretch their imagination, in regards to making the most of available space in the practice. 


For more information, visit, call on 0800 707 6212 or contact our Trusted Advisor, Martin Oates, at





[i]Find Me A Floor. (Unknown) Where in the World Do You Get the Biggest Home? An Average Floor Space Analysis. Link: [Last accessed: 27.02.18].

[ii] (2015) Statutory guidance: Technical housing standards – nationally described space standard. Link: [Last accessed: 27.02.18].

[iii]RIBA. (2011) The Case For Space: The Size of England’s New Homes. Link: [Last accessed: 27.02.18].

[iv]This is Money. (2015) Rise of the ‘rabbit hutch’ homes: Half of new-build three-bed properties are too small for families, architects warn – and Yorkshire has the pokiest. Link: [Last accessed: 27.02.18].

[v] (2011) Changing land use from commercial to residential. Link: [Last accessed: 27.02.18].

[vi]Which?. (2017) The 30 sqm squeeze: would you buy a ‘micro-home’? Link: [Last accessed: 27.02.18].

[vii]BPF. (2018) Compact Living: are small spaces set to make big impact on UK housing crisis? Link: [Last accessed: 27.02.18].

[viii]Johnson, A. (2014) The tiny house movement: Could you live in a miniature home? Link: [Last accessed: 27.02.18].

[ix]Shelter. (2005) Full house? How overcrowded housing affects families. Link: [Last accessed: 27.02.18].

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