Houston dental practice remodel
focuses on function, safety

Finalist- Remodel


Dr. Norman Chu


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Finalist - Remodel

Dr. Norman Chu

Houston, Texas

by Stacie Crozier

The COVID-19 pandemic and the temporary shutdown of most dental offices was the springboard needed for Dr. Norman Russell Chu’s remodeling project. With a vision to remodel his 850-square-foot office, housed in a five-story office building, focusing on minimizing aerosols and maximizing infection control. His entry captured a finalist award in the remodel category in the 2021 ADA Design Innovation Awards competition.

“It seems logical that architectural changes for the ADA Design Innovation Awards should present ideas that make dentistry safer for everyone, regardless of which disease or COVID variant we are facing,” Dr. Chu said. “As dentists we learn by acquiring evidence-based science and research and then apply this for our patients. This same analogy can be used for infection control in our dental facilities.”

Dr. Chu, who has practiced for 38 years since his graduation from UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry in 1984, said he kept connected with colleagues during the 2020 pandemic shutdown through Zoom study club meetings, where they verbalized concerns, questioned infection control advisors and shared information from MedLine/PubMed searches on aerosol contamination along with research on industry standards for source capture contamination protocols. During this time, he discovered a Swedish company, Nederman, that specializes in industrial aerosol evacuation.


Dr. Norman Chu Image Gallery

Our staff members know they are as safe as possible and our patients understand this as well.

Dr. Norman Chu

“I contacted Nederman by phone and discovered they had a representative in Houston,” Dr. Chu said. “I called and met with a representative the same day at my office. Ultimately, he and his HVAC installer were able to determine that it would be possible to install source capture aerosol control arms for our office in an effort to create a negative pressure environment for our operatories if we could exhaust the aerosol through a four-inch hole perforated through an exterior wall to outside air. I also contacted my dental equipment repair technician to ensure that the air/water separator on the vacuum pump could be tied into the Nederman evacuation system.”

During the process Dr. Chu also enclosed operatories with floor to ceiling glass doors, replaced tile floors and carpeting with seamless linoleum flooring, sanded and resealed the hardwood waiting room floor, and installed new smooth maple veneer custom cabinetry and sterilizable quartzite countertops to create more storage for personal protective equipment and supplies and give staff surfaces that are easier to clean. He also discontinued cleaning of unsealed instruments in the ultrasonic bath in sterilization, covered the open drain in the supply room with plastic sheeting and duct tape until an air/water separator could be installed and negotiated for lease renewal with stipulation that he would be able to perforate a four-inch hole to an exterior wall in a supply room.

Dr. Chu said his remodel was well-received by patients and helped his post-shutdown recovery. “Our staff members know they are as safe as possible and our patients understand this as well,” he said. “Hopefully, the level of infection control in the practice is a reflection of the quality of care we are providing in preventive and restorative dentistry for our patients.”

For more information on creating a negative pressure environment, visit the American Society of Healthcare Engineers website.

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