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Mogens Smed, founder and executive chair of DIRTT Environmental Solutions Ltd.

Mogens Smed, founder and executive chair of DIRTT Environmental Solutions Ltd.

Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.

Good-bye blueprints.  Hello virtual reality.

At DIRTT  — one of Calgary’s top business success stories — clients can walk through their new office, medical clinic or residential space before it’s even built.

“VR (virtual reality) is not a gimmick,” says Mogens Smed, founder and executive chair of DIRTT (Doing It Right This Time) Environmental Solutions Ltd.

It’s a tangible advantage — among many — that the pre-engineered, pre-manufactured interior builder has over its competitors.

“Instead of having to wait for a bunch of drawings to get done, they can put on the goggles and walk through the entire space.”

All the guesswork is gone. Changes to the space can be made in real-time. No waiting for an updated blueprint. Even all the engineering and pricing is automatically and precisely updated.

It’s all just another day at the office for the DIRTT team. The Calgary company, with facilities in Phoenix, Ariz., Kelowna, B.C., and Savannah, Ga., to name a few — is changing how the world builds.

Using advanced manufacturing technologies, DIRTT creates complete interior environments, including the millwork, access floors, bespoke ceilings, and everything needed to complete an interior space.

Its value add is that its interiors are highly durable, adaptable, cost-effective, sustainable and above all easy on the eyes. DIRTT is quickly making construction with drywall and traditional material seem prehistoric.

Its purpose-built panelling and highly functional and decorative materials such as Corning’s Willow Glass cut down on construction time and costs. Moreover, its components are changeable, allowing for flexibility over time to meet changing needs.

And the competition?

“We have really no competition,” Smed says. “The only competition is conventional construction and conventional thinking.”

That’s why DIRTT has been building a who’s who of clients, including many of the world’s largest tech companies. But it’s more than just esthetics and functionality.

“We save people a huge amount of time,” he adds. “We build spaces out in half the time of conventional construction.”

Of course choice is also important. Its materials are highly customizable with hundreds of choices for colours and patterns for walls — and no painting is required.

It’s all about building  desirability into spaces.

“Most companies today don’t want traditional offices,” he says. “Today, it’s a whole new dynamic in the way of working.”

Smed refers to the movement as ‘resi-mercial.’

“When people are building a school or hospital, they want it to feel like their home.”

DIRTT is also changing how we live, creating residences with materials that can last for a century. And when their time does come to an end, the components are recyclable.

While DIRTT’s technology represents a rethink in building, its aim isn’t to compete with the building industry.

“We are here to co-operate and work together with the trades, the architects, the designers and engineers,” Smed says. “We’re just giving them a better and easier way to work.”

Manufactured off-site with computer precision, components can be tailor-made to the client’s needs and tastes. And thanks to advances with virtual reality, they face no surprises down the road.

“What happens then is the client saves all kinds of time and money and ends up with a far better solution to their needs that they understand beforehand,” Smed says. “It’s the difference between seeing a picture of a car and sitting in the car.”

Smed attributes the company’s success to Calgary’s spirit of doing things differently.

“When you’re dealing with the largest high-tech companies in the world — the fact that they’re dealing with a company out of Calgary,  Alberta, tells you that we have something,” Smed says.

“It also tells you that, technology and innovative  solutions aside, it’s really the culture of our company that drives us forward.”

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.


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