If you haven't been inside a space made up of DIRTT walls yet, you will. And we’re not talking about Georgia red clay. With its highest-producing facility located in Savannah, DIRTT (which stands for Doing It Right This Time) combines technology and sustainability, letting clients reimagine the construction industry. DIRTT walls are structurally sound and moveable, leading to massive reductions in construction waste going to landfills. DIRTT walls allow for more customization than any others in the industry. This capability makes it easy for work surfaces, overheads, displays, and any other object to be mounted seamlessly off the surface without any damage. And with technology built right in to the walls, an office remodel would consist of simply redesigning and moving them to accommodate the need.
At DIRTT, 'sustainability' isn't some corporate buzz word- it is the true message at the heart of their mission, and they prove it every step of the way. From an ethical supply chain, to the use of low-mercury light bulbs, to their hybrid vehicle incentive program, DIRTT walks the walk. Even the kitchen's used cooking grease is collected and converted into biodiesel fuel. Wind and solar systems at DIRTT's factories help offset electricity use. Recycled materials are the most used- for example, DIRTT's wall fiber is made from post-consumer recycled cotton denim. Their on-site lunch program reduces Co2 usage by over 140,000 kilograms per year and reduces driving by an estimated 549,000 kilometers per year. Even the scrap sheet metal in the factory is collected and reused to create holiday ornaments that raise money for local charities.
"We are working to revolutionize the construction industry by placing as much value on the environment as we do on beautiful and functional design. We use our proprietary ICE technology to design custom prefabricated interior solutions with minimal waste, fast lead times and a precise fit and finish," Laura Lee added. ICE allows clients to design their interior spaces using prefabricated, moveable and completely customizable walls. "Technology changes fast, so we think about ways to create environments that keep up," said Laura Lee Bocade, Community and Relations Manager for DIRTT in Savannah.
The interactive, 3D visuals that ICE creates have become known as a 'video game for design', and for good reason. The ICE technology was born when developers got a look at the classic game, Doom. The technological advancements that Doom showcased may have taken a backseat to the gun slinging gameplay for its fans, but not for everyone. Barrie Loberg was creating fly-through presentations for business development in the mid-90s when he saw Doom being played for the first time. Being able to move through a changeable, 3D space without waiting, Loberg knew, could become a major advancement in the business world. Barrie was able to convince industrial designer Geoff Gosling and CEO Mogens Smed that using the engine of the video game was the way to power ICE, and DIRTT was born.
DIRTT's Savannah facility becoming the company's highest producing one is a fact that Laura Lee accredits to multiple factors. "Georgia is a 'maker state'," she explains, "and more and more, people are seeing the level of talent that exists here." The employees, affectionately known as "DIRTTbags," are the company's greatest asset. DIRTT operates on a flat organizational structure, meaning everyone on staff are encouraged to give input on business decisions, product improvements or ideas. "Everyone here believes in our mission, in spreading the culture of sustainability, and that makes all the difference," Laura Lee said.
And it's working. DIRTT was named International Business of the Year by the Governor's International in 2015, further validating the company's decision to locate in Georgia. "The Quick Start program was a huge benefit for us when It came to training our staff," said Laura Lee," and the infrastructure in Savannah with access to the port and railways has been crucial. We're able to spend less on shipping, saving customers money, and being closer to our market decreases our carbon footprint." DIRRT considered several other cities in the Southeast, but these benefits, as well as the culture and rich history of Savannah won them over. "There's something about the beauty and attention to design here, and because of that, local workers just seemed to get what we do." When DIRRT finished repurposing the formally empty building it now calls home, the immediately starting hiring from the local market. "Everything from glass to shipping companies to the food we prepare and serve in the café is locally sourced. We believe in investing in the community you're in," Laura Lee added.
The idea of building everything up from your people is one that Laura Lee sees on a larger scale in the city of Savannah. "The same way we focus our energy into growing our employees and our business is what we see the port doing for companies here," she explained. "The Georgia port provides that same type of opportunity to build businesses here in the state. And the success of the companies here in turn helps them grow- it's a great example of a symbiotic business relationship."
DIRTT's vision of fundamental, positive shifts in the construction industry is becoming a global reality thanks to unwavering commitment to their values. Finding a home that supports that vision, along with unbeatable accessibility to the waiting world, "Construction and remodels are long-term financial investments to companies, and with DIRTT solutions, the process is improved from beginning to end," Laura Lee said. And they're having fun doing it. Like the DIRTTbags often say, it's not just about the journey or the destination, it’s the DIRTT you pick up along the way.