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Three Preconceived Notions About Prefabrication

Mariner Wealth Advisers

I don’t watch much TV (I’d rather be working or fishing), but every once in a while I get sucked in to an episode of Myth Busters. It’s fascinating to me how we believe things that may appear true but in reality, they’re far from it.

Now and then our team at Built has to perform our own version of that show, busting a few myths and preconceived notions about prefabrication. These notions are well-intentioned, but like most myths, they’re just not very well formed.

For our industry, most of the preconceptions can be boiled down to three main myths. Allow me to bust them.

1. The Concept of Prefabrication is a recent development.

This one is pretty straight forward. Prefabrication techniques are actually hundreds of years old dating back to the 17th century. An example of early prefabrication that you are familiar with would be the Eiffel Tower. In our world when you say prefabrication, we like to think of it as working smarter, not harder. We all do enough of the latter, but we could all use some more of the former.

Even though it’s not a recent concept, prefabrication is the current trend in construction, especially for progressive firms. In our process we embrace and utilize innovative technology and we’re helping push our rather dated industry forward. It’s a trend we like being a part of.

2. Prefabrication takes away the chance to customize your design and it provides poor acoustics.

Perhaps this one comes from a bad experience with a partner who pushed a bad product or solution. The truth couldn’t be further from this misconception.

People don’t just want a modern office space with clean lines; they want a space engineered for productivity. That’s exactly the sort of capabilities we have with DIRTT. From a design standpoint, the options when building with DIRTT are truly endless. We can create and build a unique design to meet the needs of any given space.

Whether it’s scraping and rebuilding a space or smaller changes to parts of your existing space, our system can help create a solution tailored to your needs and allow you to see what the final result will look like before anyone shows up to the worksite.

Our team of designers are most intent on listening to you the customer and understanding your hopes and vision for your environment and then articulating it in a plan. If you can imagine it, we can build it.

And then the acoustics. This one may be able to get drawn back to some contractors from the old guard who resist the way technology is pushing our industry to change. Here’s the reality. If you build using poor traditional construction or a poor prefabricated system, your acoustics will suck. We take a holistic approach to acoustics and use the best engineered system made. DIRTT was completely developed with acoustic performance in mind. When you work with us and use our system you will find it performs acoustically as well or in many cases better than traditional construction.

3. Prefabrication is always going to cost more than traditional construction.

Just ask my lovely and loyal wife, Beth Anne, words like “always” and “never” are not good words to use. These two words have very definite connotations and frame a conversation in the context of “at all times” or “not ever”. They are not very “customer-centric” words or concepts. Every project is different, and there are complex considerations as it comes to cost.

But this is one preconception we hear often.

To use rough math here, when you break down project budgets, traditional construction typically consists of 70% labor and 30% materials.

Our projects typically consist of the inverse: 70% materials and 30% labor.

With this equation, we allow you to minimize both risk and uncertain labor costs, with the bulk of the cost going to manufacturing and quality materials, rather than on-site labor.

With our technology, we design your space and tell you exactly how much our prefabricated materials will cost to manufacture and assemble – and exactly how long it will take to assemble. That sort of cost and completion transparency is just something that you can’t get with traditional construction methods.

Some of our projects, we’re 5-6% premium, some maybe 2%, many are cost neutral.

But to us, “how much does the project cost?” is the wrong question to ask. We prefer questions like:

  • “What is the value to have and retain happy and engaged employees?”
  • “When you’re competing for top end talent, what do candidates look for in an office environment?”
  • “What’s the 5-, 10-, 15-, and 50-year vision of your space?”
  • “How will your traditional construction project hold up over time?”
  • “What will you do when you want to alter the space?”
  • “What is the perfect environment worth to you?”

Our questions could go on, but I think you get the point.

Sure, cost matters. It’s one common measurable when evaluating your building options. But we’re far from always costing more, especially when you consider a broader and more valuable set of questions. Here’s one time I think the word always is appropriate, we think the customer should always get the best value for their dollar.

I understand why you may have preconceived notions, but I hope I’ve busted a few of your myths.

Sometimes it just takes people who have resistance towards prefabrication in construction to come to our showroom or a work site and actually see the awesome things our system is capable of.

If you’re curious, we’d love to have you come by, so we can show you what prefab — and Built Interior Construction — can do for you.

Built Interior Construction – What We Do and How We Do It

Changing the Commercial Construction Narrative

A Built Blog, by Russ Branden

For those of us in the commercial construction industry, it’s no secret that we’ve seen change over the past decade or two.

A lot of change.

One specific change we’re all experiencing is a drastic decrease in skilled labor, coupled with an increase in material costs and overall project costs.

This has led many leaders in our industry to look for innovative solutions.

As parents of Gen-X’ers and Millennials sent their children off to college and prided themselves on this set of widespread college graduates, the construction industry began to see its first steep decline in skilled labor.

The emphasis on the skilled trades 10-15 years ago, is the bill that’s coming due today.

High school seniors set their eyes on corner offices and have been told college is the best path (and for many, of course, it is), but houses and businesses still needed to be built, pipes plumbed, and electricity wired.

And when reflecting about the biggest challenge in the construction industry today, there’s no doubt, it’s skilled labor shortage.

So much so that the largest General Contracting firms are now working with local high schools to see what students might be a good fit for apprenticeship programs for skilled labor.

A trend we’re all seeing, and one many are stepping into the gaps to help solve.

But as long as it took to get us here, it’s not a ship that can be righted in the short-term.

And even if we had a huge rush of high school juniors and seniors entering the industry, we’re still looking at a minimum of a five-year training curve. We’d still be years and years away from meeting current and projected construction demand.

A sobering reality, but a reality nonetheless.

It’s not just labor shortage, either. Compressed schedules are driving up costs. Increased client involvement and expectation are making processes more complex.

Because in a culture that can order any necessity, toy or gadget we desire as we’re walking to the car and have it arrive on our doorstep one to two days later, we want our office the way we want it, and we want it now.

Our team at Built can’t deliver an office as quickly as I can get a new fly rod from Amazon, but in terms of the construction industry, it’s pretty close.

From concept to completion, some of our major installations have taken as little as three months.

Under the promised timeline.

And on budget.

It’s so different from the widely accepted way of doing things, that many don’t even believe us when we tell them how little time it will take and that we’ll remain on budget throughout the process.

There’s a built in BS detector in our industry, but it’s been fun to break down those barriers with our results.

Prefab construction pushes the boundaries and can take time to adopt, I get that. But the story is changing.

But for so long, so many people have only done it one way – and typically that is accompanied by being slow, over budget, and an overall frustrating experience for all involved.

But we’re changing that narrative.

We’re ready for a new story, with new skilled labor, and new expectations.

We’re ready for a simplified building process, one that creates innovative, inspiring, and BS-free spaces.

Office Design for the New Workforce


Our workforce is changing. Baby boomers are retiring. Gen X are leaders. Millennials are growing up. And Generation Z is graduating. But what does all this mean to workplace design?

In this two-part series, we here at Built will let you in on the secrets to attracting and catering to the up-and-comers with your office interior. Today, Millennials (a.k.a. Generation Y).



Millennials are no longer the new folks on campus. Born between 1981 and 1995, Generation Y makes up 50% of the workforce. Six years from now, they’ll be the majority at 75%.

There’s high turnover among Millennials. Gallup research says 60% are open to new job opportunities and 21% have changed jobs in the last year (three times the number of non-millennials). But this isn’t necessarily because of the negative stereotypes that they’re entitled and difficult to please. Instead, Millennials are aspirational; they hope to lend their talents and passions to make the world a better place. They prioritize experiences and are technology pioneers.

For all of these reasons, we’ve seen office design transform from lifeless grey “Office-Space”-like cubicles to Google “wonderlands” where anything is possible. The challenge of making interiors both aesthetically amazing and highly functional is one we’re tackling every day.

Google Sydney
Google, Sydney Office

Showcase your culture + purpose

When Millennials look for work, they prioritize purpose. Ideally, their employer’s values align with their own. At minimum, they seek out companies whose vision speaks to meaning. Bottom line: millennials want to feel like they’re part of something that has a positive impact.

One Calgary-based tech company – where purpose is at the heart of their culture and their work – designed bold, colorful graphics with inspirational messages and printed them directly on DIRTT walls. Here, the walls do triple duty: they bring the space to life and make it fun to be in; an ever-present reminder to employees and visitors of the company’s why; and they accomplish their more ho-hum space-separating duty too with the option for future flexibility.

Mariner Holdings in Kansas celebrated their culture with a massive mural on their DIRTT walls. An employee-wide competition invited people to design something that represented the company and the winner became a focal point for the office.

Designing around your values can be a subtle way to make a big impact. GM Financial Service Center in Texas designed their office to show how much they care about how their employees feel at work. Breakout spaces incorporate timber, art glass, and comfortable seating. Cozy banquettes in the café overlook treetops through huge windows. Punches of bright colour make the space vibrant and fun. All of these touches invite employees to feel at home, at work.

Embed experience into your design

Most millennials value experiences. A study by Harris Group found that 78% of millennials would rather spend money on a memorable experience than on things. Spending on live events, eating out and travel is on the rise according to McKinsey.  When design is done right, spaces can create experiences for people in their daily work environment too. DIRTT opted for a slide instead of the stairs.

“We incorporate Java Centres or kitchenettes with a great coffee machine and coffee bar that brings coffee culture into the office,” says Tori Cnuddle, DIRTT interior designer. These spaces give employees a place to dip out of their work and chat, refuel or take a much-needed break.

An experience can be something beautiful or unexpected. Interesting shapes, colours, building materials, ceiling pitches and swings all transform this meeting room into something far more than a place to meet. It’s comfortable, interesting and creative: the kind of place where fresh ideas are born.

Keep your open concept office acoustically sound

Traditional top-down design has largely been shirked for open concept offices. Millennials don’t want to lead from a corner office. But working from the hive presents its own challenges, like noise.

“Acoustics are super important in an open office,” says Tori, who takes noise into account for all of her designs. That can mean making an enclosed space sound proof with soft floors, double or triple insulation in the walls and sealed doors.

In common spaces, bespoke ceilings, which, like all DIRTT solutions, are beautiful (any design you want) and practical (sound absorbent). DIRTT’s Micro Perforated Tiles have a 75% noise reduction coefficient (NRC), which means they absorb 75% of the sound that strikes them. How? Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) baffle is combined with a micro-perforated surface and an acoustic fabric backing. The acoustic needs of every space are different; it all starts with a conversation to make sure you have the speech privacy you need in balance with your budget.

Bespoke Ceiling at DIRTT HQ
Bespoke Ceiling at DIRTT HQ

It makes sense that millennials want the same intuitive technology at their fingertips at work that they use in all other aspects of their life. Brett Allen is an architectural technologist who leads DIRTT’s integrated technology team. “We’re not only integrating interactivity,” says Brett. “The biggest challenge for new technology is adoption. We want to keep it familiar, like the things people use at home, so they’ll know how to use it at work.”

That can mean empowering your company to turn existing TV screens into multi-touch screens using Displax film – a capacitive touch technology. Or embedding smart speakers throughout your office.

The team is always looking for ways to use technology in creative and unexpected ways. Like, replacing a static anatomy poster with an interactive touch screen that changes and adapts to the situation at hand.

Or (perhaps paradoxically) using technology to bring a touch of nature inside.

Millennials demand offices with flexible and functional design that inspires. For us, that demand is fundamental to the way we do things.

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