DIRTT’s modular wall systems can be used in a variety of applications, including healthcare, contract and educational facilities.
DIRTT’s modular wall systems can be used in a variety of applications, including healthcare, contract and educational facilities.

DIRTT MDF Modular Walls Look Clean, Are GreenDoing It Right This Time is the rallying theme of DIRTT Environmental Solutions, a Calgary, AB-based manufacturer of sustainable MDF modular wall systems.

According to Liane MacNeil, corporate communications, DIRTT is the first manufacturer in the industry to offer modular wall panel systems made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified, urea formaldehyde-free MDF panels.  “Until now, clients striving for LEED certification had to choose between the point for urea formaldehyde-free or FSC-certified. For the first time they can have both.”

The company was founded in 2004 by Mogens Smed, CEO, and has been selling its product since 2005. In this short time, DIRTT already has received a number of awards in recognition of its sustainable products. Recent ones include: 2011 Top 10 Green Building Products, 2011 Bloom Award for Innovative Materials, 2010 Sustainable Exporter of the Year, 2010 ASID Product Award, 2010 Calgary Award for Corporate Environmental Achievement, and the 2010 Manning Award for Outstanding Innovation.

The modular wall products are manufactured in three facilities located in North America. All woodwork is produced at the company’s Calgary location, with all facilities offering the same capabilities to manufacture metal and glass. In addition to the 122,419-square-foot manufacturing area in Calgary, DIRTT operates an 81,000-square-foot plant in Savannah, GA, and in July 2011 started production and shipments from a new 71,855-square-foot facility in Phoenix, AZ. The company employs 600 people.

DIRTT MDF Modular Walls Look Clean, Are Green“These two (Savannah, which opened in 2009, and Phoenix) locations were chosen due to proximity to key DIRTT markets. Phoenix offered advantageous business reasons for DIRTT to start  manufacturing operations there. These factories also create many manufacturing jobs in each region,” MacNeil said.

As part of its sustainability efforts in the manufacturing process, in addition to the use of FSC-certified and urea-formaldehyde-free MDF, the company uses powder coating, water-based finishes and UV curing to virtually eliminate VOCs in the finishing process. PUR adhesive also is used in the veneering process. In addition, DIRTT is accredited as an FSC Chain-of-Custody supplier.

Streamlining the entire process flow — from order entry through product production — the company uses ICE, a proprietary, real-time, interactive 3-D software program. According to DIRTT, ICE provides a “fluid flow of information, from design and point-of-sale to the manufacturing floor, eliminating order entry errors and inter-application conflicts.”

In March of this year, the company also completed a $22 million major partnership and financing agreement with Expansion Capital Partners. According to the company, Expansion Capital invests and supports clean technology and sustainability-focused North American companies. Proceeds from the financing were used to establish DIRTT’s Phoenix modular walls manufacturing facility.

Background in Woodworking
DIRTT founder and CEO Smed has a long history in the woodworking industry. In the 1970s he started working in the office furniture business with his brother, and soon initiated Smed Mfg. By the mid-1990s, the company was publicly traded as SMED Intl, along which time it changed its focus from furniture to modular interior construction.

In 2000, company sales reached $300 million. SMED Intl was purchased by Haworth Inc. and after a couple of years, Smed left Haworth to become CEO of Evans Consoles. In 2004 he began DIRTT, and by 2005 the company’s line of sustainable, modular wall and office products were launched.

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