My morning began with a rush of excitement and of tardiness as I jumped off the train on my way to meet Sarah Bingham of DIRTT. Student Mentoring Week had officially begun for students across the United States, and I was excited to take a day off from IIDA Headquarters to participate. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect as I rushed off the elevator and walked straight into a construction site. I thought that wearing all black was a safe choice when I left my apartment that morning, but quickly realized I was going to be taking some of the construction site home with me that evening.
I found Sarah hidden behind the tarped-off kitchen and quickly jumped into the only area of the showroom that wasn’t covered in white dust. After hugs and meeting the other mentee, Jennifer Lea, we got started. Sarah showed us around the showroom/construction site, as Jennifer and I drooled over the sweeping views of the Chicago River and East Wacker Drive.
Even while under construction for NeoCON 2011, this showroom was incredible. Light was streaming in from 3 different directions, even on the partially cloudy Chicago day, and bounced off of shiny white surfaces or was diffused by the dust. We toured the main space and headed up to the small presentation room to learn about the technology and innovation that makes DIRTT stand out from the rest.
Sarah showed us all about DIRTTs completely customizable modular wall systems and we had a lesson on using their software called ICE. This program would make your head spin with how user friendly and intuitive it is. Picture Google SketchUp’s easy 3D editing capabilities with built-in information to create 2-D detail drawings, which then exports into it’s own invoice for easy ordering and straightforward pricing information. WHOA. This makes AutoCAD look difficult. Seriously, after five minutes of instruction, I felt that I would be quite comfortable using the ICE technology to build and confidently sell a DIRTT wall system to the next client to walk through the door.
After the presentation, we walked downstairs and Sarah gave us hardhats and put us to work! – not really, but we did get to wear DIRTT hard hats. Obviously, you can see that we took pictures.
Wiping the sweat from our brows, we took a lunch break that Sarah and DIRTT so graciously provided to us for the occasion and we chatted more about what DIRTT does. DIRTT stands for “Doing It Right This Time” and from materials to production, they offer products that are made from recycled content and rapidly renewable resources. They are prepping the showroom for their newest innovation, an inexpensive green wall called Breathe Living Walls. This is no ordinary green wall either- not only is it all around easy to install, it is easy to maintain because it has a simple plumbing system and plants grow upward in individual pots, unlike many other green wall systems where plants are forced to adapt to the vertical surface.
Not only did I have a great time during Student Mentoring Week, I just might have learned something too. Manufacturers and their representatives, though many students do not think of them as designers, are an absolutely essential part of the design process. Because of their unique position, they have valuable insight and can offer real-life feedback as to the state of the design industry. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to participate and I can’t wait to explore the industry further with the contacts I have made!