The Evolution of ICE » DIRTT Environmental Solutions

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ICE is DIRTT’s own software – and the magic potion that makes DIRTT’s digital construction possible. It’s why we can produce custom designs without the custom price tag or lead times. It’s the technology that makes building with DIRTT leaps and bounds better than conventional construction.

  • Speed – ICE is smart. As you’re designing and making changes to your space, ICE is doing the heavy lifting in the background. It’s doing all the engineering for your space, and putting together all the data our factories need to manufacture it. That means as soon as you finish your design, our factories can start building ­– immediately. The result? Your project will arrive on-site and ready for assembly just 21 days after you finish your design.
  • Design Certainty – Unless you’re an architect or designer, odds are you probably struggle to truly understand technical drawings. That’s why ICE displays everything in 3D in real time. Think of it as a video game, but for construction. That means clients get to see exactly how their space will look before making a commitment.
  • Guaranteed Price – Unlike conventional construction, ICE prices out each design change you make, down to the penny. No estimates – the price you see is the price you get.

ICE is a powerful tool, but how did it evolve to where it is today? Here’s how ICE became the most powerful 3D construction technology available:

ICE Software ICE Software

The lightbulb moment

DIRTT co-founder Barrie Loberg originally developed the concept for ICE back in the ‘90s, when he saw an employee playing the video game DOOM on his break. At the time, you needed a large network of computers to run for hours at a time to create simple 3D renderings. How could this video game render spaces in real time? The lightbulb went off and the idea for ICE, a ‘construction video game’ was born.

In 2004, ICE was transformed from an idea into a working application. Alongside James Gosling, the inventor of Java, Barrie and his 10 person team built the first version of ICE. In 2005, DIRTT was founded with ICE at its core. Since then, it’s evolved from being a DIRTT design tool to the technology that drives nearly every aspect of the construction process.

"DOOM" (1993) - The inspiration for ICE "DOOM" (1993) - The inspiration for ICE

VR breakthroughs

One of the biggest leaps forward came in the sphere of virtual reality. In 2013, Barrie Loberg unveiled ICEvr. It was the first tool that allowed clients to explore their space in virtual reality while making real-time changes to the design. VR visualization is the norm these days, but in 2013 it was anything but. In fact, DIRTT proudly supported the Kickstarter campaign for the original Oculus Rift, the first modern consumer-grade VR headset.

Barrie Loberg unveils ICEvr V1.0 Barrie Loberg unveils ICEvr V1.0

Since we first got into the world of VR, DIRTT has been continually innovating and honing the software to improve how clients communicate about their space. To date, we’ve tried over 20 different VR headsets to see which ones work best. We even built a Virtual Reality lab for our clients to use while visiting our head office in Calgary (the largest in North America at the time), which has hosted thousands of tours through the virtual reality experience.

Testing, trying, and pushing the limits

We’ve experimented with extended reality technology like Microsoft’s HoloLens and the Magic Leap One. In fact, we were even named a member of the Microsoft Mixed Reality Enterprise Council, giving us the opportunity to help develop the technology alongside some of the most innovative companies in the world. This is just another example of the research and development we do to push the limits of what’s possible with software.

DIRTT at the Mixed Reality Council DIRTT at the Mixed Reality Council

Most recently, DIRTT unveiled ICEreality. The virtual reality app allows our clients to explore their space right on their iPhones. This has brought our technology to the masses, letting clients walk through their virtual space whenever they want.

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So, what's next?

As we’ve always done, DIRTT will continue to push the limits of what is possible with construction technology. Big things are in store, and we can’t wait to show you what’s possible when you blend a little bit of imagination, creativity and ICE.


DIRTT is a global leader in industrialized construction. Its system of physical products and digital tools empowers organizations, together with construction and design leaders, to build high-performing, adaptable, interior environments. Operating in the commercial, healthcare, education, and public sector markets, DIRTT’s system provides total design freedom, and greater certainty in cost, schedule, and outcomes. Headquartered in the US and Canada, DIRTT trades on Nasdaq under the symbol “DRTT” and on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “DRT”.