Solving the education construction challenge » DIRTT Environmental Solutions

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Rejuvenating an aging admissions office at Bismarck State College

The ‘summer slammer’ season is the time of year when education projects need to be completed before the start of the semester. Many are looking for that elusive solution that can guarantee the budget, the schedule and the quality. But for most colleges and universities, the first two are so fundamental that the third one, quality, is often compromised. What if it didn’t have to be that way?

Let’s look at some of the universal challenges with education projects:

  • Minimizing disruption when adjacent spaces are occupied. Material staging and the removal of debris add to the challenge.
  • Already-tight timelines get tighter as the campus hosts conferences, classes and orientation programs that demand space.
  • Sustainability goals are compromised in the interest of saving time and money.
  • The labor shortage continues to impact cost, timelines and the quality of work.
  • Guaranteed pricing is considered unattainable and cost overruns have become the norm.
  • Most projects have a common completion date – generally early August.

Although prefabrication in construction is not a new idea, tech-driven prefab construction is gaining traction. DIRTT is the first to deliver it with mass-customization. The DIRTT method of construction is quieter than the traditional approach because the ‘noise’ occurs in the factory where the assembly is created from your design. Installation versus conventional construction typically saves 25-30% of your construction schedule. That August 1st deadline is a much more achievable goal.

Prefab in action

Bismarck State College (BSC) is the third largest college in North Dakota and provides a comprehensive academic offering of 2-year and 4-year degrees, as well as technical programs and online courses. To keep a competitive edge, they’re always evaluating the impact of their facilities on campus. As they approached 2018’s summer construction season, one of their top priorities was the current Admissions Office. Located in Schafer Hall, it wasn’t giving prospective students the desired first impression: it was cramped, difficult to find, and in one of the oldest buildings on campus. Not only did BSC decide to refresh the Admissions Office, they chose to relocate it to a more central location on campus, the Jack Science Center. Widely regarded as BSC’s iconic landmark, the center serves as the “natural front door to campus”. This location was a perfect match to reflect BSC’s number one priority: their students. Once the budget was allocated and the new space identified, BSC had to figure out how to build it during their short summer construction window.

DIRTT stood out with the functionality, flexibility and innovative materials. We knew this could work for us now and more importantly will work for us in the future

Karen Erickson, Director of Admissions and Enrollment Services

Having been introduced to DIRTT previously, BSC identified the Admissions Office project as one that would benefit from this method of integrated construction. The new Admissions Office is 2,600 square feet and was completed in late July 2018. The DIRTT scope consisted of customized walls, millwork, integrated graphics, embedded technology and modular power, and was installed in just seven days toward the end of the 10-week construction schedule.

BSC Admissions BSC Admissions

Minimizing disruption and construction debris

Although this project took place over the summer with few students around, the Admissions Office was relocated to an existing building that already served multiple functions. Minimizing the impact on those spaces was important. Because the 2,600-square-foot space was landlocked by other functioning spaces, there was very little room to stage materials. DIRTT Solutions were shipped to site and installed quickly with zero debris. This meant the surrounding spaces could continue operating without disruption. Going forward, BSC’s new flexible interior can be reconfigured and refreshed quickly without a trip to the landfill.

Tight Timelines

Since the timeline was already narrow, BSC knew the only way to accomplish the task was to use prefab interior construction. This meant the existing space could be demolished and prepped while the newly designed DIRTT interior was being manufactured 800 miles away. Once the DIRTT scope was ready to be installed, most of the other trades were already off the job site. With the benefits of prefab from a quality control standpoint, and the robust VR experience BSC had during the design process, the space they envisioned was exactly what they received.

Quality of Work

Thanks to DIRTT’s ICE® Software, BSC knew what deliverable they were going to get, including the eye-popping custom graphics integrated right into the walls. They didn’t have to worry about getting a substandard team from a sparse local labor pool. A certified installation team handled the DIRTT scope for the project, minimizing the labor required from other trades and guaranteeing the 10-year warranty of these solutions. 

BSC Admissions BSC Admissions

Sustainability Goals

If BSC decides to pursue a green building certification post-completion, it will be a breeze. From the framed glass walls that allow light to filter through the space and the reuse of an existing building, to the minimal construction waste and future-ready walls and power, this project is an environmental win.

Cost Certainty

With many other projects underway with varying degrees of budget creep, BSC knew that the DIRTT cost for the Admissions Office wouldn’t change. Having reviewed the project design and associated costs throughout the process, the final price was unchanged from what was quoted in ICE.

Overlapping Summer Projects

With all other summer projects racing toward the same finish line, the local labor pool in Bismarck is regularly taxed this time of year. Using DIRTT for the Admissions Office project allowed that crew to finish sooner, freeing them up to move on to the next project on campus.

“To say I’m amazed is an understatement,” said Dr. Larry Skogen, President of Bismarck State College. “So proud of the team that has worked to ensure students and their families have a great first impression of our environment.

Originally published in NACAS Quarterly, a publication of the National Association of College Auxiliary Services

Carolyn Farley

Carolyn is a DIRTT Education Specialist with over 25 years of experience in higher education environments. Carolyn has had countless experiences with academic and co-curricular renovation and construction project stakeholders. With this knowledge, she is able to demonstrate the value DIRTT solutions bring to education facilities.


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”.