Your current browser is not supported. We built with the latest technology to bring you a better experience. To view, we recommend using the latest version of Chrome, Safari or Firefox. 


DIRTT's adaptability leads to second contract

I want to thank you for putting me in a room that makes me feel so good when I feel so sick.

EvergreenHealth Patient

A patient said that to me while I was on a follow-up visit at EvergreenHealth’s hospital complex in Kirkland, WA, just outside Seattle. It’s hard not to choke up when you hear that kind of testimonial to a better way of building … but it’s sure a great motivator! And the even better news is we’re going to do it again for EvergreenHealth.

In 2017, DIRTT designed and installed a two-floor, 45,000 square foot, 62-bed progressive care unit (PCU) for patients who need advanced care and monitoring but not at the ICU level. Each headwall has more than 50 electrical, data and medical gas service drops, with easy access only a panel-pull away for maintenance or reconfiguring. The extra drops also let EvergreenHealth temporarily convert the units to full intensive care beds if the hospital has to serve as an emergency center during an earthquake or other natural disaster.

EvergreenHealth PCU EvergreenHealth PCU

This time round, DIRTT is working with the hospital to design and install 20 critical care unit patient rooms. (CCU rooms have to be a bit larger according to building codes.) With two years of day-to-day prefabricated, manufactured construction under their belts, EvergreenHealth’s management team isn’t even considering a traditional build – it’s custom prefab all the way, with a few new features added.

What did the hospital need in 2017?

EvergreenHealth had three objectives when they put their progressive care unit out to bid:

Shorten the schedule:

Patients who came to emergency were being transferred to other facilities once they were stable because non-emergency beds often weren’t available. DIRTT built the PCU in eight months – unheard of in conventional construction circles.

Make it durable and future-proof:

The hospital wanted to reduce maintenance down time and make it easier to integrate new biotechnology equipment. One of EvergreenHealth’s executives commented while watching his team mount a new $18,000 heart monitor, “That piece of equipment won’t be there in 18 months.” Another offered that “the cost of disruption exceeds the cost of construction.” Accessing a headwall or repairing drywall could shut down a room (or several) for days because of drywall dust, literally costing the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Accessing or replacing a DIRTT panel reduces that time to hours.

Simplify ceiling access:

A lot of maintenance takes place in the plenum space above the ceiling. EvergreenHealth’s goal was at least partial openings in the bulkheads above the head- and footwalls to access pipes or run new low-voltage wire without cutting and patching (we’re back to that nasty drywall dust issue). The high performance of DIRTT's system allowed the entire assembly to meet acoustic code requirements with two permanent openings in the bulkhead.

Once the PCU was installed, the Joint Commission auditing agency, which controls hospital accreditation, inspected DIRTT’s handiwork. The EvergreenHealth team describes these audits as “the hospital gets a physical – and not a fun one.” “I have never seen the auditors smile on an inspection,” one senior staffer told me. “They could not stop talking about how great [it] looked.”

So what's new in phase two?

DIRTT learned a lot designing and installing the PCU, so EvergreenHealth will see some changes in the new critical care unit. With DIRTT providing all of the non-rated walls, most of the drywall work (a significantly smaller part of the project) will be completed before our frames arrive. A few areas such as patient showers and public restrooms will combine DIRTT with some conventional drywall.

Drywall dust inside a DIRTT frame is a serious issue, as it could be released into the air when a face panel is removed. To avoid having any dust contaminating the interior of our walls, we are using foil face denim duct liner instead of our usual denim insulation. Using duct liner on each face of the wall will make any cleaning during construction much easier. (During the PCU installation the contractor billed the hospital $30,000 for vacuuming out our walls daily.)

The headwalls will incorporate factory installed regular and critical power as well as DIRTT’s new Flex Gas med gas system, which is easier to maintain and expand. In the rare case there’s a leak, instead of shutting down an entire section (in the PCU’s case, half the floor) while maintenance drills holes in the drywall, staff can pop off the DIRTT panels, disconnect each med gas feed individually, and see if the pressure sensors return to normal. If they don’t, keep hunting. If they do, they’ve found the leaky hose.

DIRTT Flex Gas DIRTT Flex Gas

DIRTT will be used to fur out the exterior walls, which on most builds are typically studs and drywall. It’s cleaner and faster and future-proof flexible, and lets the hospital put those walls to work.

The smoke/wall partitions, sealed top and bottom but not fire-rated, will be DIRTT. They’ll combine our new DIRTT ceiling system with a hybrid of DIRTT and conventional framing to create a plenum partition, as opposed to a structural bulkhead that is costly and time-consuming to build. Instead of the contractor having to erect a bulkhead “down from the top deck,” DIRTT’s ceiling and plenum partitions attach directly to the deck above. Again, it’s simpler, easier to access and saves time and money.

One of the most exciting changes is the new wall / ceiling / plenum assembly that provides acoustical privacy between patient rooms without taking the head- and footwalls to the deck above. DIRTT’s innovative approach essentially replaces the vertical partition of typical construction and instead strengthens the ceiling’s acoustic performance. This next phase will offer a completely open plenum above patient rooms ­– an unheard of advance with a significant ROI by reducing operational and maintenance costs.

Healthcare ceiling detail Healthcare ceiling detail

DIRTT Willow® Glass on a two-inch furring wall will be installed in the elevator lobby instead of conventional tile, and will also host custom artwork in every patient room and along the public corridor.  DIRTT low walls will be used at the nursing stations instead of furniture cubicles, making it easier to install critical power.

Another space using Willow® Glass Another space using Willow® Glass

And believe it or not, we’re going to help the hospital trim its laundry budget. Every time a patient is discharged, the room has to be thoroughly disinfected (of course) and all of the bed linens – including the clean spare sets tucked in a drawer – have to be removed and washed. When we redesigned our nurse server pass-through cabinets and added seals so they’d work in smoke partition walls, we saved some space on the slide-out hardware … just enough room for a linen drawer! The clean sheets can stay in the sealed compartment for the next patient.

So is it done yet?

We’re still in the design phase (90 percent of the build will be custom prefab) and we’re working with the architect to develop the design details and make sure our client makes the most of our solution. The project goes to public bond this month and out to bid in May (for the conventional components). Evaluations are about two months, so we could see DIRTT walls delivered in late summer or early fall and the new CCU open for business in late winter. We’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, here's a sneak peek of what's to come:

Headwall Headwall
Hallway Hallway
Footwall Footwall
Mike was our guy on the ground for EvergreenHealth’s first custom prefab buildout … and it looks like they’re happy to keep him around for a little bit longer!

Mike Iannone

DIRTTbag since 2005, Mike has worn more than a few hats at DIRTT. He's pushed the envelope on the best ways to use DIRTT in the real world, especially advanced healthcare applications. Mike is now directing a new Constructability Divison to make sure all our teams have the construction resources they need to support our clients.


DIRTT Environmental Solutions uses its 3D software to create prefabricated interiors. Each space is tailored to our clients' needs. Manufacturing facilities are located in Phoenix, Savannah and Calgary. DIRTT works with nearly 100 construction partners globally. DIRTT trades on Nasdaq under the symbol “DRTT” and on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “DRT”.