DIRTT announced today it was awarded a contract to build the interiors of 16 residential units for medical staff in Barrow, Alaska, providing the remote community with its first and only adaptable solution to its current housing crisis.
The Arctic Slope Native Association (ASNA) is working to attract medical staff for the recently built Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital, and the lack of available housing options is a serious challenge. DIRTT's pre-engineered interiors are the only cost-effective solution to meet the community's unique construction challenges and tight timeline, with a high-end level of fit and finish and built-in adaptability to accommodate the needs of rotating medical teams and their families.
"Our remote location means that until now we've had no effective approach to getting affordable and quality construction," says Marie Carroll, CEO and president of ASNA. "We get many medical professionals excited to come experience our community and learn about a different way to deliver health care. The new hospital is a draw, but it is just a building if there is nowhere for anyone to live." The facility is an integral part of the region, serving the communities of Atqasuk, Barrow, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Point Lay, and Wainwright, and is the main health care support for the Prudhoe Bay oil field area.
Thirteen percent of houses in Barrow are considered overcrowded and four percent are considered severely overcrowded, versus the national combined US average of 3.2%. Challenges are amplified by the community's location north of the Arctic Circle; it is the northernmost community in the United States. Building materials are barged in only once per year, tradespeople are difficult to find and the severe climate routinely compromises building integrity, leaving many structures uninhabitable. This equates to an average square-foot building price tag higher than anywhere else in the US, for even the most basic of interiors.
As a solution, DIRTT will manufacture the interiors of the 1200 sq. ft. units - 16 in total and each one unique. All units will arrive flat-packed on the one barge scheduled to depart Seattle on June 29, 2016.
DIRTT has just 48 days to produce all 16 units. In the meantime, crews in Barrow can build the base building structure while the interiors are manufactured and assembled in DIRTT's production facility in Calgary. The pre-engineered and pre-fit nature of the interiors will create minimal construction material waste. "This method also solves our very real desire to build more sustainably," says Carroll.
Once on site in Barrow, a crew of six (including four locals) will install the custom interiors, consisting of wall frames and tiles, plug-and-play electrical components, plumbing raceways, ceiling tiles and millwork cabinetry. Visual highlights include Corning® Willow® Glass that creates a high-end stonework look in the kitchen areas without the cost or weight of real stone. It also creates a durable and cleanable finish that doubles as a dry-erase surface.
"This opportunity for DIRTT is absolutely the wave of the future for remote construction," says Mogens Smed, CEO of DIRTT. "If organizations in easily accessible cities have a hard time getting labor, imagine what this means for these northern communities. Pre-engineered and personally-tailored solutions are the only answer for them."
DIRTT uses object-oriented, 3D software called ICE® to feed design and dimensions of interiors into production. The technology virtually eliminates the possibility for human error and the manufacturing approach allows DIRTT to respond to building challenges in remote locations, with precise results. ICE®, DIRTT its Middle Eastern partner, NMG, have already built over $50-million worth of healthcare projects in Saudi Arabia.
DIRTT's method means ASNA will see better quality than traditional construction could allow in their budget, and in a much faster timeframe. While traditional construction labor costs use roughly 70% of a project budget, DIRTT's fast and clean installation brings labor hours down to cost approximately 30% and the rest goes to high-quality engineered materials with built-in adaptation. The software and physical design of DIRTT's solutions will also allow ASNA to develop their design right up to four weeks before shipping, without missing the barge deadline.
"This type of project is the exact point of developing our software and designing new building solutions," says Smed. "No one else is working to add quality to the speed and certainty of prefab for this market. It doesn't just have to be housing either. This is already proven for hospitals, clinics, schools and administration environments."
As ASNA expands its role in health care, they project a significant need for additional housing units in the near future.