Verto360 has been designing and building DIRTT custom prefabricated interiors for over five years now and in the process we’ve learned a thing or two about what’s possible, what works, what doesn’t – and what the real cost inputs and efficiencies are.

I’d like to focus on cost, as this is still the most oft asked question we field, thanks to the persistent and stubborn perception that building this way is significantly more costly than conventional builds.

If it’s better, it’s got to cost more – that is the assumption.

What we find when we can make an actual comparison, though, is that our build-outs while providing a superior fit and finish in less time, come in consistently within 5% of the cost conventional construction. Our experience is consistent with what DIRTT is finding across the continent.

Skeptical? Then let’s look at the numbers from the accounting firm MNP. Which used DIRTT to build its Calgary space. (MNP has some credibility when it comes to numbers. Wouldn’t you agree?)

When MNP considered using a custom prefabricated solution from DIRTT in 2012, the company was told by the local construction community in Calgary that it would cost $90 – $100 per square foot to build that way. At the time of this comparison, conventional construction would have cost $80 per square foot.

As it turned out, the project was completed at a cost of $69 per square foot using DIRTT.

A fluke? Not at all. Although costs per square foot vary from project to project for many reasons including density, region and scope of work that kind of cost efficiency has been replicated time and time again over the past several years, right across the country. Hear it here in their own words

Who wouldn’t want to see savings like that?

Naturally, there’s always a “but” in these stories, isn’t there? In this case the “but” lies in the approach taken to the build-out in the first place. The secret formula to this success story, as it turns out, lies at the outset, during the design phase.

It’s in the design process that you determine if you win or lose on cost, schedule and quality. If developed using conventional methods of imagining what’s possible, your design will be inescapably conventional. In effect, you’re designing by default. When that’s the case, even a superior solution that’s presented will have to be dumbed down and made less efficient because it doesn’t fit the design or specification.

In other words, if what you want is a design that looks, smells and feels like drywall, then you’re opting for a more costly, less efficient outcome.

Here’s the thing: if you hear yourself saying: “it’s too early in the process to consider how we’re going to build it,” think again. Why limit your options? Why choose the same old road that’s defined building for the past half century?

The question is, what do you gain by NOT building differently? There must be some gain. Otherwise, you’d go by the numbers.