Builtcast: How Kerri Brocker And Andre Davis Are Disrupting Construction

by Sep 20, 2019

We wanted to talk with Kerri and Andre because of their innovative approach to building out interiors from hospitals, to offices, and more. What we found out is that their technology is truly disrupting the way not only the initial construction phase is performed, but the way we think about the entire lifecycle of a structure.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • The latest alternate method to build and why you should be interested.
  • Why it’s important to find out what a client really wants and how DIRTT technology is delivering it to a T.
  • What DIRTT technology is exactly and why it’s cost effective.
  • How to minimize labor costs and eliminate dumpster waste.
  • One of many reasons general contractors are loyal to DIRTT.

About Our Guests: 

Kerri Brocker: Breaking the barriers of misconceptions, Kerri will show the superiority of DIRTT in the areas of acoustics, durability, future proofing facilities, inherent adaptability, embedded technology, infection control and significantly reduced maintenance costs and facility disruptions.

Her goal is to help reduce the amount of building waste that is tossed into landfills and to create beautiful spaces that engage those that occupy them. This focus helps their clients build spaces that employees enjoy while creating an environment which allows for interactive technology features, adaptable and flexible design options.  Connect with Kerri on LinkedIn

Andre Davis: Accomplished, energetic, and enthusiastic professional with almost 20 years’ experience advancing all aspects of corporate engagement. Andre is a Community minded volunteer and servant that is passionate about helping families and children change their life outcomes. As a Board Member of several non-profit organizations he’s committed to giving back and making an impact. Connect with Andre on LinkedIn

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

Intro (Kerri Brocker): It’s just a matter of figuring out if we’re a fit and if we are, then morphing the design and their needs versus their wants and what they want to accomplish with the space. And if you talk to people that we’ve done projects with, the process is actually really nice and entertaining. It’s not a hair pulling – what did I get myself into? Construction is a little bit like childbirth, where it’s extremely painful and you’re like, “Why did I do this? And then afterwards you’re like, “I’m never doing that again.” And then a year later you’re like, “Okay, well it wasn’t so bad.” Like you forget how awful it really was. And then five years later when your lease is up, you end up doing it again and then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is so painful.” So we want to just change that perception of how painful it can be into an actual really nice process, with a great end result. 

Reid: Well, Andre and Kerri, thank you so much for being with us today. 

Andre: Our pleasure. 

Kerri: Thank you for having us, this is exciting. 

Reid: So, my first question I like to ask people is, how did you get into this industry? 

Kerri: Well, I was lucky enough in high school that my parents were going to move for the very first time. And so, as we started looking at homes, my mom didn’t have a lot of rules; so we would go to the houses that were partially built and there was always a door open or a window open. So, we would go in and tour the homes and look at construction, and at that point, I decided I wanted to be an architect. And so, I was an athlete on top of that. And needless to say, when I went to my first couple of recruiting trips, the architecture departments at the universities let me know that there were some challenges with being an architect and an athlete; that there wasn’t enough time in the day. So, I ultimately decided on interior design; few less studios, but I knew I could still be a part of the industry.

So, I graduated with a Degree in Interior Design and did an internship at a fabulous place. But I realized that I didn’t want to sit behind a desk. I liked the business side, I liked the numbers side, I liked the puzzle solving side much better. And so, I went back to my professor and asked about different industries that I could get into, and I really enjoyed the construction industry. And so a few years later, I was introduced to Mogens Smed, which was the owner and founder of DIRTT and started working there, and I just finished up my 10 years so–

Brett: So one question I have is obviously we’ve had a great tour of your showroom here and seeing what things look like – your finished product. Paint that picture of what you guys do, exactly. When we’re talking about this construction process, its way more than what I would say like tenant finish. I mean, it’s way, way beyond what if somebody says that word, they conjure up a certain image of what that looks like, right? You walk into [an] empty space, then what? – And all the typical things that happen with that; the rough, the finish, the cleanup, the cleanup, the cleanup, the waste. So maybe walk through and talk about how you guys are different and how you guys are disrupting and what you guys do exactly. 

Kerri: What we’re really doing to the commercial industry of construction is giving people an alternate method to build. Drywall is a hundred years old. We’re still building with drywall. We are the one industry that technology has not taken over. We are still doing the same drawings, doing the same bid or design build. And ultimately, you’re relying on local trades to come in and build your space. You’re going to have your framers, your dry wallers, then your electricians come in, then your plumbers come in and the sequence gets messed up really easily. You know as our trades are going away, if a trade is slower on the job site, then your schedule – you have to back everything else up and then you have to try to push it back forward, so you can make that timeframe.

So, what we offer is a different way to build out your interiors. You come into, I’m going to call it a warm shell or a six-sided box, where the flooring’s done and the ceilings are done and then we are able to come in and outfit everything else from walls, power, technology, AV, cabinets. We can do some ceilings; we can do some floors or ultimately what we want to look for is what is important to that client. So, as you say the word product, most people will look at it as a product, but we see it as a solution.

Andre: Let me jump in really quick because I think it’s important. I’m old enough to remember when we had to roll windows up in a vehicle. And so I want you to think about that moment, if I had to come to you or anyone that was purchasing a car and said, I have a way that you don’t have to roll windows up, you can just push a button and your window will go up. So, construction [has] been a little bit resistant to technology. And so, all we’re doing is saying there’s a better way of building something, a space, a room, whatever you need; there’s a better way of doing it. And so, what we’re trying to do with at least the construction community is try to work collaborative with those folks. What we’re trying to communicate is if we can minimize your labor cost as a GC, minimize your risk, use technology, you still get your fee, would you be interested in working with us? We think that answer would be yes. 

Reid: So, I think you hit on a good thing; giving people what they want. And I think that’s such an important thing because without the tools, I think that you guys are using it to sit down with clients and really uncover what’s going to work best for them. How do you– and my own experience with this is we just bought a new house and we’re looking at doing some remodel projects and stuff like that and just getting contractors just to quote it–

Andre: Or show up. 

Reid: –or show up has been an utter nightmare. And then on top of that, here’s your number, but we’re not going to tell you anything about what we’re actually going to do. And I look at this and I say, I pretty well know what I’m going to get, right? And I think that’s pretty amazing. 

Andre: We’re transparent here in and Kerri can chime in. We’re super transparent. We behave on some principles that I think that in my career, and recently I get into some of these places and I have these significant relationships because I’m always authentic. I’m always transparent and I will always tell the truth. And if I’m ever in an organization where that’s not important, I’m just not a fit for that organization. So, we are working on that premise where we do a lot of them, “Tell me about the business? Why do you want it? So, if you’re going to renovate the space, why are you renovating? When you get it done, what do you want to happen? If I was your ideal candidate and as a CEO of an organization, you wanted to do business with me and I came into your space, what would you want me to think about your space, if I hit the front door? What do you want me to think?” So, we’re having that conversation because we want to get an idea of what they are trying to do. Then we can determine whether or not we are the fit for them in terms of should you go down this road. Even if they aren’t, we’re still going to suggest there are other teams that we think would be a better fit. It’s probably just not us. 

Reid: Yeah. 

Break: Pardon the interruption. But let’s take a blissful break into me telling you about Build What Matters our all new Annual Summit built for Contractors, Construction Companies and Specialties within the industry. This full day conference is packed with speakers straight from the show and you don’t want to miss it. For tickets, sponsorship and more visit BangertInc.com/bwm. Alright, now back to the show.

Andre: One of the things should be noted about BUILT– and the reason that I think that I said– part of it was Kerri, because I really like Kerri. Kerri’s got great energy. But one of the reasons I liked it was because not only disruptive in terms of how they were building it, but when you look at the ecosystem of DIRTT partners across the country BUILT was one of only maybe three in the country that was specific to construction. So the business was built with the intention; so there’s intentionality about we’re going to be specifically construction – everybody on the team minus the one that’s talking now – everyone on the team is going to have a construction background and so when we go through these complex jobs, we’ve been there, we’ve done that; we know what to do.

I think that’s why we’re getting some traction. I remember meeting a GC won’t mention his name; he might listen to your podcast. But I like him a lot – but a guy that did a complete 180. First time I met him, he loved our technology, but he said the execution of it wasn’t what he thought. Now we didn’t build, it was another partner. And I remember looking at him and I’m saying, “Tell me what happened. Like what happened on that project?” He said, “The execution is horrible.” And I said, “You know, maybe down the road you’ll learn more about what we do and let’s just stay in touch. I get it.” And I kind of left him with that and he kept coming back to me wanting to grab coffee or lunch. And in January he brought us a project and he said, “The client wants this; we want to work with you. If you don’t do it, we’re not going to use DIRTT technology.” So, I think that’s what we’re gaining in the market. 

We’re starting to gain the kind of reputation that I think I wanted to have built. I want BUILT to have, not just because of me, because Kerri does an awful amount of work. It’s easier to run my mouth, right? And then Kerri helps me in all this other stuff. And that’s right. So that’s the lane. So, we all have our lane, I know what my lane is, and it’s certainly not doing schematic designs and all that. That’s not my lane. My lane is how do we engage at the highest level and move to the next step, if it makes any kind of sense. 

Reid: You mentioned 180, I mean; I’ll describe one in a little different way. First just looking at your guys’ website and then you are showing what you guys do here. I mean, I just had a preconceived notion that we’re talking about modular, right? So, we’re talking about, we have this size and this size and this size, and then a space presents itself and then you’re figuring out how you’re putting these modular elements to that. But really, I mean you guys are doing what I– I’ve seen a video that we’ve recently done on a customer that we’re going to be releasing soon. And they say, we bring this team together to basically — we’re building prototypes. Every time we do construction, we’re building one of one. They’re always unique. You know it might be a hospital, it might be a school, it might be a whatever. But it’s always unique, right? It’s, it’s one of one. So, you guys are basically doing that one of one with what you guys do. It’s certainly not snapping together modular elements to fit into this size of a space. I mean it’s specifically from all the way from that early conversation designed and then manufactured and then installed. 

Andre: Yeah. Let me jump in on that really quick, Kerri, sorry, cause that’s a hot button for me. One of the things I noticed as a business is when we were bringing, say the [inaudible 13:02 community into our space; our Experience Center is what we call this, because it is an experience. And we want you to have an experiential moment when you come into our world, right? What I notice is designers or architects would see that exposed wall over there and what they– “Oh, that’s modular. Oh, our clients won’t move anything.” And we’re like, oh, that’s like one of like 25 things that that has the ability to do, modular is not what we are. We’re not a partition wall. We’re not a furniture wall. DIRTT technology is exactly what it is. It’s a technology. We don’t typically want to build modular, so if we know someone’s going to say disassemble, we will build it to the spec of modularity. Everything doesn’t have to build that way.

So, we are pulling some words out because we felt like it was shutting down some of the dialogue and we don’t want the conversation to be shut down. We want to keep it open. And so sometimes we only know what we know, right? And we only have our perception based on our experiences. So, if your experience was– and quite frankly, when DIRTT started, they were a partition wall. And that’s what people think that we are. We’re not a partition wall. We are a construction technology and we are doing transformative work in this community.

That’s what was shocking to me as someone that’s been in this community as long as I have. I didn’t even know the company. I didn’t know that they had built Mariner. I mean I was like, “You did Mariners’ corporate headquarters?” How does that happen from a three-year-old company, right? And so, once people start understanding that we did a over a hundred thousand square feet of interior space there, on purpose, and because they wanted certain things, that we were a great fit for, then partition wall gets removed, modular gets removed. Furniture wall is certainly not what Mariner is. It’s amazing, right? So, we are kind of cleansing some of that. I know Kerri want to jump in so I’ll kind of shut my thought down now. 

Kerri: I’ll just say bringing it down to another level. If you think about Legos, I have kids, they love Legos. But if you go buy a set, so if you go buy the oversized, overpriced airplane Lego and you spend the two days of building that Lego following the book, and at the very end you have the airplane.  But it doesn’t have to be an airplane. So, you take all those pieces back down and you can build whatever you want with those pieces. And that’s really how our technology works. So, it’s built, and it’s ordered in a way that you initially want it to be. But ultimately in the end, it can morph itself into something else. 

Reid: How important at the end of the day is technology for you guys? 

Kerri: It’s everything. 

Andre: It doesn’t work unless we have technology. It doesn’t work. It can’t work. I mean, everything that we do– for me, if this was just maybe building something– 

Kerri: We’d be like everybody else. If we didn’t have technology there would be nothing special, nothing exciting, nothing energetic about what we do. We would– we’d be like everybody else. 

Andre: If Kerri has time, if you guys have time, you ought to let her pull up the ability for us to virtually put you in a space and walk through that space.  Because not putting on a headset, but having a phone, the software on the app and walking through your space and seeing your space virtually, does so many things where people like us, I have to see it. I can’t just think about it. I have to see it. So, I think most people are that way; so that for us – super important. 

Kerri: It’s also for our clients, very important because it saves money. They’re able to see exactly what they’re going to get because of the technology that there’s no moments of, “Oh, I didn’t know it was going to look like that.” So ultimately, it’s a huge cost saving. It’s also cost saving when it becomes to the materials that we use because we’re making it specifically for them. We don’t have all the extra runoff. Like I said, we don’t have a dumpster at our factory. We don’t have a dumpster on the job site. Anything that goes into a dumpster– 

Andre: Say that again, I don’t think they understood that there’s no dumpster, there’s no waste. When we come to a site, we don’t have any waste on a construction site and typically we’re dressed like this on a construction site. 

Kerri: –and typically anything in that dumpster, somebody’s paying for. So, if you have no dumpster, there’s no added waste, waste and money waste. So, without technology– I mean our technology then again helps save that as well. 

Reid: Wow. That’s awesome. The one thing that I think just from a pure business standpoint that you guys have seemingly I think done well, is you’ve given a reason for people to come back, right? And I think that’s important. You know a lot of general contractors that are listening to this, can kind of maybe learn something from that a little bit of, what’s the value add after the project’s done, right? 

Andre: Here’s what I would say to that. And when you said that Reid, one of the things I thought about was oftentimes in construction we don’t think about the effects that we’re going to put on a business. Meaning, let’s say we have to go back and do something; something got messed up, something’s not right, they changed something. Well, you’re going to have to move a group of people that work for that company into another area. 

So, there’s some disruption of that business. What if you didn’t have to move anyone out of the business and all we did was took off a tile and changed the tile. I mean, that’s got to resonate with an owner, right? Because you want business continuity, you want to continue on in spite of, that’s why there’s such a speed to get something open. The owners want the business to continue to generate revenue, right? Because you know you’re going to lose revenue because you’ve got a pocket of people moving here. You’ve got a moving day; you’ve got to shut down everything. And I shut technology down. You got to transfer everything. So, can we minimize that? We think that we can. 

And so, we’ve got to think about how it’s– and we’re working on a project now. One of the first things we asked when we went in is, if we’re going to do this the right way, what happens if you have to shut down this office? And we let him answer because for us to answer makes no sense. We let him answer. He said we could go to another building and still be productive and people could work from home and we say, “Is that how you would like it to happen?” “Yes, that’s how I’d like it to happen.” So, I think we’ve just to really think about the impact on people, and that’s what we do. We try to figure out how to minimize any disruption in that process, while we’re disrupting the construction industry with this technology. But it is a lot of fun. We have a lot of fun. Our promise to you is simply, we’ll ask the right questions and we won’t allow you to tell us it’s not a fit. We will tell you it’s not a fit, when we start asking some of those questions. We’ll also tell you that we think we are a good fit too. 

Reid: Absolutely. Well, Andre, Kerri, thank you so much for being with us today. 

Kerri: Thank you so much this was great. 

Andre: It was fun. It was a pleasure. Thank you very much guys. Thanks for coming in.

Outro: Thanks for joining us and if you liked this episode, don’t be shy, share it with your friends and connections on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more. Builtcast is a production of North Pass Media and Bangert Inc. Our producer is Luke Englert. Your hosts are Reid and Kurt Bangert and our editor is Brandon Roten. For the uncut version of this episode and more, head over to Builtcast.com/uncut and don’t forget make it a great one.

Let me know what you think about this episode down in the comments or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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