Calgary entrepreneur and business innovator, Mogens Smed, is no stranger to the construction industry. In fact, he’s been a vital part of it for over 60 years. The pioneer has led a long career building companies, and it has not always been an effortless journey.
Smed’s expedition into the interior construction industry began in 1978. Along with his brother Ole, the pair founded the cabinet manufacturing business, Scandinavian Wood Industries (SWIL) which eventually transformed into the office furniture company, Metrix. At 35, Smed pivoted with a bold move into modular interiors. At this time, the digital modular construction industry had yet to ‘take off.’
“At the end of the day until now, offsite component construction really wasn’t gaining traction because of the technology at the time. It’s just now that we see opportunities opening up that we didn’t have before in the business. Ten years ago, the technology we needed didn’t exist,” explained Smed. His commitment to seeking out and utilizing technology that progresses the modular sector forward led him to create DIRTT, ‘doing it right this time’ in 2004 which focused on digitized manufactured modular interiors.
Technology Is Smed’s Priority
Smed left his CEO role with DIRTT in 2018 to establish his beloved, Falkbuilt. Offsite components replaced modular interiors and the company rapidly expanded from six employees to 20, then to 140. “We manufacture digital components in a compact factory and ship to site for a fast and clean install, with far fewer materials, zero dust and virtually no waste onsite,” Mogens noted. “Trades follow the same process as conventional construction but work anywhere in the schedule, in a quarter the time, with far more efficient use of labor. Prefabricated super studs, digital horizontals, cladding and millwork are flat stacked for shipping and require a fraction of the freight.”
The name Falkbuilt was coined after the middle name of each of Smed’s siblings, Falk. He wanted to give representation to his roots and starting anew with this company meant just that. Smed emphasizes the importance of offsite digital components. He stated, “Digital component construction is in total alignment with the conventional construction industry, it’s incredibly responsive to market demands and allows for almost limitless design options. Because digital components (super studs, digital horizontals and cladding) are designed for disassembly, they are easily and quickly reconfigured when a client’s needs change. It shortens the construction schedule, is far more sustainable than conventional construction and our prefab process increases the efficiency of labour onsite; which is an added benefit in the current labour crunch.”’
Calgary Company Makes Global Name for Itself
Falkbuilt’s 90,000-square-foot Calgary facility is just one of the company’s 100-plus factory direct branches across the globe. It is at the compact Calgary factory, however, that the Falkbuilt products are built on-site with little to no waste.
The company’s secret to success- is its cloud-based Echo technology platform. “Our powerful, proprietary technology, Echo, streamlines the entire process from early design development through to manufacturing and installation. At the design stage, it provides a new, productive way for stakeholders to meet in the cloud to discuss and make real time design changes. No matter where they are in the world, architects, designers, end users and other stakeholders use their mobile devices or desktop to meet inside the Revit model, experience the space and make real time design changes,” Mogens said.
This Echo cloud-based technology has certainly been paying off, according to Mogens. All due to its speed. “We don’t have a room full of expensive servers to maintain – we are 100% in the cloud. Nobody is doing what we are doing – by licensing, we are not overloaded with capital costs, we can deliver what the custodigitmers need – saving money on freight, materials, and labour. We’ll be profitable. It took me eight years to get profitable at DIRTT.”
It’s not just technology that makes Falkbuilt, it’s the company’s spotlight on sustainability. “With every project we install, Falkbuilt is diverting dramatic amounts of construction waste from local landfills. About half the waste in North American landfills is carted from construction sites.” Mogens explained. “In conventional construction, trades cut materials to size on the jobsite and about 30 per cent of the materials brought to site—including lumber and drywall—are thrown into construction bins that are hauled to the landfill. Falkbuilt avoids all of that, eliminating construction waste, dust on site and emissions for haulage.”
As for the future of Falkbuilt and Smed, it’s all about prefabricated solutions. In fact, he refers to said solutions as “the future of construction.” The industry is changing and so is the technology that’s leading it forward.
Ellie King is the Editor of Wood Industry / Le monde du bois magazine and weekly E-digest. She has years of experience in B2B writing and editing and is empowered by the opportunity to share the marvels, pitfalls and weekly news of Canada’s secondary wood industry with our readers.