Early in the design phase of the Roseburg Forest Products (RFP) project, Rowell Brokaw travelled with the RFP design team to the DIRTT headquarters in Calgary, Canada. Since 2003, DIRTT has been creating innovative modular wall systems. During their visit, the design team saw a glass wall full of lemons that DIRTT had created for Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Initially, they joked about making the equivalent for Roseburg Forest Products: a wall of sawdust to represent the company’s goal to have “sawdust in the veins.” But as the design for the new headquarters developed, the joke started to gain credence until the wall of sawdust became part of the design. “The more we talked about the idea,” Britni Jessup of RB recounted, “the more we realized that it represented more than an architectural feature—it represented who RFP is and a message to their employees and visitors about their history and their values.”
The design team selected DIRTT’s “Evil Twin” wall, in which one of the glass panels must mirror, despite its wishes, the other panel’s position. Everyone was worried about dust, moisture and living things becoming sealed in the wall. The wood chips came directly from the mill floor in Roseburg. “Imagine if there was a hatch within the wall,” Britni explained, “it would be hard to fix and would cause serious problems. Gordon Rea at McKenzie Commercial did a series of mock-ups to find a solution we were all comfortable with.” The following method turned out to work: dry Roseburg Forest Products’ wood chips and sawdust in an old clothes dryer, spread the dry and clean wood chips and sawdust on a plastic sheet, apply countless layers of lacquer, fill glass panels with wood chips and sawdust through a giant funnel of cardboard lined with slippery craft paper, and finally angle and ease panels up into their locking position within the wall.
The wall took days to install: it took three guys to take a panel off and mess with the sawdust height before locking it back in place. Britni created a line of blue tape to help with the heights. In the final design, the sawdust made a continuous, undulating line between six glass panels. The wall is now one of the signature features of the entry at the headquarters. Employees and visitors alike can actually see the sawdust in RFP's veins.
For more on the sawdust wall and the innovations of the DIRTT wall system, read the following article featured in officeinsight, an online magazine that focuses on workplace design and furnishings: