Paula Klein isn’t your typical general contractor. For starters, she’s a woman in a fairly male-dominated field. Second, she doesn’t hold a degree in construction management or another related field; she majored in mass communications. Third, she works exclusively in modular design.
Being one of a few women in the field doesn’t faze Klein. “It’s fun being a female in a male-dominated industry,” she said. “There are a lot more women architects, construction managers and engineers now, and it’s fun to be a part of that.” She explained that the increasing number of women is good for everyone. “We bring a different perspective. It’s all about different styles,” she asserted.
So how did Klein end up in the construction business instead of becoming a reporter? After college, Klein started a small business with her mom. “That dumped me into the design world, which led to commercial furniture, design and construction,” she explained. Klein thinks this may have been what she was always meant to do. As a child, she would draw floor plans for fun. It’s also one of the reasons she now encourages students to taste a variety of industries before choosing one.
Modular design, the third aspect that sets Klein apart from her peers, is where things start to get really exciting. DIRTT, the company Smartt Interior Construction partners with, stands for “Doing It Right This Time.” The company created their whole concept of modular design with technology as the foundation. One of the biggest advantages of DIRTT construction is the ability to easily install, move and update technology right in the wall.
“One of my favorite examples comes from an architect I presented to,” said Klein. “They had this beautiful conference room with amazing TVs in the wall, and I couldn’t hook up to the display because my new computer wasn’t compatible with their technology. If they had DIRTT walls, they could easily access the wiring in the wall and make the necessary updates.”
DIRTT also utilizes technology in the design phase. ICE, the program used to design DIRTT projects, was inspired by 3D video games. “This generation of decision makers don’t want to see a 2D drawing,” Klein said. “They want to be able to see the space like it is.” Klein also talked about the latest technology advancement for DIRTT, using virtual reality to allow people to actually walk through a space that has just been drawn.
Klein sees modular design as the future of construction. With the ability to quickly change and update not only what your walls look like but also where they are, the possibilities are endless. ”It’s like future-proofing your building,” she said.