Lignum Interiors Inc.

Backed by more than three decades of passionate, professional services

With more than 30 years of hands-on experience and a lengthy impressive portfolio of extremely satisfied clients, Lignum Interiors has established itself as the preeminent construction management, general contracting and millwork firm for both commercial and corporate interiors for Calgary and the surrounding metropolitan areas.

The Canadian Business Journal recently spoke with Bruce Gatzsch, Vice President at Lignum Interiors, which was founded by his father Peter more than 30 years ago. The word ‘Lignum’ refers to the inner layer of bark from a tree, and that’s where the company’s naming origin arises.

Although the company achieved early success, the younger Gatzsch says it took at least a decade to firmly establish a solid foothold and become widely known in the marketplace, which is the nature of the business where portfolios are crucial as a means of proving one’s capabilities. The slow but steady ascension has paid off for everyone who’s been involved from those early days to the present.

“There was considerable growth through the 1990s and 2000s. It’s now a bit of a different industry but we still maintain our values and quality in the management of service,” begins Gatzsch, who despite approaching just his 35th birthday, has been in the family business for more than 15 years and has managed to generate many great business contacts in the industry.

Lignum Interiors is now firmly entrenched as a frontrunner and trendsetter in designing and creating the top-end line of service for the Calgary market.

“We have a responsibility to keep pressing forward and we do that by working as a team,” says Gatzsch. “It’s important to get the most out of everyone from the mechanical engineers to the designers and the people laying the carpet. Everyone’s role is always essential to the success of each project.”

Skilled Tradespeople

The majority of people hired at Lignum are highly-skilled and knowledgeable tradespeople who tend to start out in the industry as apprentices and then get their ticket as part of their career advancement. Some people will ultimately work their way into management while others prefer to remain out in the field and become site managers or installers.
“The key to any project is that the leader or one of the executives of the project needs to have that ground approach and knowledge-set. When a client asks you about a certain detail or has a question, I think the worst thing to say is: ‘I’ll get back to you’. It needs to be an instant, correct, educated answer,” emphasizes Gatzsch.

In today’s fast-paced world and incredibly high expectations of clients, providing quality workmanship on time and on budget is more essential than ever. According to Gatzsch, the volume of work being produced at Lignum nowadays versus the old days, even if you take inflation into account, the difference is astronomical.

At the cusp of the ever-evolving industry is the technology, which has been a huge game-changer, starting out with the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as new software, artificial intelligence, printing and modularization. Each of these are components that Gatzsch and his team continue to explore and expand upon day in and day out. He points out there are always new methodologies that can – and will – improve upon efficiencies, which is the main reason for always pursuing innovative ideas and best practices.

Along with the core staff working in the office, Lignum is responsible for managing other sub-trade workers in the field, which most often tends to require about 80 to 100 people but that number can reach the many hundreds depending on the scope of the project. There is an abundant strong network of sub trades that Lignum has developed business relationships with over the years and Gatzsch is quick to point out that those solid partnerships make the final product a success.

“A project we were working on for Esso – Imperial Oil – was massive with up to 800 people working at the peak,” reveals Gatzsch.

Lignum Interiors has a philosophy and mindset that it will not discriminate against smaller projects. The company will do everything from changing out a $400 lock-set to spearheading a $100 million project and everything in between.

“We are very diverse, mostly because of our servicing. We believe in an excellent product for all our clients and we keep in touch with them after the project is completed to ensure they are 100% satisfied,” notes Gatzsch.

Professional and Passionate

It is evident that the people at Lignum Interiors are exceptionally passionate about their chosen profession and it’s reflected in the work they provide to their clients. As tradespeople they care deeply about the end product and it’s a tremendous source of pride in seeing the final result. People spend a lot of time in their offices and because of that Gatzsch wants to be certain that every job meets the expectation level of the client and that they feel a strong comfort level in their surroundings.

Lignum specializes in the complete construction of both commercial and corporate interiors but as Gatzsch explains it is often hard to describe one without the other. There are rare occasions when Lignum will take on a high-end residential project, but the preference is to stick to commercial and corporate, which is their bread and butter.
Interior design solutions require a lot of pre-planning, design and implementation and the type of work involved from start to finish is far more diverse than most people would quite likely realize. It’s a lot more than putting up partitions, door frames and doors.

“We build everything from stairs to server rooms, backup generators fitness facilities and even rooftop landscaping – whatever the client needs. It’s all construction and we’re all well qualified to manage these tasks,” explains Gatzsch.

Corporate Portfolio

There is an impressive list of names on Lignum’s corporate client portfolio, including the likes of Pembina, Canadian National Resources, Conoco and Bell Canada. BDP, Enbridge and Brion Energy, which has a 120,000-square foot space in the Calgary Manulife Tower, are among some of the larger projects Lignum Interiors has recently completed.

In addition to the large entities that Lignum has taken on as clients there are also a substantial number of mid-sized and smaller companies, which Gatzsch says provides more than enough work for his company to handle in the Greater Calgary Area without having to venture out too far beyond those geographic boundaries. Although it’s historically been known as an oil and gas economy in Calgary other such industries as aerospace, tech and banking are expanding at a progressive rate.

“We stick with Calgary for the most part but we have looked at expanding to Edmonton. It depends on the opportunities. Our big niche is to realize we need to stick to what we’re good at doing. We don’t build bridges or the outside shell of buildings or pour a lot of concrete. When we stick to our core competencies while always looking at ways to be even more efficient,” states Gatzsch.

On a macro level, expediting construction procedures hasn’t changed much over the past 50 years and that has resulted in constraints being put on companies such as Lignum when it comes to expanding creativity and designing with new styles and presentation. The options for branching out have been somewhat limited without otherwise going into excessive costs, which is most often not endorsed by the client. Smaller aspects of a project can change relatively easily but in terms of new, organic designs the construction industry hasn’t been able to explore its full potential predominantly because of the lack of constructability and the associated costs that go with it. But there are hopes for change on the horizon.

“In the future with the advent of artificial intelligence coming through the door to help reduce administrative costs, and a lot of modularization where components can be built off-site and brought to the site and put together, I think that is going to be very exciting from a design standpoint,” counters Gatzsch. “We’re looking forward to it with all these new technologies. I just bought a spray printer. It’s a digital spray can. You just mount your cellphone on a tripod and spray the wall away and print whatever image you want. A lot of these types of inventions are becoming main-stream and will definitely have a big impact on construction.”

Technological Innovations

Many new innovative technological inventions clearly point to the interior design industry being on the cusp of some very exciting times. It also quite likely means more designers from around the world having the chance to hit new markets with the Internet of Things (IoT) and communications, which has now become so prevalent and accessible. Gatzsch welcomes a more globalized competitive work environment because he sees it as an opportunity to learn and grow and expand the knowledge base for his enterprise. There is intense competition in the interior design industry, but it’s one that Gatzsch embraces wholeheartedly, and with good reason with his company’s impeccable track record.
“Our relentless team pursuit and working as a team off everybody’s strengths, along with our vast experience, is what elevates us to the top. We always aim to provide the best product for the least amount of money for our client to have to spend,” he says.

Lignum Interiors has an International Suppliers Network (ISN) approved safety manual and the company’s program has been awarded with a prestigious certificate of recognition by the Alberta Construction Safety Association. The company does a sizable amount of work with oil and gas firms where safety must always be the number one priority.
“Despite being a small firm we have a full-time safety manager, not just a contracted individual,” says Gatzsch, who wants to evolve safety throughout the production cycle because the two go hand in hand. With an organized, clean job site it means the building blocks are already in place for a safer site and it’s a stewardship that Gatzsch has been assertively pushing.

Gatzsch believes the next big thing to play a prominent role in construction is lifecycle, calculations and costs where people can start to look at what’s the space going to cost versus the expected lifespan of the building. Many factors are at play from insulation to construction waste. The good news is that the vast majority of construction waste within the industry can now be recycled and if such things as the floor tiling is installed correctly it can have a longer lifespan than the building itself. That is just one of many examples that can be applied to the entire construction project.

“If you spend maybe an extra dollar or two on the door hinges they will last the full 15 to 20 years rather than using cheaper brands that break after two or three years. We know what works and what doesn’t. That is huge from an environmental point of view,” remarks Gatzsch.

On the community front, supporting local efforts is something Lignum has always proven to be an outstanding corporate leader. But the company also has a very large initiative overseas that is extremely important.

“My mother, who more or less ran the books here at the company for 20 years, decided to take an early retirement and started a self-sustaining children’s home in Nepal. With the earthquake and the need to rebuild we’ve been able to provide our expertise and financial support,” says Gatzsch.

In looking to the future Gatzsch hopes that immigration into Canada will help fill the gaps that are being left with the birth rate in this country currently so low. He also believes much more technology, including project management software, will continuously evolve and increase efficiencies to even greater levels. “We’re excited about the future. We’re well prepared for it and believe we will provide the best service.”