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Jessica: Hi this is Jessica with Build Green Live Green and today we are here with Doug Barlett from EzoBord. He is the CEO of the company. Hi, Doug.

Doug Barlett: Hi Jessica how are you today?

Jessica: I’m good I’m good. So it’s great to have you on and happy New Year. I think we’re just getting to the end of when you have to keep saying that.

Doug Barlett: Yeah, thanks for inviting me today I’m looking forward to it and it’s nice to get a launch like this into the new year.

Jessica: Yes, I agree I agree so tell us a little bit about EzoBord, kind of how you founded it? What got you interested in this product category.

Doug Barlett: Ah, well, our company has been involved in product design and development for commercial spaces for many years since 2005, so we had been developing products in that area for. All those years and in around 2008, we could see that there was going to be a need for ah acoustic design driven treatments in in offices as it all went to open plan. So. There’s a lot of history about that that transition from conventional office space and the way things were laid out with furniture into the new style of open plan which which led to us getting involved in that area and um and so that was a very early stage of. Kind of the acoustics industry as it relates to um to the commercial providers that would be selling furniture wall systems that kind of thing so it was very early on um the brands was founded in 2010 but we had actually started working in that area in 2008.

Jessica: Okay, and so can you talk a little bit about what EzoBord is as a product? What it’s made out of and how it’s kind of you know, evolved from this idea of addressing acoustics within an office space to actually almost being like a like a design tool now.

Doug Barlett: Sure, the base material itself is actually derived from plastic water bottles for them and it in fact is about typically around 60% recycled content. Um, it’s referred to in the recycling industry is PET plastic of which there’s different types of pet. But anyways it comes from recycled water bottles. One good thing about that is that recycling that type of plastic is low energy use. It’s one of the more more efficient raw materials or or post-consumer materials rather, that can be recycled efficiently and that means less less energy in terms of electricity. No Wastewater. So. It’s a very important material for recycling for that reason. But another really important reason is that the degradation period of a plastic water bottle in the environment is super long. They estimated that between seven hundred and a thousand years so we have to do something about this. So that is the that’s the base material. There’s more to learn about how it gets turned into a Semi-rigid EzoBord sheet. Um, there’s several steps in the process quite interesting for those that take take an interest in that kind of thing. But it’s that kind of material.

Jessica: Yeah.

Doug Barlett: The other thing I’ll mention in terms of acoustics why it works well is that because it’s all laid up very fine fibers of different lengths that actually create the acoustic you know, characteristics of the material. It’s technically it’s a non-oven meaning that fibers are all laid up in many different directions creating kind of you know all kinds of multitude of kind of sound traps if you really want to call it that it. It’s excellent at slowing down sound energy passing through the material.

Jessica: Okay I get it. Yeah so almost like almost kind of like insulation in the sense that the fibers are all kind of intertwined. Um but much like yeah, so it’s also you know the timing of the open office plan was.

Doug Barlett: Definitely That’s right.

Jessica: You know it was kind of a it was kind of a design community thing but it’s sort of it your your product introduction sort of intersected with you know this real big push towards sustainability. So those two things together were kind of like the perfect storm for for this product category and for EzoBord as an acoustic panel.

Doug Barlett: That’s correct. Yep, both those things happen to be converging around the same time and and I am originally from the office furniture business. So I saw it happen firsthand because in the in the earlier part of my career. Back in the 90 s and early two thousands I was heavily involved in fitting up entire office buildings with partition systems like cubicle systems, government jobs and all kinds of things. And in in those days you know, those systems actually had good acoustical performance because they had insulated materials sound insulated materials inside literally two inch thick partitions right? when that all so highly efficient acoustic performance and then you had drop ceilings which all went away as well at same time as those workstations went away.

Jessica: Right? Yeah.

Doug Barlett: And and then all of a sudden there was nothing on the floor right? The carpet started going away too. So there was nothing left to absorb sound virtually nothing and it happened in a relatively short period of time.

Jessica: Right. Yeah, well at the same time too, you know, come from our perspective, not the furniture side but on the design side. You know there was also this this you know this this dated look to these kind of fabric wrapped panels and these you know the Armstrong ACT ceiling you know and and people were looking for something different too. So again, the perfect storm for this product category at a time when you know people were also starting to gravitate towards kind of whites and grays which I know you know we can talk about colors but you guys have those whites and grays and now you’re seeing this shift back towards towards colors, you know which you guys also have and again I really you know I really think of EzoBord as kind of an acoustic design tool that you guys offer people.

Doug Barlett: Yeah, we we’ve taken it several steps farther as you know or our conversations about what we’ve done in terms of our vertical integration steps to start making our raw materials. Ah, in North America with North American fibers and so on and we put a lot of time and investment in that direction and we we had decided to do that. Um, you know before covid and so going back to kind of like 2018 we were front runners in this industry in a way and you know so you know early on as I was explaining, so again, we’re kind of casting forward and seeing. Okay, there’s a lot of strengths about this material and what it can do and and how it can get done. The weakness that I could see was in the supply chain in limitations on versatility in terms of material thickness performance and let’s talk about color right? What can you do because color is important and and.

Jessica: Yes. Yeah, well and I think it’s important I think it’s important to know industry wide that there are a lot of people in the acoustic panel space. But what we’re talking about here are really the areas where EzoBord differentiates. Anyone can source, you know a 4 by 8 panel and cut it into different shapes but you guys aren’t just you know you’re not just saying I have office dividers and I have ceiling baffles and I have wall panels and I have tiles and I have you know intricate you know these these complicated complex systems. But you’re saying I can do more. I can take that raw panel and other core materials and you know, really bring them to life with different materials.

Doug Barlett: Well, it’s a really interesting to study that you know and we at EzoBord, we love to continue to learn. We put a lot of time and energy into R and D and that is an undeniable fact you know and and so that relates to fiber combinations and and layers as you know we have the program called these are layers which is literally as it’s described.

Jessica: Yeah.

Doug Barlett: It’s  layers of material all made out of the same content for the most part. Although you can have different surfaces if you want of a decorative nature. We test for that. But it’s interesting because they all affect acoustic performance in sometimes surprising ways that you wouldn’t expect. Sometimes it’s counterintuitive.

Jessica: Right.

Doug Barlett: Sometimes you would think the more density you put into a panel. Let’s say you know like, you’re trying to make a one inch panel let’s say you’re doing that and we’re making that for you, you have a project and you kind of an idea what you want to do? So sometimes if you increase the amount of you make the panel more dense by adding more fiber in different types of maybe fiber. Sometimes it goes the other way where the acoustic performance actually goes down as opposed to up so that’s kind of counterintuitive.

Jessica: Is that because there’s less is that because there’s less air to kind of trap in there? Ok diminishing return. Yeah yeah.

Doug Barlett: In part. Yes, that’s correct. There’s a tipping point you see like there’s a point of of diminishing… That’s right, yeah and these things you don’t really know until you actually go there with that and make that panel and test it and then you learn oh that didn’t work and you go back and you say.

Jessica: Yeah, and you guys have done all that. Yeah and and you guys have done extensive testing on on all of your materials. Um, and I think yeah yeah I mean you can’t you know that that’s that’s where that’s where the kind of the rubber meets the road I think in this industry is the people that have have done the testing and and have that have that kind of.

Jessica: Ah, proof in or in you know in your case, you’ve got some some patented systems that you know take these systems even further making not just easier for the designers to specify these materials that are exactly what they need but also it’s easier for the installers to install your materials.

Doug Barlett: Well, that’s right. So because we took the vertical integration step meaning that we’re making all the raw materials and it means now that we’re going right from the fiber state like as I was describing right through to the N product and we understand that behavior and performance each each step of the way and that’s a very interesting process to follow. We bring all that to the table on projects with our clients and and working with our partners like CaraGreen. I mean you know half the time we spend is is in educating our partners and our customers on what works for them. What won’t and things that relate to the combinations of all things I just mentioned because all of it comes to play in the end result.

Jessica: Yeah, and I think what I love about EzoBord’s acoustic systems and panels, well several things, but one of the things I like is the ability to work with you to find the right solution for the customer whether it’s based on area they have to do it in or whether it’s based on the budget they have to get an acoustic system because sometimes someone may want something incredibly elaborate but EzoBord will work with them to find something that meets their budget. It may you know, be just kind of a pared down version or it may you know it may just be a better layout that saves the money by using less material.

Doug Barlett: That’s right, and I would add to that probably 75% or maybe even a bit more of the project work that we do is is custom in one way or another whether it’s from the right from the raw material based on the performance required but then going through to the building space that it happens to be going into whether it’s on the ceiling around the wall. We’re always dealing with you know all these custom applications which we invite we like that and we have teams set up for it. So from our R and D team in the material. They interact directly with our end product designers and engineers and that’s an excellent flow. You know that really differentiates us from any of the competition out there. Virtually you know like it’s from a to z.

Jessica: Yeah yeah, I agree and I think you know that’s a differentiator I think, you know the US and Canada -based sourcing is a differentiator and then another big one you mentioned is the Ezo layers and I think it would be great if you could just kind of point the audience towards that tool because I think it’s important that designers understand that you have this tool that you can go specify the color you want on one side the color you want on the other side and the core material. You want to use and how thick you want it. So it’s taking it beyond just this pre dyed panel that everyone else offers and you’re allowing them to choose the colors you can have it be. You know, pink on this side and pink on this side or you can have it be red on one side and green on the other and sometimes you know they like to have that of one visual approach from one direction and a visual approach from the other direction and there’s not a lot of ways to do that outside of laminating maybe 2 pre-dyed panels together. You guys can do that and allow them to fully customize.

Doug Barlett: Yeah, so that that’s a very good point and it is a very important tool. We call it the configurator. It’s always referred to it’s on ezobord.com on the website you go to materials and then you click on materials on the main menu and then it will lead you to that configurator. And so then it’s really kind of a um I guess you could say it’s an augmented reality sample builder and so it takes you through the steps to build the sample and you have this kind of avatar sample sitting there that you can spin around and as you go through the specification steps which they really are because you’re specifying the color you want on side one you’re specifying what you want for the core material both by thickness and by acoustic performance and by color on the core.

Jessica: Yep, yep.

Doug Barlett: And then you’ll go to side two and you say okay you know and then you’re going to flip the sample rounds and have a look at it. Okay, what’s on do we I need something on side 2 It’s going on the wall. Maybe don’t but if it’s being hung from a ceiling and you want decorative colors. Be it 1 or 2 or whatever. Then then you’re going to have a look at that.

Jessica: Um, yeah.

Doug Barlett: At that point when you finish that exercise you’re going to hit submit and then it after putting in your ship to information and some basic information then at that point it gets it gets you get an email with that order goes to our sample production team and literally is made for you at that time and it’s a really good process and and it really helps and I’m really happy to have made that investment because it not only is important to what we do and what we can offer.

Jessica: Yeah, that’s fantastic.

Doug Barlett: But it’s it’s nice to see the volume pick up you know because we just launched it sometime last year really and and now I can see because I see that stuff coming through and like to watch it. It’s building.

Jessica: Yep. Yeah, I know you’re like me. I’m like the gatekeeper for all new things. I want to see all the data right up front so I can gauge the success of it. It’s really important.

Doug Barlett: Yes.

Jessica: Another investment that you made that I think is unique to you guys is your virtual showroom. Can you talk a little bit about that and kind of point us to that as well?

Doug Barlett: Sure, while we felt and certainly learned during Covid that we needed more powerful engagement with clients with what I was just talking about in terms of what we can bring to the table right from the beginning right through to the end product. So we’re all you know most, we’re visual you know we’re in the design business. There’s there is the performance. The acoustic performance is very important and we’re working on tools to make that easier to understand in a space too but certainly visual design is a visual business in many many ways and so we felt that it was important to express what we’re doing in the most compelling way and virtual reality is something that we you know obviously this trend had been had started a while ago and we felt it would be important for us to get involved in that and it was largely because we come up with custom ideas, custom solutions that can fit in different spaces but each space would be almost unique. So the first step in that is is to express in a way that is you know, very almost tangible even though it’s virtual. Bring them into a showroom space and have a look at the material. What’s above me? How does it look from this angle? How does it look from that angle? And then understand what that product does and so the virtual showroom allow this to do that. So our entire product offering as it stands today with new products coming in is in a fifteen thousand square foot virtual showroom. You can tour the whole thing including a a virtual resource library for all the new colors.

Jessica: Is that on your website?

Doug Barlett
Yes, sorry yes, it’s right on the home page. We first had it by appointment only as as, you know and that was fine because we had to get it out to our customers first and our reps. But now it’s open to the public and we welcome anybody to go in and tour around.

Jessica: Okay, and I just want to remind everyone. That EzoBord is E Z O B O R D.com.

Doug Barlett: It’s right? That’s right. Yeah, so it’s you scroll down the home page a bit and you can go right into the showroom and tour around the little arrows will take you around and and have a nice tour in there.

Jessica: Yeah, so you you guys have the core acoustic panel that everyone else has and then you’ve just supplemented it. You know with with you know this customization capability. You also have the wood grain. Can’t forget about that and you’ve got some really cool new designs coming that I’m not sure how much you can talk about that. But I’m really excited to see those roll out this year after the along with the yeah the Sunset Collection that just came out or is coming out. And then I did want to before we wrap up here, I did want to mention industrial solutions. So a lot of people think about these colorful acoustic panels and these nine millimeter, twelve millimeter panels and you know that you don’t really expect to see that hanging in an Amazon warehouse or in an industrial setting but these places also have a lot of acoustic problems, right? You’ve got this machinery going and boxes and tape and all of this stuff happening and a lot of people in there and again these are like concrete boxes. So can you talk about acoustic and industrial acoustic solutions?

Doug Barlett: Yes, it’s certainly a big part of the market and it’s interesting because as we got into thicker more high performance acoustical materials that we could produce ourselves. We kind of became aware of that, and don’t want to say a sub-industry, but certainly a subcategory of the acoustics business and a very important one in terms of volume. What’s interesting to see is that it is performance driven more so than design driven so you know performance goes for sound absorption characteristics like in terms of NRC value and it’s up there. It’s usually minimum point 8 and usually they’re aiming at somewhere be between point nine NRC and one NRC which’s a very high performance and and then the thickness of these materials tends to be one inch or two inch thick and and typically going direct to the ceiling surface up on a concrete deck or metal ceiling. And those are those are nice projects and, we’ve developed some proprietary solutions through our discoveries In our R and D on acoustics based on the layers program in general what works well with what and how do you combine it together to get to those values and that’s been interesting. So that’s a big part of the our go forward certainly in 2023 and beyond and and we’re involved in some very large projects right now. Had we not been had made the decision on our vertical integration step we would still be in the same kind of level in a way with with competitors. They’re just importing you know three eights and half inch thick sheets and they can’t they’re not in that game. Let’s say it like that we are and we’re going to be going more more into that on the industrial side. Very important.

Jessica: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, because that industrial side is just going to grow as you get you know more of this kind of fulfillment. You know we want everyone we want everything just in time. So you know that’s that’s only going to grow and I think you know part of our job this year too is to draw attention to that industrial acoustics category and and help grow it.

Doug Barlett
Um, and using the word industrial is is you know, maybe one way to categorize it but we don’t necessarily need to just pigeonhole it like that because what’s interesting we have it where you know there’s some jobs that have come up where we’ve been specified. They’re going into commercial environments.

Jessica: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Barlett
You know like I can think of one large one. That’s that’s coming up that is a bank. You know it’s their their headquarters and they decided yes going direct to a concrete deck because the architect had designed this and they’re going to leave the concrete deck.

Jessica: And you’re talking about the the 1 to two inch kind of core material right? yeah.

Doug Barlett: So it’s not design driven. It’s performance driven because and they want the material just kind of disappear up in the deck. So it’s a very specific blend of gray fiber and white fiber and some black fiber to create a kind of a concrete appearance so you want it to disappear and just do its job silently literally.

Jessica: Yes, yeah, okay, yeah, so that makes sense too. So you also you know a lot of people think you know of these acoustics products as being this decorative and functional thing which is great but you also have this blends in so you can keep your open floor plan if you want it or exposed you know deck as you’re describing it and then incorporate acoustics without visually drawing your attention to them. So you do have plenty of design driven options.

Doug Barlett: That’s right that it’s just.

Jessica: But it’s nice that you have you know strictly performance driven ones as well.

Doug Barlett: That’s exactly right. Well put.

Jessica: Well thank you so much for coming on I want to redirect our listeners to ezobord.com (e z o b o r d dot com). Check out the configurator, check out the virtual showroom. Doug thank you so much for coming on and I will talk to you soon.

Doug Barlett: Okay, thanks for having me on Jessica. We’ll talk to you soon.

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