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All posts by Betty Martinez

Collage of August Be a Pillar participants

To drive meaningful philanthropic change in our communities, developing and establishing long-term relationships with local nonprofit partners is key. Additionally, there is an opportunity for organizations to align their core business strengths with the needs of nonprofits, allowing both to do what they do best and deliver the most tangible results. DPR’s commitment to Building possibilities for the under-resourced moves forward by leveraging DPR’s skillsets as builders and industry professionals. This month, five of DPR’s nonprofit partners share the significance of volunteering and the impact of having an integral and indispensable partner.


Image of Barbara Stark in Milagro Center office
Photo courtesy of Clark Grant

Barbara Stark | President & CEO, Milagro Center

Partnerships have helped and supported Milagro Center’s growth, positively affecting our programs, structure, educational capabilities, staff trainings and so much more.

For example, DPR helped take our organization from serving 43 students in our original, small location to serving almost 150 at-risk youth from kindergarten through high school in three separate, beautifully renovated centers. Along with ensuring our physical space is functional, safe and updated, this partner also committed to career and educational guidance for Milagro Center’s students. Volunteers regularly host career sessions, bringing equipment to the Center and allowing our middle and high school students to explore the field of construction in a very hands-on approach. DPR has also been integral in the development and success of Milagro Center’s Ladies Empowerment and Achievement Program (L.E.A.P.) and our construction-focused Girls Go Build initiative for underserved teen girls. 

Volunteers also host a Women’s Group that meets monthly with LEAP participants and experts from the field to educate them about different career opportunities within the industry including project management, accounting, marketing, IT, trades and field operations. Partnerships have helped and supported Milagro Center’s growth, positively affecting our programs, structure, educational capabilities, staff trainings and so much more. Needless to say, Milagro Center’s corporate partnerships have been transformational on so many different and important levels for our organization! 


Photo of Kristen Reese in Peninsula Bridge office
Photo courtesy of Trevor Satterwhite

Kristen Reese | Director of Curriculum Design and Instructional Coaching, Peninsula Bridge

Without the support of corporate partnerships offering specialized programming and recruiting dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers, our students would miss out on invaluable opportunities in their STEM education.

Peninsula Bridge students are constantly asking for more hands-on STEM experiences. We are so lucky they can look forward to educational programming offered by companies we partner with.

Volunteers from these partnerships make a tremendous impact, with some going as far as creating, planning and leading summertime engineering activities. This summer, our 4th through 8th grade students learned about construction and engineering, while having a lot of fun building popsicle stick bridges, participating in an egg drop challenge, and playing a board game focused on critical thinking and strategic planning.

At Peninsula Bridge, our mission is to transform the lives of motivated, low-income students by preparing and supporting them for success in their academic and personal journey. Without the support of corporate partnerships offering specialized programming and recruiting dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers, our students would miss out on invaluable opportunities in their STEM education.


Photo of Madonna Bistany in Future for KIDS office
Photo courtesy of Austin Tepper

Madonna Bistany | Executive Director, Future for KIDS

We could not be more grateful for the continued support, dedication, and the major impact DPR has had on our organization and the children and families in our community.

The impact corporate partnerships have made on our organization have been significant and truly extraordinary.  For instance, our journey with DPR began when an employee, Tim Hyde, started off as a volunteer mentor and eventually serving as our Board Chair.  Tim’s dedication to Future for KIDS (FFK) and community service inspired many of his colleagues to serve as volunteers and walk alongside our mission of supporting underprivileged kids in our community through structured programs focused on academic, athletic and ethics activities designed to build strong bonds while having fun.

This partnership led to the launch of the “School of Construction” in 2014, an annual summer event coordinated and hosted by DPR volunteers to provide an overview of the field of construction to youth who may be interested in pursuing a career in construction.

We could not be more grateful for the continued support, dedication, and the major impact DPR has had on our organization and the children and families in our community.   


Photo of Susan Haspel in office setting
Photo courtesy of Raime Press

Susan Haspel | State Director, Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey 

Partnering with companies who share our commitment to supporting the New Jersey Club youth have significantly supported us in delivering on our mission to “enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring responsible citizens”.

Having a safe and engaging space to mentor and deliver programming is a key way that the Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey serve those youth who need us most.

Some of the most meaningful volunteer efforts have included multiple Clubhouse renovations, including classroom spaces for the Club’s Clifton and Newark locations. The tremendous value of these projects, along with the wonderful collaboration with volunteers, makes a great impact in our communities for generations to come. Additionally, volunteers that engage with our youth through leadership programs, such as Youth of the Year, provide interview preparation training sessions for Club teens, as well as hosting workforce development programs focused on construction careers.

Partnering with companies who share our commitment to supporting the New Jersey Club youth have significantly supported us in delivering on our mission to “enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring responsible citizens”.


Image of Valerie Salter in Girls, Inc. office
Photo courtesy of Tyler Wilson

Valerie Salter | Director of Donor Engagement, Girls Inc. of Tarrant County

There have been several projects that our partners have supported which have greatly impacted our ability to further our mission of “inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold”.

Girls Inc. of Tarrant County is fortunate to have established incredible corporate partnerships. There have been several projects that our partners have supported which have greatly impacted our ability to further our mission of “inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold”.

Most recently, Girls Inc. relocated our administrative offices which now serves as a multi-functional space. Our goal was to have a space that afforded us the ability to better serve our girls and our community. For our girls, that meant space that was welcoming and where we could host workshops and summer camps. Volunteers from one of our corporate partners did electrical work, painting, furniture assembly and interior construction modifications so that we could utilize it to its highest potential. 

I am thrilled to say that this summer, our office has been filled with the sound of laughter at family night, workshops and more during summer camps. This space is much more than we could have imagined, and we owe so much to these long-standing partnerships for making that possible.

A man stands on a stage raising his hand in front of a crowd
At DPR, culture is made up of the actions of every individual it is defined by what we do and how we treat others. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Hi,

Culture can be such an abstract word. It can inspire excitement and aspiration. It is often something you feel without even realizing it. Every company has a culture, whether they talk about it or not. At DPR, culture is made up of the actions of every individual. So, when we talk about our culture, we’re talking about the examples and behaviors that define how we want to act and treat each other. Our culture is defined by what we do and how we treat others.

Building a culture that is inclusive and builds belonging is important. As we began to emerge from the pandemic, we sincerely wanted to know what was on everyone’s minds and wanted to create a safe space where employees could ask questions, share their experiences, and help build a greater sense of community throughout our organization. That’s one of many reasons why we launched the DPR Culture Con Roadshow this past year to create a deeper cultural connection and conversation with our teammates.

In the spirit of open and honest communication, every employee was invited to an in-person forum to (re)connect to our culture and to ask questions to a panel of local and regional leadership and members of the Management Committee. No question or topic was off limits. We also made sure that each session had live, simultaneous Spanish translation so that our Spanish-speaking employees had the option of listening and speaking in the language of their heart. To date, we’ve completed 27 events, connecting with some 5,700 employees in total across our family of companies.

What did we learn?

Our cultural roadshow reinforced the importance and value of taking time to connect/reconnect with each other, to create more clarity around our culture, and provide a safe space for employees to share what’s been on their minds. These last two years have been extremely challenging for us all and have impacted people in many ways. There was laughter, cheers, tears and moments of seriousness as tough questions were asked and answered.

Some key themes that emerged from our conversations resonate across the industry and across sectors: benefits, compensation, opportunities for growth and career advancement, and increased clarity around strategic direction. Specific to DPR, we took away a deep interest in learning more about our company vision, purpose, values and mission. We also heard from many who desire us to build more inclusive and better integrated work environments as “1DPR.”  

These conversations were just the start. We hope the sense of inclusivity and connectedness  fostered in these events will continue among teams on jobsites and in offices in alignment with our central belief of respecting the individual.

As we move into our 33rd year, we thank all our employees, families, partners, customers and friends for being a part of our journey.  The world will continue to challenge us all, so we are grateful for you and how we continue to come together, stronger. We hope the stories in the 7th issue of Great Things remind you of how important you are—to each other, to our company, to our industry and to our society. The work we do together has a tangible effect on our world, from hospitals to research labs, and classrooms to data centers. We appreciate all that we’ve been able to accomplish together with a shared culture built upon our differences.

Please keep the conversations and connections going.

Ever Forward.

DPR Management Committee  

Atul, Dave, George, Greg, Jody, Mark, Matt, Michele, Mike  

DPR's Management Committee
Pictured from left to right: Greg Haldeman, Mike Humphrey, Mark Whitson, Michele Leiva, George Pfeffer, Atul Khanzode, Dave Seastrom, Jody Quinton and Matt Hoglund.

SurePods’ approval by HCAI for healthcare facilities in the Golden State marks a milestone for expanding prefabrication capabilities that support all projects. SurePods is a strategic partner of DPR and part of its’ family of companies

A woman works on assembling a prefabricated bathroom unit.
Building in a controlled factory setting safeguards against common external construction risk factors such as inclement weather. Photo courtesy of Mindy Hetman

As most developers and contractors in California know, building in the Golden State can present a unique set of challenges. The state’s building industry is characterized by higher labor costs, dense urban cities, high seismic factors, and like most of the country, it faces a shortage of skilled craft labor.

The stakes get higher when you factor in requirements set by the California Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI), formerly known as the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), which apply to all healthcare projects in the state. HCAI monitors the construction, renovation and seismic safety of hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, and sets the precedent for quality healthcare building projects at the highest level.

DPR’s strategic partner SurePods marked a huge milestone last March when it became the first company of its kind, and first product overall, to gain HCAI approval as part of their new Prefabricated Components and Systems program. Partnering with HCAI to work through the review process for this new program was no small task, not only from an engineering perspective, but also including the nuances of off-construction site inspections, COVID-19 restrictions and HCAI’s transition from OSHPD.

We’ve seen healthcare providers lead the pack in their utilization of prefabricated components in building projects, for good reason. Prefabrication can incorporate custom finishes and design elements while simultaneously delivering more predictability in key project performance indicators. For providers looking to minimize disruptions and achieve faster speed-to-market, prefabrication can deliver results. For one, prefabricated components can be built sooner and concurrent to activities in the field, which helps save time on the project schedule. Building in a controlled factory setting safeguards against common external construction risk factors such as inclement weather, limited labor availability, and logistics, all with an increased level of quality and safety. 

a line of prefabricated pods
Prefabrication can incorporate custom finishes and design elements while also delivering more predictability in key project indicators. Photo courtesy of SurePods

The collective summary of these improvements and their real time implementation will continue to drive this transition from field construction to field assembly until it simply becomes standard practice. That’s why SurePods, along with its strategic partners DPR, EIG and Digital Building Components, has a shared priority to advance prefabrication approaches in healthcare construction and beyond. Just as healthcare providers operate on the leading edge of their respective industries, DPR and its partners also seek opportunities to drive construction forward and improve project delivery with greater efficiency and predictability. It’s part of a shared ever forward mentality of continuous self-initiated improvement and learning.

The process of expanding prefabrication capabilities on the West Coast started in early 2021 when SurePods recognized that, while it was already serving much of the east coast urban environments from its Orlando, FL, plant there were additional opportunities out west. This past year, SurePods opened 40,000 sq. ft. of new dedicated factory space shared within the Digital Building Components’ plant in Phoenix, AZ, and through the help of San Francisco-based Forell Elsesser Structural Engineers, a strategy for west coast expansion took shape. Having fabrication plants located closer to projects enables teams to better meet customers’ needs in the region while reducing inherent freight time and costs. While there are other prefabrication companies out there, the investment and partnership between DPR and its strategic partners is unique in its scale, strength and embracement of shared priorities.

The implications of this expansion and HCAI approval are not limited to California’s healthcare market. Achieving pre-approval with the most stringent jurisdiction in the country proves the concept and benefits of prefabrication for all building types, including student housing, hospitality and commercial office projects, and provides higher levels of confidence to building owners and design teams. While the pipeline for such implementation and industry transformation is long and diverse, this is only the beginning of more great things to come.

Written by Jon Quigley, who helps lead prefabrication efforts for SurePods and Digital Building Components.

A woman walks up an escalator next to a wall that says "We Exist To Build Great Things"
DPR’s purpose, “We exist to build great things” is featured prominently in many of its offices, including its Pasadena, CA, location. Photo courtesy of Andrew Leeson

In an era of mass resignations, some companies are going strong. Their secret? Take care of people. When a company embodies purpose, values and beliefs that include respect for its workers, its clients and humanity in general, business thrives.

“Business units with engaged workers have 23% higher profit compared with business units with miserable workers. Additionally, teams with thriving workers see significantly lower absenteeism, turnover and accidents; they also see higher customer loyalty.”

– Jon Clifton, CEO of Gallup, June 14, 2022

This story focuses on the roles purpose and values play in companies and explores how these factors influence the way organizations navigate challenges. 

A man laughs while holding a winning raffle ticket
Cultivating an environment that actively reinforces company values and encourages the right action improves loyalty, provides a framework for navigating challenges. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Articulating the Why

Purpose is the basis of who an organization is, and how it works internally and externally. From construction to life sciences to healthcare, a unifying vision provides common ground for those involved—promoting a shared understanding, increasing trust and fostering collective action. It is fundamental in attracting and retaining workers and in building successful customer relationships.

Employees and customers alike demand more than an attractive bottom line when evaluating prospective organizations. Both groups seek out companies whose purpose resonates with their own ideals. Surveys from Porter Novelli and Aflac found that 88% of employees believe it is “no longer acceptable for companies just to make money” and 70% of consumers believe large companies have a responsibility to make the world a better place.

To continue operating at a high level, organizations must be able to define and articulate their values authentically and to demonstrate their commitment to those ideals through action.

“Welcome to the new American workplace, where having a positive impact and embracing a sense of purpose are mandatory for attracting younger workers, who demand that employers demonstrate purpose beyond profit.”

TIME, May 13, 2022

Embracing a purpose sets the tone for the culture, establishes an identity within the community and sets a framework for decision making. But what is ‘purpose’? According to Jim Collins in BE 2.0, ‘purpose’ is the fundamental reason for a company’s existence. A company’s purpose never changes. Consider the following:

  • Kaiser Permanente “exists to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of [its] members and the communities [it serves].”
  • Merck says, “We use the power of leading-edge science to save and improve lives around the world.”
  • Meta’s mission is to “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
  • White Lodging’s vision is to “Provide incredible value and genuine care for associates, guests and owners.”
  • DPR’s purpose is “We exist to build great things.”

Each of these organizations has considered and articulated who they are, what they do and why they do it in a way that makes sense to their employees and those who need their services. 

A man stands to ask a question in a crowd
DPR’s “Culture Con Roadshow” invites all employees in each business unit to create a deeper cultural connection to the company and ask questions of leadership. Live, simultaneous Spanish translation is available at every event so employees can listen and speak from the “language of their heart.” Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Purpose works hand-in-hand with a set of core values and beliefs that provide guidance for all decision-making. At Mark Cavagnero Associates, an architecture firm based in San Francisco, designers focus on making great places for their clients and the community at large. Their core values emerged and grew through their work. Understanding the client’s vision, the site specifics and the needs of the program drives every design.

As Paul Davison, senior associate at Mark Cavagnero Associates said, “When approaching a problem, we’re synthesizing a lot of different factors and requirements and trying to understand which is most important and how it connects back to what our client is trying to achieve.” 

Values represent who the workers are as people and drive how a company chooses and works with clients. They influence how an organization interacts with the community and reflect the type of people a company wants to hire, as well as help to attract talent. According to a survey conducted by Porter Novelli, 69% of employees polled said they would refuse to work for a company that doesn’t have a strong purpose and 60% of employees would take a pay cut to work at a purpose-driven company.

Stating a company purpose and core values is not enough though. As the saying goes, “proof is in the pudding.” As Kaushal Diwan of DPR said, “DPR relies on a strong foundation for culture. If we say that our purpose, core values, and mission are just something that we put on the wall, but then our people don’t live it, breathe it and feel it every day, then it’s not going to happen.”

Employees must process the vision, purpose, values and mission, then take action. Purpose-driven companies that empower their workers to act are better placed to attract the right workers who will, in turn, strengthen and promote the values that attract purpose-driven customers.

A team of workers stand in a circle next to the steel structure of a building.
The construction industry will need to attract nearly 650,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2022 to meet demand, per ABC News. Photo courtesy of David Cox

Navigating Challenges Purposefully 

Companies are better equipped to overcome obstacles when their culture is grounded in a purpose—they already have blueprints in place.

As anyone in the industry knows, the conventional process of designing and constructing a building can be fragmented. Forbes acknowledged the gap between architecture and construction, which has been a historically siloed process, in a recent article. This sometimes-counterproductive relationship is fueled by traditional procurement delivery systems. By contrast, collaborative delivery methods—including contractual mechanisms like design-build and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), and non-contractual approaches like the “Big Room,” Lean construction and design-to-build—work best when there’s common purpose.

Sally Whiteley, clinical planner at integrated design firm SmithGroup (whose company purpose is to “Design a better future”), recalled working on a recent project: “The big room environment is invigorating because passion is catching. That [passion] helped resolve so much at the project team level. The client saw value in how the team came up with dozens of solutions to find best value, because we all wanted the best for this project. This notion of integrity and respect became part of the big room culture, as did understanding how your work impacts others.”

Beyond the interpersonal benefits of creating a workplace where teammates respect each other—and may even reap greater levels of enjoyment at work—collaboration makes sense. The efficiency, timeliness and profitability of a project are highly dependent on the coordination and cooperation among the stakeholders involved, per ENR. And the trend toward greater collaboration has been increasing: The Design-Build Institute of America estimates that design-build contracts may account for nearly half (47%) of construction spending by 2025.

Purpose, as the foundation for collaboration, may be one way to boost hiring and retaining quality workers. ABC News reports the industry will need to attract nearly 650,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2022 to meet the demand for labor. “The workforce shortage is the most acute challenge facing the construction industry,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

“The construction industry hasn’t done the best job of articulating the purpose of what we do,” said DPR’s Atul Khanzode. “When in fact, what each of us touches contributes to the betterment of our communities, whether it’s in healthcare, life sciences, higher education or advanced technology. The facilities that we build are the backbone for a lot of things in our society, from hospitals that heal the sick, to data centers that store, process and disseminate information and applications, and connect the world we live in.” In other words, construction has a direct connection to improving people’s lives.

Scientists work in a lab
The Weill Neurosciences Building was conceived as a place to marry scientific research into afflictions of the brain with a care facility for patients.

Moving Forward with Common Purpose at UCSF

The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) has a mission to “advance health worldwide.” DPR, in partnership with SmithGroup and Mark Cavagnero Associates, brought to life a first-of-its-kind facility at UCSF: the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building, conceived as a place to marry scientific research into afflictions of the brain with a care facility for patients.

Suzanne Napier, SmithGroup’s science and technology leader and the project’s architect of record, said, “The best types of projects benefit humanity as a whole and this project directly focuses on curing terrible diseases. It was easy for everyone involved to see the value the project held because nearly everyone knows someone who has been affected by diseases of the brain.”

“This project was a great responsibility,” said Davison. “We were there to support the researchers, clinicians and staff who do work that will improve society. Imagine what happens when we can cure Alzheimer’s. Imagine what happens when a child that can barely walk, can run.”

The project was not without its challenges. The pandemic hit in the middle of construction. Along with most businesses, the project was temporarily paused for nearly two months due to a local shelter-in-place order and UCSF safety restrictions. When the state of California classified construction workers as essential personnel, the restart effort centered around the monumental logistical task of bringing a large workforce—more than 300 people on any given day—back safely. They did so under newly developed protocols that dramatically changed the way in which workers performed their jobs, while maintaining a high degree of excellence in construction.

“We had to protect their health, and treat [a restart] with a level of seriousness that we would treat any other high hazard activity on a construction site,” said DPR’s Jack Poindexter at the time.

 
DPR and the entire project team drew from the larger foundation of a common purpose, core values, and a strong culture to devise a plan that balanced worker health, recognized the schedule, and produced a project that successfully mitigated jobsite transmission of COVID-19. Focusing on the larger vision that the university had for the building, and the patients who would receive care, created a connection that drove the team to deliver a high-quality, transformative building. The project was awarded the 2022 Real Estate Deal of the Year by the San Francisco Business Times

A crane stands in the middle of an active construction site.
When the state of California classified construction workers as essential personnel, the restart effort centered around the monumental logistical task of bringing a large workforce—more than 300 people on any given day—back safely. Photo courtesy of Barry Fleisher

Creating Direct Links

People and their actions are the culture of an organization, so the only way to manifest values is to attract, hire and retain workers. Cultivating an environment that actively reinforces company values and encourages the right action improves loyalty, provides a framework for navigating challenges and benefits the greater good. And it helps the organization to survive financially so that it can continue to do great work.

“When you work in design and construction, the impact of your work is tangible,” said Whiteley. “You can see, touch and experience the buildings you create. There’s a very direct link between what you’re doing and how you will affect an ill person, for instance. And that’s a very authentic thing.”

Employee uses QR code on construction jobsite
DPR is continuously expanding access to the best tools and resources for craft teams to improve collaboration opportunities, establish greater trust, and foster partnership between teams. Photo courtesy of Sweeya Tangudu

Too often in the construction industry, there seems to be a disconnect between innovation and work happening in the field, particularly regarding adoption. Between scheduling and skepticism, field crews are wary of the disruption and the presumed consequences that can occur when implementing changes on a jobsite. Even the biggest supporters of introducing innovation into the field can hesitate when there is high potential for disturbing workflows.

So how do organizations efficiently respond when encountering resistance to face the challenges of implementation? According to DPR Construction’s Tyler Williams, construction innovation teams must leverage field leadership to inspire and champion innovation for the field, instead of pushing innovations to the field.

It begins with establishing trust and creating partnerships.

It sounds simple enough to encourage communication between innovation and craft teams, but it’s a thoughtful process that requires resources and engagement opportunities that are more effective than signage and breakfast promotions. However, most construction firms’ field crews don’t have access to traditional intranet tools, creating a communication gap between the two groups. Each face the challenge of how best to share ideas and generate collaborative and meaningful dialogue about best practices and solutions. While this generally still holds true for many organizations, DPR is continuously expanding access to the best tools and resources for craft teams to improve collaboration opportunities, establish greater trust, and foster partnership between teams.

“It has become essential that innovation groups include people with robust field experience who can not only speak the language of the trades but are also willing to listen from that unique perspective,” said Tyler Williams, DPR’s dedicated field innovation leader and one of the first in the industry.

Williams is a former superintendent and union carpenter who now spends time connecting dots between DPR’s office-based teams, industry partners and vendors, and with craft workers on jobsites across the country, listening, relating and learning.

DPR self-perform work leader Jack Poindexter added, “Creating space where it’s safe to learn, ask questions and experiment without the pressure of performance naturally creates engagement and trust between our innovation team, field leaders and craft. This is where we all really work together to uncover challenges and work through issues to find what doesn’t work and what does.”

“Through conversations at every level, I have the advantage of seeing all sides and experiencing firsthand what’s happening in the field and office environments and with other partners in the industry,” Williams continued. “This helps tremendously to source and champion solutions to actual field challenges. And it helps implement new innovations by relating to our craft workers from a familiar viewpoint and addressing concerns from a place meant to create and foster trust among all of us.”

Construction worker testing protective exo suit
Exoskeleton suits were recently tested by DPR innovation and field teams at a Hilti training facility. Photo courtesy of Kyle Reimers

Innovation champions on jobsites are key to building relationships.

“It is vital for firms to make sure they’re not just coming up with ideas and calling them innovative,” said Williams, “But that strong relationships are built with craft teams to make sure the ideas they’re incubating resonate with them.” When ideas are born—and introduced—in the field, it’s the engagement of frontline workers to identify common field problems that empowers a workforce to assist with solutions and build trust among teams.

“Innovation champions on jobsites are paramount to success,” said Hilti Strategic Business Director Jordan Funk. “From the point of entry, those champions help drive the mindset of augmenting work, not replacing workers. We’re starting to see more field team members at demos, giving feedback and leaning into innovation when they get the chance to be involved and experience new ideas, being able to build relationships and ask questions from the start.”

On a recent Seattle-area healthcare project, a field crew inquired about a better solution for drywallers when it came to dust collection. A hazard and an inconvenience, the standard process of drywalling work creates lots of dust, which also adds extra time for cleanup. That crew gave their feedback to DPR’s field innovation leader, a superintendent who had the network to source a vendor with a tool that aligned with their needs and workflows—not eliminating the crew’s work but changing it to make it safer and more productive. His relationship with a tool manufacturer partner resulted in an opportunity for DPR to pilot a new prototype device that attaches to a router, letting drywallers keep two hands on the router while the device vacuums up the dust simultaneously. It was a perfect solution, but how it came to be is what really made it work.

The worry of being replaced.

In building connections with innovators across DPR, Williams works with field leadership to identify opportunities where innovation can make an impact to front line workers. But before the introduction and implementation of innovation, is the need for transparency in why and how these solutions will impact workers, projects and speed-to-market efforts. In turn, superintendent-led conversations with craft are more on-point, focused and supportive of field teams.

“The benefit, when innovation really sticks in the field, is making people safer and more competent,” said Scott Johnson, field technology group leader in the Pacific Northwest at DPR. 

Johnson noted that people often become nervous about innovation eliminating jobs, not having a full understanding that it’s truly about being more effective and efficient with the same amount of effort.

“When you get to use your brain more than your back, that’s a safer, healthier way of working that needs to be highlighted more when we talk about innovation. Demanding less of our bodies and working smarter, not harder—making sure our teams are fully confident that innovation is not something that’s taking jobs away. It’s changing the way you do your job and making it better.”

For example, at a jobsite for a commercial office project in Austin, TX, craft teams recently piloted two exoskeleton suits in an effort to reduce or eliminate fatigue and soft tissue related injuries. “While we made the ultimate decision to not move forward with the suits we tested, we are continuing to evaluate EXO-suits and ergonomic training opportunities because of the positive aspects and feedback from our craft that did arise during the pilot program,” said Williams.

“Innovation frees up our field teams to plan the work and move on to other projects. It’s not about replacing workers,” said Poindexter. “These improvements in the way we work not only reduce repetitive stress and wear and tear on bodies, but also help make us more competitive. We’re accomplishing more work at DPR and providing more value to our customers.”

Use of QR code innovation in the field
Having information at field crews’ fingertips increases production efficiency and decreases rework and safety incidents. Photo courtesy of Sweeya Tangudu

Providing field teams with opportunities to share and pilot their own ideas

“It’s important that we listen to what our craft see and hear every day in the field,” said Poindexter. “And that we create a safe space for someone to raise their hand and ask a question, point something out, or make a suggestion. We need to provide opportunities for responsible conversations about their ideas and concerns.” And as important, it’s essential to let field teams drive their portion of these discussions and provide accessible methods of engaging.

At DPR, field crews in some markets are encouraged by innovation champions to submit “Opportunities for Innovation” by scanning QR codes connected directly to a submission page, a space for workers to share their ideas in real time. The program was piloted in multiple DPR locations but had the most success where it was supported by a dedicated champion in the field, such as a superintendent.

One such innovation currently being piloted on a data center project in Tennessee is the ‘DFH (doors, frames & hardware) QR Code’ that brings together floor plans, opening locations, wall framing types, security details, low voltage details, hardware sets, rough opening sizes, and easy to miss general notes found throughout the drawings. This idea, envisioned by a superintendent who recognized a reoccurring issue in the field and brought to life with the technical expertise of a project engineer, is helping to lead the way to more predictable outcomes, less rework, a system that works towards zero defects, better quality control, open information sharing to all field workers, and being able to meet owner expectations on the first pass.

A similar innovation being used on a life sciences project in the Bay area is room-specific QR codes containing packs of information relevant to in-wall rough-ins. “Patches and rework are expensive,” said Erin Saiki, assistant superintendent for the project. “They’re detrimental to crew morale, inefficient to production, difficult to coordinate and never part of the plan, and they increase the risk of trade damage and safety incidents. Having this information at crews’ fingertips caught hundreds of potential patches by creating a single source of truth.”

Seattle drywall foreman, Jeremy Scollard headshot
Seattle drywall foreman, Jeremy Scollard, believes in embracing challenges, a behavior that has helped him navigate permit delays and schedule changes on his current project. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Seattle builder Jeremy Scollard never shies away from a challenge. They might make him uncomfortable, but he knows working through them helps him grow—as a person and as a builder. In an industry where challenges are the norm, he stresses this viewpoint to his team members in an effort to help not only build great things, but to also build great people.

Q: What is your role at DPR and describe the path you took to get there? 

Scollard: I’m a drywall foreman. Right now, I’m working on a 22,000-sq.-ft.tenant improvement project for a life sciences company here in Seattle. About 70% of it is office space, and the rest is lab space. I moved to DPR after spending most of my career working for subcontractors. There’s a vast difference being on the GC side. There are a ton of positives for me.

Q: What are some interesting aspects about the project you’re working on right now?

Scollard: On this project, we’re self-performing framing, drywall, acoustical ceilings and specialty baffles, Haworth office glass fronts, and doors, frames and hardware. Because we’re self-performing those, we’ve been able to better manage the schedule, safety and quality. Having different craft teams that can go from one scope to another gives us maximum efficiency in flow, even with delays in permits or missing information. If there were four or five different subcontractors on this same job rather than DPR self-perform teams, it might not have been such a smooth process with communication and schedule. There most likely would have been a different outcome for us.

Q: Why do you think being a self-performing general contractor makes a difference on a project?

Scollard: First off, we can better control the schedule to deliver the project on time. We can communicate easier and quicker. We have more control over quality. At the end of the day, that’s our main goal, to deliver a quality project. That’s a big reason I like being a part of DPR’s SPW team. It’s an easier process for us to make schedule adjustments and recommendations that then get incorporated quicker. On this project, we worked through permit delays, and the construction schedule was faster than the design schedule, but we still pushed for answers and held to our schedule.

Jeremy chatting with co-worker on site about the job at hand.
Scollard embraces his role not only as a builder of things, but as a builder of people. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What is your proudest moment at DPR?

Scollard: As a superintendent, the better I can build the people on my team, the better they’ll be able to build a job for DPR and for the client. Rather than be a builder of things, now I’m a builder of people. That’s what I’ve learned over the years. I’m still learning and trying to get good at it. That’s also the most challenging part because I’m not used to it, just like this interview—this is challenging for me. But when you succeed at it and when it all comes together, it’s very rewarding. When you spend some time working with people that you’ve known over the years, and watched them grow and succeed and become better, and feel like you might have had a part in that—that’s the rewarding part.

Jeremy working hard on the jobsite
After working as a subcontractor for most of his career, Scollard finds being a part of DPR’s SPW team rewarding as it allows him to effect change via recommendations and more streamlined communication. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job? 

Scollard: I think getting out of your comfort zone is always a challenge. But it’s important to do it because it allows you to grow and advance in your career. Plus, seeing that you’ve accomplished something that was a challenge is really rewarding. It gives you a personal sense of accomplishment.

Q: To be successful in your role, what skills does a person need? 

Scollard: I guess my dad really instilled a work ethic in me. With a good work ethic, you become proud of what you do and then start to love what you do. Reliability is important—showing up. We can teach you how to work. I can teach you all the skills you need to know, but it’s hard to teach somebody gumption—just the “want” to show up. That’s what you need, the “want” to be a part of a team. If you want to be part of the team, we’ll make you part of the team and teach you what you need to know to be successful.

Jeremy working with teammate outside
Scollard’s advice for future builders is simple: “Don’t be afraid to put yourself into a situation that’s uncomfortable. You’ll most likely grow from it.” Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field? 

Scollard: It’s important not to be afraid to try new things, to learn new skills, and put yourself into uncomfortable situations because without that, you can’t grow. That’s what I’m doing right now. Don’t be afraid to put yourself into a situation that’s uncomfortable. You’ll most likely grow from it.

Digital, social, and environmental concerns influencing capital project planning. 

While Healthcare organizations face myriad financial and operational pressures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, an elevating tide of social and environmental considerations is placing more strains on precious capital than ever. Ultimately, these considerations will have ramifications for how systems plan capital projects and the role of contracting and design partners.

Healthcare insight photo, medical professional working on his laptop.
Photo courtesy of everything possible/Shutterstock.com

A trio of forces has culminated and accelerated via the pandemic.

  • Telehealth evolved into a viable offering for many systems as barriers to access and reimbursement fell away, ushering a new era of digital health. A July 2021 analysis by McKinsey and Company estimates that telehealth utilization has leveled off at 38x the pre-pandemic utilization, with the percentage of patients who say they will use telehealth at 40% up from 11% before the pandemic. 
  • Health and social equity, which were hardly discussed a decade ago are now significant issues landing on the priority list for many providers. In a 2021 survey of 500+ health professionals by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, 58% of all respondents identified Health Equity as a top 3 priority. Of those, nearly 60% identified a multi-prong approach that includes the incorporation of health equity into their organization’s strategic plan, developing partnerships with community organizations and addressing equity in the hiring process.  
  • Environmental stewardship is an escalating priority for many systems in the wake of undeniable evidence of climate change. A January 2022 by NOAA confirmed that 2020 and 2021 involved $1B+ more climate-related disasters than any previous year. Increasingly violent and variable (storms, drought, wildfire) climatic events are underscoring the dire reality of our planet’s health and the imperative for every industry to act swiftly.

Digital, social and environmental concerns are neither new to health systems nor solely attributable to the pandemic. However, the pandemic has sharply highlighted that health providers must demonstrate quantifiable progress in these areas when capital is more constrained than ever. 

Everyone in the healthcare value chain, including suppliers and advisors, must be prepared to partner with health systems on digital, health, social and environmental challenges, even if they initially appear tangential to a supplier relationship. Organizations that deliver capital construction projects to health systems are acutely aware of this reality. 

“The bottom line is that any partner who isn’t feeling the pressure within healthcare probably isn’t paying attention,” said DPR Construction’s Kevin Matuszewski.

REBALANCING OUR APPROACH

Scarce capital in the U.S. healthcare sector presents challenges to many providers and their suppliers, planners, builders, and advisors but with scarcity comes opportunity. “Previous events from wars to economic disruptions show that great progress happens when partners affected by these challenges work together,” Matuszewski said. “A spirit of inventiveness fosters innovations that not only help us step beyond present challenges but often open remarkable new possibilities. While financial realities and the trajectory of consumer expectations are not likely to wane, the digital-social-environmental realm offers many opportunities for those who design and build for healthcare to shine.”

DIGITAL

The pandemic forced rapid adaptation to digitally-enabled care, even for late-adopting systems and consumers who are less comfortable with digital platforms. Over the long run, a digital strategy will increasingly affect every aspect of the patient and provider experience, which plays into both virtual and physical site-of-care planning.

The physical site of care is no longer the million-dollar question,” Matuszewski said. “People will always want access and convenience, but that is increasingly taking the form of a hybrid digital/in-person interaction. For many consumers, the provider’s digital ‘front door’ has become the first encounter with the health system. Older consumers, who comprise the majority of patients, are seeking a digital experience that is simple, failsafe, and intuitive. Younger consumers demand easy access, convenience, and transparency of both costs and outcomes. All consumers want a positive digital experience to complement what they experience in physical environments.

For capital investments, this means bearing in mind that physical sites are increasingly part of a larger health ecosystem. “The biggest physical intersection,” Matuszewski said, “is at healthcare facilities where people now expect to virtually check-in, freely move about the facility while armed with information, and access learning and support resources throughout their care journey and beyond.”

Enabling a robust digital strategy will require capital planners to anticipate higher technology expenditures as a percentage of the project cost. Tech, once dwarfed by other soft costs such as medical equipment, can now command 8% or more of a total project budget depending on the complexity of a digital and technology strategy. Capital planners can also expect more space requirements for head-end equipment, and enhanced supporting systems (HVAC, energy, etc.) for onsite technologies and offsite connectivity. It also calls for earlier and more robust engagement of technology design consultants and specialty trade partners to ensure that systems are properly integrated within the facility.

SOCIAL

The pandemic heightened awareness that historically-disadvantaged communities still lack equitable access to healthcare, financial, and social support. A 2021 report by The Commonwealth Fund highlighted challenges that Black and Latinx/Hispanic populations face in accessing care resulting from structural, financial, and social inequities. 

Community leaders and consumers are increasingly looking to health systems to demonstrably combat health inequity by offering access, resources, and physical sites of care in disadvantaged areas. That expectation also extends to healthcare consultants, builders, and suppliers. 

 Capital project investments open many opportunities to build social programs and systems that improve reliable healthcare access. “Every project partner has a role to play in creating a healthier and more equitable world,” Matuszewski said. “Establishing and delivering on Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) commitments has been a great foundation to advancing social equity via construction, but it is only a starting point.” 

 Looking ahead, health organizations will seek real estate partners designers and builders that extend their social footprint by setting more aggressive DBE participation targets with meaningful scopes of work, as well as investing in community programs by widening the geographic search range for qualified businesses and breaking down bid packages to enable more small businesses to engage in delivery. For instance, construction firms that are willing to break down buyout packages will pave the way for more disadvantaged-certified small businesses to bid on manageable scopes of work. 

Additionally, procurement may begin to favor partner vendors who are well-positioned with mentoring / training/employment academies that not only foster practical skills but also pave a pathway for long-term financial stability.

Associated Builders and Contractors recently estimated the 2022 shortage for skilled construction labor alone to be 650,000 jobs above and beyond the normal pace of hiring to meet the labor demand. The percentage of skilled workers in the prime working ages of 25-54 has fallen 8% in the last decade, underscoring the need to recruit, train, and retain skilled labor. 

A relatively low threshold to entry coupled with solid long-term prospects for stable income means that construction training and employment programs are a win-win scenario with the halo benefit of financial independence and improved access to preventative and advanced healthcare.

ENVIRONMENTAL

The role of healthcare in climate change is undeniable. Healthcare accounts for almost 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and healthcare facilities account for 17% of the sector’s total footprint. Environmental responsibility in healthcare is quickly moving to the center stage as systems commit to aggressive carbon reduction and neutrality targets in response to climate change. There are also early indications that future bond issuances may specify environmental impact covenants and even offer favorable ratings for projects that reduce the environmental footprint of providers. 

As in the realm of health equity, providers often seek designers and builders that can propel their environmental objectives. Sustainability is an area where builders have been on the front foot for more than two decades, finding ways to build high-performance facilities at or near market rates. “Many contractors are already well-versed in waste diversion, sustainable material sourcing, energy and water reduction systems, and more,” Matuszewski said. “We’re also ready to help guide the market on next-level design and construction approaches that will move the needle.”

Climate change carries serious financial consequences for the healthcare industry that are forcing action. A recent analysis by Deloitte underscores these influences, including health conditions that are driving up the cost of care and service interruptions that defer or cancel elective procedures. Real estate executives are seeking builders that drive environmental innovation in service of combatting costs and social effects of climate change. Innovation can include reducing materials and waste throughout the project lifecycle, investing in products that truly align to circular economic principles, and aiming for net-zero carbon, net-zero energy or water not only within the finished project but also through onsite construction operations and lifecycle maintenance.

Digital, Social and Environmental iconography

The foreseeable mix of financial, consumer, digital, social, and environmental pressures on health providers signals a steep road ahead for systems and their builders and suppliers. Those who prevail will embrace the challenge as an opportunity to evolve. 

“Today’s pressures don’t mean the future is written,” Matuszewski said, “What they do mean is that everyone in capital development for healthcare, including suppliers, builders, and advisors, must step up to the challenge of realizing affordable, sustainable, and equitable healthcare. By supporting healthcare organizations as partners in addressing these challenges, enduring change can be achieved.”

By 2030, DPR Construction (DPR) aims to be one of the most admired companies in the world. As part of that mission, DPR is seeking to disrupt Europe’s construction industry, where DPR has been officially operating since 2018. 

DPR conducts business in accordance with an operating code that includes respecting the individual. This includes interactions among employees, but also with customers, colleagues, vendors and communities. Acutely true on projects and how DPR interacts with trade partners and subcontractors, this philosophy led to a recently launched Craft Reward and Recognition Program on a project in Switzerland. The endeavor, directly correlated to DPR’s “culture of discipline” around safety and an Incident Free Environment (IFE), focused on keeping people safe through education and training while also facilitating a better way of working with trade partners. 

Group of trade partners and DPR individuals sitting in a conference room.
Sitting down with trade partners in Switzerland to share thoughts and ideas about the project. Photo courtesy of Erin Carpenter

“Craft recognition is just one of the initiatives that is part of this program. Engaging with workers who are actively building projects leads to a better understanding of potential process improvements and creates more cohesion among all stakeholders, ultimately resulting in better project delivery and customer satisfaction,” says Erin Carpenter, DPR Project Engineer in Switzerland who is spearheading the trade partner appreciation program at DPR Europe. 

The construction market in Europe is often perceived as more hierarchical and communication more top-down. Expanding to the continent, DPR has brought over from the U.S. its collaborative culture and way of working to the region. The company operates as one DPR and strives for all stakeholders to have the same experience when working together, regardless of where in the world the project is located.  

Meeting with workers face-to-face creates freedom to share thoughts and ideas for better project execution holding all project team members accountable and bridging the gap between management and boots-on-ground workers. Additionally, providing trade partners with a voice helps to mitigate potential issues and enables a path to successful and safer projects. 

Construction workers celebrating their safety accomplishments.
Safety competitions and awards to champion behaviors that support safe environments on projects. Photo courtesy of Erin Carpenter

Safety competitions and awards are another way to champion behaviors that support an Incident Free Environment. Instead of making assumptions about rewards that appeal to project teammates, reward ideas are gathered directly from the workers. For example, in lieu of tech gadgets, one project worker indicated they would like to have new work clothes -boots, t-shirt, work pants and jackets. Providing project teammates with a platform to communicate what is important to them helps to build relationships, belonging and team engagement. 

Group of workers listening to a meeting on the jobsite, photo is taken outdoors.
Engaging with workers to better understand process improvements and create cohesion leads to better project delivery. Photo courtesy of Erin Carpenter

“I truly want workers to walk away saying no one has ever had as much genuine respect and care for people on a site as DPR does,” added Carpenter.

“We must all have a personal commitment to safety and understand this is included within being a world-class company. Having the Craft Safety Break activity, for example, shows how we as a company are engaging with the workers and has us communicate positive feedback, as well as making us hold ourselves accountable by reviewing how often we are physically onsite, checking and engaging with the workers.”

“Our collaborative teams and way of working thrives on the ideas, insight, and active involvement of all stakeholders on a project. DPR is deeply committed to fostering a work environment that literally breaks down traditional walls in order to build great things in a way that respects everyone.”

MEP systems are the life-sustaining organs of a building—complex networks of pipes, duct and wires neatly arranged behind walls, above ceilings and below floors. Their function? To control indoor comfort. They monitor, process and regulate the dynamic functions of a building to provide physical comfort, safety and security. But in a world where climates vary drastically, they cannot be a one-size-fits-all proposition.  

People have come to expect similar indoor air quality from building to building. Whether entering from a hot and humid environment or a cold and snowy one, a consistent level of comfort is expected. To meet this expectation reliably, Mechanical-HVAC systems are specifically designed to operate with respect to their outdoor climates. Environmental differences necessitate well thought out MEP systems. Thus, they must be built differently and run differently based on their location. To that end, MEP professionals are critical in ensuring proper design. From equipment selection and placement, to how pipe and ducts are routed, to noise control, coordination is vital.

Knowing that these systems must be designed differently depending on where they’re located, DPR’s MEP preconstruction experts get involved early during the design stage of the project life cycle to analyze the constructability and operability of these systems. They also provide real-time cost information as part of the decision-making process—not only upfront costs, but the long-term costs of maintaining a building over its lifespan. This best-in-class MEP community shares its knowledge and expertise across business units and project teams throughout the country.

Hear from some of them in this edition of “If These Walls Could Talk.” 

DPR's trade partners weigh in about their journeys as small and diverse businesses working with large contractors.

Construction has a tangible connection to society. As builders, designers, engineers and suppliers, we construct schools, offices, hospitals, data centers, research facilities, and more that contribute to the connectedness and advancement of the communities where we live and work. But it’s not just large companies out there doing this work. Small minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses are integral to building great things across every region and market and represent a direct connection to our communities.

DPR’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goes beyond employees; it extends to our family of suppliers, trade partners and vendors. At the beginning of this month, DPR employees had the opportunity to hear from some of our certified diverse trade partners and learn about their journeys. Here’s what they had to say about working with large contractors, and the impact it has had on their business.

Bianca Vobecky | Founder, President and CEO, Vobecky Enterprises, Inc.

It means the world to me as a small business to have the support of a larger organization who supports my growth. In the past 16 years I have had some great business mentors and developed lifelong friendships and business partners, which is the basis for future collaboration. It was a great investment for my business and my personal development. I was able to avoid common industry pitfalls, excel over my competition and develop important connections. Working with larger firms provides consistency and resources to successfully run my business and it taught me how to pay it forward by mentoring other smaller firms. 


Gene Hale | Founder and CEO, G&C Equipment

Having large prime contractors working with G&C affords the company the opportunity to economically stimulate the local community by hiring local workers and providing scholarships to students from underserved communities. It also provides an opportunity to hire service-disabled veterans and mentoring opportunities for local businesses.


Junior Burr | President, Canterbury Enterprises

The partnerships shared with Canterbury throughout our project opportunities has been unparalleled. Our relationship with an existing client has been fostered, the gained knowledge and learned lessons will be long lasting, and the internal growth this allowed our team will propel our company forward in all our next ventures. It has given some of my team members the opportunity to catapult their career forward. These experiences will continue growing Canterbury with great hopes of striving toward being a major competitor in the construction industry.  


Through our Partner Pillar, which is part of DPR’s Global Social Responsibility effort, DPR’s supplier diversity team works hard to build relationships with certified diverse business partners across the world. DPR spends approximately $2.3 billion working with diverse suppliers, which is about 12% of the company’s spending. Check out how your business can get prequalified as a subcontractor with DPR.

Interested in learning more or getting involved with organizations working to certify diverse businesses? Check out these resources:

National Minority Supplier Development Council

National Veteran Owned Business Association

National Veteran Business Development Council

U.S. Small Business Administration

Women’s Enterprise National Council