This time last year, DPR Construction launched a monthly blog series dedicated to sharing stories of women who build great things in honor of International Women’s Day, International Women’s Week, Women in Construction Week and Women’s History Month.
Construction is a traditionally male-dominated industry that is only 9.3 percent women (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Since spring 2017, the Celebrating Women Who Build blog series has told stories of women who are successfully executing complex, technical projects for some of the world’s most progressive and admired companies. The goal has always been to help connect and inspire women in the industry as they build meaningful careers—whether it’s as a project engineer, a superintendent, a project executive, an architect or an owner.
The experiences, challenges and ambitions of the Women Who Build featured in the series resonated with people across the country, who responded with encouragement, support and excitement. Many reached out to share how the determination, strength and spirit of women they read about positively impacted their day, life or career path.
DPR’s initial yearlong campaign culminates with a video, but the Celebrating Women Who Build blog series will continue, just like our efforts to create a strong, inclusive environment where everyone thrives.
A project that will benefit scores of underserved youth in Southern California is getting some much-needed help from DPR volunteers, who are leveraging their skills as builders and planners to help transform a former jail in San Pedro, California into Sharefest’s new Youth Development Center. Sharefest, a non-profit organization that aims to build strong communities by fostering volunteerism and preparing youth to lead positive change, will use the center as a year-round safe space for Los Angeles youth.
Over the past two years, DPR teams have stepped up to lend their preconstruction expertise and time to help get the project off the drawing board and into construction. After participating in past rebuilding projects and developing a strong connection with the organization, DPR saw a prime opportunity to make a difference when Sharefest announced its plans to convert roughly 3,500 sq. ft. on the seventh floor of a century-old, historic building in San Pedro into its flagship youth center. The organization has received a long-term, low-cost lease with the city of San Pedro for the space.
Sharefest’s new Youth Development Center is envisioned as a safe place for under-resourced youth to positively engage with one another and in their communities. The organization has served over 3,100 at-risk youths through its Youth Development Academy alone.
“DPR’s volunteer efforts are saving Sharefest hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction costs by providing skilled labor we can trust. We can now use that money saved to invest in the programs we are creating to help youth break the cycles of poverty, find their purpose and become the people we know they can be,” said Chad Mayer, executive director of Sharefest.
Recognizing there was an unfilled need for subcontractors on the project, the DPR team set to work enlisting the help of five major trades, including plumbing, mechanical, electrical and fire protection subcontractors. To assist with outreach efforts, DPR employed 360-degree photo technology to capture the existing space, allowing subcontractors to conduct virtual job walks before committing their resources.
While the team has contributed significant hours during the preconstruction phase, DPR will continue to be involved, and will be self-performing concrete work on the project to help Sharefest turn the vision for its new youth development center into reality. Construction work began earlier this month, and the project is slated to be completed later this year.
DPR recently broke ground on The Foundry, a mixed-use project for Cielo Property Group in East Austin. 30,000 sq. ft. of its workspace will become DPR’s new Austin office, bringing the team closer to projects and customers downtown. Building great things in Texas since 1994, DPR’s staff in Austin has grown by 50% since 2015, causing the team to outgrow its current office space.
“We were looking for office space and Cielo was looking for a contractor to build the building as well as a tenant, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to extend an already successful partnership,” said DPR’s Matt Hoglund, member of DPR’s management committee who leads operations in the central region. “The location is ideal for a number of reasons, including providing us with an opportunity to create an environment where our employees will be able to take advantage of green space and other amenities.”
Designed by Sixthriver Architects, the Foundry is aiming to become one of the first commercial buildings in Austin to earn net-zero energy certification from the International Living Future Institute, meaning it will produce as much or more energy as it consumes. It also aims to become one of the first buildings in Austin to earn WELL Certification from the International WELL Building Institute, a designation that recognizes buildings that improve health and human experience through design.
“This project is all about creating an office space that promotes wellness for our employees and at the same time ensures the building is efficient,” Hoglund said. “That is the reason we plan to seek the WELL Building Certification, which includes everything from the food brought in for employees to access to fitness programs.”
Opening in spring 2019, the Foundry will become not only be a great place to work, but DPR’s home in Austin for years to come.
When Pat McDowell was a kid, she thought she was going to be a “mad scientist” when she grew up. With a desk covered with pipettes, test tubes and beakers, she conducted her own experiments for hours and hours–never enough to satisfy her curious mind.
Today, she builds the laboratory and research facilities where life-saving medicine and therapies are brought to market. As a MEP coordinator at DPR, she specializes in complex and ever-changing MEP systems in life sciences facilities, made particularly challenging because of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements and procedures. In most situations, the products being created in the facilities she builds will eventually end up in a person’s body, giving her work extra meaning. To her, MEP systems are “alive,” and once they are installed, it’s just the beginning. McDowell’s passion lies in making sure the systems–whether it is mechanical, electrical or piping–are integrated so facilities run as safely and efficiently as possible.
McDowell joined DPR in 1994 after she graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in construction management, because she was attracted to the company’s entrepreneurial culture and opportunities for growth. Early in her career, she had trouble initially convincing customers and craft workers in the field that she knew what she was doing. She chooses to drive a DPR truck because she has encountered people who have difficulty accepting that she works for a general contractor and belongs onsite–especially guards at security gates–while she is driving her personal car. Over time, she built a reputation as a hands-on, well-respected builder, earning the trust of her teams and customers.
“There aren’t a lot of people who do what I do, who look how I do,” she said. “Trust and respect are built by helping each other. We’re all one team, so something as simple as giving people a heads up of what’s to come, so we don’t get ourselves backed into a tight situation, goes a long way.”
In her nearly 24 years with DPR, McDowell has grown with DPR, working on several large-scale projects, including:
UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, an award-winning 878,000-sq.ft. ground-up hospital complex renowned for its integrated project delivery (IPD) approach and state-of-the-art patient care.
McDowell remembers how in the early days of DPR, everybody worked across multiple roles, creating well-rounded talent and teams of dynamic seller-doers. After years of growth and change, she’s seen DPR’s unique, empowered culture remain intact and provide people with even more opportunities to develop and grow. Now, her focus is on sharing her experience and passing knowledge on to the next generation of builders.
Speaking at a Girls, Inc. after-school workshop about careers in the construction industry, McDowell told the group of third to fifth graders, “Never settle thinking that you know everything, because every day you can learn something new. Be curious, and always try to learn just a little bit more. You never know when you will have your next breakthrough.”
It is this constant curiosity and desire to learn, develop and grow that has driven McDowell throughout her entire career. And every day she goes to work, doing what she loves, she hopes to teach and inspire others to become the builders, engineers or mad scientists that they dream to be.
Dave Seastrom, Mark Whitson and Matt Hoglund join DPR Management Committee
DPR’s collaborative spirit is exemplified through shared leadership. It began with DPR’s three co-founders, Doug Woods, Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski, and continues with the Management Committee and throughout the company. Shared leadership focuses on combining the strengths of people to produce high-performing teams for our customers and projects around the world.
During 2017, DPR added three new members to its Management Committee:
DAVE SEASTROM Dave Seastrom‘s 35+ year career in construction started as a fascination with his father’s industrial engineering work, designing and laying out manufacturing plants. Excited to see the actual implementation of engineering designs, Seastrom pursued a degree in civil engineering with an emphasis in construction from the University of Southern California. Seastrom is a builder at heart.
Working in Southern California throughout his career, Seastrom is the Southwest Regional Leader, providing leadership and management support for DPR’s Southern California and Arizona operations, which includes offices in Pasadena, Newport Beach, San Diego and Phoenix.
MARK WHITSON Throughout his career, Mark Whitson has always gravitated toward more complex and technical projects that require a specific expertise and strong attention to detail. “What I love about construction is the impact we can have in helping other companies deliver best in class facilities for their people to enjoy and for the services they provide.”
In 2014, Whitson was named regional manager for the Raleigh-Durham region, and in 2016 he assumed the role of regional leader for the Southeast. As a Management Committee member, Whitson is leveraging his operational expertise to oversee DPR’s operations throughout the Southeast, which includes offices in the Carolinas, Florida and Georgia.
MATT HOGLUND Matt Hoglund is a builder in every sense. He works tirelessly to connect with employees and customers, energizing teams to produce truly great results. As Hoglund reminds us, “The real opportunity for success lies within the person and not in the job.” Hoglund serves as the Central Regional Leader for DPR’s growing Texas operation, which includes offices in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
His career has included residential, retail, office and hospitality projects, including the JW Marriott, Charles Schwab Corporate Campus, and Aloft/Element Hotel. Matt received recognition in ENR Texas and Louisiana’s Top 20 under 40 list in 2012 and Building Design+Construction’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2017.
To honor the milestone, which occurred by drilling the first production auger cast pile, the team celebrated with all project partners in the Big Room, a collaborative space that physically brings together designers, builders, trade partners and facility operators.
“After a year and four months in preconstruction, we are extremely excited to celebrate the start of construction. We wouldn’t be here today without all our tremendous design and trade partners. Everyone in this room should be very proud to have played a part in this project so far, and I can’t wait to see the project built,” said DPR’s Tim Kueht, during a cake toast to kick off the celebration.
Prior to the ceremony, the entire Big Room team attended a presentation given by UCSF Medical Center’s nurses, doctors and researchers. These monthly presentations inspire and help the project team better understand the greater impact the facility will have on advancing the full spectrum of brain health through research, education and patient care.
After pivoting from a career in computer programming, George Pfeffer joined DPR in 1992 as a project engineer, growing with the company as he went on to become a regional manager in the Bay Area. Pfeffer now leads DPR’s Management Committee.
The San Francisco Business Times recently interviewed Pfeffer for its ongoing executive profile series, featuring his thoughts on the future of the industry and what it will take to continue to build great things for its customers and employees in an ever-changing environment.
Following are excerpts from the San Francisco Business Times profile. To read the article in full, check out: dpr.com/media/news
What are some of the projects that you’re most excited about? We pride ourselves on doing buildings that matter. An example of that is all our hospitals. You just feel really special at the end of the day when you’re finishing something that is helping save someone’s life. Hospitals that we’ve done recently include the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco, UCSF Mission Bay, and Kaiser Permanente facilities up in Sacramento. Some developers say construction costs are beginning to stifle development.
Do you agree? There is no doubt construction costs are going up. There’s several things. It’s a continued, long-term healthy market. Coming out of the downturn several years ago, several construction companies either reduced their size, consolidated or wrapped up shop altogether. There are fewer players. Also, escalation of material costs is one that just naturally happens.
Is there anything that can temper construction costs? Here in the Bay Area we have 825 craft union employees. We try to be as in control of our own labor force as much as we can to overcome those peaks and valleys. Separate from that, the industry is ready for disruption. There is a business disruption headed our way at some point for the positive—certainly through prefabrication.
Unions have opposed prefabricated construction on certain projects. Do you feel that’s a problem and how do you reconcile the conflict? It’s probably an over generalization to qualify all unions as the same. Several unions are embracing prefabrication. The carpenters, for instance, are actually trying to find ways to do more prefabrication. They understand this disruption is coming.
You sound very positive about prefab. We definitely are very positive about it. We work very hard in this company to try to eliminate waste in the process. We can eliminate some of the waste by improving efficiencies and how products are delivered. Ultimately, it’s a benefit to the project and to the customer and that’s what we want to do.
If there’s one thing you can change about yourself what would that be? I’d like to be more of a morning person. I get up fairly early in the morning and it probably takes me longer to get going than I would like.
It takes courage to go with your gut, muster up the nerve to follow your passion and make a major career change. That’s exactly what Irma Jauregui did in 2005, when she quit her job as a first grade teacher in the underserved neighborhood of Compton, California to pursue a dream she’d had since college to work in design or construction.
After double-majoring in architecture and Spanish at Wellesley College, Jauregui became equally interested in teaching, and went on to earn her master’s from Loyola Marymount University in education. Growing up in an underserved community in East Los Angeles, Jauregui chose to teach in a similar area, where there was a shortage of teachers. Setting the groundwork for students to be successful throughout the rest of their educational and professional careers was her way to give back to the community, and helping talented students create better lives for themselves was her greatest reward.
“Teaching is a selfless career; you give so much of yourself to your students. For me, the design and construction industry was always in the back of my mind as my own personal interest and passion. If I didn’t explore it, I knew I would have regretted it,” she said.
The transition between two very different industries was bridged by her first project: a large expansion and renovation of a community college, as Jauregui connects especially with buildings that will become spaces for learning and educating the next generation. She joined DPR in 2015, attracted to the entrepreneurial culture where people with diverse skillsets and expertise could make a difference with their ideas and hard work. The team of smart people with strong values appreciated different backgrounds and experiences–and saw her first career in education as an asset, not a drawback.
As a project manager based out of DPR’s Newport Beach office, Jauregui now manages cost control on a 73-acre corporate campus project in Irvine, California, completing in January 2018. In both fields of education and construction, proper planning and always keeping sight of priorities is crucial to success. Jauregui boils down both of her careers to helping people reach their goals, whether it is a first grader learning to read, or a large technology client building a corporate campus as safely and efficiently as possible.
This summer, as part of DPR’s pilot Build Up high school internship program, which offers under-resourced yet highly qualified high school students interested in STEM careers real-life professional experience on a jobsite, Jauregui mentored high school graduate Jessica Reynoso. Reynoso, now a freshman at California State University, Fullerton, grew up in the same East LA neighborhood as Jauregui and even graduated from the same high school.
Seeing Reynoso’s passion, grit and determination to succeed in a civil engineering career despite challenging circumstances, is what motivates Jauregui the most. As Reynoso’s primary mentor, the two frequently talked about career paths, goals and life. The most important advice Jauregui gave her intern was to take care of herself.
“If you come from a challenging environment, and you are dealing with a lot of things at home, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself,” Jauregui said. “Self-care is so important to how well you can do your job, take your classes and move yourself forward every day. Even if you have to take care of your family, you can’t take care of them if you can’t take care of yourself first.”
Jauregui’s favorite part of being an educator was constantly teaching, learning and growing, something she finds at DPR as well. She has opportunities to teach, mentor and help others achieve their goals, while feeling constantly challenged to grow her expertise in DPR’s culture of continuous learning.
She looks back on the moment she decided to make the leap from education to construction with no regrets, and wants to help others overcome their fear of change or failure when they find their career calling their attention. It takes courage to pursue a dream–and she has more than enough of that to share.
Traffic Barricades Clutter The 520 Freeway Into Redmond
Redmond Washington is home to some of the biggest names in business. Microsoft, Nintendo, Amazon, and many more tech startups. Washington State has long been a destination for companies looking to expand in an area that is cheaper than California but still keeps them on the West Coast. The 520 Freeway connects Redmond to Seattle and passes through areas of Kirkland and Bellevue along the way. The freeway has been under construction for years as growth in the area has surpassed the States ability to manage roadways and traffic. Just in the past few years, the 520 went from a 2 lane bridge in each direction to a 4 lane bridge. The 520 is also now a toll bridge, so commuters are now opting to go around Lake Washington to get to the northern part of Seattle. What we have noticed during this time period is an increase in traffic-related accidents. This increase in automobile accidents is caused both by the flood of residence in the area moving there and commuting to and from work daily, but also from poorly cared for roadways that erode from the constant rainfall the Seattle experiences. Washington has a yearly rainfall average of 38.19 inches of rain. This amount of rain washes out roads and causes other natural problems like mudslides that also impact the road quality. That being said, when traveling from Seattle to Redmond the 520 dumps you out either onto Leary Way or on to Avondale Road which will take you to Woodinville Washington. The traffic becomes extremely congested in this areas as commuters use this access point to travel to and from Seattle. The poorly maintained roadways and constant road construction leave commuters dodging potholes and traffic barricades. Potholes become a major issue as vehicles crash into holes that exceed 6 inches in depth and can experience alignment and balance issues in addition to blown out tires. We spoke to a Redmond mechanic who went on to say that oil pans and axles also suffer from debris on the road. As the roads break up and the asphalt breaks loose it becomes a road hazard and bounces along the underside of moving vehicles causing damage to the parts underneath. They get hundreds of vehicles a year into their Redmond Auto Repair Shop and the issues are consistent from vehicle to vehicle. the damage caused from loose asphalt is never-ending, and the road barricades that force drivers down narrow unmaintained portions of the road are to blame. Washington State needs to fix its road problem at a rate that keeps pace with its growth, or more car owners will be spending more time at the mechanic shop.
As an architecture and interior design student at Auburn University, Kali Bonnell always asked, “But can you actually build that?” Seeing her natural practicality and interest in constructability, Bonnell’s professors recommended that she look into construction or engineering. Construction made sense to her. Because her grandfather was an electrician, throughout her childhood, she learned to appreciate all that went into building.
When she fell in love with construction management, she never looked back. Bonnell began her career at DPR in 2008 as an intern in Atlanta. After gaining expertise as a project engineer with DPR’s Special Services Group (SSG), which focuses on small to mid-size projects, Bonnell wanted to experience larger projects and traveled to Clemson, South Carolina to work on Clemson University’s 100,000-sq.-ft. life science facility, designed to support scientific research activities and engage students via training and education.
Early in her career, she found her biggest challenge was advocating for herself and feeling confident in what she was saying, especially when others disagreed with her. Growing both her skills and her confidence in DPR’s flat organizational structure, Bonnell felt like she had a say in what she was able to work on and how she was able to develop her technical expertise.
She raised her hand to move to Tampa, then Orlando, to work on advanced tech projects, telling her leadership teams, “let me take this, let me grow, let me learn.” Each opportunity helped build her experience to prepare her for the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health and Wellness Institute project, her first job as a full-fledged project manager. The 90% female design-build team of architects, designers, builders and owner’s representatives shared a vision for creating the 45,800-sq.-ft. comprehensive women’s center with the patient in mind. With the institute serving five unique women’s health service lines, each discipline’s professional and personal experiences informed the overall design of the project.
“It was the tipping point for me,” said Bonnell. “It was so impactful to see the smart, technical, hard-working women on our team, all working toward the same goal of safely and efficiently building an amazing place–the place we all go to for our checkups. We know how scary and stressful healthcare can be, and every detail was designed and built with the patient in mind.”
As she is now working on an HCA vertical expansion and central energy plant upgrade that will add two floors to an existing hospital in Florida, Bonnell believes that ultimately, her job comes down to understanding others’ perspectives and intentions. She constantly balances what other team members are planning and thinking to solve problems proactively, instead of reactively–a tenet that has guided her own career path as well.
It’s important to Bonnell to foster DPR’s culture even as the organization experiences tremendous growth. In Ft. Lauderdale, DPR has grown from 20 salaried employees in 2014 to 60 salaried employees in 2017, and increased its revenue from $15 million to $150 million in three years. Helping to spearhead people practices, Bonnell focuses on making sure that people develop and grow, get the correct training and are set up for success. Whether it’s going out to jobsites or talking to teams, she wants each person to know that his or her job is an integral part of building great things.
So today, when anyone asks the question, “can we actually build that?” Her answer is: yes.