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All posts by Betty Martinez

Collage photo of May Be a Pillar participants

This month and beyond, we join in celebrating and paying tribute to the generations of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history. In May’s Be a Pillar story, DPR employees reflect on their ethnic and cultural backgrounds and experiences, sharing ways that friends, family and community have shaped them, both in their careers and in their daily lives.


Photo of Natasha Ashar in jobsite trailer
Photo courtesy of Austin Tepper

Natasha Ashar, Project Manager

In thinking about my ethnic and cultural background as well as experiences, one of the main draws from my family, friends and community that has shaped me into the person I am today is the notion of hospitality. It is a living, breathing entity that allows us to make people feel at home, understand and accept different perspectives, and extend goodwill to all who are willing to receive it.

Hospitality permeates through my approach at work by asking questions and approaching it from multiple angles. We all have a different lens we each live and see from; it is the allowance of everyone to co-exist. It influences my work since I tend to approach topics with a customer service mindset. Hospitality continues to influence my work as I am passionate about helping, whether it be related to people or projects.


Photo of Rena Goudy on jobsite
Photo courtesy of David Hardman

Rena Goudey, Safety Manager

I was raised by two parents with strong ties to the Filipino community until I was a freshman in high school. Even though they divorced and remarried, I always felt a sense of belonging whenever we had family parties on both my mom’s and dad’s side of their families.

Family is considered the foundation of social life for most Filipinos. While my immediate family was the core family unit, I also had a strong bond with my extended family members. In fact, it even extended to distant relatives and non-relatives, and I would often call the parents of my Filipino friends, “auntie” or “uncle.”

The sense of belonging and being a part of a team or “family” is what shapes me. DPR has definitely provided me many opportunities to experience this. When it comes to work and those that I engage with I feel secure and supported because those people provide a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity. I am able to bring my authentic self to work and perform at my very best knowing that I matter and am valued as a team member.


Photo of Vedo Evantanto in DPR office
Photo courtesy of Amanda Komar

Vedo Evantanto, Senior Project Engineer

Growing up as a first-generation immigrant from Indonesia, the cultural and familial values of respect for elders, obedience, and following the rules were monumental in my developing years. My parents risked a lot when it came to giving up what they had and knew, from their homes, jobs, family, language, etc. to provide for a more promising future for me and my siblings. From this risk, came the lofty and well-thought-out expectations that were established for me and my siblings: to do well in school, attend college (and study in a field that they would consider lucrative and stable), and ultimately, have a high-paying job that would not force us to ever have to make the risks they did. Deviance or challenge to these steps would not have been easily accepted, let alone celebrated.

These principles and clear expectations undoubtedly have been the main driving factor when it comes to how I approach my work: I naturally am a rule-follower, not a challenger; a thinker before being a doer; and more of an observer than a commander. Although there is much value to these things, I am constantly working to step out of my comfort zone by speaking up and sharing my thoughts and opinions in a bold and courageous way. There is a lot to “un-learn” and “re-learn” here in terms of my natural approach on things, but through self-compassion and assurance, I am constantly improving as a husband, father, and DPR employee.


DPR’s monthly Global Social Responsibility (GSR): Be a Pillar series spotlights diverse experiences and perspectives within the DPR family. AAPI Heritage Month is celebrated in the U.S. in May each year to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the construction workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants, approximately 14,000 laborers.

Construction Safety Week is an annual, weeklong event that creates space for the construction industry to collectively celebrate a safe mindset and engagement around EHS. It also shines a spotlight on mental health. These efforts were reflected in Safety Week’s theme for 2022: Connected. Supported. Safe.

A construction worker stands next to his own image on a Construction Safety Week banner.
Construction Safety Week is an annual event offering the construction industry space to collectively energize efforts at eliminating incidents on jobsites. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

During the week of May 2, more than 20,000 DPR team members and project partners around the globe, including DPR’s entire family of companies, participated in Safety Week events. More than 260 project teams held safety focused events and invited subject matter experts and industry vendors to provide demonstrations that reinforce safe practices including fall and fire protection, as well as mental health resilience. 

Spotlight on Mental Health 

Employee Health and Safety encompasses efforts to not only keep team members safe physically, but psychologically as well. At a jobsite in Richmond, VA a mental health professional was on site to talk about Mental Health awareness and the prevalence and effects of mental health disease. This is especially important in construction, which has the second highest suicide rate by industry (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Additionally on May 2, to coincide with National Mental Health Awareness Day, 600+ employees logged on to a Mental Health Awareness webinar from DPR’s employee assistance program (EAP) provider focused on “Resilience in Changing Times.”

A man and a woman stand together wearing t-shirts with positive mental health messages.
Justin McCarthy and Shannon Publicover, safety professionals for trade partner Miller-Lighthouse, attended DPR’s Safety Week celebrations to focus on mental health. Photo courtesy of Jake Eddy

“Everyone has mental health, just like everyone has physical health,” said Tiffany Newell, one of DPR’s talent advocates. “Our well-being is affected by all aspects of our lives, and that in turn affects how we experience life, work and time with our family and friends. Expanding our mindset by looking at performance beyond injuries and incidents is shifting perspectives to include holistic, individual well-being and psychological safety. DPR is committed to increasing awareness about mental health and mental illness, addressing the stigma, and providing resources, education and a supportive workplace.” 

Resources and Activities 

Throughout the week, DPR team members made use of a wealth of resources—from swag and visuals to EHS moments—to get conversations started each day of the week. And as always, Safety Week was a family affair, with exercises on offer to bring friends and family together. Fun activities to promote the health and wellness aspects of safety included a 20-minute on-demand yoga class and a Cinco de Mayo healthy cooking demonstration—both provided by DPR extended family members.

A bulletin board shows a Safety Week banner, photos of children and coloring pages.
Safety Week family activities included construction related coloring pages. Photo courtesy of Frank Heymann

Team members also got down to the nuts and bolts by hosting Toolbox Talks focused on EHS around various aspects of building safely. The following sampling of DPR jobsite activities from around the world is representative of the types of events held in every DPR community. 

Each project in Europe held educational sessions for teams around topics like mental health, environment and energy saving techniques, high-risk activities and electrical safety. In Switzerland, a day was devoted to talks about mobile scaffolding and hands-on refresher sessions on safe work with mobile elevating work platforms (MEWP), with a trade partner organizing a MEWPs obstacle course competition. Other competitions to engage workers on-site included a “Spot the Hazards” activity to gauge knowledge about high-risk activities.

In the US, hands-on training classes were held, such as a South Florida fall protection class showing proper procedures for harnesses and common mistakes when using them, and a local fire department gave a talk on fire hazards and preventions. Meanwhile, in Raleigh-Durham, teams hosted a hands-on scaffold awareness hazard findings session and demonstrated fall rescue.

Groups of people build Baker scaffolds.
In South Florida, teams hosted activities, including a Baker scaffold building competition demonstrating best practices. Photo courtesy of Valerie Diaz-Harbich

In Austin, TX team members gathered together as one group to discuss the importance of Safety Week, Mental Health Month, and Mental Wellbeing. They then broke into two groups, alternating between outdoor Fire Safety/Fire Extinguisher Training and indoor group discussions focused on “Why I Work Safe.” All sessions were conducted in Spanish and English and concluded with the signing of a Safety Week Banner

People sit at tables and listen to a presentation about fall protection.
A DPR trade partner in Central Florida hosted fall protection training during Safety Week. Photo courtesy of Ryan Cotton

On the West Coast, the San Francisco Bay Area’s SPW concrete team hosted safety training sessions given by supplier partners on various tools and equipment, as well as topics such as fall protection, silica management, and concrete pumps and pumping safety. The team held a daylong event that brought together craft and admin to discuss safety, with participants splitting into groups to share experiences, hear other perspectives and learn from each other.

In an office setting, people sit at tables viewing a presentation and a male speaker.
In Southern California, a team hosted a trade partner summit for underground utility strikes with the goal of experts discussing improvements to avoid future incidents. Photo courtesy of Mario Guerrero
A group of people listen to a presentation by a male speaker holding a box.
In Seattle, Superintendent Charlie Cobb led safety discussions all week, culminating in a Friday quiz session, where teammates were awarded prizes for correct responses. Photo courtesy of Jennette Campbell

In the Southwest, DPR and GPRS partnered for Construction Safety Week to raise Mental Health Awareness, Stress Management and Utility Strikes Prevention. The team hosted a session with information and a reminder that stress can affect every aspect of our lives, the importance of making healthy choices, and a reminder that we are not alone.

A man in a hardhat and safety vest stands in front of an easel giving a presentation.
DPR and GPRS partnered for Construction Safety Week to raise Mental Health Awareness, Stress Management and Utility Strikes Prevention. Photo courtesy of Carlos Hurtado

And no Safety Week would be complete without an element of celebration. Safety Week activities are intended to not only educate, but to also celebrate safety with teammate recognition, shoutouts in meetings and onsite breakfasts or lunches. Teams also participated in raffles to win swag and prizes. In the San Francisco Bay Area, teams held fun team bonding activities like cornhole and washer tosses, rounding out the day with a catered BBQ lunch provided by a supplier partner. Attendees on a few US jobsites were even surprised with live mariachi bands!  

“Each year, DPR gets better and better at celebrating our EHS efforts and our people. This year was no exception,” said EHS Leader Michelle Gray. “Due to the leadership and support on our projects, the efforts to make our projects and our people feel more Connected, Supported and Safe was a resounding success.” 

Ribbon cutting ceremony with the important folks cutting the ribbon.
Members of the project team and hospital staff cut the ribbon marking the official opening of the new tower. Photo courtesy of Skyler Herring

DPR Construction recently celebrated the completion of Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center’s new patient tower with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The six-story ICU Tower is the newest addition to the healthcare provider’s medical campus in Athens, Georgia.

“At DPR, we believe our people and projects can change the world. This new tower will absolutely change patient experiences and health outcomes in the Athens community for generations to come,” said Brandon Scott, a DPR Project Executive.

The multi-year phased project included a vertical expansion adding a new patient floor in the hospital’s existing Prince 2 Tower, multiple interior renovations to add patient bed units, the demolition of an existing bed tower and the construction of the new 229,000-sq.-ft. patient tower. In addition to 128 state-of-the-art inpatient rooms, the new tower includes staff areas, a retail pharmacy, café and resource center for patients and visitors.

“After four years, over 20 individual enabling projects, and over 40 departmental relocations, we are excited to celebrate the ribbon cutting of the new ICU Tower at Piedmont Athens Regional,” said Scott. “This truly integrated team agreed early on the shared goals of the project and never wavered on that commitment through the many challenges we encountered. We didn’t know what the world would throw at us four years ago, but we are grateful we went through it all together in partnership with Piedmont, BDR Partners, SmithGroup, Trinity and all of our many trade partners and design consultants.”

Ribbon cutting ceremony in front of new building. A good number of folks are watching the event.
Guests gathered to tour the new state-of-the-art facility. Photo courtesy of Piedmont Athens Regional

The addition of the new tower will enhance the delivery of patient care, improve operational efficiency, simplify patient arrival and help Piedmont Athens fulfill its goal of making a positive difference in every life they touch.

“As a premier health care destination in northeast Georgia, Piedmont Athens is changing the way patients in our 17-county service area access healthcare,” said Michael Burnett, CEO of Piedmont Athens Regional. “We are empowering our patients to be partners in their healthcare, and creating a hospital that meets the needs of the modern patient is just one way in which we’re changing lives. Within this tower, we have created spaces that provide seamless transitions of care for our community, connect patients and providers, and signify the future of healthcare in Athens, Georgia.”

Healthcare Insights 

Healthcare’s rapidly evolving realities include caring for an aging population, workforce shortages and burnout, increased uninsured, and lower reimbursement contracts. These realities challenge healthcare providers to deliver care more efficiently at a lower cost, within an environment where capital investments are competing with other immediate priorities. According to a 2021 American Hospital Association survey, hospitals paid $24 billion more per year for clinical labor than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare organizations seek greater speed in project delivery, increased connectivity, and coordination of services focused on one goal: demonstrated value. 

As we transition from a pandemic to an endemic phase of COVID-19, DPR Construction’s healthcare core market team is launching a series of Healthcare Insights to consider how new pressures on the market will transform the delivery of care.

Healthcare insight blog cover image, doctor sitting with head between his hands.
Photo courtesy of Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock.com

Constructing with Care for a Burnt-out Workforce

Healthcare organizations continue to face unprecedented demands stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two years, many healthcare employees have found themselves in positions that no longer give them a sense of purpose and meaning. This has contributed to an unprecedented exodus from the healthcare sector, resulting in significant job vacancies and exacerbating an already overburdened workforce.

A 2021 survey from Mental Health America noted that the pandemic led to 93% of healthcare workers experiencing stress and 76% reporting feelings of exhaustion and burnout. The mental health of frontline staff can alter interaction with patients negatively, resulting in a direct correlation to rankings such as HCAHPS scores. A Kaiser Family Foundation study reported similar findings.

A health system’s investment in a significant capital project can serve as a change agent to address historic stressors in the environment of care, operational workflows, and technology. However, deploying these capital projects in ways that support an over-extended workforce is key.

Strategies for consideration: 

  • Restoring commitment to the organization’s core values, demonstrated by investment priorities
  • Investing in workforce education on the purpose of strategic capital projects that address operational and care delivery improvements 
  • Meaningful engagement of the healthcare workforce in capital project critical sequencing or phasing decisions
  • Utilizing thoughtful communications regarding impacts on ongoing operations during construction through daily construction briefings or clinical operation huddles 
  • Prioritizing respite areas and re-examining space needs for the workforce to incorporate collaboration and staff-centric amenities

Meaningful workforce engagement during capital development projects

Engagement needs to start well before a shovel hits the ground. New capital projects often address legacy issues. In dated care settings, the staff is accustomed to workarounds, longer travel distances, and a lack of modern support mechanisms and technology. An upgraded facility can inspire a team and excite them about an increased ability to deliver care. Investing time to clearly articulate the “why” or purpose for a project is essential to end-user engagement.

Deb Sheehan, DPR Construction’s healthcare market strategy leader, finds meaningful engagement of the entire project team as essential to solving today’s challenges.

“Today, many healthcare organizations struggle to fund their capital projects due to escalation issues given the premiums resultant from supply chain and labor pressures. Clients are seeking solutions to recalibrate their program and key room needs,” Sheehan said. “We reset the table, ensuring team members are aligned and understand the drivers of the clinical needs, enabling decisions based on best value calibrated to available capital investments. Without this reset, the approach to solve the funding gap results in the traditional ‘death by 1,000 cuts,’ whittling away at the quantity and quality of project-based changes solely on cost.”

Sheehan believes aligning with a core purpose causes fewer sacrifices to mission-critical elements with shared goals that every stakeholder can rally around.

“Ideally, the design and construction team collaborate with an organization’s senior leadership, working in support of a provider’s chief strategy and operations officers to model program adjustments with associated costs in real-time,” she said. “If they wanted to shell or defer investments in program elements, we could immediately represent the savings and surface-associated program adjustments that might not be intuitive.”

Managing disruptions… and the anxiety this creates for the healthcare workforce

Phased renovations or expansions on active campuses are disruptive by their nature. The first step to alleviating disruptions is understanding the clinical operations necessary to be a good partner.

“To successfully plan for construction sequencing and phasing, a construction team needs to truly understand the clinical pathways: the clinician workflows and how that affects patients,” Sheehan said. “Teams must work together to sequence construction in ways that minimize disruptions, travel distances and effects on clinical support areas.”

For example, if a hospital has a high admission rate from the Emergency Department (ED) and construction work on the campus disrupts traffic flow, the result may cause Emergency Medical Services (EMS) diversion, causing a reduction in patient volume and admission. Construction sequencing needs to be cognizant of the financial impacts on facility operations and create work plans that minimize disruptions that affect patient volume.

While not all disruptions during construction can be avoided, creatively compensating with enhancements can ease frustration. In the case of an ED renovation, ideas such as converting a storage room into an EMS lounge can allow crews to restock supplies or grab a bite to eat between transports. Proactively planning communication in a manner sensitive to the needs of frontline care teams builds good faith and empathy. Routinely engaging broader facilities teams for longer-term planning supplemented by clinical huddles for daily briefings on construction impacts effectively keeps frontline care teams engaged in authoring plans to minimize disruption.

“Successful planning comes from a lens of what the clinical providers need to know, including arming them with the information they need to communicate with patients and families,” Sheehan said. “Keeping staff informed about noise and vibrations means they can advise the people they are caring for about ways to ease sleep cycles. If we can’t stop something from occurring, we can help the provider compensate for it to diminish the impact.”

Hands holding a tiny plastic heart
Photo courtesy of Takasu/Shutterstock.com

Connecting the process to ease frontline care provider’s stress levels

Design and construction teams can begin by considering the perspective of how added pressures of executing a renovation or expansion project may affect everyone in the chain of care delivery with careful focus on the frontline clinical team and the patient. Limiting disruptions during construction, at its foundation, requires careful planning to avoid activities that can negatively impact the patient and care teams, focusing on ensuring construction activity does not deter any patient from accessing and receiving care.

Starting a project execution plan with thoughtful consideration of the impact on clinical operations is critical.

“Valet parking, enhanced wayfinding, clear pathways for patient access, and enhanced amenities can ease the impact of disruption on healthcare campuses,” said Sheehan. “We work hard to minimize impact to ongoing operations and pay attention to details that affect how patients define value.”

This includes ensuring a clean work area and minimizing noise disturbances and smells that can result from construction activity. Beyond required ICRA barriers, builders can use construction zone separations to aid the organization in promoting its mission and vision, supporting a healing environment with art or graphics applied to barriers along the patient journey through the campus. Considering how construction activities affect the entire chain-of-care delivery can alleviate anxiety and resultant stress on the clinical team members and patients.

“When you think about what patients value –and the level of care staff strives to provide –we must acknowledge our role in supporting them during a construction project,” Sheehan said.

C-Suite to Frontline transparency

A transparent, outcomes-focused vision minimizes stress in every facet of the project.

“We advise clients when endeavoring on a project that it is critical to get stakeholder alignment from the start,” Sheehan said. “Build and clearly communicate the ‘why’ statement behind a project. If a clinical team must deal with disruptions; It is a lot easier when they understand the purpose and benefit.”

Too often, this discussion stays in the C-suite. Bringing clinical providers into the conversation diminishes the unknowns and helps them understand how the organization will support their functions and patient care.

“During a recent visioning session with a provider in the Northwest, we ended up expanding the group to 40 people, including the frontline care leadership because those people are the change agents and the partners to our construction crews engaging with on the ground,” Sheehan said. “Having them in the discussion brings up functional details that can get missed or misunderstood and helps make everyone stewards of the objective and outcome goals of the project.” Broadening communications to larger “town hall” settings ensures that everyone –from front line providers to service teams –understands a project’s mission and outcomes.

Healthcare clients need an excellent technical builder, but just as important, builders need to understand the needs of the impacted care service line to be truly empathetic partners throughout the process.

General Foreman Jose Rubio headshot
General Foreman Jose Rubio values the various learning opportunities offered by DPR and has made use of them to advance in his career and to create a sense of pride in his work. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Ask Houston General Foreman Jose Rubio what he values most about DPR, and he’s quick to mention the countless learning opportunities offered to DPR team members. It’s fitting, then, that he should be working on the renovation and expansion of a center devoted to hands-on learning—the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership at the University of Houston (UH). As the only hospitality program in the world where students work and take classes in a full-service hotel, students learn while on the job, just as Rubio has done at DPR.

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

Rubio: I’m a general foreman working on the Hilton College renovation at the University of Houston. I’ve been at DPR for 10 years. I started as a carpenter and really applied myself to work efficiently and responsibly. Four years later, they gave me the opportunity to take on this role with more responsibility and an expanded focus.

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

Rubio: One interesting feature of the building is its structure. It doesn’t have conventional columns in the corners; it’s supported by Y-shaped columns in the center. It’s a total of about 64,000-sq.-ft.—70 rooms on eight floors, along with the hallways and a five-level sky bridge that connects the new tower to the existing tower. Another interesting aspect is that it’s an occupied facility with students and university staff on-site while we work. We’re careful to maintain their safety. It’s limited space, so we check the site, fence, streets and gates frequently.

Jose Rubio and co-worker chatting through something on a tablet.
Rubio’s current project features Y-shaped columns in the center, along with a five-level skybridge connecting new and existing hotel towers. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What have you learned from your team members?

Rubio: I’ve learned how to communicate with my team members with respect. I’ve also learned practical building skills—how to operate different types of machinery, from scissor lifts, boom lifts and forklifts, to Bobcats. I’ve learned how to read blueprints and taken OSHA 30-hour training courses to learn how to avoid safety risks on site. If you want to learn something at DPR, you have the opportunity.

Q: What is one thing you think everyone can do to make the industry as a whole safer for everyone?

Rubio: There are a lot of things we can all do, from physically making sure handrails are secure to operating machinery and tools properly. Don’t take shortcuts when performing a job. Always use the proper PPE and safety equipment. I also think it’s important to take time early to walk the job and check that everything is safe, and then do the same thing when the team is about to leave.

Jose Rubio having a conversation with a co-worker.
Rubio values the technical building skills he has gained while at DPR, but he also points to his ability to communicate with all team members with respect, which he has honed during his 10 years with the organization. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: If there was a language barrier, how did you overcome it? What were some things you did to help others overcome that barrier?

Rubio: I haven’t overcome it 100%, but I am still learning. DPR provides ESL classes online, and I use a phone translator when I need to. If there is someone who needs help, I step in to help when I can. You’re never alone here; there’s always someone to support you.

Like me, there are many people who don’t speak English well. In an organization like DPR that supports you with training, classes and great communication with people of all experience levels, if you have a drive to get ahead, you can advance in your career and achieve your goals.

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

Rubio: If you aspire to be a superintendent or project manager, go after that goal. It’s an excellent career. It not only helps you financially; it helps you grow as a person. And if you oversee a team, instill in them that safety comes first. Communication is so important, too. Perhaps most importantly, proper training and good communication make for a better workplace.

Jose Rubio working collaboratively with co-workers
When he talks to young people, Rubio highly recommends construction as a career, saying, “It not only helps you financially; it helps you grow as a person.” Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What do you love about your project/your job?

Rubio: DPR has helped me have a better position, both economically and with my family. Having a job with more responsibility and security positively affects your home and your family. It changes the way you see things.

Collage of individuals who provided thought leader quotes in the story.

Happy Earth Day!

Today on Earth Day, during Earth Month and beyond, DPR is committed to creating a more sustainable work and built environment. An imperative part of those efforts happens through the action and aspiration of our teams on jobsites and in offices, who operate at the local and global level to advance DPR’s commitment to the planet through the projects we work on and within our own business operations. Read more from those who go above and beyond as sustainability advocates about what excites them about their roles as we advance on the pathway to a more sustainable future.

Photo of Liz Owen
Photo courtesy of Lauren Jones

Liz Owen, Project Manager

Sustainability has been a passion of mine since college. I started my career with DPR in the Bay Area, but when I moved to Florida in 2016, I was disheartened by the lack of “green” infrastructure and regulations, especially coming from California where state regulations on waste management and pollution were more stringent. At that time, I found that there was limited demand in the southeast for sustainability efforts beyond the occasional LEED project, so I focused on my roles in operations, and organically became known as “the girl who is passionate about sustainability.” I took opportunities within my role to make small changes on my projects, and just share my passion with others in the office.

We have set up water refill stations on select project sites and encouraged the use of reusable bottles. We substituted our standard jobsite and office supplies with eco-friendly alternatives when reusable is not feasible. We purchased more reusable dishware for the office and asked that food vendors stop bringing in disposable products when they deliver food. These changes alone are small, but they have provided the opportunity to begin educating others, which is where the small changes start to create a bigger impact.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve helped lead DPR’s Southeast Environmental Advocate group as a way to connect the region and initiate incremental changes at our jobsites and in our offices. This has provided the opportunity for us to share resources, challenges, and success stories. It has sparked new recycling initiatives in offices and jobsites and prompted the birth of a soon-to-be regional PPE recycling program in partnership with OES.

I am very proud to be a part of this company that defines it’s “Most Admired” goals in part by our progress towards a sustainable future. Although we have a long journey ahead of us, it excites me to see the momentum being built within DPR and in the southeast. I believe that we have the power and influence to lead changes in our industry, and I’m grateful to be a part of that, no matter how big or small! 

Photo of Praseedha Subramanian
Photo courtesy of David Hardman

Praseedha Subramanian, VDC Sr. Project Engineer

As a VDC Engineer, I’m always on the lookout for being able to mesh my Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) side with my Earth Warrior side. Just as my role goes beyond technology and tools and focuses on building it right the first time, practicing sustainability is not to be treated just as a need of the hour, rather a way of conducting everyday life and how each individual approaches the impact they leave on our world. This belief allows me to challenge myself and my colleagues at everything we do, both at home as well as in the workplace.

Having gained a broad understanding of key sustainability challenges through my post graduate studies, I chose to add my advocacy for sustainability to my VDC role to help ensure sustainable and energy-efficient materials and practices are being integrated from the ground up. The biggest challenge in our industry has always been ‘re-work’ that accounts for missed productivity and exhausted resources. By promoting an increase in sustainable building practices and dedicated collaboration, we can eliminate the potential risk of having to restart projects and reduce the percentage of construction re-work by fixing issues that may occur down the road due to oversights during the design development and installation phases. Thus, creating a green future one building at a time! 

Photo of Stepheni Dougan
Photo courtesy of Julie Ashlock

Stepheni Dougan, Project Engineer

One of my favorite things about DPR is that the things you do aren’t limited to your role—you have the opportunity to plug in and get engaged across many different peer groups, work groups and with our family of companies. I enjoy exploring and championing sustainability initiatives, working with different folks across the company to make it a reality. Pooling our resources between different teams like Global Social Responsibility, Innovation and our strategic partner OES (among others), empowers us to create a strong alliance to make visions into reality.

My favorite thing is going out to a jobsite and seeing the initiatives that folks have been working on behind the scenes being utilized! Water refill stations with the vision of eliminating single use plastic on all DPR jobsites, jobsite waste signage to educate and promote informed disposal, cleaner jobsite power alternatives to challenge the way we have always done things—this is only the beginning! I look forward to the ways we continue to revolutionize jobsites in an effort to propel ever forward for our people and our planet!

Photo of TJ Cyr
Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

TJ Cyr, Integration Manager

Sustainability gives me a great sense of purpose—it’s where my passion for construction and love of nature coalesce. In my current role as an Integration Manager, I work with our project teams to align their project goals with DPR best practices before construction starts. This early engagement is a prime opportunity to influence the decisions our teams’ make with guides, like DPR’s own jobsite sustainability best practices. These concepts are not limited to green certified projects, they are suggestions for better environmental stewardship on every job. It’s about being conscious of the impact that everything we use will have on our people, lands, air and water, and to broaden our perspective of entire product lifecycles.

Ecological restoration takes much more time than it takes to mine or harvest material or destroy it with our pollution and waste. I am personally motivated as an outdoorsman and conservationist to operate sustainably. Healthy habitats and natural areas are important for my own recreation and for the future enjoyment of my kids and the generations to come. Aldo Leopold once wrote, “There is a limit to the number of lands of shoreline on the lakes; there is a limit to the number of lakes in existence; there is a limit to the mountainous areas of the world, and in each one of these situations there are portions of natural scenic beauty which are God made, and the beauties of which of a right should be the property of all people.”

I’m excited to be a part of this organization on our path to regeneration. With our talented and innovative people, we will prove how to build with minimal environmental impacts. We’ll shift the paradigm of construction and inspire the industry to follow suit. To me, that’s how DPR Construction will change the world.

Photo of Zeke Salvo
Photo courtesy of Taylor Pruden

Zeke Salvo, Project Engineer

As the project engineer on a 55,400-sq.-ft. amenity building for a blue-chip technology client, I’m truly excited about the use of sustainable building materials on my project.

For example, the building structure consists of glulam and cross-laminated timber sourced from Northeastern Canada in lieu of structural steel framing, and the building façade includes exterior framing with 24% post-consumer and 9% pre-consumer recycled content, as well as insulations with 20% pre-consumer recycled content. The Interior finishes include acoustic baffles made from about 60% post-consumer recycled plastics, door frames with 20% pre-consumer recycled content, interior storefront with 13% post-consumer and 6% pre-consumer recycled content, gypsum wall board (GWB) assemblies containing insulation with 60% recycled content and framing with 30% recycled content, ceilings with 60% recycled content, and zero VOC paints.

I believe these sustainable, high-end products coupled with quality construction will create an awesome space for the occupants who will soon inhabit the building!


DPR’s monthly Global Social Responsibility (GSR): Be a Pillar series spotlights diverse experiences and perspectives within the DPR family. While we highlight our sustainability efforts and commitments today on Earth Day and during the month of April, we recognize that more and more of our customers seek to align their real estate portfolios with their sustainability commitments every day of the year. As contractors, we can contribute to those goals in more ways than ever.

Approaching a complex repositioning of a dated office building into an experiential, urban destination in Capital Hill, DPR’s team engaged in a collaborative design and preconstruction phase to plan how this transformation would unfold. In the bustling neighborhood adjacent to Union Station and three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, the team implemented alternative solutions to traditional construction sequencing to minimize construction disruptions, enhance quality and ensure the safety of the local community and workers.

The existing 300,000-sq.-ft. building is being extended both vertically, adding three floors, and horizontally, increasing its total size to 427,191-sq.-ft. The mixed-use property will offer 183,515-sq.-ft. of Class A office with dramatic views, 14,500-sq.-ft. Penthouse amenity floor, 274-key Royal Sonesta Hotel, and 13,832-sq.-ft of ground-floor retail. A new curtainwall and panelized facade will be installed, two atriums will be cut into the existing structure, the building will be structurally enhanced and reinforced, and the roof was demolished in preparation for the new addition.

“During our initial preconstruction phase, we established that prefabrication, SurePods and DPR’s Self-Perform Work (SPW) team would enable the project to stay on schedule and minimize disruption to the local community,” said Matt O’Malley, Preconstruction Lead.

The exterior rendering of a mixed use complex
The future mixed-use complex will entail retail and restaurant space on the first floor, six stories of hotel, topped by four stories of office space, and a rooftop restaurant and amenity space. Photo courtesy of Leo A Daly

Prefabricated SurePods Ensure Consistency, Quality and Schedule Enhancements

As the team dug into the details of the project they saw an opportunity to engage SurePods, a prefabrication vendor, to build 211 bathrooms for the hotel. The factory-built custom bathroom pods, complete with high-end finishes, were manufactured simultaneously with the hotel’s construction phase, reducing the schedule by 10%. SurePods enabled the team to deliver predictable results by fabricating the repeatable, high-end bathroom design in a controlled environment. The fabrication process in factory setting took 42,700 hours, 100 hours per pod, enabling the team to take that time to focus on other scopes within the building.

“When issues have been discovered on the project, DPR has been a fantastic partner, coming to the table with multiple options to resolve with the pros and cons for each,” said Chris Cotter, Sr. Project Manager for The RMR Group. “This has been especially helpful during such a complex major building renovation where existing conditions differ from record drawings. Using these prefabricated bathroom pods helps with this effort to provide additional logistical control and ability to maintain the schedule and deliver on time for our clients and tenants.”

SurePods bathroom installation in progress
The SurePods arrive completely finished on the interior, ensuring quality consistency for each and every room. Photo courtesy of John Baer Photography

“To prepare the building for the SurePods installation, you need a clear space for the pod with MEP connections roughed in, but most importantly the floors have to be perfectly level,” said Kurt Sandberg, DPR Project Executive. “The DPR team employed virtual design and construction (VDC) to assess the floor levelness through heat mapping. Together our VDC and SPW teams analyzed the levelness, evaluating two options—leveling by floor or by individual rooms.”

The team concluded that leveling by room would allow the most flexibility for sequencing and allowed the team to address specific levelness issues in each room, along with a faster installation timeline. SPW crews installed concrete pads in each room, ensuring floor levelness creating the ideal conditions for setting each pod.

SurePods utilizes a nationwide installer but scheduling conflicts rendered them unavailable for this project. As a result, DPR’s SPW team stepped in to help, enabling the project to maintain its delivery and installation schedule.

“SurePods has been there throughout the installation to guide the SPW team through the installation, inspecting the quality and accuracy of the team. They’ve done a great job and kept the project on schedule. Using SurePods prefabricated bathrooms reduced the project schedule by almost 10%,” noted Charles Best, SurePods onsite supervisor.

Exterior view of in progress build, pods being hoisted up the side of building
Approximately 20 pods per day were lifted and set in place. Each bathroom will be connected to the MEP systems, completing the bathroom installation process. Photo courtesy of John Baer Photography

20 Mass is SurePods’ entry into the Washington, DC market. As such, they invited the local community onsite to understand the benefits of implementing this unique solution on future construction projects. Nearly 50 industry partners and customers from various markets have toured the project and watched the installation of the pods. Vincent Ng from JLL commented, “Our industry needs to do more of this. This is changing how we work.”

SPW Innovates Solutions to Logistics Challenges

In addition to the SurePods installation, SPW has been instrumental in developing alternate solutions to accommodate public access to areas adjacent to the site and the challenging logistics of the urban environment. During preconstruction the team was planning for the façade replacement with a new curtain wall and metal panels, and they realized a significant challenge on the west elevation of the building which faced a narrow alleyway with an active loading dock and garage. Stick framing the west elevation, the traditional way to build this scope, would have significantly impacted the alleyway and other work being conducted simultaneously.

“We recommended prefabricating the panels,” said David Huff, DPR’s DC-Baltimore SPW Lead for this project. “VDC was engaged to model the west elevation panels and provide a visual depiction of the construction sequence to verify the feasibility of this approach. The model allowed the team to visually understand just how repetitive the process would have been if they had opted for the traditional stick build, and the efficiencies that prefabrication had to offer. The model was then used to produce shop drawings, expediting the ordering of materials.”

This meant all parties involved saw the value of prefabricating the exterior cold-formed metal framing (CFMF) panels, including the sheathing, air barrier and miscellaneous steel plates, to ensure safety, quality, and most importantly allowed the team to immediately mobilize and stay on schedule. The team used the site for laydown which allowed the SPW crews to prefabricate the panels on-site, and then immediately install them. This is the first time DPR’s local SPW crews have been involved with prefabricating any component of a project to this extent, let alone designing, assembling, and immediately installing on-site. The crew has now set all of the exterior metal panels, with multiple trades worth of work encompassed in one shot.

A DPR SPW worker pays close attention as he assists with hoisting the CFMF panel into place.
A DPR SPW worker pays close attention as he assists with hoisting the CFMF panel into place. Photo courtesy of John Baer Photography

Looking Ahead

The construction at 20 Mass continues with the team now shifting their focus on the curtainwall installation, cutting the atriums into the center of the building, and constructing the demising walls between guest rooms. The project is expected to deliver Spring 2023, around the same time the iconic cherry blossoms are in bloom.

Partners from Baystate Health, LifePoint Health (Kindred Healthcare), The Sanders Trust—an organization that specializes exclusively in the development of healthcare projects in partnership with leading health systems and physician groups—and DPR Construction were in attendance for the Baystate Behavioral Health Hospital groundbreaking ceremony. The largest construction project in Holyoke, MA at the time of groundbreaking, the facility will provide critical behavioral health programs to Western Massachusetts residents, enabling them to be treated locally and supported by their families.

Rendering of the entry into the behavioral health facility.
Rendering of the entry into the behavioral health facility. Photo courtesy of Stengel Hill Architects

The campus includes three buildings:

  •  A four-story, 95,000-sq.-ft.building, which will house 120 semi-private rooms and be used by the Joint Venture (JV) partners of Baystate Health and Lifepoint Health
  • A one-story 23,000-sq.-ft. building with 30 private rooms for the Commonwealth of MA Dept of Mental Health Continuing Care Program. 
  • A 4,000-sq.-ft.gym dedicated to therapy services.

The grounds will feature multiple courtyards, three half basketball courts, and picnic tables.

“We’re excited to continue our relationship with Baystate Health and bring mental health, developmental, and substance abuse programs to Western Massachusetts. It will not only provide valuable services to the local residents, it will also bring specialized jobs and opportunities for the local construction trade workforce,” said Steve Sheahan, Northeast Healthcare Core Market Leader.

The groundbreaking was attended by local officials including Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia and State Rep. Patricia A. Duffy. Speakers touched upon the need for mental health facilities, especially after the constant changes brought on by the pandemic and closure of several local facilities. Mark Keroack, Baystate Health’s president and CEO, said that “the facts tell the story.” A quarter of adults and a third of children are going without needed mental health care, he said, and 681 behavioral health patients across the state were boarding in emergency rooms, waiting for the kind of beds the new facility will provide.

Joint Venture partners and local officials break ground on the new Baystate Behavioral Health Hospital.
Joint Venture partners and local officials break ground on the new Baystate Behavioral Health Hospital. Photo courtesy of Joanne Castner

“I understand firsthand the critical importance of proper healthcare for these bright, intelligent individuals having had my own family members deal with behavioral health issues,” shared David Rojas, Senior Project Manager. “Being an integral part of the construction of this new ground-up facility that will offer programs to both children and adults in the area is a truly rewarding opportunity for me.”

While behavioral health facilities have many of the same general concerns as other medical facilities–they also require a high attention to the design and installation of the details to address patient and staff safety in a healing environment. A team of experts from across the US is using virtual design and construction methods to collaborate and verify details, including a drone for weekly progress updates.

The drone runs a programmed route that takes 1,200 to 1,300 photos each flight. These images are massed into a 3D model that the team will use to share project status information, track and verify site work progress, and collect inspection data normally done by someone physically walking the site. It also provides the owner and members of the team access to visuals of project progress.

The next major milestone the team is working towards is structural steel topping out this summer. The project is aiming for completion in Summer 2023.

Drone capture of the project site in February 2022 before foundations began.
Drone capture of the project site in February 2022 before foundations began. Photo courtesy of Stuart Osborn

A customer-focused approach to a schedule-driven project turns “can we?” into “we can.”

A recent relocation and full renovation project for a prominent financial services company’s new regional office in the Dallas suburbs achieved success through the partnership between DPR and EIG Electrical Systems™, who turned challenges into triumphs and customer feedback into innovative solutions.

An office lounge area with colorful light fixture shades.
Designed by HOK, the unique placement of different light fixtures required extensive collaboration with all the trade partners on the project. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

EIG is a member of DPR’s family of companies developed to help streamline projects for more predictability, efficiency, and higher quality. EIG is comprised of highly technical specialists that provide a variety of services including direct procurement and supply chain management, installation, low voltage systems, and power storage solutions. Their precise insights and actions on the DFW office relocation project were instrumental to completing and turning over a high-quality renovation weeks ahead of schedule.  

DPR originally engaged EIG during the project’s design when, in working through the requested scope, the team identified the need to procure generators and related emergency power equipment. EIG’s knowledge and responsiveness resulted in not only a reliable direct procurement resource but also showed the expertise that would affect other aspects of the project.  

“Given the fast-paced schedule and anticipated quick start, procurement of the generators was a challenge as they are items with significant lead times,” said EIG Dallas-Fort Worth general manager Luis Hernandez. “We aligned our solutions with customer goals, and as a result, we were able to extend our other services to the full project approach.”

Dual commercial-grade generators being placed on the project site.
Generator procurement and placement at the beginning of the project lifecycle played a key role in achieving schedule success. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

After securing the full scope, EIG dove in right away with DPR and the HOK design team to address the first phase’s five-month construction window, a challenge in and of itself as the scope would traditionally have taken up to 12 months. 

Preconstruction on this project was unique,” said DPR estimator Lexie Hood. “After we submitted our first budget, the customer decided to split the job into two phases in order to hit the target schedule, which meant twice the number of deliverables in the same amount of time.”  

Open communication with DPR’s self-perform team that was being utilized on the project was also a key to alignment early. This pattern allowed for teamwork from the start and eliminated confusion that could arise between the trade partners, and kept crews working through the scope efficiently.  

Another non-negotiable challenge: quality. To address this, the project team committed to a disciplined approach. the team created shared goals: to HAVE FUN & fill all seats at the table every time; quickly share all news, good & bad; and ensure all finishes & installations would do nothing less than impress. Using these team-supported goals, their drive to quality assurance was referenced daily in site walks and tracked in progress reports. 

Mainframe electrical room
The MDF (main distribution frame) additions to the renovation were possible using VDC & BIM modeling coordination. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Quality was no small task on a project that covered the second floor of an existing building. Phase one included 89,000-sq.-ft. and phase two 64,000-sq.-ft., phased in order to allow for occupancy. As a complete fit-out of open office space, private offices, conference rooms, huddle rooms, reception, kitchen/lounge areas, amenity space, six IDF rooms, one MDF room, eight electrical rooms, two AV closets, and 640 poke-throughs,  

Despite the scale, early interactions with the customer and design teams left EIG feeling prepared for potential obstacles by determining the right solutions from the start.  

“We asked for preferences upfront when it came to electrical and low-voltage work,” said national EIG low-voltage leader Robert Ramirez. “We asked, ‘on your previous project, what mistakes or common issues did your other contractors have’ so we could address them upfront and make sure we didn’t run into the same things.”

One challenge for everyone was the supply chain and getting what was needed in time to keep the project moving. Key items like electrical panels had a last-minute delay in delivery, which meant an opportunity for out-of-the-box thinking.  

Conference room with overhead light fixtures
Light fixtures were strategically placed in occupied areas, like this conference room, to ensure it aligned with seating positions. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

“I had a contact with a salvage vendor that buys and sells used panels on standby, to get what we needed from him in order to meet the installation dates in case the panels did not arrive on time and continue progress on the project,” said Hernandez. 

EIG installed a manual bypass switch in place of the ATS switch since it did not arrive on time and was later changed out upon its arrival. 

“Even with installing temporary light fixtures just to achieve inspections, there were a lot of creative approaches to this project to keep it on track,” said Hernandez.  

Lobby area with circular desk
Cloud panels were created and installed by DPR self-perform teams using collaboration with EIG to precisely position lighting. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

“This was the first project that we really started to see the impacts of supply chain pressures,” said DPR project executive Eric Barnes. “We had to develop and communicate strategies to procure the custom products for this project. The owners quickly took to the term “direct procurement” and that allowed us to help show all the benefits of using as many of our internal teams as possible and gain their confidence.” 

The effort not only turned into project delivery ahead of schedule but also positively impacted a customer that had past electrical/low-voltage contractor woes, and as a result, created a raving fan of EIG and DPR 

“We asked ourselves many, many times – is this even possible?” said Ramirez. “How are we going to pull this off? And we did it, and to me, that’s the biggest takeaway of all.”  

Circular light fixtures hang from ceiling
Immense planning went into allowing these high-end light fixtures to appear to “float” in the open ceiling. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

DPR starts construction on a new facility to house the College of Science and Engineering.

DPR Construction, San Francisco State University (SF State), and SmithGroup gathered to celebrate the start of construction on SF State’s new Science & Engineering Innovation Center (SEIC). 

“At DPR, you ‘Exist to Build Great Things’ and it feels like I know you’re going to do the right thing for us,” said Jason Porth, SF State Vice President of University Enterprises.“I can also tell you that as a campus, we exist to serve our students. So, this is a perfect melding of your purpose and ours coming together. You’re going to be building this building that I know is going to be extraordinary to serve our extraordinary campus.”

Jason Porth, Vice President of University Enterprises addressing the groundbreaking attendees.
Jason Porth, Vice President of University Enterprises addressing the groundbreaking attendees. Photo courtesy of Barry Fleisher

This design-build project began with a series of collaborative planning sessions with faculty, staff, students and alumni. Construction began with demolition of the 1950s addition to the existing Science Building. This first step ensured student safety and minimized impacts on the campus during this complicated phase of the project. With demolition complete, construction on the new 5-story, 126,000-sq.-ft. SEIC will now begin.

“Our team has been working together over the past two years to build trust and it’s really coming to fruition right now,” said Lewis Liu, DPR Project Manager. “We are breaking ground and building for the next two and a half years. We are producing a facility that everyone will be able to enjoy for a long time.”

The SEIC design-build team celebrating the start of construction.
The SEIC design-build team celebrating the start of construction. Photo courtesy of Barry Fleisher

The SEIC will support the instructional and teaching-related research needs of the College of Science and Engineering, which has 7,000 students, and the College of Extended Learning. From day one, the design-build team has rallied around student success as a priority in the design and function of the building.

“Students matter, their persistence matters, and we’re going to put our all into achieving that,” said Rosa Sheng, Vice President, Higher Education Studio Leader for SmithGroup. “Not only the design of the building but the original programming, the visioning, universal access and supporting underserved students in STEM fields, [it] was part of the original vision of this project. This is going to be a premier place where strong learning communities will form and solve the current and future challenges we have in this world.”

The new SEIC represents the future of STEM teaching and will provide a strong hub that highlights science and engineering innovation in teaching with studio-style lecture/lab environments that reinforce applied learning models. The Innovation Center will feature a state-of-the-art 120-seat flexible learning space complemented with undergraduate and graduate teaching/research labs and lab support; large-scale engineering applied project space with smaller scale maker spaces for prototyping and student projects; a student success center along with ample study and collaboration space to support holistic learning that reinforces belonging and persistence. It will also include interdisciplinary faculty workspaces for chemistry and engineering with meeting and seminar rooms and the college’s Dean’s Suite.

The new Science and Engineering Innovation Center viewed from the quad.
The building will be home to the College of Science and Engineering but also welcome students from around campus. Photo courtesy of SmithGroup

Located on 19th Avenue, San Francisco’s connection to the innovation hotbeds of Silicon Valley and South San Francisco, the SEIC is featured prominently and will serve as a welcoming entrance from the community to the University. The site design strategically addresses many challenges including proximity to neighboring buildings, existing utility easement, and mobility/accessibility requirements from all sides given the location at a prominent threshold at the intersection of campus and a noisy transportation thoroughfare. 

During design, DPR planned all construction activities collaboratively with SF State and SmithGroup. The result is the morphing from one continuous project into four distinct phases. This new phased approach aligns with the University’s academic calendar and helps ensure campus resources remain available to accommodate temporarily displaced classes during construction. Following the construction of the SEIC, DPR will retrofit and renovate the existing 54,000-sq.-ft. Science Building. This renovation will celebrate the history of the building and preserve the history of SF State’s innovative spirit.

Meeting the goals of the campus for sustainability, this design will be the first all-electric building on the SF State campus with an ambitious energy-efficient envelope and mechanical design. The SEIC has been designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. Sustainability goals include:

  • 100 percent electric building with an active mechanical heat recovery system
  • 25 percent reduction of stormwater runoff from the existing site
  • Water source heat pump to control the temperature inside the building
  • High-reflectivity cool roof
  • High-performance glazing
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures
  • Advanced lighting controls

When the SEIC welcomes students and faculty in January 2024, this highly anticipated facility will serve SF State as a driver of innovation and increased representation in the Bay Area’s science and engineering communities.