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“Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul.” – Michel de Montaigne

Veterans walk among us and work alongside us, and we’re often unaware of the contributions they made to protect our nation and ensure our safety. We might not know that the nurse taking our vital signs learned his trade as an Army combat medic; or that the project engineer on our jobsite was part of a Navy construction battalion.

These stories aren’t always shared, so we asked DPR employees to tell us a bit about the veterans in their lives. The response was overwhelming and inspiring. So, on this Veterans Day, we’d like to take a moment to honor the extraordinary men and women who answered the call to service.

Lean Construction continues to deliver benefits on a project-by-project basis, but how can these ever-advancing techniques stick on and off the construction site, changing the way business is done? DPR Construction and its partners gave three presentations at the 21st annual LCI Congress, the flagship event of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI), in Fort Worth, TX that aimed to push toward that goal.

This year’s LCI Congress featured discussion of “essential-ism.” Stemming from Greg McKeown, writer of “Essential-ism: The Discipline Pursuit of Less,” the concept asks: How can the construction industry narrow its focus to improve on key scopes? Among the essential things DPR is aiming to excel at – in order to support the goals of its employees in the field and the customers it builds for – is creating alignment on project norms and goals to maximize efficiency.

The commitment to integrating customers is changing. Creating a Lean company and project culture means educating people to better focus Lean systems on job sites, in customer meetings, and in preconstruction. Throughout the industry, a key priority is finding ways for contractors to better align with customer expectations and leverage up-and-coming technology in new ways.

Aligning expectations toward defined success

During the presentation, DPR project manager Julie Davis asked attendees to imagine building a swing with your friends. Each friend would probably bring a different design, technologies and mindset and that may not always equal the creation of one perfect swing.

Presentation
DPR’s Leigh Heller noted how DFOW gives project teams the knowledge to better understand what the customer’s expectations are.

Construction is no different than the swing analogy and the challenge is to create a realistic commitment to the customer while aligning with the intended vision and value.

Still, there is a tendency to wait until the end of the project to debrief and share everything that could have gone differently. DPR’s team suggested having this conversation at the outset. Setting expectations should be a priority for all members of the project teams. By setting priorities, every customer will come to the table with their own measurement for success. It is in the best interest of Lean project teams to implement steps to agree to and achieve this standard.

To create a unified assessment of success, DPR’s presenters shared the organization’s commitment to quality control known as Distinguished Features of Work (DFOW). DPR’s Leigh Heller noted how DFOW gives project teams the knowledge to better understand what the customer’s expectations are and, as a result, focus on them to reduce the chance of any rework.

DFOW/Quality/Aligning Expectations IS Lean, and we need to do a better job of sharing the documentation of our planning and learning with the field and with other projects,” Davis said.

Lean Leaders Build Lean Cultures

Project teams also must establish a baseline of appropriate team behavior and workflow from the inception of a project to better align expectations on and off the jobsite. Successful Lean integration starts with an aligned and standardized workflow that enables the team to visualize and anticipate roadblocks.

“We must provide the highest quality service to our customers at the lowest possible cost while maintaining a respect for people. We all can influence that effort and help improve it,” said Leigh Heller, DPR superintendent.

Presentation
Cory Hackler and Jack Poindexter presenting about the UCSF project.

For example, remodeling projects will always have unknowns that could affect budget and schedule. DPR’s recently-completed shopping center makeover sparked conversation at LCI Congress about the many different team conversations that build trust and respect across project teams that will translate to a more efficient project. Through candid conversations and planned actions, the outcomes should result in a clear work process structured to help maximize the value and minimize any waste at delivery level. It’s a win for the project team and a win for the customer.

In doing so, the project can serve as a replicable model for recruits, new hires, and team members to understand what a Lean project is and ways to duplicate positive operational behaviors.

Building a Lean Culture: Engaging the Value Stream

Presenters also shared were examples of different activities that different project teams performed to map value streams. In each case, this helped establish unique site cultures while also identifying all possibilities of unneeded waste.

DPR Lean manager Cory Hackler noted in his presentation that the company’s method of personnel alignment stems from the development and use of Lean Leadership training across the company.

“Having 600 people go through DPR’s Lean Leadership class, we are getting aligned on a common language to enforce Lean thoughts throughout projects,” said Cory Hackler.

The “Big Room” environment is one of many tactics sowing value to any team, enabling better collaboration.

DPR Construction broke ground on the brand new $350 million, state-of-the-art Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University (CHoR at VCU), kicking off a four-year project that will deliver a world-class facility dedicated exclusively to the care of kids.

More than 250 people from the local community as well as hospital employees, donors and state and local lawmakers turned out for the groundbreaking event, marking start of construction on a facility designed to provide the highest level of care for children throughout Virginia.

Children participate in the groundbreaking of the new VCU children's hospital.
Local kids got to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony in Richmond. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Located adjacent to the award-winning outpatient Children’s Pavilion on the VCU Medical Center Campus and rounding out a full city block dedicated to children’s services, the new hospital will replace existing pediatric inpatient unit beds and will consolidate inpatient and emergency care in one place. The 20-story, 500,000-sq.-ft. facility will provide trauma and emergency care services. It includes 86 private rooms, plus 10 observation rooms for acute and intensive care as well as new operating rooms, imaging capacity, emergency department space, a rooftop helipad and various amenities for patient families. There are four levels of below-ground parking.

DPR’s scope of work includes ground-up construction of the new hospital tower as well as some renovation work on the existing facility to support acute care services. Safety is a major priority during construction, which is taking place on a project site located in the heart of downtown Richmond and surrounded by medical facilities on the VCU campus that remain in full operation.

Designed by HKS Inc., the new Children’s Hospital is part of CHoR at VCU’s comprehensive, long-term plan for serving pediatric patients while also supporting research and educational opportunities. The new facility represents far more than just a building for young patients and their families – it offers hope and comprehensive health care services, regardless of their ability to pay. Numerous amenities are designed with those families in mind, including playrooms, performance spaces, Ronald McDonald House Charities rooms and outdoor gardens and spaces for collaboration and education.

A rendering of the new VCU children's hospital.
The new building will be the latest downtown Richmond landmark. Photo courtesy of HKS, Inc.

The Children’s Hospital Foundation is conducting a $100 million capital campaign to support construction of the new hospital. At the groundbreaking, the Foundation announced it will match the first $25 million in donations.

“Our vision is to be a top children’s hospital by 2022,” said Marsha D. Rappley, M.D., CEO of VCU Health System and senior vice president for health sciences. “All children of all communities deserve world-class care in a warm and welcoming environment. This beautiful new facility designed in partnership with our community puts children and their families at the center. It is the first important step in our pathway to becoming a top children’s hospital.”

The project is slated for completion by late 2022.

by Aaron Peterson and Andrew Arnold

The proper use and visualization of data can lead to significant FM advantages for building owners. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

A shift to data-driven technology is changing almost every aspect of our economy.

The availability and affordability of cloud computing is driving the ability to consume, analyze and package data into shareable blocks of information. Sensors can communicate with computing systems in real-time. Artificial intelligence (AI) reasoning based on the availability of data allows computers to assist, intervene and control an increasing number of functions.

In the AEC industry, virtual design and construction (VDC) and the creation of a building information model (BIM) have improved collaboration, the ability to simulate building performance, and the use of robotics to automate job and manufacturing plant functions. The age of paper drawings and pdf files during design and construction is growing obsolete. The same could be applied to the operation and maintenance of facilities.

Think about the opportunity. What if the data collected during design and construction could be easily accessed to efficiently and effectively operate and maintain facilities? For this level of data integration, there are three stages that need to be considered:

  • Data standards development. Before a project starts, owners must survey the systems used on their other facilities to allow them to develop the data standards (e.g., what assets need to be managed, what data is required, etc.) that will be collected and used for the future.
  • Start with the end in mind. For a new project, the data and FM specifications need to be determined during design so that FM requirements are reflected in the final design and the proper data captured during construction. A BIM Execution Plan as part of the construction contract will help ensure that the right data is inputted as it becomes available, and it is properly named and classified with the necessary attributes associated with each asset. The data from the BIM becomes the starting point for owner-managed systems such as maintenance management, space management and building automation.
  • Data maintenance. After project turnover, the data model that describes the building and its assets and spaces needs to be maintained. If this is not done properly, the model will quickly degrade as the building is modified and its assets are replaced, repaired, etc.

The proper use and visualization of data can lead to significant FM advantages for building owners. Imagine faster and more accurate identification of building problems and their resolution, faster responses to regulatory agencies, longer equipment lives, lower energy use and better building performance for users. It’s time to turn building data into building intelligence to produce smart and sustainable facilities.

Authored by Aaron Peterson (left) and Andrew Arnold of VueOps, a data integration platform that helps owners access information to better operate and maintain their facilities. VueOps connects project documents, asset data, models and spaces and integrates with lifecycle management tools to help ensure facilities are run optimally.

For more information visit www.vueops.com

This October, NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield, CA began admitting patients to its new 80,000-sq.-ft. north wing, unveiling a state-of-the-art facility that was delivered on time and under budget by a highly collaborative, DPR Construction-led project team that included design partner LBL (now Perkins Eastman). Achieving those benchmarks was the product of leveraging an integrated delivery approach along with strategic use of virtual design & construction and prefabrication.

The exterior entry of the NorthBay Medical Center expansion.
The NorthBay Medical Center expansion is state-of-the-art inside and out. Photo courtesy of © 2019, Sasha Moravec

The new three-story wing, which connects to the existing 1992 building on each floor, encompasses 22 patient rooms, eight high-tech surgical suites, a 16-bed Pre-Op/PACU, diagnostic imaging, kitchen and dining area, as well as a new central sterile department. The project also included a 20,000-sq.-ft. remodel of the Emergency Department – all completed while the hospital remained in full operation.

Co-locating in the Big Room

Delivered using elements of Integrated Project Delivery, or IPD, DPR worked alongside the owner, designer Ratcliff Architects, LBL (now Perkins Eastman), structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti and other key team members to complete the highly challenging project on schedule and under budget. The team co-located onsite in an open, big room environment that fostered collaboration, innovative problem-solving, and quick decision making.

“NorthBay’s belief in the integrated team, having us all there on site every day and being able to make timely and well-informed decisions were all keys to our success,” said DPR Project Manager Stephanie Jones-Lee. “If there was an urgent item that came up that we needed a solution to, we could just walk over to the architect or engineer, get the subcontractor on the phone and hash it out right there.”

The high level of communication and shared problem-solving helped reduce the number of RFIs and submittals and moved them forward much more quickly than might be expected for a project of this size and complexity, according to DPR’s BIM project leader Jonathan Savosnick.

“Almost all of our RFI’s were confirming RFIs, meaning we had already talked through the issue with the design partners before we sent it in for documentation purposes,” he said. “I think that made a huge difference on this project and made the process a lot faster, easier to prioritize, and more successful.”

Medical staff working in a new surgical area in NorthBay Medical Center.
Virtual Design and Construction and collaboration helped make sure technical areas of the new NorthBay Medical Center came together as planned. Photo courtesy of © 2019, Sasha Moravec

First-of-a-Kind Features

The project incorporated several innovative or first-of-its-kind features. It was the first OSHPD-regulated project to employ the prefabricated ConXtech structural steel system. Akin to a “Lincoln Log” type of assembly, major structural components of the ConXtech system are prefabricated offsite and then delivered to the jobsite for quick assembly in the field.

“Because everything gets fabricated in the shop, it is safer, faster, and there is a lot less welding and field work to put it in place,” Jones-Lee said.

The project also was one of the first hospitals in California to incorporate brand new ARTIS pheno operating room (OR) equipment – a major change order introduced midway through construction when the equipment supplier discontinued its previous version of the OR equipment.

The team quickly adapted to the challenge.

“The new equipment added a lot of electrical conduit on the second floor, below the operating rooms,” said Savosnick. “We were in the middle of building out that second floor when we learned about the change.” They worked collaboratively to re-sequence the work and incorporate the new design solution.

Patient beds in the new NorthBay Medical Center Expansion
New areas of NorthBay Medical Center were constructed while the existing facility remained active. Photo courtesy of © 2019, Sasha Moravec

Additionally, DPR employed laser scanning to verify existing conditions in the overhead ceiling space in the Emergency Department area, as well as in the Central Utility Plant. While BIM coordination was integral to the project’s success, accessing patient rooms in the still fully operational emergency department to laser scan for BIM coordination was a complicated endeavor.

“Doing BIM coordination for an existing facility that is in use was a big challenge,” Savosnick said. The team used HEPA carts and deployed field investigators to access above-the-ceiling areas in order to gather the information needed to update the model.

The VDC program had other extensions that delivered value. The team used virtual reality to review access issues and verify clearances on the roof with NorthBay facility engineers. Marking the first time that NorthBay had used VR on a project, the technology helped resolve potential conflicts before work was ever installed in the field.

In Delray Beach, FL, the City is working towards creating alignment of education with workforce needs, in an effort to retain talented workers and to prepare for future employment demands. With a desire to be a part of the strategic plan, DPR Construction teamed with the City and the Milagro Center to pilot the Girls Go Build program.

The seven-week program was developed to encourage girls to expand their math- and science-based learning, to increase their interest and enrollment in local technical high school programs and to shift attitudes about careers in technical trades. Through leading sessions and workshops, volunteers from the local DPR team worked with about 20 middle-school girls at the Milagro Center—hoping to inspire the next generation of Women Who Build to enter the construction industry.

Through leading sessions and workshops, volunteers from the local DPR team worked with about 20 middle-school girls at the Milagro Center, hoping to inspire the next generation of Women Who Build to enter the construction industry.

“The Girls Go Build program would not have been possible without the support of the DPR staff,” said Janet Meeks, education coordinator with Delray Beach. “The fact that DPR already had some hands-on, age appropriate activities that helped the girls understand the construction industry was awesome.”

Lina Nageondelestang, who serves as project manager in DPR’s Fort Lauderdale office, headed up the community initiative.

“We were excited to jump on board to help (the City and the Milagro Center) put together a curriculum for the summer pilot program and then lead several of the sessions,” Nageondelestang commented.

DPR was directly in charge of four of the seven Girls Go Build sessions. They included:

  • an introduction and overview session that included a marshmallow building activity (which “helped them learn the importance of creating a ‘strong foundation,'” Meeks noted);
  • a toolbox build session focused on safety and tools;
  • a Chopper Tower session where the girls played a DPR-developed game introducing them to aspects of constructability;
  • a graduation/bench building session in which volunteers helped the girls build several picnic tables that are now in use at the Milagro Center.
Girls participated in a Chopper Tower session where they played a DPR-developed game introducing them to aspects of constructability.

Each DPR-led session kicked off with a conversation about the path each of the volunteers took to get into the construction industry.

“I think opening their eyes to the potential career opportunities that there are in the industry was the most rewarding part,” Nageondelestang said. “Letting them know that, as girls, they actually can do construction and not to be afraid of it just because they are female.”

Having DPR women facilitate much of the programming made a big impact, according to Meeks.

“The middle-school girls could relate and see themselves taking on similar roles,” Meeks said. “It’s powerful to see minority women in management positions, and these girls were fascinated by the career stories.”

For most of the Milagro Center girls who participated in the pilot program, Girls Go Build offered them their first up-close look at construction tools and methods, as well as an introduction to potential well-paying careers that many had never considered before.

For most of the Milagro Center girls who participated in the pilot program, Girls Go Build offered them their first up-close look at construction tools and methods, as well as an introduction to potential well-paying careers that many had never considered before.

Student Elavanise Louis-Juste said she was inspired by the innovative program.

“I originally wanted to become a nurse. I like taking care of people and my mom takes care of people in Haiti,” she said. “But now I like construction because I can build houses in Haiti for people, and I can learn the techniques of what to do.”

The City considered the program to be a success, achieving the goals it had laid out.

“The program accomplished our objectives by exposing girls to the many different career options in the construction trades,” Meeks concluded. “The biggest success was that one of the girls was going to go into the medical choice program at Atlantic High School and changed that track to the construction academy.”

DPR Construction’s projects don’t just build themselves. Our craft employees and subcontractors make amazing things happen on site every day, but the need to recruit a new generation of people to the trades is vital.

At Wake Tech, in the heart of North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, DPR’s sponsorship of the university’s apprenticeship program is just one of the ways we aim to support a sustainable, skilled workforce. Watch the video to learn more.

This article, co-written by DPR’s Mark Thompson and Mark Whelpley, first appeared in 7×24 Exchange’s Magazine 2019 Fall issue.

Picture this scenario: an up-and-coming data center developer is looking to expand its portfolio in the Silicon Valley data center hub of Santa Clara. The company initially casts a wide net looking for the right property on which to build its new ground-up colocation facility – only to discover that undeveloped or greenfield land is a scarce commodity in this densely developed, high tech mecca.

The developer launches a new search, this time for an existing building it could retrofit and convert to data center use. In short order it finds a candidate that seems to fit the bill: an older industrial office building that has been sitting vacant for a few years. It is priced to sell. The building’s footprint is workable, the structure is intact, and both buyer and seller are motivated. Add some extra power and cabling equipment, the developer reasons, and this dusty old office space will easily transform into a profitable data center facility. An added bonus: it’ll be up and running much quicker than building a brand-new facility, enabling the developer to move in tenants, start collecting rent and begin making a return on investment that much sooner.

The developer hires a general contractor who specializes in commercial building construction but who recently jumped into the booming data center market and now has a couple of data center projects under its belt. An architect is also brought on board, and together they devise a plan to retrofit the facility. It may not be perfect, but they assure the developer they can make it work – and that the planned retrofit will save the company time and money in the long run.

The purchase is made, and the first shovel hits the ground.

As construction gets underway, the project team quickly realizes the building’s structural capacity doesn’t support the volume of heavy equipment – including racks of servers, chillers and air handling units – that this modern data center requires. In addition, there isn’t enough land around the building’s perimeter to locate the backup generators outside. They’ll need to be installed on the building’s rooftop instead – but it turns out the roof also isn’t designed to support that amount of weight.

It’s starting to look like a complete gut and reconstruct will be required.

And then there’s the matter of the available power onsite. The contractor assumed that since this is a reuse of an existing building, power supply wouldn’t be a major issue. Now they find out it could literally take months to work with the utility company to bulk up the site’s power infrastructure in order to meet the data center’s needs. The anticipated time and cost advantages of this property are quickly evaporating, and the developer is starting to think it has made a big mistake.

The Right Approach: Steps to Success

This fictional scenario may be a bit of an oversimplification and, certainly, it represents a worst-case situation, but it’s not an entirely unrealistic depiction of what can happen when an owner doesn’t properly evaluate or conduct complete due diligence on a property that they plan to convert into a data center facility. How should this process have been approached instead? Let’s examine the steps that owners and their teams should follow to ensure their data center retrofit projects are successful.

The very first step the owner and the design and construction team should take is to clearly define what constitutes success for them on their data center project. Is speed to market most important, or do cost savings or energy efficiency take precedence? Is landing a specific tenant or providing service in a specific area the overriding concern? A building repurpose project may or may not end up being less costly than a ground-up project; depending on the circumstances, it may even cost more. The former “hidden gems” of available building flips in places like Silicon Valley, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Loudoun County and other major data hubs are becoming fewer and farther between. Even in “edge” markets, the number of existing buildings that can be turnkey solutions for data halls are rare.

Realistic Expectations

It is equally important for the owner to set early, realistic expectations of what it expects to achieve on the project and to carefully assess how easily and cost effectively a particular building could be retrofitted to new use. The time to do the homework and thoroughly evaluate candidates for a prospective retrofit/conversion is before the property is purchased, not after. Proper vetting is critical.

And that vetting process applies to selection of the design and construction team as well. While the aforementioned developer was on the right path engaging the contractor and architect prior to purchasing the property, the selected contractor that lacked historical knowledge or expertise specifically relating to the rapidly evolving data center market. As a result, the contractor didn’t anticipate some of the hidden pitfalls and “gotchas” that might have been caught by a more seasoned team. The overly optimistic “we’ll make it work” approach did not serve the owner well in this case either or help the owner to make a fully informed decision about the costs and challenges of retrofitting this property.

Bottom line? Bring a contractor and/or designer on board early in the process. Choose firms with extensive experience in data center construction, including both ground-up and retrofit projects. Ideally, they will have a decade or more worth of data center projects in their portfolio and be ranked among the Engineering News-Record’s top 5 or 10 data center contractors. A qualified general contractor or designer can skillfully guide the owner through the process of assessing prospective retrofit candidates based on a set of clear-cut criteria – and will help the owner make the best decisions.

An Objective Eye: Key Evaluation Criteria

Once the owner has selected the team and they’ve jointly scouted for and identified a few potential retrofit candidates, it’s time to objectively weigh the options. This step means taking an in-depth look at what’s “under the hood” of a given building and considering how well it meets the project goals. Think of it like bringing along a qualified mechanic to inspect the used car you’re considering buying. It may cost more up-front paying for the mechanic’s time but could well save you from making a costly decision in the long run.

There are at least 8 major criteria that should be carefully assessed on every data center candidate. They include:

  • Roof Structural Capacity. Data centers require roofs with a high structural capacity since equipment and heavy systems are often hung from or attached to the roof. Depending on the building’s former use, the roof may not be up to the task and could be a big-ticket upgrade. For data centers, a roof rating of over 35 lbs./sq. ft. is best; 25-20 lbs./sq. ft. is good; and less than 15 lbs./sq. ft. falls squarely in the “bad” category.
  • Floor Capacity. The racks and computer equipment that go into data centers demand a high floor capacity, something you typically won’t find when converting from an office building, call-center, multi-story structure or the like. Retrofitting this infrastructure is costly and may require tearing down and starting from scratch. For a rule of thumb, a building with a floor capacity of over 250 lbs./ft. is best; 125-200 lbs./ft. is good; and 125 lbs./ft. lands in the “bad” category.
  • Structural Code. There have been three major building code revisions in the last 10 years or so, including in 2010, 2013 and 2016. This means selecting a building constructed prior to 2010 may require extensive structural changes to bring it up to current standards. Buildings constructed between 2010 and 2013 are evaluated as “good” and require more minor changes, while the “best” rating in this category are buildings designed to the latest uniform building code standards of 2016.
  • Structural System. Hand-in-hand with evaluating a building’s structural code is its type of structural system. Post-tensioned or truss systems, found in buildings constructed during the 1980s and 1990s, are poor candidates for cost-effective retrofits, requiring extensive reinforcing and rebuilding. Moment frame buildings are better, while steel frame structures using buckling restraining brace frames (BRBs) are ideal candidates in high seismic zones like California. In addition, know the Importance Factor assigned to a given structure, as it will indicate how much structural redesign will be required to bring the new data center up to the necessary performance standards.
  • Mechanical & Electrical Equipment and Infrastructure. Two other key evaluation criteria are the age and condition of the existing building’s MEP equipment and its MEP infrastructure. Owners should understand that a former office building’s MEP system typically will not approach what is needed for data center usage and thus will likely require complete replacement. However, conversion of a former semiconductor facility or similar technical facilities may not require such extensive changes, depending on the age of the system. The rule of thumb: mechanical/electrical systems 15 years old or older score poorly in this category; 10-15 years old may be considered good depending on the type of facility it was; and less than five years old falls into the good category.
  • Watt Density. The power density per square foot of the existing building is another key measurement. The trend is to put the highest load in the smallest space. Current density trends favor more than 150 watt/sq. ft. as the best performance criteria, while 100-150 watt/sq. ft. is considered “good,” and less than 100 watts/sq. ft. is bad and will require major upgrades.
  • Raised Access Floor. Raised access floors are part of most modern data centers. If the building is an older one, even if it has raised access floors, they are considered obsolete. That’s because modern rolling load capacity of the cabinets require raised access floors to be at least 36 inches high with a 3000-lb. load capacity. Replacement of raised access flooring is a big-ticket item that can run between $40-$50 per square foot on the West Coast, and $20-$25 per sq. ft. on the East Coast.

Bringing it All Together for a Successful Outcome

Armed with realistic expectations, understanding what constitutes success in meeting their project goals, assisted by a well-qualified team, and having thoroughly vetted and attained hard data on what each potential building candidate offers, the data center developer is now ready to make a well-informed decision. The savvy owner and project team also knows that since data center demands are constantly evolving, building flexibility into their project whether new or a retrofit is another essential consideration.

Technically and logistically demanding, the design and development of data centers will always present challenges as well as bottom-line opportunities for the owner. A smart approach goes a long way toward setting your next data center project up for success.

Built by employees, Austin’s net-zero office becomes first WELL-certifiedworkplace in the city.

“The barn doors at the Innovation Room by Austin-based wood artist Aaron Michalovic are my personal favorite design element,” Jason Carr, who serves as project superintendent. Photo courtesy of Peter Molick

Since 1994, DPR Construction has had a home in the Austin, growing its scope to projects ranging from tenant improvements to landmark jobs that have dramatically altered the downtown skyline.

Now, it has a new office that even better aligns DPR’s approach to business with the vibrant Austin community.

DPR’s Austin office is now in the up-and-coming East Side. The newly-built office building, located off Comal Street not far from the popular 6th street district, is slated to be the first WELL-certified office in the city while also pursuing Zero Net Energy certification. It proudly reflects DPR’s self-perform work culture and values, as well as the personality of Austin.

In a city where environmental care is boasted just as much as stock market returns, being “green” is no longer good enough when it comes to standing out in this community. Thankfully, sustainability plays a very important role in the way DPR operates. From local community initiatives in the places where it builds to decreasing its own operational environmental footprint, sustainable building operations is embedded in DPR’s DNA.

With the move to Austin’s East Side neighborhood, DPR is strategically positioning itself to be a groundbreaking presence in the area by showing what is possible for sustainability, while being closely integrated in a community with a firm grasp on that value.

“Making the East Side DPR’s new home is special for a number of reasons,” said DPR’s Austin Business Unit Leader Bryan Kent. “Aside from East Austin’s growth, the thriving entertainment district, the eclectic local business and diverse community, the Foundry’s location offers a new proximity to many of our clients, partners and projects.”

Built by DPR employees and designed by Interior Architects, the building marks the fifth net-zero energy office built by the company across the country (DPR recently added its sixth, in Sacramento). Not only does this effort have a positive impact on the neighborhoods they reside in, but systems and sustainable measures tested in these “living labs” allow for replication and inspiration on other projects. It also allows the chance to implement more efficient technologies that may emerge in the future.

Austin’s iconic “I love you so much” wall mural, with a DPR twist of course, is featured in the front lobby. Photo courtesy of Peter Molick

“The overall environment of the space is collaborative, inviting, and open. The barn doors at the Innovation Room by Austin-based wood artist Aaron Michalovic are my personal favorite design element,” said Jason Carr, project superintendent. These doors add a striking visual that greets employees and visitors upon entry along with a floor-to-ceiling plant wall and a tribute to one of Austin’s most iconic and photographed features, an ‘I love to build so much’ mural.

Pursuing LEED® Platinum for Commercial Interiors from the United States Green Building Council

While the building is already targeting LEED Gold certification, DPR’s space within it is aiming higher.

In collaboration with IA, DPR designed the office with features that should enable Platinum certification, such as the use of locally sourced materials, a recycling program, energy efficient equipment that complies with Energy Star, and a long-term commitment to the space (a 10-year lease). Skylights bring daylight to interior and limited use of volatile organic compounds in interior paints, coatings, and flooring – avoiding the production of harmful and unpleasant aromas in the office – also help the space go above and beyond.

The key to a WELL workplace is a kitchen that promotes healthy nutrition, natural lighting, and recycling features. Photo courtesy of Peter Molick

Pursuing WELL Certification™ from the International WELL Building Institute

Enjoyment is significantly reflected in the new space. And a crucial aspect of daily enjoyment for a progressive community like Austin is the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. It’s no secret that a major factor in supplementing or sabotaging that goal is a healthy workplace, designed and built to support the health of its occupants.

The office is designed to give employees and guests a space that will generally enhance, not compromise, their health and wellness.

“Having had the opportunity to work in a WELL-certified DPR office and a non-WELL-certified DPR office, I am surprised and inspired by the impact it has on myself and my fellow employees’ day to day life,” said Lexie Hood, who is a part of the Preconstruction team. “WELL office spaces are brighter, quieter, and overall more pleasant. We spend so much time in our offices, it makes such a difference to feel comfortable, clean and healthy.”

Key features including circadian lighting design, ergonomic workspaces, acoustic planning, healthy eating promotion, activity incentive programs for employees, and visually-delighting art installations celebrating self-perform capabilities and the local community will enable this new space to achieve WELL Certification

“It’s a different energy around the office,” said Nick Moulinet, who sits on Austin’s Business Unit Leadership Team. “You see a greater level of personal interaction and palpable sense of pride in what we have accomplished to get here. We want this to be a place that everyone feels welcome, whether you are coming in from a job site or visiting from another office. I think the consensus is that the entire team nailed it.”

“We want this to be a place that everyone feels welcome, whether you are coming in from a job site or visiting from another office.” Photo courtesy of Peter Molick
A DPR Build Up intern on her job site
DPR’s Build Up interns spend time on the front lines of construction, learning about the field while still in high school. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Now in its third year, DPR’s Build Up Internship brought 23 high-achieving, STEM-leaning high school students to the front lines of construction management. In the video below, we spoke to members of our current class and some program alums to hear about their experiences. We also discussed the program and its goals with Diane Shelton, who leads DPR’s philanthropic efforts.

Why a program to target high school students, rather than just one for traditional college internships?

We want to capture student’s attention while they are still forming ideas about their educational paths. Construction Management is a wonderful career outlet for students interested in STEM areas but is rarely included in school curriculum and career events. There are lots of programs to inspire youth to pursue coding, gaming, design and engineering. We have a unique ability to share our love for technical construction, problem-solving, and collaboration. We can provide students with the first-hand experience of being part of a team that makes a building project come to life and affects a community for generations.

What’s your favorite success story of the program so far?

Well, we hope success plays out over the next four to five years, as graduates of the Build Up internship transition from college to career. In the meantime, we’ve already had more than one intern select their college major based on their summer experience and advice from mentors. More generally, it’s been fulfilling to see the interns’ confidence grow throughout their internships. At the start of the summer, Build Up interns are always a bit timid. By the end of the eight weeks, their confidence levels are off the charts. They walk their jobs, ask questions, speak up in meetings and often perform at the same level as the college interns.

What feedback do you get from professionals in the field working with these interns?

People can’t believe how mature and focused the students are as high school juniors and seniors. The interns’ inquisitiveness and enthusiasm for day-to-day activities on the project rubs off on the project team. More than one mentor has said that the experience of mentoring a high schooler reminded them of why they fell in love with construction and that it rekindled their fire for building.

What’s next for Build Up?

Our goal is to continually scale the program as much as makes sense, keeping the right balance between the number of qualified interns, suitable mentors and jobsites capable of providing a meaningful internship experience. The program focus and curriculum will evolve based on feedback from interns, mentors, and from nonprofit organizations we work with to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the students and our industry.