When Doug Woods, Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski (the D, the P and the R) co-founded DPR on July 2, 1990, they wanted to do something different in an industry traditionally resistant to change. They wanted to build an organization that emulated how they personally like to live and work.
Thirty-two years later, as we celebrate DPR’s birthday, we also celebrate our strong sense of purpose. We exist to build great things. Great teams. Great projects. Great relationships. A truly great construction company focused on taking care of people and keeping them safe, transformative quality and innovation, and being integral and indispensable to the communities in which we live and work.
Thank you to all of our employees, families, partners, customers and friends for continuing to stretch, flex and build great things. At a time when the world continues to challenge us all, we are grateful. We appreciate what we have and all that we’ve been able to accomplish by working together and living with purpose.
To learn more about DPR’s culture and history, click here.
Delivering the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building considered the crown jewel of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Mission Bay campus—and part of one of the largest neuroscience complexes in the world—required a special kind of design and construction team.
The team needed to be as skilled at solving highly complex technical design and construction challenges typically associated with healthcare and life science projects. They needed to share the owner’s commitment to moving the needle on innovation and quality, while maintaining an accelerated construction schedule—even in the face of epic challenges like a global pandemic that temporarily shut down the jobsite mid-construction. Finally, they needed to embrace collaboration, transparency and teamwork to help them continuously identify ways to deliver the 282,000-sq.-ft. megaproject smarter, faster and better.
Striking a perfect balance of form and function, design and construction of the complex mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems required a high level of technical expertise.
Design-build MEP subcontractors came on board early in the process to help plan the design and provide constructability input, working closely with DPR, the owner and the architect team. The end result? It is a project packed with “systems, equipment and advanced features that are both beautiful and technical,” according to DPR project manager Cory Abbe.
The facility features half research, half clinical spaces and is equipped to support specialized laboratory work. The MEP scope included 10 large air handlers; installation of a 1.5-megawatt rooftop generator; complex lighting controls and Building Management systems and a 6,000-gallon fuel tank designed to keep the building in full operation for up to 48 hours in the event of an emergency; and a state-of-the-art fire and smoke control system.
As challenges arose during the project, the MEP team worked together to determine which solutions would work best for this project. For instance:
A catwalk was designed and constructed above the top floor research spaces, which required detailed modeling to ensure all valves and controls could be reached easily by facility managers and resolve MEP system clashes before field construction could occur.
Energy Use Intensity models were created evaluating both the systems and the envelope would meet the University’s goals for efficiency
The teamwork with the architects to develop high performing systems necessary for the labs and medical spaces while meeting the high architectural standards for the project including high ceilings, low noise and beautiful aesthetics.
Extra care had to be taken to allow for the ability to wash down for some of the laboratory spaces to accommodate their intended use.
Epoxy floor had to be created with appropriate finishes for the planned usage of some rooms.
The atrium smoke control system is one of the building’s most complicated features. It incorporates six smoke exhaust fans programmed to turn on in the event of a fire. Together, they pull over 200,000 cubic feet of air (or smoke) per minute out of the atrium. A trigger to the VESDA smoke detection system or fire sprinkler system in any part of the six-story atrium, automatically opens the operable first floor windows; drops the 60-foot-long level, six-smoke curtain; and shuts mechanical fire dampers—all while smoke exhaust fans start removing smoke from the air within 30 seconds.
“We conducted several pre-tests to the system, and the third-party certifier was very impressed that we were able to sign it off in 24 hours to achieve Temporary Certificate of Occupancy,” said Abbe.
Effective coordination of the MEP work, along with strong communication with the owner and design team were critical to a successful outcome. The highly collaborative approach taken by the team and co-location in the Big Room helped drive this success.
“We worked together for more than a year-and-a-half, going through many design iterations and changes, to achieve the final interior permit package,” Abbe noted. “We had over 100 bulletins to avoid any surprises, and as we were issuing new bulletins, we incorporated all of the MEP drawings, which really helped things go smoothly.”
Raising the Bar for Quality Craftsmanship
Not only was the interior MEP work created with innovation and precision, DPR’s self-perform craftmanship is on full display throughout the building.
DPR self-perform work (SPW) crews undertook $60 million of trade scope on the project, including all concrete, drywall, ceilings, frames, doors and hardware. Self-performing such a large portion of work on the massive concrete structure not only helped control quality, but also improve on-site safety and productivity.
To accomplish the poured-in-place concrete work, including the concrete foundation pour, the SPW team carefully coordinated its efforts to work around three other major ongoing projects in the immediate vicinity. They scheduled all concrete pours for 1 a.m. to ensure material availability, and simultaneously implemented noise and light mitigation measures to avoid undue disruption to neighboring buildings, which included a UCSF residential facility right next door.
As a defining architectural focal point of the building, the SPW concrete work included the construction of hundreds of exposed concrete columns, seven six-story architectural concrete sheer walls and much more. SPW crews made extensive use of mockups and invested substantial time and effort to understand the many nuances of the design to meet the expectations of the owner, architects and donors, and to deliver the highest quality finish work.
“Our SPW concrete groups worked for almost a year on different recipes to determine the best approach to pouring the concrete and the best mixtures to use to deliver the expected end result,” commented DPR project manager Jeremy Bartle.
Operating in a design-assist capacity, the DPR SPW concrete team played an integral role helping the project fit within the budget, integrating design revisions throughout the entire process, and developing customized and innovative concrete form systems never before used on a DPR project in this region.
Architect Mark Cavagnero, who is widely recognized for his concrete design work, reflected on the high-level of craftsmanship in this marquee facility. “It’s probably the most beautiful concrete work I’ve been involved with over the past 15 or 20 years. The care, the precision and the quality has been beautiful.”
DPR’s drywall group, working in a design-build capacity, developed a strategy to robotically prefabricate over 70% of the interior partitions, and nearly 100% of exterior framing to reduce the project schedule by approximately one month. To leverage this capability even further, DPR collaborated with trade partners to rough-in the MEP in the prefabricated assemblies to further enhance labor savings and reduce site labor constraints. The welded assemblies, developed from a highly detailed BIM model, also contributed to a high-quality and reliable installation.
Some projects by their very nature leave a lasting impact on all who helped bring them to life. The Weill Neurosciences Building will have a life-changing impact on future patients, who will benefit from the important research taking place inside.
What is design-to-build and how does it differ from design-build and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) project delivery methods?
A design-to-build approach expands upon both design-build and IPD contracting to deliver a framework that can apply to any project regardless of size, type or contract mechanism.
Design-build, an umbrella term for contract types that involve early team formation and single point owner contracts, combines design and construction services to create a single point of accountability. Design build encompasses a number of sub-types, including competitive design build, design-build-operate-maintain, and public-private partnership (P3) versions.
While beneficial in its potential to accelerate or overlap phases and streamline contracting, the growth of design-build has been hampered (especially in the U.S.) by perceptions of inherent conflicts of interest and lack of transparency as evidenced by the fact that design-build is not a fully permitted form of contract in all 50 states. Additionally, there has been some anxiety over whether design-build limits owner input on design, which has influenced its use for complex projects
Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)
With a desire to improve the performance of the AEC industry, early proponents of IPD drew from the principles of integrated practice and Lean construction. IPD is based on the involvement of all participants (people, systems, business structures and practices) through all phases of design, fabrication and construction. In an effort to eliminate conflict and improve performance, IPD emphasizes forming a collaborative endeavor to achieve shared project goals, which in turn enables individual success.
There have, however, been some limits to the implementation of IPD, depending on who’s involved and the size of the project. In practice IPD can involve significant front-end investment, both financial and ideological. The usual preference for co-location can pose both logistical and cultural challenges especially in a post-pandemic world. It’s also an approach that does not scale down easily, and as a result, tends to be most effective on large complex projects.
The design-to-build process evolved from the benefits of design-build as an approach to delivering projects that spans the whole design and construction process. Unlike design-build, the structure is provided by a framework process and defined goals in lieu of reliance on contracts and is applicable on all kinds of projects regardless of contract mechanism. Borrowing from the relational alignment focus of IPD and supported by a greater emphasis on process and tools, design-to-build ensures the expertise driving a particular part of the process is available to the entirety of the process, facilitated through a rigorous process of alignment, assessment and evaluation to ensure that expertise is applied where value is added. For example, the project team working on life sciences project was able to achieve zero RFIs on their foundation scope by bringing together all design and engineering partners together to streamline the foundation design, leverage prefabricated components and meet local building code.
A commitment to consistent process enables a data-driven feedback cycle that informs process improvement over time, streamlining the process, supporting earlier and more informed decision making. Design-to-build drives greater ownership and control of outcomes in aesthetics, cost, safety, schedule and quality throughout the project lifecycle. In addition, the design-to-build approach seamlessly integrates a construction technology led methodology by bringing prefabrication and self-performed work expertise forward into conceptual design to enable optimization of the principles of design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA), leading to higher quality implementation, and better alignment with project goals.
Written by Laurel Harrison, design-to-build strategist.
DPR safety manager Amy Duck recently shared her thoughts on the importance of participating in Construction Safety Week 2022 and how it fits into DPR’s overall EHS culture.
If safety is a value every day at DPR, why the need to participate in Construction Safety Week?
Construction Safety Week is an opportunity to celebrate our craft employees and partners and raise awareness on important safety messages. It’s an opportunity for the whole company to come together to acknowledge accomplishments and recognize that safety must be a part of everything we do. This week reinvigorates our efforts and allows us to show gratitude to our teams for choosing to work safely.
The theme for this year’s Construction Safety Week was “Connected. Supported. Safe.” What does that mean?
We are all connected. The things we do affect not only us, but also those around us. Working in a supportive environment fosters a sense of teamwork and shared success, along with an open door of communication that empowers us to speak up and drive positive change on jobsites. Safety is what unites us.
Is mental health safety an important part of DPR’s EHS culture?
Mental health safety is a crucial part of our culture at DPR. Our industry is fast paced and ever-changing. We have all experienced many unexpected changes in the last couple of years. Asking for help can be very hard to do and we want our team to know that we care, we are here to help, and we have resources to support you. Our culture is one that respects the individual and takes care of people. If our workers are not okay, we as a whole are not okay.
How do you and your teams focus on the Fundamentals of EHS in your daily work?
The Fundamentals of EHS are really a way of thinking to help us navigate our days—a focused effort to be deliberate in our approach and to do the right thing for the good of the whole. Each one is just as important as the other. I do love that the first listed fundamental is Safe Mindset because we have to believe in safety, in its value and in our value.
Every day, I learn something new from someone. I learn why they are here, why they believe in safety and what is important to them. When I make that connection, it drives me to continuously improve and create change.
As we celebrate Pride Month, we are inviting you in to hear from DPR employees who share their perspectives on progress they are seeing in the construction industry in support of the LGBTQIA+ community, what it means to them and in what ways the industry still has room to grow.
Carlos Hurtado, Project Manager
I’ve been in construction for about 13 years, and the industry I knew a decade ago has made a lot of progress, namely becoming more inclusive. For years, the industry had a reputation for being antipathetic towards the LGBTQIA+ community, but recently I’ve witnessed the needle moving. The biggest change is recognition that ‘we’ exist and that our sexuality is not a hindrance, but an advantage. Equitable treatment makes us happier employees, managers, partners and coaches, and increases our levels of trust and productivity. People perform better when they can be themselves.
Perhaps the recent increase of allies and diversity at management levels have been the catalyst our industry needed to increase the support and protection that our community has longed for in the past. Personally, the biggest impact for me has been the allies I have encountered at DPR, people who remind me that I should not hide who I am, people who can speak up when I can’t, people who ask me questions and purely understand that being different is a good thing. They see me as a DPR project manager who also happens to be a bisexual cisgender male and sometimes queer.
DPR doesn’t view discussions on inclusion and incorporating nondiscrimination policies to protect our community as a ‘nice thing to do,’ rather as core to our beliefs and values. There is plenty of room for growth, but my hope is that one day those who identify as part of LGBTQIA+ community can feel comfortable working in construction and we won’t have to think twice when talking about our partners or need to correct others when they misgender them, or even if we’ve been misgendered ourselves. The industry is heading in the right direction and every small step counts. It’s not about being okay with change, it’s about being the change.
Chris Clayton, Project Executive
When I started my career 22 years ago, it was the toughest, sternest, best poker face in the trailer that earned respect and accolades from company leadership and client decision makers. Today, I am so pleased to see that collective decision making, collaboration and integration are at the top of the hierarchy of client desires in a project team. We’ve learned that the special sauce of a team operating at a high level is mutual trust and a common understanding of psychological safety.
This means that each individual contributor is seen as a whole human. Employees are accepted completely and valued for their unique career and life experiences that add to the team’s ability to succeed. Within our industry, increased focus on psychological safety and conversations around mental health have had a positive impact on the LGBTQIA+ community. For all of us to do what our industry expects of us, there is no place for discrimination. Rather, the more diverse sets of experience we can draw from, the better off we will be.
Michelle Gray, National Environmental Health and Safety Leader
I started in the construction industry in the late ‘90s. In that climate, the idea to ‘bring your authentic self to work’ was not even a phrase let alone an established practice. We have come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go. The industry has made more progress on the administrative side, as we have more benefits, rights, and allies helping to bring acceptance and move toward understanding. I feel that the craft worker experience, including the ability to feel safe about a non-typical sexual identity or orientation, still needs a lot of work and focused efforts. I am in a place personally with my own acceptance and security, and in working at a company that wants to do better, I feel that I am obligated and privileged to bring my authentic self to work so that I can make it better today, tomorrow and in the future for those generations yet to come.
Tiara Cypress, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager
I have seen many advancements in the construction industry in support of the LGBTQ+ Community. Having a personal investment in DEI,the most meaningful industry changes for me have been celebrating Pride month internally and externally and curating educational and awareness resources for our workforce. Not only because it’s part of my role at DPR, but I hope we continue to create more safe spaces to encourage others to be Out and Proud within our industry and educate people to become allies and better support one another.
Having spent time in both the field and the office, I do feel more comfortable being “out” in the office setting. There, being surrounded by my internal peers, means spending time with those who have had more exposure to learn about DEI. This is where education and awareness, allyship, and bystander intervention become really powerful!
Asking, listening, and speaking about inclusion in the workplace are critical for safe work environments, particularly for the LGBTQIA+ community. Pride Month serves as a time for all of us to celebrate and support living life out loud, without fear of judgment, ridicule, or violence.
Learn more hereabout how you can help advocate for inclusion in the construction industry.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy; Hopewell Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning; John V. Oyler, Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of BeiGene; DPR Construction, IPS, and distinguished guests broke ground on BeiGene’s new manufacturing and clinical R&D center at the Princeton West Innovation Campus. The new innovation hub will focus on developing affordable medicines to improve cancer treatment outcomes. The initial phase of construction includes approximately 400,000-sq.-ft. of biologic pharmaceutical manufacturing space.
“At BeiGene, we are committed to not only delivering innovative and affordable medicines but also to upholding the highest standards of ethics and integrity, operational excellence, and environmental stewardship,” stated John V. Oyler, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of BeiGene.“This commitment applies to everything we do, including the development of BeiGene’s Hopewell project.
Through persistent innovation and challenging the status quo, IPS and our design partners, Van Note-Harvey Associates, Meyer Design, and Mainstay Engineering have worked interactively in developing a comprehensive execution approach focused on value to bring the Princeton West Campus project to reality. Additionally, DPR is self-performing select scopes of work. Leveraging our own forces helps alleviate workforce demands and the labor shortage across the AEC industry.
“We are providing counsel on design partners and consultants, phasing options for construction, and the equipment needed to build an immunotherapy facility in the US,” noted DPR’s Frank Haughey, Project Executive. “The Mid-Atlantic region of the US is a hotspot for pharmaceutical research and manufacturing, and BeiGene will have access to a deep talent pool and thriving business community to support their operation and future growth.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.”
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.”
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’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.
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.”
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.