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.

SPW General Superintendent Pete Catalano has been instrumental in bringing DPR’s New Jersey office online and helping to forge a strong SPW crew in the Northeast. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

SPW General Superintendent Pete Catalano has a goal: to leave something behind. Getting his start as a carpenter almost four decades ago, he has always focused on doing great work. And over the past nine years he has put this focus to work at DPR, an organization that empowers him to be a more confident communicator and contributor. He has been instrumental in bringing DPR’s New Jersey office online and helping to forge a strong SPW crew in the Northeast. For Pete, it’s not just about building structures, it’s about crafting a great team to strengthen DPR.

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

Catalano: I’m an SPW superintendent for DPR in the Northeast—mainly in New Jersey, but sometimes in Boston and Virginia if they need me. I started out 35 years ago with a union company that self-performed carpentry. I’ve run my own business and worked for a large drywall company. Then, I decided I wanted to be a superintendent who ran the entire job, and DPR put me in that position. I never dreamed the opportunity would turn out the way it did.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to build/type of project to work on?

Catalano: I like when we get into buildings that are already occupied. We go through special measures to get things done and to work with the occupants, and we’re extra careful with how we conduct ourselves. But what I like the best is building from the ground up—starting out with nothing, seeing something come up out of the ground, and leaving something behind.

For Catalano, the keys to success at DPR include skill in your trade and the abitility to anticipate and solve problems. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

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

Catalano: The people and the challenges. We work with people we’ve worked with before, and also a lot of people we’ve never worked with. But we’re all working toward a common goal, and we align ourselves to get to that goal. With DPR, I’ve had the opportunity to work with people in different parts of the country, which was really cool. That’s what I like the most, figuring out who plays where to get the work done.

Q: What are you most proud of/what is your proudest moment at DPR?

Catalano: Bringing an office to New Jersey so everybody here could have a home base. I think that was a huge step for us in New Jersey. I ran that job as superintendent, and my team did all the carpentry work. That’s probably what has made me most proud. Everyone has a home to go to every day. It’s great to be in on the ground floor of SPW here, building the group up from nothing. That’s really my passion here. I want to get the SPW group running strong for DPR so that when I ride off into the sunset, I know that I left something behind.

Catalano says, “What I like the best is building from the ground up—starting out with nothing, seeing something come up out of the ground, and leaving something behind.” Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: How have you grown since you started here?

Catalano: DPR has allowed me to learn how to communicate better because of the position I’m in. I’m in the trenches every day, yet I can go into the office and sit down with our business unit leader to figure things out. As a person, I’ve grown a lot. It’s not about the project size, but about understanding how the business works from top to bottom. I’ve grown by leaps and bounds in that way. One of the other superintendents told me, “When we first met, you were only about doing your job. Now you’re coming up with ideas about how to do things better.” When you start a job, you’re just focused on doing the job. As you get more confident, you can contribute more. Because DPR is confident in my abilities, I feel empowered to contribute to the success of the company.

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

Catalano: You absolutely must be skilled at your trade, to hone your skills and learn from the more experienced people. Our level of skill tells our customers they are getting quality work on a building. You also have to be a good problem solver. Our jobs are always a little different, so we have to think on our feet and anticipate problems before they happen. Awareness and skill are very important.

The trust DPR places in Catalano’s abilities has empowered him to make ever greater contributions to the success of the company. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

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

Catalano: First, to learn everything you can about the trade you’re in. Second, to learn as much as you can about the other trades. No matter what your role, you need to get actual boots-on-the-ground, field experience. That’s where you really learn this industry, by getting out in the field and asking a bunch of questions. Experienced people in the field are always willing to help those just getting their start.

As Pete starts his drive home to the Jersey Shore each evening, he takes pride in knowing he is leaving behind great things he had a hand in creating—great buildings and a great team.

Each year, DPR searches for the best and brightest students to participate in the company’s internship program. Interns can work in a variety of fields, including safety, marketing, innovation, data and development, preconstruction, self-perform work and more.

To celebrate our multi-talented interns, DPR holds an annual photo contest. Interns submit their favorite shots, giving insight into the breadth of experiences they’ve had on active projects across the country. We asked the winners to tell us a little bit about their time with DPR this summer. Join us in celebrating Sydney, Nabeel and Jasmin!

Sydney Buck takes home three wins with photos from a coastal project in San Diego, California.

Buck: Oceanside Beach Resort (OBR) is a two-hotel project right off the beautiful beach of Oceanside, CA. This summer I was able to conduct pricing exercises, write RFIs, manage the model rooms, and help facilitate MEP coordination for the project. I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with an amazing team on a dream beach project! {The crane photo} was taken atop the South Block tower crane which soars 120ft in the air over OBR. Kyle Christy, the safety manager at OBR, took the photo using a UAV while I was in the trolley car at the end of the boom.

Nabeel Shahid wins second place with a photo called “Man of the Fire’s Watch!” taken at a project in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Shahid: It was summer time and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience with DPR. I had an opportunity to work for one of our great clients, United Therapeutics, to renovate and upfit lab space. The renovation of 14,000-sq.-ft. space included the addition of a loading dock and freight elevator, various facade repairs, and impressive internal structural reinforcements. The picture captioned ‘Man of the Fire’s Watch!’ is a moment where we are shooting shear studs through the second floor above to reinforce the soon to be clean room floor. Once set and mortared, the studs will transfer force between the steel section and the concrete slab that can hold up to 60 pounds per square foot.

Jasmin Ocampo is the third place winner with a photo from a concrete pour in Sacramento, California.

Ocampo: My name is Jasmin Ocampo, and I am going into my senior year of college at CSU Long Beach, as a construction management major. This summer I have been working at the Mira Loma High School Science Building project in Sacramento. I have been working on anything and everything, from As-Builts to BIM coordination to Primavera. There is a great team here in Sacramento and I am glad to have been a part of it.

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you for spending your summers with DPR!

Office Incorporates Material Never Before Used in Sacramento for a Building’s Structure

In an area famed for its fertile farmland, a new type of green initiative has been taking root as DPR Construction puts the finishing touches on its innovative new office space at 1801 J Street in Sacramento. When DPR opens a new office, it aims to forge a new path for sustainability, creating “living labs” to show what is possible in green and healthy workplace design. In Sacramento, DPR is manifesting that by incorporating a material never before used for a building’s structure in the city: mass timber with cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels. A renewable resource, mass timber can be an integral part of a low-carbon development; for this project, it was vital to DPR meeting its goals for sustainable design, as well as achieving LEED® Platinum and WELLTM certification standards.

For its new Sacramento home, DPR purchased an existing property for re-use, adapting it to be net-zero energy. Photo courtesy of Marshall Andrews

In a move that itself demonstrates the “reduce, reuse and recycle” mantra of conservation, DPR purchased an existing property for re-use, utilizing a design by SmithGroup to transform it into DPR’s new Sacramento home. The existing 28,833-sq.-ft. midtown property’s two buildings are targeting Zero Energy Certification (ZNE) from the International Living Future Institute. To achieve ZNE, the office will offset its energy use via on-site photovoltaic solar energy generation and ban the use of any combustibles, relying on electrical energy alone. Key to DPR’s ability to meet sustainable design goals for this project was the incorporation of mass timber construction with cross-laminated timber panels made up of pressed, dried timber boards stacked at right angles and glued together with non-toxic adhesive—a material not previously used in this manner in Sacramento.

Mass timber products are engineered for loads similar in strength to structural materials like concrete and steel, but they allow crews to build tall, with a lighter, natural, low-carbon and high-quality material. This effort sheds light on the possibilities for the region’s aging building stock, and it showcases how incorporating wood in an exciting, sustainable manner can benefit commercial projects.

Wood Elements Deliver Strength, Resiliency While Reducing Carbon Footprint

From a structural perspective, CLT and mass timber elements provide high-strength, resilient systems capable of long spans and significant wind and seismic force resistance. At the time of design review, Sacramento building codes did not yet recognize these systems for use as lateral force-resisting elements, so design teams reached beyond existing codes to demonstrate equivalent or superior performance with CLT. They made use of the many years of research and testing conducted by organizations such as WoodWorks, FP Innovations, ANSI/APA and Structurlam to navigate code, design and construction issues. It is also the first multi-story shear wall application of CLT in the State of California.

Mass timber elements provide high-strength, resilient systems capable of long spans and significant wind and seismic force resistance. Photo courtesy of Marshall Andrews

From a sustainability perspective, mass timber offers even more benefit. Because of its use in this structure, the embodied carbon is estimated to be lower by 170 metric tons than comparable structures using traditional materials. Further, it is estimated that US & Canadian forests grow enough wood for this project in only 12 seconds, highlighting the current availability of wood product. And it’s not just the timber; the building utilizes mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems to reduce energy use vs. baseline by 45%, with 424 photovoltaic panels for an annual production of 265,178 kWh/year. In the sunny Central Valley, this is projected to yield 107% of onsite energy needs annually. A 9.8 kWh battery backup system is included for added resiliency during system outages and to serve as a community hub in the event of natural disaster.

Exposed Timber Provides Unique Connection to Nature

Exposed timber also provided DPR with the opportunity to create a high-end, modern office environment that showcases not only its skill but also its environmental stewardship. Wood elements also accomplish something other building materials cannot—they have the unique ability to connect people to the natural environment. This unique combination of attributes provided advantages not offered by other building systems. The challenge was to make full use of these benefits in a manner most compatible with the existing concrete and masonry structure. It is here that CLT framing became the clear choice.

Overall, the building reduces energy use by 45% and is projected to yield 107% of onsite energy needs annually. Photo courtesy of Marshall Andrews

Mass timber also means the application of interior finish materials is unnecessary, helping to limit the amount of toxic materials present. Exposed wood also brings nature into the space by creating a tactile experience and a healthy indoor air quality. The sense of biophilia, the connections humans subconsciously seek with the rest of life, is reinforced by Solatubes® on the roof to diffuse light and bring in anti-glare, natural light, operable windows that highlight the local microclimate’s Delta Breeze, and material finishes with familiar patterns and textures, such as wood, stone, hexagons, bubbles and wool. The second story terrace engages with the community in the “City of Trees” that is Sacramento, and can be accessed through a new communicating stair from Level 1 to Level 2. The stair uses a CLT landing and old growth Douglas Fir treads and risers.

The unusual application of mass timber in this project pushed the boundaries of what is possible with the material and challenged the entire design and consultant teams. When considering the massing, the perception of the structure in three dimensions, the design concept called for the placement of a distinct pavilion atop the historic building to help define the exterior shape. The use of mass timber as a way to distinguish the pavilion addition from the rest of the existing building created a recognizable stark contrast consistent with the design scheme.

Exposed wood also brings nature into the space by creating a tactile experience and a healthy indoor air quality. Photo courtesy of Marshall Andrews

A Continued Commitment to Sustainable Design

DPR has long been committed to green building and sustainable design, and this project further demonstrates this. Originally constructed in 1940 and renovated in 1993, this adaptive re-use will house the DPR office, with open office seating areas, an active/addressable seating plan, meeting rooms, break rooms, open collaborative areas, focus areas, a training room, lounge spaces and other special use spaces. This design allows DPR to provide leasing opportunities on the ground level, a move that will not only activate J Street but will also connect DPR to the community at large. While the west building is a two-story structure that received extensive interior and exterior improvements, the single-story east building received a full second story addition constructed entirely of mass timber.

As an active member of the US Green Building Council since 1999, DPR has constructed green/LEED™-certified projects for various customers across the nation. In 2003, DPR completed construction of its 52,300-sq.-ft., high-performance office building in Sacramento, a ground-up facility that was designated the first privately owned LEED™ project in the Central Valley.

Nestled at the edge of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, an area famed for innovation, the popular suburban community of Cary consistently ranks among the nation’s most desirable places for active families. It is here that UNC Healthcare Panther Creek is embracing prefabrication to bring its new ambulatory surgery center online more quickly, addressing the growing community’s need for greater access to healthcare. By using a robust virtual design and construction program along with the use of prefabricated plumbing, electrical, and conduit materials, as well as tilt-up walls, DPR Construction is able to deliver the project one to two months quicker than if using traditional methods.

A robust virtual design and construction program coupled with prefabricated materials helps deliver UNC Healthcare’s new ambulatory surgery center more quickly than traditional methods. Photo courtesy of Mindy Hetman

“The real story here goes deeper than the prefabrication itself. It was really about the modeling and coordination efforts done before we even stepped foot onsite,” says Superintendent Daniel Wrenn. “All penetrations, all hangers and embeds were already in place before we poured any slabs or decks. The day after we poured the deck, we were able to start the rough-in—in-wall and overhead. Normally, you’ve got weeks of layout and putting up your hangers before you can put the first piece of material up. Instead, our approach saved a lot of time.”

Modeling was instrumental in streamlining production of prefabricated materials off site, so when it came time to put the materials in place there was no question of placement or tie-ins. DPR crews were able to virtually tilt in the wall panels ahead of time, before fabrication, allowing them to identify any imperfections or misalignments in the embeds ahead of time. Additionally, laser scanning allowed for verification of embed placement on site. If embeds were even a couple of inches off, the information could be relayed to the project team and the trade partner for quick adjustment, eliminating schedule risks. Catching potential misalignments ahead of time creates significant time and money savings versus dealing with errors later in the field.

Modeling was instrumental in streamlining production of prefabricated materials off site so that when it came time to put the materials in place there was no question of placement or tie-ins. Photo courtesy of Mindy Hetman

Modeling was also used to map out plumbing, electrical and conduit locations before these materials were fabricated. Copper pipes and fittings used in construction were tagged for specific locations for shut-off valves—all based on the modeling. Hard pipe is typically stick built in the field, with electricians bending pipe on site after boxes are roughed in. At Panther Creek, hard pipe was built off site according to the model. Electricians also traditionally install one stick of conduit at a time, but the modeling, coordination, and prefab efforts here allowed racks of 12 conduits to be installed at once. Fabrication work being done in the shop rather than on site cut down significantly on labor, accelerated the schedule, and reduced exposure to safety risks. “Prefab has been around for years,” said Project Manager Cameron Martin. “But these are new methods of employing it.”

Fabrication work being done in the shop rather than on site cut down significantly on labor, accelerated the schedule, and reduced exposure to safety risks. Photo courtesy of Mindy Hetman

Says Wrenn, “You couldn’t have done the prefabrication like our trades did without the modeling and bringing all the trades into the process. The trades used the Trimble system before the actual concrete was poured on any of the decks, and they were able to do the in-wall rough-in before the walls were studded.” Relationships with appropriate trade partners, such as plumbing contractor Environmental Air Systems and electrical contractor Cooper Electric, also helped in DPR’s success at Panther Creek.

Working under a tight schedule, DPR leveraged its relationships with important trade partners and brought its expertise in BIM modeling and coordination to the table to help deliver an excellent facility with cost efficiency and improved safety ever at the fore. The 96,700-sq.-ft. tilt-up medical office building, which includes a new ambulatory surgery center, imaging suites, pharmacy, and multiple medical clinics is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.

Coming together under the Arizona sun, DPR Construction joined Arizona State University (ASU), leaders from Mayo Clinic and community leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking of ASU’s Health Future Center (HFC). With completion scheduled for October 2020, this greenfield project represents another step towards the future of healthcare in Phoenix.

DPR Construction joined Arizona State University, leaders from Mayo Clinic and community leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking.

A Clear Vision of Future Care

HFC will be a 150,000-square-foot, three-story ground up medical learning facility adjacent to the Mayo Clinic. The new facility will provide the surrounding communities with new technology including a med-tech innovation accelerator, biomedical engineering and informatics research labs, and an education zone. In addition, it will provide a new, innovative nursing program model where students are taught to treat patients through a whole health model. Based on the strength of a decade-long relationship with ASU, DPR was chosen to kick off the development and construction of the first building on this new breakthrough campus.

HFC will be the blending point between Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care, a team brought together with the goal of transforming medical education and health care in the U.S.

The new facility will provide the surrounding communities with new technology including a med-tech innovation accelerator, biomedical engineering and informatics research labs, and an education zone.

“Having the opportunity to work alongside two industry leaders, such as Mayo and ASU, and deliver a world-class research facility that will transform the medical education field and improve the lives of future generations is what I am most excited about for myself and for DPR,” said DPR’s Casey Helburg, who serves as project manager.

The Power of Preconstruction

Determined to deliver ASU’s vision for the new medical facility, DPR’s preconstruction team collaborated with the design team to better deliver accurate estimates of each program type (user group of the space) and its components (value of materials) during early design stages. This level of precision accurately identifies where the budget is being allocated at any given stage of design—providing real-time information and the opportunity to make key decisions for the project earlier.

“Normally our program estimate is by program space, but our estimator, Shashi Sriram, developed an estimate down to the room space. Basically, she could sort the estimate by over 400 rooms, which is such a granular level of information at programming, but was extremely useful information,” said Cassie Robertson, who serves as the project’s preconstruction manager. “When the project partners were making early program adjustments it was easy to measure out the changes at a higher level which was the first time we were able to do that.”

HFC will be a 150,000-square-foot, three-story ground up medical learning facility adjacent to the Mayo Clinic.

Robertson and Sriram communicated in real time with ASU about the interior build-out cost, MEP cost and total tenant improvement cost before the start of schematic design. These benefits allowed ASU to collaborate efficiently with the design and construction team to iterate multiple estimating scenarios in a matter of one to three days.

Creating a Vision Together

During the groundbreaking ceremony, the Mayor of Phoenix, Vice Mayor and the CEO of Mayo Clinic shared their personal stories to set the stage for what the HFC really means to the City of Phoenix and the impact it will have on the biomedical industry.

“We think that the two of us together can be the corpus or the center or the anchor of what could evolve to be something that hasn’t yet developed in this country and hasn’t yet developed anywhere in the world, and that is the broadest focused health futures place,” said ASU President, Michael Crow.

The Desert Ridge area is north of where most Valley construction activity is taking place. The greenfield plot, however, will serve as a focal point for future development.

“Having the opportunity to work alongside two industry leaders, such as Mayo and ASU, and deliver a world-class research facility that will transform the medical education field and improve the lives of future generations is what I am most excited about for myself and for DPR,” said DPR’s Casey Helburg, who serves as project manager.
For Drywall Foreman Fedor Carrillo, a job isn’t worth doing unless it’s done right and exceeds customer expectations. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

“Fedor Carrillo was one of first people in DPR’s Raleigh-Durham location. He really helped build that office,” says DPR Superintendent Bruce Worcester. “He’s very demanding because he wants things done the right way. He’s excellent quality control on a project.” Worcester underscores a significant benefit that DPR’s self-perform workforce delivers: better quality control on DPR’s projects. To Carrillo, a drywall foreman, a job isn’t worth doing unless it’s done right and exceeds customer expectations. In this way, he embodies DPR’s drive to be a truly great builder.

Q: How did you come to work at DPR?

Carrillo: I started at DPR in November of 2007. I had been working for another construction company and had just finished a project when a friend told me DPR was looking for people. I started here as a carpenter, and after a couple years they gave me the opportunity to become a foreman and gave me a lot of training to move into that.

Before that, in 1999, I had to leave El Salvador because it was dangerous. The government was unstable. I lost my family and was on my own at 13, stocking soda on shelves to earn money, then driving a truck and a city bus. When I came to America, I worked hard to become successful here, and I felt so thankful to have a company like DPR see my hard work and give me more opportunity. I try to let younger people see that if you work hard and do the right thing, it will open doors. I try to set a standard for the younger people.

Q: What is the most challenging thing you’ve work on?

Carrillo: Right now, we’re finishing up a day care center located inside a client’s campus—we renovated one of the buildings for the employees. The building was occupied while we worked, so that was the big challenge, but we tried to disrupt them as little as possible. We put up temporary walls to separate us from their employees during the day. Many times, we worked at night so the noise wouldn’t bother them. We did a lot of pre-task planning and communicating with the customer here.

Carrillo makes the most of every learning opportunity offered at DPR, and he passes on his knowledge by training others. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What do you love about your job?

Carrillo: I love this company. It’s not like any other one I’ve worked with. Every day I learn something. When I don’t understand something, my bosses help me and give me training. People are willing to be patient and go through everything with you—new technology, iPads, types of drawings. And when I understand it, I train others because it’s important to me that everyone does things right.

Q: How have you grown since you started here?

Carrillo: DPR trusted me with responsibility and let me rise to the challenge. They had confidence in me, and that made me feel like I could do the job. The responsibilities they gave me built my confidence in myself. It made me want to learn more and do a good job, always learning more, becoming better, and taking on more responsibility.

Carrillo attributes his success to the view that “it’s not just about building a better building; it’s about building myself to be better.” Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What is the most important thing you have learned over the course of your career?

Carrillo: To do a good job and to do the right thing. DPR helps me feel successful because it’s not just about building a better building; it’s about building myself to be better. I’ve been able to advance because they trust me to do the right thing.

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

Carrillo: For me, the most challenging thing at first was that I felt like my English wasn’t very good. I wasn’t confident communicating with people. But DPR helped me with that. They gave me training, and there has never been a problem with my work.

Carrillo knows that you have to make the most of every opportunity you are given, and he has worked hard to be successful. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

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

Carrillo: DPR is a good company. My son even works for DPR, in an apprenticeship program here in North Carolina. DPR is about trust and opportunity. They give you opportunities to grow, but you have to make the most of them. I tell young people all the time: You have to work hard so you can use the opportunities to be successful.

Says Carrillo, “I feel so thankful to have a company like DPR see my hard work and give me more opportunity.” Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Fedor Carrillo makes the most of the trust DPR places in him, to always work in the best interest of the project, the customer and DPR—empowering him to be a great builder. Says Worcester, “We’re here to build good people, not just good buildings. Fedor has always met each challenge and advanced. It’s enriching for us to see that success.” It’s not just about experience and skill sets; it’s about zeal and drive. Great people make great things happen.

“Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, story-tellers, and singers of song.” – Pam Brown

The DPR family is growing! As employees become fathers/father figures throughout the years, we watch as our friends take on new roles that transform who they are. This year for Father’s Day, we are celebrating the first-time dads of DPR. We reached out to employees who have entered fatherhood over the past year and asked, “What kind of father/father figure do you want to be?”

The responses show the uniqueness and heart of our employees, who help us change the world not only through the buildings we build, but the people we grow.