Across DPR Blog

February 27, 2015

Newport Beach ‘School of Construction’ Builds on Success of Phoenix Event

Approximately 40 elementary school age girls involved with Girls Inc. of Orange County now know a bit more about engineering, design and construction – as well as the opportunities in the STEM fields – thanks to their participation in DPR’s School of Construction event in the Newport Beach office February 20, 2015.

Girls Inc. of Orange County is one of 17 organizations to receive 2015 grants from the DPR Foundation. Photo by Matt Pranzo

The event built on the success of DPR’s inaugural School of Construction launched by the Phoenix office last year. That hands-on learning day, the brainchild of project manager Tim Hyde, guided 100 or so youngsters from two Phoenix area nonprofit organizations through the process of designing and building a doghouse. The ultimate goal of both School of Construction events: to get children excited about construction and related industries.

In Newport Beach, the School of Construction day kicked off Girls Inc.’s Engineering Week (E-Week), which highlights the many opportunities and careers available in the engineering related fields.

“At Girls Inc. we teach the girls a lot about STEM careers because we know women are underrepresented in those fields,” commented Kelli Norris, Elementary Programs Coordinator for Girls Inc. “There are a lot of girls interested in (construction and engineering) but wouldn’t really know there’s a path for them to do that unless they’re given a chance to make connections with companies like DPR and to talk to women who work here.”

The day kicked off with a stretch and flex session. Girls then rotated through four stations, which included: a design station, where they sketched their ideas; a mock-build station, where they built small models of their design; a safety station, where they tried on personal protective equipment, saw a scissor lift demonstration and enjoyed a snack; and finally, a building station, where they instructed adult volunteers in the construction of the dog houses.

At the first station, the girls learned about the design process by sketching their doghouses. Photo by David Cox

A team of approximately 20 DPR volunteers were involved, guiding the girls from station to station and leading the hands-on learning sessions. “They really took the initiative and gave it a lot of careful thought and attention,” King said of the volunteers. “I think they had a great time too.”

DPR volunteers led sessions on design, mock-ups, safety and construction. Photo by David Cox

And by all accounts, so did the girls. One of the participants, Shelby, said her favorite part was designing the doghouse. “Maybe when I’m older I’ll look into designing things,” she said. “I love it here! I want whiteboard walls in my room!”

Some mock-ups were decorated with smiley faces. Photo by David Cox

At the end of the afternoon, all of the girls took home their sketches, their doghouse models and DPR hard hats. They also took with them a new experience to put in their own personal “toolboxes” as they build their knowledge base and increase their awareness about the many possible career paths available to them in the future. 

February 24, 2015

No Restrictions to Success at Milagro Center

Whether it is cultivating the unique capabilities and leadership skills of its employees, or supporting the missions of the nonprofit organizations that it partners with each year, DPR believes in the power of empowerment.

Nowhere is that better illustrated than through DPR’s ongoing relationship with the Milagro Center in South Florida. Established in 1997 to provide art education, academic enrichment and mentoring programs for local at-risk children, youth and families, the organization relies on DPR’s unrestricted grant funding and hands-on involvement to achieve its goals.

This January, the DPR Foundation presented Milagro Center with a $40,000 grant to help fund its important work in the year ahead.

“Milagro Center is extremely fortunate to have DPR as a loyal supporter and even more fortunate that this grant is unrestricted in its use,” commented Barbara Stark, Milagro Center President/CEO. “DPR’s generous support provides Milagro Center the ability to remain flexible as it moves forward in advancing its mission.”

“Just as important as the monetary support is the additional support DPR provides by helping with carpentry projects, providing volunteers and its additional support in the way of event sponsorships,” Stark added. “Without DPR, we can honestly say that Milagro Center would not be able to do what it does best and provide the excellent programming to its students – and have them succeed as they do!”

Success Story

Just one example of that success is a youngster named Brayan, who started at Milagro Center in kindergarten. Born into a Spanish-speaking home where English is his second language, Brayan has struggled with academics at school. He had begun to improve both his social and academic skills with the benefit of attention from Milagro staff and a one-on-one mentor, when he suffered a setback in testing at his school and was held back at the end of the 2013/14 school year. It dealt a major blow to his hard-won self-esteem and confidence.

Milagro Center staff members understand the impact that such academic struggles can have on youngsters like Brayan. As part of its efforts to serve students and provide alternative paths to helping them succeed, the Center had recently started a music program. Though reluctant at first, Brayan finally decided to sign up.

“Studies show that music has an incredibly positive impact on children, and Bryan is absolutely a shining example of that,” Stark said. “Even though he was weeks behind everyone else, he surprised our music teacher and the rest of us. He not only caught up with the lessons, he surpassed everyone. The music teacher has told him he has real talent. This success has renewed his confidence, helped rebuild his self-esteem and even though he still struggles academically, he is returning to the happy, sweet young boy he had previously become.”

DPR’s unrestricted grants were instrumental (no pun intended) in helping Milagro Center develop that music program, supporting the purchase of items such as microphones, mp3 cords and a portable boom box. Future planned purchases include additional musical instrument inventory, among other things.

And in addition to the financial backing it provides, DPR continues to maintain a hands-on presence at Milagro Center. This year that involvement will include expanded focus on career development for teens, with four events planned, as well as continued work with and events planned for the younger students in the program. 

February 18, 2015

The ‘Domino Strategy’ Of Healthcare Renovation & Reuse Projects

It’s no secret that healthcare facility dollars are at an all-time premium. Changes to federal Medicare and Medicaid funding to hospitals, combined with uncertainty about impacts of the Affordable Care Act, mean that now—more so than ever—owners must make every dollar invested in their facilities count.

As capital program budgets have tightened, renovation and adaptive reuse projects have surged. That trend stands in sharp contrast to the early- to mid-2000s, when mega-sized replacement hospital and expansion projects were booming.

Today, healthcare owners with limited dollars are taking smaller “bites at the apple” with targeted, strategically planned, smaller volume renovation and reuse projects.

The focus is on maximizing vital inpatient services by moving them into spaces previously occupied by less urgent ambulatory services and administrative spaces. Those, in turn, are being moved to lower-cost medical office building (MOB) facilities.Valuable hospital space is being reclaimed for high-demand critical patient services like cardiac cath labs, neonatal intensive care beds and more.

‘Domino’ Projects

The strategy behind shifting and reusing space in fully operational facilities may be likened to setting up a game of dominoes. The order in which an owner undertakes each needed renovation project—or domino —impacts the projects immediately before and after it. Place them in the most effective order (or with dominoes, at the correct angle), and they will fall in smooth succession achieving the desired result. Put one out of order or at the wrong angle, however, and the domino trail—the owner’s capital facility budget, that is—may lose momentum and deliver a less satisfying outcome.

So how are successful healthcare owners prioritizing and expending their limited capital dollars to most effectively meet the needs of an ever-growing patient base? And how do they decide which project should take precedence (i.e., how should the dominoes be stacked) to meet both patient demand and their own business objectives?

Savvy owners understand the value of a “big-picture” outlook. Sometimes it can be difficult to see beyond the demands of day-to-day operations, however, to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy.

Early Involvement Adds Value

That is where bringing a highly knowledgeable, experienced team on board early can reap the greatest benefits. The right team can help find efficiencies and preserve capital by setting up the most effective “domino plan” for a series of healthcare remodel and reuse projects in a given facility.

A prime example is the series of successive reuse projects DPR Hardin is performing for a confidential client in Greenville, SC. Commonly referred to as the “domino projects,” DPR Hardin’s work there has included an adaptive reuse of third floor hospital space to create a gastrointestinal (GI) unit for inpatient use. That project was enabled by first moving all outpatient GI functions to an MOB outside the hospital. Another project entailed moving doctors’ office space that previously occupied a wing of the hospital to the nearby MOB, making way for a project to add six more neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) beds.

DPR Hardin similarly is helping Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta strategize and construct the most effective reuse of some of its space. One project is moving administrative and executive offices out of the hospital to an MOB, freeing up hospital space that will be converted into additional neonatal ICU units.

Pinpointing Constructability Issues, Schedule Impacts, Conflicts

At Piedmont Hospital and on other projects, DPR Hardin’s early involvement in the strategic planning and development of healthcare remodel and adaptive reuse projects is delivering clear benefits. By coming on board from the beginning and working collaboratively with the owner and design team, DPR Hardin helped uncover constructability factors related to existing conditions of previously occupied space. The team also helped the owner leverage efficiencies in moving or adding building systems or relocating medical gas lines—elements typically associated with healthcare reuse projects.

An experienced contractor also offers capability to survey or laser scan existing space to uncover unknown impacts of a proposed project. That was the case on another project for the confidential client in Greenville, SC—the vertical expansion and relocation of a portion of the MRI department.

Designed to relocate two MRIs from the basement level to three floors above to better serve inpatient needs, the project was planned to go directly above the hospital’s kitchen. Existing conditions of the ceiling space above the kitchen were unknown, however. Brought on board early, DPR Hardin laser scanned the space and discovered that extensive structural work would be needed. The project team was able to devise a seamless solution well in advance of start of construction to avoid disrupting the vital 24/7 kitchen operations.

The bottom line? Having the right domino strategy in place can make a big impact in the successful completion of renovation and adaptive reuse projects. 

February 10, 2015

BIM-Enabled Virtual Reality at VA Hospital Renovation

At a renovation project within a working hospital at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCUHS), DPR is using Oculus Rift goggles to let end users virtually walk through BIM mockups. The team broke ground on this beta technology, which was originally created for the video games industry.

Using the goggles, end users (doctors and nurses, in this case) can explore the finished space and give feedback before construction begins. Given the portability of the system, the team can set up user feedback sessions easily and quickly, which is essential given the hospital staff's limited availability as well as space constraints.

How has the team's use of this technology benefitted the project?

  • Creating an immersive virtual mockup using Oculus Rift cost just a fraction—less than 15%—of what was originally budgeted for a physical mockup.
  • Virtual walk-throughs yielded more than 35 suggested changes (including added storage space and moving equipment).

Get the full story here.


Photo Credit: Mollie Shackleford

February 5, 2015

Tracking Green at Space Designed for Net-Zero Energy

At DPR's San Francisco office-—which is designed for net-zero energy—it's all about collecting data and using it for optimization. Like each DPR green/net-zero energy building before it, DPR will use the collected building data to improve the next space. 

The office uses 3 primary data collection and building management technologies, which include:

  • Integrated Honeywell building management system—the “brains” of the building;
  • Lucid Building Dashboard®— the key energy use “benchmarking” tool; and
  • LEED Dynamic Plaque™—a new technology that tracks LEED certification. 

Learn more about how DPR is using these technologies to optimize the high-performing building in this article.


DPR's office is one of the earliest adopters piloting the new LEED Dynamic Plaque™. Photo Credit: Lyzz Schwegler

February 2, 2015

DPR Project Teams Ramp up Friendly Competition for a Good Cause in Phoenix

There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to make a community service project just a bit more fun.

That’s what volunteers from two DPR project teams discovered January 26th when they took on the construction of two separate wooden handicap ramps for needy local residents as part of Rebuilding Together’s Arizona Ramp Project. Five- and six-person teams from the Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center (BGSMC) and the Arizona Center for Law and Society (ACLS) projects squared off to see who could deliver the best quality ramp the highest quality at two nearby mobile home sites.

The service event offered project team members a hands-on opportunity to get involved in the community and build comradery with co-workers for a good cause, according to DPR project engineer Tyler Ausherman, who helped organize the project for DPR and serves as liaison with Rebuilding Together. “It was nice to see the support of so many people from the project teams and their willingness to participate,” he commented. “Rebuilding Together provided the materials and did a little of the prefab work, and we provided the labor to get it done.”

DPR has been involved with the ramp build program since it first rolled out in the fall of 2013. It was conceived as a way to assist low income, disabled homeowners with a way to easily get in and out of their homes, according to Kate Warren, program manager for Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun. To date, the group has completed more than 60 ramp projects with volunteer groups like DPR, who helped with one of the first group ramp builds in September 2013.

“Having skilled and passionate DPR employees volunteer time helps us meet our mission of keeping low-income seniors safe in their home,” she commented. “The DPR employees have helped us complete tasks that we are unable to complete with our large pool of unskilled volunteers.”

On the most recent DPR ramp build day, nearly a dozen DPR volunteers from the two teams met at 8 a.m. They kicked off the day with donuts and coffee, stretch and flex to loosen up and heard from Rebuilding Together about their organization and a little about the homeowners who would benefit from the projects that day. After picking their respective sites through a game of rock, paper, scissors, the teams got to work.

“Being the construction guys we are, we modified the design just a little bit, then we just put our heads together and went to town,” Ausherman said. His team from Banner Good Samaritan had completed their job by noon. During the morning they had the chance to interact with the homeowner who provided the volunteers with coffee, cookies and lunch – but seeing her happiness with the new ramp was the biggest reward, Ausherman said. “At the end of the day, just to see the smile on her face was awesome.”

As for the friendly rivalry that inspired the day, the ACLS project edged out the BGSMC team for its innovative additions of solar lighting, a patriotic flag and carpentry detail. Both teams were clear winners, however, for delivering a major quality of life improvement to two very grateful homeowners and supporting an organization that is making a big difference in the Phoenix area.

January 30, 2015

Data Centers and Beers…What’s the Connection?

Pint, 6-pack, 36-pack or keg? 

In DPR's latest white paper—The Convergence of Healthcare and IT—the considerations that go into deciding whether to lease or own a data center are compared to buying beer.

Selecting the right data center solution for managing electronic health records—or combination of solutions—has serious business consequences for owners. The right option depends on a company’s size and need. 

Choices range from the "full service data" option of leasing servers from cloud providers (like buying a pint at a bar) to the "do it yourself" option of owning and operating one's own data center (like purchasing a keg). 

Read more here or read the full white paper, written by DPR's Hamilton Espinosa, David Ibarra and Mark Thompson. 


Photo Credit: David Cox

January 28, 2015

MLK Service Day Reinforces DPR’s Connection with American YouthWorks in Austin

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day this Jan. 19, nearly a dozen DPR volunteers joined together with about 150 youth and other volunteers for a day of community service to revitalize a neglected and underdeveloped area of Austin, Texas.  

The American YouthWorks trail maintenance day gave volunteers a chance to help improve their local community by cleaning and sprucing up the historic Burdett Prairie Cemetery and nearby greenbelt trail, which cuts through downtown Austin.

Andy Gabele, project engineer in DPR’s Austin office, orchestrated DPR’s involvement which included 11 volunteers who donated a collective 30 hours to the cleanup project. “We went out there with lawnmowers, clippers and all kinds of landscaping tools and basically just uncovered the cemetery again,” he commented. “From beginning to end it was almost unrecognizable. It was rewarding day for everyone involved, and it made the area safer for the families that live in that community.”

The project represents DPR’s ongoing relationship with American YouthWorks, a nonprofit organization based in Austin. The group offers programs for young people, ages 17 to 28, who want to change their lives through education, workforce training and service to their country. YouthWorks hosts a chapter of the national organization YouthBuild USA, which focuses on preparing young people for careers in the construction industry.

After completing the cemetery and greenbelt cleanup on the service day, volunteers gathered for a pizza lunch where they had the chance to discuss the event and what it meant to them.

“There was a lot of comradery, and it gave DPR a good opportunity to stand up and let them know who we are, why we are involved and to let them know that we are willing to help and be involved with them in the future,” Gabele said. DPR also presented the organization with a $25,000 donation that it had earmarked from the proceeds of its annual golf tournament.

Rachel Matvy, community engagement coordinator for American YouthWorks, reached out to DPR after the event. “Thank you for celebrating MLK Day with us and for all the work you put into making the event great,” she said, noting that the work not only made the neighborhood look nicer but made it a safer place to be as well.

The Austin office plans to pursue additional events and programs with the organization in the year ahead such as helping lead workshops to share best construction and safety practices in the construction industry. “We are looking forward to being involved with them in the future, and I think it’s a great opportunity for us to give back,” Gabele added.

January 20, 2015

A Bird’s Eye View: Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Data Collection

On more than 15 DPR projects nationwide, project teams are reaping the benefits of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or "drones").

Teams are using this technology for data collection. UAVs fly across project jobsites and take up to thousands of pictures. The pictures are then stitched into a large mosaic image, which project teams can use as a map to communicate and collaborate.

Pictured above: The team building the Betty and Bob Beyster Institute for Nursing Research, Advanced Practice and Simulation at the University of San Diego uses their images and video to communicate project updates.

Learn more here: Experience a "Day in the Life" of DPR project teams that use UAVs.

Want to learn even more about UAVs in general? Here's a recent Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) about the phenomenon.

January 13, 2015

Technology Pushing Greater Service (at Lower Cost) for Life of Building

In an in-depth Q&A with DPR's Atul Khanzode, he shares the insight gained through his decade of virtual design and construction (VDC) and lean experience on complex projects. Khanzode leads DPR’s strategic VDC technology initiatives.

"It’s not so much about the specific technologies we’re using, but more about how we are applying those technologies to enhance the delivery process for our customers," he says. 

Khanzode also touches on major challenges facing the industry, what's popular in construction technology and how it's changing the construction industry. 

"The use of tested technologies is playing a key role in adding reliability to the process, allowing us to better predict project outcomes for our customers," he says.


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) are helpful in data collection so teams can track construction progress (just one example of a construction technology trend)