October 7, 2016

Fire Prevention Week: Fire Safety Begins at Home!

Fire safety is important every day of the year, at home and on our jobsites.

The longest running public health and safety observance on record, Fire Prevention Week began in 1922, and has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls since then, aiming to educate citizens with the information they need to prevent death, injury, property and economic loss caused by fires.   

145 years ago from October 8-9, 1871, what is now known as the Great Chicago Fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres, forever changing the way that firefighters, public officials and citizens thought about fire safety.

Smoke alarms need to be replaced every ten years. (Image courtesy National Fire Protection Association)

Fire safety begins at home. Being informed about the basics could make a difference in protecting you wherever you are – at home, school or work. Below are a few fire safety tips:

  • Check your smoke detector battery: Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms, or no functioning smoke alarms. Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half, but when they fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are disconnected or dead. Replace your smoke alarms every ten years.
  • Have an escape plan: Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most people are asleep. Have an escape plan that includes: two different ways out, someone assigned to help those that need help getting out, someone assigned to call 911 and a safe meeting place outside of the house.
  • Cook with care: Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment. Never leave cooking unattended, wear clothes with short, rolled-up or tight-fitting sleeves and turn pot/pan handles inward on the stove so they can’t be accidentally bumped.  
  • Heat with caution: Just over half of home heating fire deaths result from fires caused by heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding. Keep portable heaters and space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn; unplug them when not in use.
  • Use electricity safely:  Failures or malfunctions in wiring, cords, lighting and other electrical equipment caused an estimated 44,900 home fires in 2013, resulting in 410 deaths and $1.3 billion in direct property damage. Avoid using extension cords when possible, never run them under rugs or carpet and replace and frayed or cracked extension cords. Don’t tamper with your fuse box of use improper-size fuses.

Fires are fast-moving and ever-changing situations, so practice, be prepared and communicate with your loved ones. Safety is a value at DPR, and we want each and every employee to stay safe wherever they are – whether it’s at home or on the jobsite.

More detailed fire safety tips can be found at the National Fire Protection Association.

*All statistics courtesy National Fire Protection Association

October 6, 2016

DPR Atlanta Volunteers Deliver Big Makeover to Boys & Girls Club Facility

Sporting fresh paint, an updated teen center, and new garden and kitchen features to support farm-to-table cooking classes, the Brookhaven Boys & Girls Club in Metropolitan Atlanta is ready to welcome more teens into their program – all thanks to a major facelift completed by DPR volunteers in September.

More than 20 DPR Atlanta employees put their professional skills to good use during the “Service September” makeover project, donating an estimated 250 volunteer hours and $4,500 in materials to complete the needed renovation.

The project included:

  • Moving the teen room to a new location within the center
  • Completely repainting the facility
  • Constructing new garden planter boxes where teens can grow their own fruits and vegetables
  • Donating and assembling a compost facility and a movable kitchen island for use in the teen center

DPR volunteers completely repainted the Brookhaven Boys & Girls Club's teen room in Atlanta. (Photo courtesy Andi King)

Volunteer coordinator Andi King serves on the board of the DeKalb County arm of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, and worked with the organization to identify a project that needed DPR’s unique skill set as technical builders.

DPR self-perform work crews, particularly Jay Campbell and Chris Jones, were instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.

“From the job walk to getting the self-perform guys there, to hardcore woodworking, we couldn’t have done it without them,” said King.

Ziggy Asfaw, executive director of the Brookhaven Boys & Girls Club, said the project is already having a big impact on the approximately 160 children who use the facility for after-school activities each day, including more than 30 teens who are regulars.

The DPR Atlanta team built new planter boxes, where teens will be able to grow their own fruits and vegetables. (Photo courtesy Andi King)

The makeover will help the club expand its mission to serve more youth in the community, while empowering those who already have been using the center.

“DPR has helped us give the teens more reason to want to be at the club. When members feel as though the club is a place they can call their own, they are empowered to serve the community and have a sense of belonging. With support and the feeling that they are cared for, the teens tend to pay it forward,” said Asfaw. 

October 3, 2016

DPR Volunteers Make Big Impact During ‘Service September’

For the entire month of September, DPR teams across the country took their construction skills into the communities in which we serve to support nonprofit organizations through facility renovation and repair.  

Approximately 65 employees in the Bay Area, ranging from tradespeople to senior leadership, came together on Sept. 10 with Rebuilding Together, an organization that aims to transform the lives of low-income homeowners by improving the safety and health of their homes. DPR’s Bay Area region delivered four different hands-on construction projects that underscored its commitment to giving back.

The projects – which included making improvements to an elementary school in Belmont, a historic community building in Oakland and community centers in San Francisco and San Jose – shared a common thread:  all touch the lives of a broad number of people in the communities in which they were located. Together, the projects benefited thousands of students, special needs adults and local citizens.

At the I.T. Bookman Center in San Francisco, DPR made facility improvements that will enable it to act as a disaster response shelter. (Photo courtesy: Rena Crittendon)

Rena Crittendon organized the service events in the Bay Area and personally championed the San Francisco project. “This year we wanted to concentrate our efforts on community centers or other projects that make an impact on a bigger group of people, and to take on tougher projects that required our unique skills as technical builders,” she said.

At San Francisco’s I.T. Bookman Center, which serves over 1,500 individuals annually through community programs, DPR made improvements that will enable it to operate as a disaster response shelter. The project was one component of a larger, ongoing neighborhood revitalization effort.

“DPR’s involvement was critical to our improvement program. The DPR team served as the tip of the ‘rebuilding sword’ at I.T. Bookman Community Center,” said Rebuilding Together San Francisco’s Jennifer Leshnower. “In just one day, a team of DPR volunteers completed the wall and floor demolition necessary to launch a multiphase kitchen remodeling project.”

A team of more than 20 DPR volunteers provided all the materials and manpower for work that included painting, installing a brick paver patio, landscaping, as well as removing extensive debris and clutter from three local homes.

DPR volunteers clear brush from the garden of the Cohen Bray House, a historic home in Oakland, built in 1884. (Photo courtesy: Simon Eldridge)

In three other Bay Area communities, DPR volunteers took on equally challenging and vital service projects during the Sept. 10 day of service, including:

  • Grace Community Center, San Jose – DPR’s Nick Garzini championed improvements for a community center serving adults with special needs in the South Bay. A wide spectrum of volunteers from various self-perform work divisions (doors, concrete and interiors) and subcontracting partners performed hands-on construction work. The team painted the exterior, and replaced numerous aspects of the center, including stairs, toilets, doors and lights. “The work is amazing – you have changed and affected a lot of people’s lives,” commented Debbie Reynolds from Grace Community Center after the workday. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”
  • Cohen Bray House Museum, Oakland – A DPR team championed by Simon Eldridge restored a historic Victorian house museum, an Oakland city landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. The team made improvements including new railings and fencing, exterior paint and a cleaned garden.
  • Nesbit Elementary School, Belmont – A dozen volunteers demolished and replaced cabinets in five classrooms for an elementary school serving almost 600 students on the Peninsula.  

September 22, 2016

Clemson Alum and DPR Project Team “All In” at Clemson Football Operations Center

Clemson Football head coach Dabo Swinney has a saying that has become an organizational mantra, a way of life, a mindset: “All In.” In October 2008, Swinney, who at the time was a wide receivers coach, was unexpectedly named the Clemson Tigers’ interim head coach mid-season. He made a now-famous speech to his players, “For the next six weeks we’re going to do things differently. I know I don’t have much of a chance to get this job, but I have a chance. For the next six weeks, I’m all in— everything I’ve got.”

There’s something about the emotions college football can evoke, unlike any other sport. The way it can fill a stadium with screaming fans, then just as easily silence them with unexpected heartbreak.  The way you know nothing about the person cheering next to you other than they too have a heart filled with the same spirit, joy and stress that fills yours. The way cheers and chants are passed down as traditions year after year.  Your college team is different than your pro team; it’s more than just your favorite team, it’s part of who you are.

You’re a Texas Longhorn, a Michigan Wolverine, an Oregon Duck, or in the case of DPR’s Joey Weir, you’re a Clemson Tiger, supporting your team in the best way you can by building its new football operations center.  

DPR’s Joey Weir (on far right) was born and raised a Clemson Tiger in Clemson, South Carolina. Three generations of his family have graduated from Clemson. (Photo courtesy: Joey Weir)

Born and raised a third-generation Clemson grad in the town of Clemson, South Carolina, Weir knows every backroad, and everyone knows him. He does his laundry in loads of lights, darks and oranges. It’s hard for him to find a shirt he owns without a Clemson Tiger Paw on it. He’s driven 60 hours (30 each way) to the national championship in Phoenix, Arizona instead of flying, just so he could throw a proper tailgate. He’s paid for every meal, souvenir and expense on the road in Tiger Paw-stamped two-dollar bills, as part of a school tradition to prove that Clemson fans do indeed travel to other cities and states to support their team.  

He never wanted to go anywhere else, so he didn’t apply to any other colleges other than (you guessed it) Clemson. After beginning his career at DPR as an intern, Weir worked as a project engineer on life sciences projects with DPR’s Atlanta and Raleigh offices. When he found out DPR was building Clemson’s new $55 million, 140,000-sq.-ft. football operations center, his ears perked up; if any project was made for him, it was this one. He made a few calls, and the rest is history.

Weir is living the dream, building great things for the school he has always loved. (Photo courtesy: Paul Borick)

Weir now works in a field office covered with Clemson decorations and gear, with a project team that includes six Clemson alumni, making for a very spirited work atmosphere as they move toward their goal of completing the facility by National Signing Day in February 2017.

In his natural habitat, the world that revolves around Clemson Football, Weir has been able to get to know the team’s coaches and recruiting staff, even appearing in a series of videos made by the athletic department. When Swinney played an Undercover Boss prank on the jobsite, it was Weir who was right beside him, showing him around and introducing him to the project team as “Fred from Albuquerque.” In other videos, he tells The Tiger mascot to get out of a crane, gets hit in the head with a football and joins the offensive line playing with Mega Tonka Tiger trucks.

“To be able to work on the football operations center, and get to know the coaches and staff has been an experience I’ll never forget. As a Clemson fan, to know that we built something that will make a positive impact on this football program for years to come, has been so rewarding,” said Weir. “I stand behind Dabo Swinney, and everything that he, this team, and this building stand for and represent.”

Clemson’s football operations center will include a locker room, bowling alley, barber shop, relaxation room and golf simulator, among many other amenities. (Rendering courtesy: HOK) 

Eight years after Swinney’s emotional locker room speech, the team is coming off a dream season that sent them to last year’s national championship. Their football operations center, fully loaded with amenities including a bowling alley, hydrotherapy pools, X-ray suite, 25,000-sq.-ft. weight room, production studio, barber shop and a replica of Clemson’s famous Death Valley hill, is set to become a major tool in the competitive college football recruiting landscape.  

Weir and his team are giving it everything they’ve got to make sure the project will be the forever home where Swinney can make countless more inspirational speeches, where recruits can visit and realize what it means to be a Tiger, and where Clemson Football can build and grow their program for decades to come.  

They’re all in. 

September 7, 2016

Celebrating DPR Interns: Who We Build is as Important as What We Build

In 1992, DPR was barely two years old and Mike Humphrey, a senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was impressed by a conversation he had with DPR representatives on campus. Although two other companies had already made him offers, he showed up at DPR over winter break and asked to help in any way that he could, whatever it took.

And that’s how DPR hired its very first intern.

At DPR, who we build is as important as what we build. In a very competitive market for talent, DPR has attracted and retained a highly motivated workforce by fostering a unique, empowered company culture. All this starts with our interns, the best and brightest construction management, construction engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering students from around the nation. 

Interns across all regions go on getaway/decompression days, which include activities such as zip lining, river-rafting and hiking. Here, DPR’s SoCal interns go on an adventure along the treetops at Big Pines Ziplines. (Photo courtesy: Maisie Gwynne) 

DPR college champions return to their alma maters (currently over 35 schools across the country) and engage students with 25-minute interviews, before second-round interviews take place in a DPR office location. The internship itself is like a three-month interview, in which both the students and the project teams get a chance to see if this would be a long-term fit. The DPR intern program has grown to include sophomores through seniors, so by the time many returning interns are graduating, they are able to fill open project engineer positions.

“College recruiting is instrumental in finding our new talent. It has a tremendous impact on DPR because we are building for the future. We are looking for people who embody our core values and have a genuine passion for construction, even if they don’t have a lot of experience yet,” said Rocky Moss, DPR’s national college recruiting champion.

And it’s working. One-third of our business unit leaders started their careers as DPR college recruits. In 2015, 83% of interns offered a full-time position accepted, and less than 1% of our 2015 college recruits involuntarily separated from DPR. 9% voluntarily separated, for reasons like returning back to school or moving to another state where DPR is not currently located.

“If you can do Class-4 rapids together, it really shows you that you can solve problems together in a real-world environment too. When they go back to their work lives, teams that have gone through these experiences feel more enjoyment, have each other’s backs and more camaraderie than when they left,” said Mike Humphrey.  (Photo courtesy: Daniel Berson) 

After Humphrey became a full-time project engineer on DPR’s first ground-up project, he continued to grow with DPR, becoming a project manager, preconstruction manager, part of the San Francisco Regional Management Team, regional manager of DPR’s San Francisco office and now, member of DPR’s Management Committee focusing on talent management, HR, training and recruiting.

“All we have is our people; we don’t sell a product. It starts with identifying them, hiring them, taking care of them as whole people, and tailoring opportunities to the individual, not pretending everyone is the same,” said Humphrey.  

DPR’s Orlando interns organize a “Roast This” BBQ to raise funds for DPR’s Build a Backpack school supply drive. (Photo courtesy: Taylor Duffy)

The intern program is a large part of DPR’s culture of development. Not only does DPR want its employees to better themselves through constant self-development and learning, but we want them to learn how to develop others. The intern program offers second-year engineers a chance to grow their own leadership, listening and mentoring skills with interns, resulting in a culture driven by honesty, feedback, and decision-making power at the front lines, with interns receiving the same experience as engineers. 

DPR is now filled with people who have the same persistent and bullet-smart self-initiative that led Humphrey to create a spot for himself at DPR 24 years ago.

“DPR used to just mean Doug, Peter and Ron, but at some point it transcended the names and became an idea, a point of view, a culture,” Humphrey said. “And through our hiring and talent development, we will protect that culture for decades to come.”

DPR’s Houston interns hit the racetrack in a go-kart racing competition. (Photo courtesy: Matthew Aversa)

August 29, 2016

DPR Hosts Girls Inc. Workshops to Open New Perspectives on Careers in the Construction Industry

Before DPR volunteers put on a series of after-school workshops for 130 third-through-fifth-grade girls at Girls Inc. of Alameda County clubs in the Bay Area this spring, the students mostly thought of a construction worker as a male in a hard hat and vest, swinging a hammer on a jobsite.

Now, those girls know that they can accomplish anything, and that there are no limits to what they can be when they grow up. They know they can be a project manager in charge of a multi-million-dollar construction project, an estimator using her math skills to deliver a winning bid or a BIM engineer creating a model for a complex job. 

“The volunteers who led the workshops for Girls Inc. opened up an entirely new perspective on careers in the construction industry,” commented Nicki Guard, community engagement manager for Girls Incorporated of Alameda County. “The activities allowed for unique insight into the diverse ways that women work in the construction industry. The women who partner with Girls Inc. role model women as project managers, engineers, architects and more. For the younger girls, they may not completely understand what is involved in each career, but they now have new vocabulary to talk about the industry and know women who are smart and successful at their work.”

Club-goers built DPR logos based on Building Information Model (BIM) details. Photo courtesy Rena Crittendon.

The workshops were held at four East Bay elementary schools and included hands-on building activities alongside DPR volunteers. The broader message, according to DPR’s event coordinator Rena Crittendon, was to model the many paths women can take to achieve a well-paying and satisfying job in the industry. The workshops also encourage and help educate the girls in the art of collaboration and teamwork.

“By the end of their workshop, a few of the girls raised their hands and said, 'you know, I might like to do this too.' In each of the sessions there were a few girls that were off on their own, but usually by the end of each activity, they were all in it and working together, collaborating on ideas,” Crittendon said. “That was really neat to see."

Photo courtesy Rena Crittendon.

DPR plans to continue the ongoing relationships working with Girls Inc. with an upcoming six to eight after-school workshops planned for the fall. The Bay Area region also helped provide laptops to 30 girls in Girls Inc.’s College Access program, and DPR has hosted a Girls Inc. intern for the past two summers.

August 8, 2016

Boys & Girls Club Facility Upgraded Through DPR Volunteer Effort

DPR’s community initiatives goal of supporting under-resourced communities through facility renovation and repair was on full display in recent work it undertook at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston’s Holthouse facility.

DPR stepped in to help Holthouse with a variety of small renovation work and repairs at the facility that helped offset repair costs. With just two weeks to get the work completed, DPR donated 150 man-hours, sending several of its drywall and carpenter craftsmen to perform a variety of tasks at the facility. The work included a series of drywall patches, painting, exterior woodwork to stop water leaks, restroom upgrades, a new water heater donated and installed by its trade partner MLN, and more.

The two-week project brought a like-new gleam to the club. Photo courtesy Trey Biediger.

The club updates also included repairs to picnic tables. Photo courtesy Trey Biediger.

DPR self-perform drywall estimator/project manager Trey Biediger organized the work. As DPR’s liaison for Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston, Biediger serves on their Building and Construction Subcommittee. He said he initially got involved volunteering with the organization because of the rewarding feeling of “being a role model” for local youth.

“These are children that often don’t get corporate volunteer exposure on such a continuous basis, so they really look up to you,” Biediger added. “They get so excited when you show up and see that you have returned to simply hang out and offer support. It’s very rewarding.”

Kevin Hattery, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, said DPR’s involvement with the program over the past two years and particularly with the recent project has been vital.

“From painting the gym to installing a new water heater, DPR’s many renovations are helping Boys & Girls Clubs provide every child who walks through our doors with a fun and safe environment to learn, play and grow. We are grateful for DPR’s support and know that these upgrades will have a lasting impact for years to come for the Club members,” Hattery said.

DPR’s outreach with Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston continues next month, when they will host their first construction camp at the facility on Aug. 10. Approximately 60 children are signed up for the half-day camp and will enjoy hands-on construction projects building a birdhouse, toolbox or bughouse.

The children will also have the chance to interact with and learn from the anticipated 20-30 DPR volunteers that are expected to help out, representing all facets of the company. “It is a big effort and we’re looking forward to a really great event,” Biediger added.

August 1, 2016

One Year Later, DPR Community Partner MACH 1 Has Expanded Services, Doubled Clients

One year ago, Move a Child Higher, Inc. (MACH 1) and its founder, Joy Rittenhouse, only dreamed of expanding the nonprofit’s therapeutic equestrian services to help a larger number of disabled youths and wounded warriors in the Pasadena area.

The center provides therapeutic equestrian services for disabled youths. Photo courtesy Kelley Radtke.

Then last spring, a DPR-led community service project delivered a significantly expanded new facility – which in turn triggered new donations and grants that are helping the 18-year-old organization broaden its services and outreach, and double the number of clients it serves.

The newly-built out center has allowed MACH 1 to ramp up its services, and invest in additional therapy horses. Photo courtesy Kelley Radtke.

Since the project was completed, MACH 1 has been ramping up its service potential with the acquisition of three additional horses, bringing the total number of therapeutic horses to eight. In the coming months, Rittenhouse said they will add and train additional volunteer staff, with plans to double the number of children and veterans in its horse therapy program within the next year or so.

They have also launched a new horsemanship program designed to introduce students to horses and horse safety, and they continue to operate as a teaching center, providing ongoing classes to students at Cal State LA, Western University and Azusa Pacific. Where their previous space allowed them to operate 11 hours a week, they are now a full time organization.

“It’s really difficult to explain how much this project has meant to us,” Rittenhouse said. “We were borrowing a place, and now we have an actual center. We received two grants to get two horses and another general grant to work on scholarships and to help us launch our horsemanship program. We never would have gotten them without the new center and the added space.”

August 1, 2016

DPR Project Team Inspired by Community Involvement at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford

It was just like any other prom – a cafeteria was blanketed in foliage and turned into a jungle expedition; there was a DJ, dancing, carnival games and chaperones. But this prom took place in a hospital, not a high school. And the kids were both past and present patients of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto, California.

Behind the scenes, DPR employees built and painted wooden divider screens for carnival booths, while more team members transformed the first floor of the hospital into a lush jungle-scape. Other DPR volunteers ran ring toss and softball games during the prom itself, energized by how excited the kids were to enjoy themselves and not be “patients” for just one day.

DPR employees build wooden divider screens for use in carnival booths at the Packard Children’s Hospital prom. 

The prom is just one example of the DPR project team’s high level of community involvement, as they build the nation’s most technologically advanced, family-friendly and environmentally sustainable hospital for infants, children and expectant mothers. Scheduled for opening in 2017, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford expansion will nearly double the size of the current facility, adding 521,000 sq. ft. and allowing the hospital to meet increased demand for pediatric and obstetric care as the Bay Area population grows.

Inspired by their client’s mission to align people and resources to provide extraordinary patient and family-centered care, as well as DPR’s vision to be integral and indispensable to the communities in which it operates, the DPR project team has shown their commitment to help the children at the hospital in any way that they can.

Ranging from building balsa wood models, visiting the hospital school, dressing up and painting faces for a Halloween “Trick or Treat Trail,” donating to the Summer Scamper fundraising walk benefiting Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, to visiting with Packard Children’s “Patient Heroes,” the team has found that their volunteer efforts offer them the unique opportunity to interact and open two-way communication with the end users that the hospital will ultimately be impacting – patients, parents, teachers, nurses, doctors and hospital staff. They are able to see firsthand the day-to-day impact of the rooms they’re building, answer questions about construction from curious kids and integrate themselves into the hospital community.

DPR’s Packard 2.0 project team gets ready to help patients build great things, including models of cars and birdhouses.   

“We fill a unique void of being able to interact with the children on a different level by talking to them about how the new main building of the hospital will affect them. When we see how impactful the new facility is going to be on their lives, it encourages us to have perspective and realize why we are putting in so much hard work on-site to make this happen,” said DPR’s Maggie Grubb.

In addition to helping lift the spirits of Packard Children’s patients, the project team’s efforts have also built a strong sense of community, both with their hospital neighbors and their own colleagues. DPR team members will often run into teachers and staff they’ve met through volunteer activities at a nearby coffee stand and be able to say hi and catch up about progress.

The DPR team gets an inspirational visit from Lili, an 8-year-old “Patient Hero” battling spina bifida occulta at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

“Not only are we helping patients of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, but we found a really positive way to spend time with each other and these truly inspirational kids. It helps us feel good about what we’re working on,” said DPR’s Mike Kenney. “The challenges we face daily really aren’t that bad when you put into perspective how tough these little kids are. It is so rewarding to spend 2-3 hours with people who genuinely appreciate you.”

So that prom wasn’t an ordinary prom, these kids aren’t ordinary kids, and this is no ordinary project team. Sometimes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And sometimes, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

DPR’s very own superheroes dress up for the Halloween “Trick or Treat Trail,” where they painted faces and distributed Halloween candy to children at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

July 25, 2016

School of Construction Events Offer Richmond, Phoenix Youth Insight on Construction Industry

One of the pillars of DPR’s community initiatives is to share our passion for construction with under-resourced youth through career and education guidance. During two DPR School of Construction events, scores of DPR volunteers turned out to help teach dozens of eager youth about much more than just the basics of what goes into a construction project. They also helped enlighten the students about the many different career options available in the construction industry, and how they all contribute to creating a built project.

DPR’s Richmond, VA office held its first School of Construction, while the Phoenix, AZ office held its third annual event. Each two-hour event featured breakout sessions that focused on designing, planning, and building the unique projects – a “little free library” in Richmond, and a finished wall segment in Phoenix.

The Richmond, VA School of Construction students pose with their "Little Free Libraries." The neighborhood book-lending displays will be installed in areas where the students live. Photo courtesy Diane Rossini.

During the sessions, students peppered the volunteers with questions about their jobs, the tools they use, safety issues and a host of other aspects relating to the hands-on experience of building projects.

“DPR’s School of Construction event opened the eyes of our youth to the world of construction, which they found out is a lot more than digging a ditch,” commented Darricka Carter, Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, VA. “They were exposed to the design and planning phase that happens in the office before the actual “construction” begins.”

Engaging Richmond Area Teens

Extensive hours of preparation went into ensuring that both School of Construction events were a resounding success. In its first year hosting the event, the Richmond office drew 25 mostly 13-17-year-old youth to the office for the structured two-hour program. Altogether 18 DPR volunteers donated a total of 152 hours planning and running the event. The four “Little Free Libraries” that were built will be donated to hosts in the communities in which the club members live, according to DPR event organizer Diane Rossini.

Photo courtesy Diane Rossini.

“Seeing the need for engagement with the (Boys & Girls Club) teen group, and knowing what we can provide in real world mentoring and experience was really an inspiration for this event,” said Rossini. While the DPR Foundation supported the organization with a $25,000 grant this year, the office was looking for a way for employees to be able to volunteer their time and talent working one-on-one with the youth.

Photo courtesy Diane Rossini.

The event started out focused on design of the project. Students had the opportunity for hands-on work with google SketchUp, technology that many had never experienced before. During the second session, they worked with DPR volunteers to schedule various project items and had a chance to see a 4D Synchro model. A DPR superintendent led a safety demo during the third session while the kids enjoyed dinner. The fourth session involved actually building the structures.

“The kids engaging the staff throughout was one of the big highlights for me,” Rossini commented. “They asked some very pointed questions that I think taught them a lot about the industry. When our BIM coordinator was sharing the synchro models, he explained that modeling is part of the construction process and how you can work within construction but be a modeler, a BIM coordinator, an accountant or other roles. I think it was very eye opening for them.”

Boys & Girls Club Director Carter said that most of the kids are familiar with the construction industry “only from the perspective of seeing big machinery and men in hard hats working on site.” During the School of Construction, employees of DPR “exposed our kids to another side of the industry, teaching them that the construction they’re familiar with is just a part of the entire process,” Carter added. “Our kids were able to learn and practice skills and tools used during that process, like brainstorming and digital design using Google SketchUp, all while having lots of fun.”

Multiple Return Participants for Phoenix Event

Fun and learning also went hand in hand in the third annual School of Construction event in the Phoenix office. Fifty students from ICAN and Future for Kids – including about a dozen who had participated in at least one prior year’s event – spent two hours working with 32 DPR volunteers and others.

This year’s emphasis was self-perform work, a major driver in the Phoenix office which does extensive framing and drywall work in-house. Eight to 10 self-perform crafts workers were among those who showed up to teach the kids how to design, plan and build four 4-by-4-ft. model walls. The craftsmen contributed 48 hours of the total 238 total volunteer hours that went into putting the event on this year.

DPR craftsmen answer questions about framing, drywalling and mudding walls. Photo courtesy Tim Hyde.

Craftsman Richard Cruz kicked of the day with a Q&A led by DPR project manager Tim Hyde. “He was fantastic, the kids were very interested and asked him so many questions,” Hyde said of Cruz. “It just ended up being a huge success.”

During the sessions kids learned the ins and outs of framing, drywalling and applying mud to the walls. Volunteers used premade mockup walls as a teaching tool. The models (two with doors and two with windows) were painted and fully finished on one side with the other side left exposed and covered with Plexiglas to allow a look inside. “We kept the kids engaged throughout the whole process, teaching them different terminology, why we use metal vs. wood studs, the different framing members, all about drywall and mud, etc.,” Hyde said.

Students learn to use tools safely. Photo courtesy Tim Hyde.

Following the wall construction, the kids broke off into another hands-on session led by DPR superintendent Chad Drake. After discussing tool safety, he and other volunteers showed the kids how to work with tools to drill, hammer and screw preset nails and screws into precut plywood boards that sported a DPR log. The kids also decorated their take-home boards.

The students used hammers, nails, drills, screwdrivers and screws to decorate take-home souvenirs. Photo courtesy Tim Hyde.

“It was a chance to actually put a tool in their hands, and they seemed to really enjoy it,” said Drake. “We also encouraged them to look into the future, and if they enjoyed what they were doing, consider eventually getting into the trades, since there is definitely a shortage of workers going into the trades.”

Following the event, Future for Kids Community Relations Manager Nicole Pepper commented, “We are in awe of the time and work you all put in to making this event happen. Our kids had such a great time and learned so much.”