December 9, 2016

DPR Dallas Team Educates Students about Construction Career Paths

Approximately 60 students at an under-resourced high school in Dallas got an inside look at the diverse opportunities in the construction industry, thanks to an effort led by DPR volunteers to engage youth through educational outreach both inside and outside the classroom.

Casey Cox, a concrete project engineer with DPR’s self-perform work group, helped spearhead the outreach effort geared toward students at Woodrow Wilson High School. Drawing from his own past experience working with a high school youth ministry, Cox worked to accomplish the effort’s overall goal: to apply one of DPR’s key tenets of making a difference and helping build the future workforce through career and education guidance to local youth.


DPR's Brendan Hastings teaches a class about construction innovation at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas. (Photo courtesy: Brendan Hastings)

“We wanted to partner with a strong STEM school to bring DPR’s work into the classroom, as well as give the students an opportunity to experience a day-in-the-life by taking them out to one of our actual jobsites,” said Cox. “Taking the time to expose these students to what it’s like working in the real world around industry professionals provided insight on a career in the construction business, and more importantly, spurred confidence as they consider life after graduation.”

Cox reached out to the Digital Realty Trust team to be part of this community initiative, which so far has included two in-class lessons and a jobsite tour. DPR project manager Brendan Hastings led the first classroom presentation on innovation and technology in the construction industry, where he spoke to about 60 students in Woodrow Wilson’s architecture and civil engineering class in early November.


Students from Woodrow Wilson High School tour a DPR project site in the Dallas area. (Photo courtesy: Brad Barton)

After the first classroom presentation, students visited the Digital Realty data center project in the Dallas area. They not only had the chance to experience an active construction project firsthand, but were also able to hear from various workers about their jobs and pathways into the industry. The DPR team enjoyed the students’ genuine curiosity and articulate questions.

DPR volunteers returned after Thanksgiving to deliver a second lesson focused on MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) coordination, and plan to keep coming back to spotlight different aspects of construction, as they use our work building great things to help educate the leaders of tomorrow.

December 6, 2016

Moving Quickly to Facilitate Quality Healthcare

From the very beginning of the Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s Christine E. Lynn Health & Wellness Institute project, it was clear that the 90% female team of architects, designers and owner’s representatives shared a vision for creating a facility with the patient in mind.

With five unique women’s health service lines planned for the institute, each discipline’s professional and personal experiences informed the overall design of the project. The patient-oriented approach resulted in a two-story, 45,800-sq.-ft. facility with abundant natural light, seamless patient flow and inviting clinical areas.

Located on the Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s campus, adjacent to the former health and wellness institute, and designed by HKS Architects, the facility offers clinical, holistic and educational programs that support women’s unique medical needs.

“Our design drew upon a culmination of prior healthcare space planning and focuses on providing a calming and safe experience for women going through medical procedures,” said Tatiana Guimaraes, senior medical planner for HKS Architects. “All of the spaces are planned with sensitivity for privacy and comfort, much like the calming environment of a spa, versus a medical facility.”

With the Women’s Health & Wellness Institute open and operational, the contractor-led design-build team of DPR and HKS continues work on a second project with Boca Raton Regional Hospital: The Gloria Drummond Physical Rehabilitation Institute.

To learn more about the facility built by women, for women, read the full DPR Review story here.


The Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s Christine E. Lynn Health & Wellness Institute was designed for women, by women. (Photo courtesy: Miami in Focus)

December 5, 2016

A Company of Builders: DPR Project Engineers Learn the Meaning of Self-Perform Work

On a sunny fall day in Santa Clara, California, about 60 of DPR’s project engineers grabbed their boots, gloves and shovels and spent the day doing hands-on concrete work, as they created a new paved space in DPR’s self-perform work (SPW) concrete yard.

Inspired by a similar day organized for project engineers, during which they learned about drywall, framing and openings from DPR’s SPW interiors team, a handful of project engineers organized a second build day with the concrete team. The day helped open their minds as to what it takes for craft workers in the field to do their jobs every day, and how they can best support them as engineers.


Project engineers strap on their boots and learn how to lay concrete. (Photo courtesy: Everett Rosette)

“The concrete build day gave our PEs more of an understanding of what other team members do. We are all pushing for the same goal: to successfully deliver projects safely and efficiently,” said DPR’s Richard Rech, the SPW concrete group’s manager. “Learning how to layout, tie rebar and place concrete gave the PEs so much insight and appreciation into what craftsmen do every day.”

The PEs were mentored at various stations by DPR SPW teams, who explained the technical process – which many PE’s learned was a lot more complicated than it looked – as well as important safety best practices of working with concrete.


DPR’s SPW concrete team teaches project engineers how to close up a typical concrete column form. (Photo courtesy: Everett Rosette)

“Having an understanding of what it takes for everyone on the project to complete their job every day improves collaboration, efficiency and ultimately helps us build better projects,” said Rech.

The day was a reminder of our roots: we are a company of builders. And we exist to build great things.


A company of builders: we exist to build great things. (Photo courtesy: Everett Rosette)

November 30, 2016

Bringing Together BIM and Virtual Reality to Prevent Injuries

Safety is a value, not a priority. Priorities can change over time, but value systems remain constant. As a part of building our culture of safety, DPR is piloting technology from Human Condition Safety (HCS), a workplace wearables startup that is creating a suite of tools that helps craft workers and their managers prevent injuries before they happen.

Used on select DPR project sites in Sacramento and the Bay Area, the HCS technology incorporates wearable devices that disappear into traditional safety clothing, artificial intelligence, BIM and cloud computing to create an ecosystem that keeps workers safe.


A DPR team performs tasks with HCS wearable devices embedded in traditional safety clothing. (Photo courtesy: Jonathan Savosnick)

HCS software develops deep insights about safety and efficiency, and can identify safety issues in real-time, as well as predict future events. HCS focuses on activities and repetitive motion to pose the question, what can be prevented right now, and what can be prevented in the future?

Read more about how we’re using wearable devices to prevent injuries before they happen in the DPR Review

November 21, 2016

Facility of the Year Winner Roars Back to Life

In the world of business, a successful outcome is not always the result of a straightforward journey.

Best exemplifying this is a pair of projects completed for Genentech, where a world-class project team successfully delivered, and then returned to service, one of the largest biotech fermentation facilities of its kind.

In 2007, the team completed the Cell Culture Biologics Drug Substance Plant 2 (CCP2) Facility, which employs some of the largest scale production equipment in the industry. In 2010, the facility was shuttered after Roche acquired Genentech and the decision was made to fulfill the demand for their drugs elsewhere. And finally, in 2015, the CCP2 facility fulfilled its mission of producing lifesaving pharmaceuticals for a global marketplace.

With a challenging and award-winning project like this came aggressive goals and tight timelines. To be successful, the Return to Service team capitalized on lessons learned from the original CCP2 team.

What were these lessons? Read the DPR Review story to find out.

November 11, 2016

Honoring DPR Veterans: Rob Sparacino, U.S. Navy

Home means something different for everyone. Home is more than a place and the people in it. Home is a feeling of acceptance and understanding.  

For DPR’s Rob Sparacino, home is a vast open space in San Joaquin County outside of Stockton, California. Grassy fields and dirt have been transformed into SEAL for a Day, an experience that brings civilians together with former U.S. Navy SEALs and veterans of other elite forces to spend a day going through field and weapons training used by the Navy’s primary special operations force.  

A former corpsman in the U.S. Navy, Sparacino served for six years as a combat medic, practicing trauma medicine in the field during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. His time in the military brought him to places including Kuwait, the Philippines, Guam, South Korea, and even the North Pole for artic training in the Bering Sea. Submarine-qualified and combat dive-certified, Sparacino knows how to navigate all kinds of terrain, survive in frigid and tropical weather, and quickly read people and situations to know whether he needs to protect someone, or protect himself from them.


Rob Sparacino, corpsman in the U.S. Navy, is honored by an admiral post-deployment. (Photo courtesy: Rob Sparacino)

Sparacino, who joined DPR in 1999 after being honorably discharged from service, is now a senior superintendent, using the skills he so finely honed in the Navy on his jobsite every day. Accustomed to training for 16 out of 24 hours a day on a constant high level of stress, Sparacino can handle anything at any time and is not rattled by the daily challenges of civilian life and working on large-scale, complex projects. Things that might cause others to panic roll off his back, because he’s seen worse. According to Sparacino, it is this slower pace that is often one of the hardest things to adjust to when veterans return to life as civilians.

Discipline, self-motivation and collaboration are keys to success on the jobsite and in the military. In the Navy, Sparacino was trained to learn everyone’s job, and know where everybody is supposed to be at all times. The same concept applies on his jobsites, especially when multiple trades are working in the same area – all the pieces need to operate in tandem, like a finely tuned machine, to prevent injury, improve efficiency and successfully deliver a project.


Sparacino enjoys keeping up his tactical skill sets as one of the resident medics and unofficial instructors at SEAL for a Day. (Photo courtesy: Rob Sparacino)

Creating this teamwork is one of Sparacino’s favorite parts of his job.

“To be successful, we need to collaborate and work together. Rounding up clients, subs and our own team brings me back to my military experience. Helping people see the benefit of working together is one of the most rewarding parts of my job,” he said. “Most veterans will tell you, the thing they miss most is the brotherhood. In the 18 years I’ve been with DPR, I hope that people walk away knowing that I’ve got their back. They can count on me.”

At SEAL for a Day, Sparacino enjoys keeping up his tactical skill sets as one of the resident medics and an unofficial instructor, making sure participants abide by the safety rules of the obstacle courses and training with firearms. In the case of an injury, he is there to treat on-scene until EMS arrives.

Surrounded by fellow veterans, training and challenging visitors to SEAL for a Day in safety, as well as physical and mental toughness, Sparacino has found a place where he feels understood and embraced by “brothers” who share the same character and values that he does.

He’s found a place where he belongs. Home. 


The SEAL for a Day Team is visited by retired U.S. Navy SEAL Mike Thornton (center), recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. (Photo courtesy: Rob Sparacino)

November 11, 2016

Honoring DPR Veterans: Nick Ertmer, U.S. Air Force

Some languages can cross every culture in the world.

During his four years in the U.S. Air Force, DPR’s Nick Ertmer found that one of those is candy. Stationed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, Ertmer and his team would venture off-base into the countryside, passing out candy to the elation of the young Afghan children, fostering goodwill and bonds of trust.

“It was days like those that really grounded me, because we’re all more alike than we are different. Seeing those communities impacted how I view the world,” said Ertmer, who joined the Air Force after graduating from the University of Southern California’s Air Force ROTC program with a degree in civil engineering.

Captain in the 9th Civil Engineering Squadron, Ertmer led a team of engineers at Beale Air Force Base in Northern California, and Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, tasked with making sure airfields were operational so planes could take off, land and perform their missions. Responsible for power production, safe drinking water and sewage, Ertmer’s team of 35 was made up of equipment operators, electricians, plumbers and other technicians.


Nick Ertmer (left) was stationed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where his squadron kept airfields operational. (Photo courtesy: Nick Ertmer)

While deployed, a large part of his job was also planning what the base would leave the Afghans with when the Americans left the area. Ertmer helped plan a large-scale airfield replacement, creating a permanent airport that the Afghans would be able to use for decades to come.

“The Air Force opened me up to the diversity of our world. Not just seeing the world through the eyes of Afghans, but it also opened my eyes to the personal challenges and adversity that exists in every team, and every company,” he said.

After separating from the Air Force, Ertmer joined DPR in 2006 as a project engineer to grow the leadership skills that he had built in service and be a part of the entrepreneurial, inventive culture he had heard so much about from others in the industry. Ertmer draws parallels between the Air Force’s deliberate efforts to teach leadership skills and DPR’s culture at every level, where everyone is a leader in a different way.

He moved to DPR’s Raleigh office in 2010, where he is now a business unit leader, overseeing operations and helping project teams build great things for notable customers such as Fidelity, Biogen, United Therapeutics, EMC, Facebook, NC State University and Duke University.

“It’s a pretty humbling thing, knowing that I am now in a unique spot to influence people’s lives and careers, if they allow me to,” he said. “It brings me back to how no matter where you traveled in the world, as soon as you saw someone else in uniform, you felt a bond, an understanding – that you were there to support them and they were there to support you. That is a very powerful thing. We have opportunities in everything we do each day to model ourselves after that bond.”

Today, Ertmer takes pride in creating these bonds across DPR, and creating an empowered, supportive culture driven by people development and decision-making power at the front lines. He believes we are all tied together by a common fabric, united by being a part of something greater than ourselves – whether it is serving our country, passing out candy or building great things. 

November 8, 2016

DPR and the Batchelor Foundation Team Up to Build ‘Creation Station’ for Florida Teens

New hands-on learning opportunities that combine creativity and cutting-edge technology will soon be just a click away for over three dozen south Florida teens, thanks to a new Creation Station center that enables them to produce and edit audio and video recordings on demand.

DPR teamed up with the Batchelor Foundation to deliver the highly anticipated audio/visual recording center project at Milagro Center in Delray Beach, which serves economically disadvantaged youth in the region. Both longtime contributors to the organization, DPR provided materials and labor to renovate and equip a soundproof room that will house software and equipment provided by the Batchelor Foundation through a grant.

The Creation Station room renovation included designing, assembling and installing numerous large, multicolored acoustic panels, strategically placed for maximum visual effect. This fall, about ten DPR volunteers spent an afternoon creating and installing the panels, aided by a handful of Milagro Center teens who were inspired to help.


At the Milagro Center, DPR volunteers build the Creation Station, an audio/visual recording space, for Florida teens. (Photo courtesy: Adriana Martinengo-Rosenberg)

Luke Stocking, DPR’s liaison to the Milagro Center, said the teens are looking forward to designing and producing their own original videos using a big screen, computer software and audio equipment in the soundproofed, custom-renovated room. The only other Creation Station in Palm Beach County is at the Main Branch library, 25 miles north of Milagro Center – and it usually has a waitlist of two weeks to use that equipment.

Even more important than the “cool” factor of being able to make multimedia videos in their own after-school center, however, are the practical skills the Milagro Center teens will gain from doing so.


When complete, the Creation Station at the Milagro Center will provide teens with technical skills they can use in the workforce. (Photo courtesy: Adriana Martinengo-Rosenberg)

“The big picture is that it gives them technical, professional skills they can use in the workforce,” said Stocking. “These teens will get hands-on experience with the software, the technology and the equipment at their own center, whenever they want to use it.”

The Creation Station will be completed this month.

“The teens can’t wait to start using the Creation Station,” said Anthony Bacchus, director of the Milagro Center. “DPR has made a major impact at the teen center over the years, giving the teens confidence and knowledge about careers in construction. Sponsors and parents are truly inspired by DPR’s involvement with the center and the community.”

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.