February 23, 2017

VCU Health Team Proves Efficiency of Prefab

Ninety minutes outside of Raleigh, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia, the 70-bed Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) in South Hill, Virginia had a challenge. Because of the large construction boom in North Carolina and southern Virginia, the number of qualified med-gas installers in the area have more than enough work to keep them busy in their respective cities.

After the downturn of 2008, many experienced construction tradesmen left the field—for good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, national skilled construction employment is down 19% from its 2007 peak, with the decline particularly stark in areas strongly affected by the housing bust. Now with construction roaring, many new, inexperienced workers have entered the job market, and–as with any new employees in any industry–need time to train and develop, increasing the importance for contractors to have self-perform work and prefab expertise.

The DPR team working on the design-build, 170,000-sq.-ft. replacement hospital found a creative solution for its dearth of labor, while still using a local subcontractor, as well as a way to improve overall efficiency: using prefab strategies for patient headwalls, med gas zone valves and central utility plant skids and piping.


The DPR team used prefab strategies for patient headwalls, med gas zone valves and central utility plant skids and piping, including this prefab chilled water piping. (Photo courtesy: Rob Johnson)

Every patient bed in the hospital required framing, med-gas, electrical rough-in and wood blocking at the head of the bed to accommodate the patient needs and provider care. With 70 identical beds, the team designed and constructed the headwalls off-site about 50 miles away, with pre-manufactured piping, electrical and wood blocking in a panelized wall system, which was then transported to site and installed in the patient rooms. The team then built the rest of the walls around the headwalls, and connected the overhead piping to the in-wall piping. What makes the headwalls notable is that many were back-to-back so one prefab wall accommodated two patient rooms.

Other prefabrication efforts on the project included skids and piping for the boiler and chiller plant that were shop-fabricated and shipped fully assembled to site. What would normally take months to complete, took only days in the field. 

The DPR team carefully kept track of hours saved by the prefabrication efforts, turning VCU CMH into a proving ground for the efficiency of prefabrication, with the data to back it up.


Prefabrication efforts on the project included skids and piping for the boiler and chiller plant that were shop-fabricated and shipped fully assembled to site. (Photo courtesy: Rob Johnson)

When compared to traditional in-field methods and production rates:

  • Prefabricated headwalls increased efficiency in med gas piping production by 70% and in-wall electrical increased rough-in productivity by 20%.
  • The prefabricated boiler and chiller skids saved 86% of on-site hours.
  • Significant portions of mechanical and plumbing throughout the building were prefabricated in-shop, saving over 10,000 man-hours on-site.

“We find it rare to have prefabrication measured in such an empirical way as we have done at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital. We believe in this, and with the support of our trade partners, we are proving the efficiency of prefabrication,” said DPR’s Rob Johnson. “We are excited to explore and study additional prefabrication strategies on future DPR projects.”


Back-to-back headwalls enabled one prefab wall to accomodate two patient rooms. (Photo courtesy: Rob Johnson)

The prefabricated headwall strategy not only improved production rates and overcame a labor shortage issue, it benefited the project on the second-floor patient wing where in-wall rough-ins became the critical path at a critical point in the project. Having that work already complete mitigated a potential delay to the overall project schedule, allowing DPR to recognize another tangible benefit to prefabrication. 

The DPR team will continue to push the envelope and prove the efficiency of other prefab strategies on future projects in big ways—always adapting, solving problems and moving ever forward. 

February 13, 2017

DPR Recognized as Top Company for Learning and Development

Last week, Training Magazine recognized DPR’s Learning and Development efforts—we ranked 26th on the magazine’s 2017 Training Top 125 list. Many of our customers were also recognized on the list, which includes companies from all sectors. Congratulations to all the firms recognized! Read the full article here.

A bit of background on the award: The Training Top 125 ranks companies that excel at employee learning and development, and it is determined by assessing a range of qualitative and quantitative factors. According to the magazine, “Training Top 125 Award winners are the organizations with the most successful learning and development programs in the world—and the Top 125 has been the premier learning industry awards program for 16 years.” DPR has appeared on the list six times.  In addition, last year, Training Magazine named DPR’s Melissa King an Emerging Training Leader.


DPR's Melissa King (bottom row, right) celebrates a successful Current Best Practices training session in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Melissa was named an Emerging Training Leader by Training Magazine. (Photo courtesy: Melissa King) 

A few examples of DPR’s learning opportunities:

  • A national DPR training initiative that helps our project engineers (PEs) become even better, more well-rounded, technical builders is in line with our core value of “Ever Forward.” PEs from around the country converge at one DPR region for the week, where participants have long days of actual physical building, lessons learned from the day, team-building events at night, and DPR culture story telling. The unique experience also incorporates the company’s strong commitment to giving back to the community—in a recent session, participants donated chicken coops they built to local schools.


Project engineers strap on their boots and learn how to lay concrete during a build day with DPR's self-perform work concrete team. (Photo courtesy: Everett Rosette)

  • The Energy Project is an approach we used on one of our complex hospital projects, which extended beyond our employees and included the engineers, architects, subcontractors and customer on that project team. The concept behind The Energy Project is that by raising our own personal energy levels, we can increase our personal and professional performance. Looking at four aspects of energy (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual), the team’s overall energy improved by 43% as a direct result of training.

Those are just two examples of the diverse learning opportunities we offer, which range from focusing on technical aspects of construction to people skills (self-awareness, conflict resolution, time/life management, etc.). Using data from Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Critical Success Factors and more performance metrics, our training concentrates on building better builders.

At DPR, we are a learning organization and believe who we build is as important as what we build. We recognize that continuous learning and development are keys to the success of individuals and project teams. 


Who we build is as important as what we build: a group at Current Best Practices participates in an interactive quality control exercise. (Photo courtesy: Melissa King) 

February 5, 2017

Former Atlanta Falcons QB Steve Bartkowski: Building Great Things On and Off the Field

DPR’s Steve Bartkowski has been building great things his whole life–but not in the way you might think.

Taken off the board as the No. 1 overall pick of the 1975 National Football League (NFL) Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, the young quarterback from Santa Clara, California started building a strong reputation and relationships early on in his career. He helped resurrect the struggling football program at UC Berkeley, leading the nation in passing yards and becoming a consensus All-American in the process. Bartkowski also became the first client of his pal from the Berkeley dorms–Leigh Steinberg, who went on to represent more star athletes and inspire the film Jerry Maguire


The No. 1 overall pick of the 1975 NFL Draft, Bartkowski guided the team to its first playoff victory in franchise history over the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978. (Photo courtesy: Steve Bartkowski)

The blessing (and the curse) of being the No. 1 overall pick is that the best collegiate player goes to the worst team in the NFL. No stranger to rebuilding, Bartkowski became the NFL Rookie of the Year, led Atlanta to its first playoff victory in franchise history in 1978 and playoff appearances in 1980 and 1982, setting multiple team records along the way. In his 11 seasons with the Falcons and one season with the Los Angeles Rams, he appeared in two Pro Bowls and threw for over 24,000 passing yards.

After undergoing nine operations over the course of his football career, Bartkowski had failing knees and “literally no gas in the tank,” as he likes to put it. He retired after the 1986 season, and faced the difficult, strange challenge of adjusting to a life without football–all he’d ever known. He served on the Atlanta Falcons’ board of advisors for 13 years, attends almost every home game and occasionally mentors current players.


After retiring from football, Bartkowski took up golfing. From left to right: Bartkowski, John Imlay, Chris Redman and Matt Ryan on a golf trip to Scotland. (Photo courtesy: Steve Bartkowski)

Close friends with the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, Bartkowski talks about everything other than football with the Super Bowl quarterback who is breaking the passing records he set decades ago. Sharing a love of golf and impacting people’s lives in a positive way, the two have collaborated on community initiatives with organizations, including Children’s Healthcare and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Atlanta.

With the reputation of integrity he built as a player in Atlanta, he was adamant about working for a company he would never have to apologize for and one that he could be proud of like he is of his beloved Falcons. After connecting Jim Dolen, his childhood best friend and one of DPR’s original eight employees, to some construction opportunities in the Southeast, Bartkowski joined the DPR team as one of the first four members of DPR’s Atlanta office. In his client relations/business development role, Bartkowski helps grow relationships with customers.


Bartkowski is joined by Jim and James Dolen at his induction to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012. (Photo courtesy: Steve Bartkowski)

“I’m now going on my 17th year with DPR, and never once have I had to apologize for anything that we have done. We do what we say we’re going to do, and this team has always made me proud of what we’ve built in the area,” he said.

Bartkowski compares construction to football as the ultimate team sport. His strength is creating conversation starters and building relationships–football is always an easy topic in the South–but he is just one piece of the team. “I’m pretty good at shaking someone’s hand, creating a relationship, and then ‘handing off’ the project to others on the team to execute,” he said. “There are so many people who are passionate about what they do at DPR, and none of them is going to allow the ball to be dropped.”


After hosting outdoor television shows on ESPN and TNN, Bartkowski joined DPR in a business development role. (Photo courtesy: Steve Bartkowski)

Bartkowski’s sons Phil and Peter followed in their father’s footsteps and joined the DPR family. Phil started in Atlanta, moved to DPR’s Redwood City office and has now relocated to DPR’s Houston office, and Peter worked in the Atlanta office for 11 years–creating lots of fun times at the Bartkowski Thanksgiving table, sharing DPR stories.

One thing Bartkowski learned on the football field is that you’re only as good as the team around you, and he has found a new team at DPR. They might not play football, but they will always have each other’s back, just like his offensive line would protect him from a pass rush.

And just as he helped build the football teams at Cal and Atlanta from the ground up, he helped open a new frontier with DPR Atlanta’s office, which now includes more than 150-employees and recently completed Clemson’s new football operations center and the University of Georgia’s indoor practice facility. Bartkowski has been a football player his whole life; he’s also been a builder…a builder of great things. 


A family of builders: Bartkowski’s son Phil (left) joined DPR and now works in the Houston office. (Photo courtesy: Steve Bartkowski)

January 25, 2017

Bringing New Methods, Technology to Korea while Embracing Local Culture

At the Hana Financial Group Data Center in Cheongna International City, South Korea, a DPR team participated in a traditional Korean gosa ceremony, marking new beginnings, hope and good luck.

The first building in South Korea to be built through preconstruction and a GMP contract, the seven-story, 325,000-sq.-ft. data center and 18-story, 342,000-sq.-ft. administration building will rival both domestic and international facilities, and is a significant milestone for DPR’s Korea practice.


The Hana Financial Group Data Center is the first building in South Korea to be built through preconstruction and a GMP contract. (Rendering courtesy: Samwoo Architects & Engineers)

Providing guidance and leveraging our network in a construction management role, the DPR team helped Hana Bank choose an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) system, the first one that has ever been installed globally. The diesel-driven rotary UPS in an isolated parallel (IP) configuration is backed up by batteries and makes sure the data center’s servers are always running with no glitches or loss of power. With expertise in the mission critical market, DPR helped the client and design team select this system, balancing the owner’s business requirements with optimizing the combination of redundancy, resilience, maintainability and cost.

The data center project has overcome challenges including troublesome soil condition as well as a local labor force that is unfamiliar with the mechanical and electrical systems used by global data centers. Led by Sangwoo Cho, who grew up in Korea, the in-country DPR team has remained continuously flexible to adapt to and integrate with the local culture, language and way of approaching situations. It’s a compromise of both sides adjusting to each other and finding a balance of what they are willing to change, while holding on to their respective values.


A rotary Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) system at the data center is just one way DPR has helped balance the owner’s business requirements with optimizing redundancy, resilience, maintainability and cost. (Photo courtesy: Grace Yoon)

“We understand how the locals do things here, and we have learned how to implement new techniques and strategies that can succeed within the current system in Korea. We are integrating into the local market,” said Hock Yap, DPR’s team leader on the Hana Data Center project.

DPR entered the Korean market in 2011, and has since collaborated with several large Korean general contractors, construction management firms and owners on the advancement and adoption of new technologies and ways to manage and deliver projects, including the Hana Financial Group campus, Gyeongsang National University Hospital and Parnas Tower.


The team participates in a traditional Korean gosa ceremony, marking new beginnings, hope and good luck. (Photo courtesy: Gerry Brown)

“In a sense, we are a breath of fresh air in Korea because we do things so progressively, with a focus on innovative technology. Whether it’s installing the first ever UPS system, collaborating on preconstruction, or introducing a new type of contract, sometimes our clients are in disbelief that we can actually do these things, but our achievements are real and can be backed up with data, facts and case studies,” said Yap.

Yap was one of the DPR team members who participated in the gosa ceremony, placing a symbolic envelope of money into the mouth of a pig’s head, as well as a dried pollock fish on the first server rack installed. Embracing the culture of Korea, the team is looking forward to building great things with hope and good fortune for decades to come.


The DPR team looks forward to building great things in Korea for decades to come. From left to right: George Pfeffer, Eric Lamb, Atul Khanzode, Sangwoo Cho, Gerry Brown, Grace Yoon, Hock Yap, DJ Yun, David Ibarra (Photo courtesy: Hock Yap)

January 12, 2017

DPR Volunteers Put Heart, Building Skills into REINS Facility

A group of DPR volunteers who helped construct a shade structure for REINS Therapeutic Horsemanship Program in Fallbrook, California brought much more than just their construction expertise to the project, which will benefit disabled individuals in their community.

They also brought plenty of heart.

The community initiative effort involved members of the Campus Point Building 2 project as well as HOK Architects, Hope-Amundson and several subcontractors. Collectively, they delivered a project to benefit the REINS program, which provides hundreds of disabled children and adults from Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties with physical, mental and emotional support through therapeutic equine-assisted activities.

The need for this particular project came to light earlier this year as the team was looking for an opportunity to tap their core expertise in a way that would have a lasting and positive impact on the local community. They had raised money for REINS through a cornhole event, but wanted to find a meaningful way to use their unique skillsets as builders–and found it when they discovered REINS needed a shading structure to protect children and families from weather when mounting and dismounting horses.


A DPR team gathered to build a shading structure for REINS Therapeutic Horsemanship Program in Fallbrook, California. (Photo courtesy: Debbie Shinner)

Last month, the team built the structure over the course of a day, with several following up at a later date to install the roof. Altogether, DPR volunteers put in an estimated nearly 120 volunteer hours, with the design team contributing an additional 40 hours or so to complete the job. The wood structure brings a highly functional, aesthetically pleasing new element to the REINS facility that has been met with widespread enthusiasm by the organization and its clients.

“I just can’t tell you all the wonderful comments we are getting on the project,” said Debbie Shinner, executive director at REINS. “The entire DPR team was so kind and considerate, and we are so very grateful for all the time and energy they put into the project.”

Building the structure in the midst of students who were passing by let volunteers truly see the positive impact the facility would have.

“It inspired us to do an even better job,” said DPR’s Dora Kaouki. “Everybody came together, and we not only put our expertise into the project, but we also put our hearts.”

Just one example of the “heart” that went in: project superintendent John McDougall came back after the first December build day and decorated the new structure with poinsettias and a wreath. 

December 23, 2016

DPR Experts Spark Conversation at Bisnow’s Annual Data Center Investment Expo

Two of DPR’s core market experts took the stage this winter at Bisnow’s Annual Data Center Investment Expo in Dallas, where industry leaders from across the country gathered to discuss the latest trends and innovations in data centers and industrial buildings.

Among the group of speakers and panelists were DPR’s Mark Thompson, national advanced technology market group leader and Andy Andres, a project executive in DPR’s Dallas office.

Throughout Thompson’s role as moderator of one of the panels, several topics about site selection were debated, including successful factors to hyperscale projects, and the process of locating strong regions and sites.

Thompson recalls the following takeaways:

  • The key to a hyperscale project’s success is speed-to-market and partnerships, due to rapid growth and extensive project scopes.
  • After the strategy behind the business direction is decided, regions are then considered and based around demand.
  • The two pivotal factors following site selection include core fundamentals of infrastructure (water, sewer, power, fiber), and connectivity to populated areas for access to labor.

Andres participated in a design and development discussion focused on the importance of progressive technology when building data centers. As a panelist, Andres shared some of DPR’s best practices in technology utilization, including:

  • The use of laser scanning and drones, which help transform facilities into more adaptable and flexible spaces, ultimately reducing uncertainty during the construction process.
  • The creation of a collaborative work environment with real-time project management tools to continuously reaffirm what the customer wants to build and how they want to build it.
  • The importance of technical platforms to integrate virtual designs in design-assist and build-out.

Industrial buildings and data centers have been equipped with more features in recent years and are continuing to evolve. Data centers are transforming to denser builds with more power and cooling. Like DPR, other client-serving companies are creating their own standards of certification, which can lead to an entirely different approach to build-outs and the overall business purpose of a project.

Overall, both conversations captured new and upcoming trends seen across the country in the business and development of data centers. From fundamental project planning to advancements in technology, both panels influenced audiences by providing a variety of outlooks and experiences, as well as robust strategy.

December 22, 2016

Q&A: Building Lasting Relationships

To truly develop a lasting relationship with a medical center, you have to be prepared to assist in whatever way is necessary to help them succeed, whether it is to provide a budget, complete a large expansion or come back to move something as simple as a door.

Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, a project DPR completed in 2012, recently selected DPR to build two new projects, valued at $200,000 each: retrofitting the existing labor-and-delivery floor and adding a neonatal intensive-care unit to the same floor. 


Palomar Medical Center accommodates up to 360 patient beds, 12 operating rooms, a 50-room trauma center, a 60,000-sq.-ft. undulating green roof and a 40,000-sq.-ft. central plant.

San Diego business unit leader Brian Gracz, who was the project executive on the original Palomar Medical Center, recently chatted with commercial real estate publication GlobeSt about what it takes not only to build great things, but build great relationships.

Read the full Q&A on the DPR Review

December 22, 2016

DPR Builds Bridge to Community with Mission Solano Women’s & Children’s Shelter

DPR’s Northbay Medical Center project team recently put its building skills to good use in Fairfield, California, delivering a much-needed flooring renovation at Mission Solano’s Bridge to Life Center, a holistic program that houses and assists homeless veterans and families.

The volunteer project infused a “breath of fresh air” into Mission Solano’s Matt Garcia Home for Women and Children, according to chief program officer Raymond Courtemanche. “There is new movement, energy and feeling valued (by our residents) by taking care of the place that they live in, where they receive compassionate care,” he said. “DPR helped start this movement of support for this building that will help us get to capacity. The DPR team was just amazing in their support, generosity and synergy, in partnering with us to complete this work.”


DPR installed new flooring throughout the Mission Solano women's and children's center. 

The DPR team had been looking for a project that would use their unique skillset as builders to benefit the community when the center contacted them this fall for help installing new flooring throughout its women and children’s center. DPR project manager Stephanie Jones-Lee spearheaded the effort, bringing in subcontractors to assist with donating and installing new carpets and wood bases for the sleeping dorms, family lounges, family sleeping quarters and nursery areas. DPR donated approximately $5,000 in materials and labor, and four project team members spent several days installing the wood base.

The project’s completion enables Mission Solano to pursue its mission of providing not only transitional residential housing but also holistic care for up to 68 residents in the women and children’s shelter alone. The organization also provides services to veterans and others in need.

“We provide an economic and spiritual bridge so that people can strive to regain the basic necessities in their lives, and join the community as full and active participants,” said Courtemanche.


DPR volunteers infused a “breath of fresh air” into Mission Solano’s Matt Garcia Home for Women and Children.

December 15, 2016

Can Companies Successfully Operate without a CEO?

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) asked that very question during recent interviews with Doug Woods, co-founder and the D in DPR, and Matt Murphy, who is part of the Texas Business Unit Leadership team.

How does DPR do it? What are the benefits? What are the challenges?

The benefits were easy to articulate: increased collaboration, enhanced decision-making at all levels, greater opportunities for leadership, and a highly engaged workforce. Employees are empowered and trusted to make decisions. The focus is on roles, responsibilities and experience—versus titles, bureaucracy and power. That’s what it feels like to work at DPR.


The Wall Street Journal interviewed DPR's Doug Woods and Matt Murphy about shared leadership for the December 14, 2016 print and online editions. 

The challenges, however, while slightly more difficult to accurately convey, are what builds the character of DPR from deep within.

In the WSJ article, Woods mentions that the Management Committee arrives at decisions together, sometimes after “a lot of argument,” but claims the company is better off with consensus.

To some, arguing or conflict is seen as a negative. In the culture of DPR, it’s a positive. We have groups of leaders, who are passionate, engaged, and openly and respectfully express/debate various points of view to arrive at the best direction for the company. It is by thoughtful design and this commitment to brutal honesty and transparency that helps build trust with all who have the opportunity to work here.


Shared leadership focuses on combining the strengths of people to produce high-performing teams ready to build great things. DPR's Management Committee includes (top row) Mike Ford, Greg Haldeman, George Pfeffer, Eric Lamb, (bottom row) Mike Humphrey, Michele Leiva, Peter Salvati and Jody Quinton. 

For Murphy, who previously worked for more traditionally structured construction companies before joining DPR in 2013, it’s a “breath of fresh air” that has helped the Texas region thrive and grow into a tri-city, $1 billion operation.

“In the traditional model, you get one person’s direction or opinion. At DPR, you get lots of opinions and advice but no one person tells you what to do. At the end of the day, it’s your decision to make and you take responsibility for that decision,” said Murphy. “The Management Committee gives us all the tools we need and trusts us to make it happen.”

That’s the level of trust you need if you want to operate without a CEO.


DPR’s collaborative spirit is exemplified through shared leadership. It began with DPR’s three co-founders, Doug Woods, Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski in 1990, and continues with DPR’s Management Committee and throughout the company.

December 14, 2016

DPR Corner: The Advancement of Standards

We all desire more predictable results and outcomes.

One of DPR’s four core values is Ever Forward: “We believe in continual self-initiated change, improvement, learning and the advancement of standards for their own sake.” This core value, combined with our other core values of integrity, enjoyment and uniqueness, has served us well.

It has helped sustain our desire to be a progressive and nimble learning organization, where people are empowered to drive continuous improvement for our customers and their projects. DPR has always been a thinking organization, with people willing to learn, change, adapt, move and build it better.

But as we move forward and further dissect the intent of our Ever Forward core value, we must also be mindful of where standards (or the advancement of standards) fit into our entrepreneurial company culture and our customer-centric industry. Well-crafted standards and proven current best practices (how we like to think of them at DPR) are the basis for improvement and can help set a strong foundation for consistency and reliability. 

Read the full story about how we’re working together to set new standards and then advance them for advancement’s sake in the DPR Review.


Ever Forward: “We believe in continual self-initiated change, improvement, learning and the advancement of standards for their own sake.”