March 31, 2016

Is This Virtual Reality’s Turning Point?

The first consumer-ready Oculus Rift headsets (commonly called Head Mounted Displays, or HMD’s) available to the public are shipping this week, a momentous milestone for the growing use of virtual reality (VR) technology, which is experiencing a resurgence after failed experiments in the 80’s and 90’s. Since recapturing the public’s attention on a large scale in 2014 when Facebook purchased Oculus VR, virtual reality has never been widely available to consumers – until now.

We started experimenting with virtual reality around 2010. Back then – just six years ago – the only option was to hire VR developers to build very custom commercial applications. The early days of VR were limited by both location and cost. You often had to physically travel to a VR company’s special room in order to step inside your virtual reality, as well as pay for the custom VR development and room rental.

Fairly common within the industry today are virtual mockups – small scale, highly detailed BIM models representing the same details or rooms that we’ve historically created as physical mockups. These limited virtual mockups have to be communicated via computer screen or projector, and they essentially take 3-D information from a BIM model and flatten it back down to a 2-D presentation. The result is a mockup that you can view, but not experience. Adding virtual reality, by way of a HMD, to a virtual mockup promises to give end users more of a ‘feel’ and connection to a space than a 2-D drawing ever could. It also opens up participatory design discussions with opportunities to virtually insert end users into a 3-D space that they can walk around and experience.

For example, at a major renovation project for Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCUHS), DPR was faced with the challenge of showing the design and layout of operating rooms within the 85,000-sq.-ft. project to doctors, nurses and other hospital staff who were constantly on call at the Level 1 trauma center. There was no space in or around the hospital for a physical model, so DPR created an immersive virtual reality mockup by using the Oculus Rift. All we needed was a laptop and a headset, which allowed us to put our end users inside a full scale, highly detailed operating room environment. This allowed us to solicit invaluable design feedback from the people who would be using the hospital most.

The way virtual reality develops within the next year, and how the industry reacts to it, will shape VR’s place in the construction and design process. Maybe in five years or so, doing live design modifications (moving walls, furniture, finishes, and more) within virtual reality environments will become a commonplace within our industry, further enabling opportunities for creative design. Today, VR is most commonly used for visualization, but in the future, it could be leveraged more for real-time analysis and problem solving. It could be ubiquitous, an integral part of every construction process.

This week is more than a turning point for virtual reality – it’s just the beginning. 

A staff member at VCU uses an Oculus Rift headset to view the design and layout of the renovation. 

An example of a VCU virtual reality mockup that hospital staff members were able to virtually experience. 

March 29, 2016

DPR MicroVention Project Crew, Playworks Team up to Help Local School

The construction team at DPR’s MicroVention project site in Aliso Viejo, Calif. partnered with youth in Playworks’ junior leadership program to transform a 12 x 12 foot barren dirt lot on the school grounds into a colorful space for gardening and creativity. Playworks, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting safe, fun and healthy play at schools across the nation, is based in mostly underfunded schools, so the landscape enhancements were needed by both Playworks participants and the community.

Photo courtesy Maddie Schotl

On the afternoon of March 10, 10 DPR team members came to the school and, together with 15 Playworks participants, transformed the space. The children helped level and prepare the dirt site. DPR crews and the students then moved into place six planter boxes, which had been prefabbed by MicroVention team members earlier that day.

Photo courtesy Maddie Schotl

Working with the DPR crews, the students brainstormed how to create a functional space. They put their math skills to work computing how much dirt would be needed to fill the boxes and got dirty placing and filling the boxes with rock and topsoil readying them for plants that are to follow.

Photo courtesy Maddie Schotl

The construction team at the MicroVention site are already planning their next project with the Playworks youth. 

March 21, 2016

Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute: Built By Women, For Women

Congratulations to the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute project team for winning a National Excellence in Construction Pyramid Award from the Associated Builders & Contractors in the category of Healthcare, $10-$25 million. The awards program honors high-quality merit shop construction projects that include innovation, quality workmanship, and the highest safety standards.

It’s not every day that you have a facility designed and constructed by women, for women, especially when the percent of women in the construction and architecture industries accounts for only 12 percent of the workforce (2014 US Bureau of Labor Statistics). However, from DPR’s early involvement in preconstruction, it was clear that the team of architects, designers and owner’s representatives – which just so happened to be a 90 percent female team – shared a vision for creating a facility with the patient in mind.

The final product is the strikingly beautiful Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute. This 46,000-sq.ft. facility offers the expertise of renowned clinicians, the most advanced imaging technology in the region and a myriad of holistic and educational programs and support groups, providing women in South Florida with a continuum of care.

Perhaps summed up best by Dr. Kathy Schilling of the institute, “Our goal is to meld our leading position in breast health with the significant expertise Boca Regional has in such areas as pelvic health, cardiovascular disease and other important specialties,” said Dr. Schilling. “In the new Christine E. Lynn Women's Health & Wellness Institute we have done just that and now offer a spectrum of services, all in one place and at one time.”

DPR Construction, the HKS Architects team, as well as designers and owner’s representatives are all proud to have worked on a project which will leave a truly lasting impact on women’s healthcare in the community. 

Kali Bonnell (R), project manager, and I accept the pyramid award during the 26th annual Excellence in Construction awards ceremony.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Thompson)

March 11, 2016

Setting the Course for Safety Success

Creating an environment that encourages each person on the jobsite to be responsible for not only themselves, but for others around them, is vital to successfully completing an injury-free project. DPR’s Mid-Atlantic region recently completed two projects—a data center in Ashburn, Va. and the Inova Ashburn Healthplex— where safety was clearly communicated as a value throughout the project, which set the teams up to reach a combined 21 months of work injury-free.

To provide insight into how these projects reached completion injury-free, Project Manager Josh Bronitsky and Superintendent Bob Akers shared their thoughts on what they believe contributed to their success.

Overall, both project teams identified communication, discipline and a project-wide commitment to safety as major factors in creating an injury-free environment.

“Communication with the workers on site, specifically regarding the standards and expectations we have, is necessary,” said Bob. “In addition, it’s important to create a disciplined zero tolerance for unsafe behavior approach. If a rule is established during the initial job orientation, you must follow through and be consistent. Fairness matters to the men and women working. Whether it is different subcontractors or jobsite visitors, make sure everybody is held to the same standards.”

Both Josh and Bob believe that to create this safety-centric environment, everyone tied to the job in any way is a key player. Josh saw that to be successful, the individual workers must first believe that safety is a value, followed by the commitment from crew foremen, project leadership and all subcontractors on site.

“We were able to establish trust with our subcontractor partners around safety concepts early on,” said Josh. “They understood that our desire for a safe work environment was more than just a motto on a sign. When any hazardous conditions presented themselves, the subs reported immediately to DPR for direction. DPR was able to provide a safe alternative for the owner as well as educating them as to why we considered the situation hazardous.”

To create the culture of safety as a value, Josh and Bob also utilized practices such as daily meetings with the foremen to discuss safety issues, worker orientations, online safety inspections through Safetynet, and even hiring at least one full-time laborer focused on keeping the space tidy. In addition, Bob made sure to get to know the individual workers on a personal level and to communicate the overall goal of the project so they could understand the importance of what they are doing.

“One interesting practice we implemented was requiring the subcontractor’s safety professionals to report to the DPR trailer and submit their safety report face-to-face,” said Josh. “Often, these professionals come out to the jobsite, meet with their crews, suggest improvements, and then leave. We felt it was an opportunity we’d be missing out on to grow the relationships and learn from each other if we did not utilize their trade-specific expertise to understand what they felt needed to be improved. This is something that I’ll carry with me to future projects.”

At the end of the day, creating an injury-free environment will not be successful without the commitment from every person on the job. Because of that, the DPR Mid-Atlantic teams found that it is most important to have everybody on the jobsite feel like they are truly part of a team and how they are making a difference. Beginning with that, the culture of putting safety first spreads and ultimately helps ensure that every person goes home safe.

March 3, 2016

DPR and Future For Kids Demonstrate the Power of Community Partnership

For the past six years and counting, DPR and its Phoenix region employees have invested substantial resources and volunteer hours in support of Future for Kids (FFK), a community service organization serving local at-risk youth. In addition to over $200,000 in financial support in the past three years alone, DPR employees logged nearly 1,900 volunteer hours from 2013-2015 helping with FFK fundraising events, sports camps, its School of Construction and much more.

But perhaps nowhere has the depth of DPR’s commitment been more apparent, or the importance of community partnerships better illustrated, than in a recent fast-tracked, major new office finish-out completed for FFK through volunteer time and material donations.

The project became necessary when FFK found out they needed to quickly relocate their Scottsdale headquarters after a new developer bought the space. Future for Kids board member Bruce Shapiro of Arizona Partners generously offered up space in one of his retail buildings in Tempe – but the unfinished property needed a complete build-out to be useable.

DPR project manager Tim Hyde, current president of FFK’s board of directors, recognized that the project presented an opportunity to leverage their core building skills and capabilities on behalf of an important community partner. This was our opportunity to have a tremendous impact their mission,” Hyde commented.

Future for Kids' office renovation was completed in less than a month with volunteer labor and material donations. Photo courtesy Tim Hyde.

According to FFK’s Executive Director Madonna Bistany, the volunteer finishout project exemplifies the strong partnership that FFK and DPR have cultivated over the years – one that has been integral to their success.

“DPR Construction has stood alongside Future for Kids for over six years, supporting and strengthening our work with youth in the community,” she commented. “Having the support of a strong company like DPR allows FFK to focus on the important work of our mission. That is truly the power of well-established, philanthropic corporate relationships.”

Collectively, Phoenix employees logged some 236 hours on the project. That included a major effort by DPR self-perform crews, who donated nearly 100 volunteer hours on the job. Hyde estimated that DPR and other community partners put in place an estimated $50,000 worth of work – all at an out-of-pocket cost to FFK of around $8,000.

Volunteers from DPR's self-perform group framed up walls for the new office. Photo courtesy Tim Hyde.

The support was literally a godsend to FFK, according to Bistany.

“Our organization runs nine outreach programs each week serving 450 youths and three large scale camps around the Phoenix area,” Bistany said. “Having to move was a scary and complicated process. After sharing the location opportunity along with its challenges with our Board Chair, Tim Hyde, he immediately had the vision and know-how to make something from nothing.” 

Reviewing plans in the empy shell space; volunteers in action; completed restroom. Photo courtesy Tim Hyde.

March 1, 2016

Making Safety Personal

When it comes to safety, good or even great is never enough. DPR projects across the country continually look for safety ideas that encourage teams to change behaviors and achieve DPR’s zero incidents goal.

At the Arizona State University (ASU) Arizona Center for Law and Society (ACLS) in Phoenix, the team is going above and beyond to optimize jobsite safety by implementing creative new practices. For example:

  • Plus/delta sessions: Lunch-time brainstorming sessions where safety ideas are discussed, such as making filtered water more readily available to workers for hydration in the hot Arizona weather to procuring a specific knuckle boom lift that helped the plumbers do their job more safely.
  • Safety recognition stickers: On regular safety job walks, the ACLS leadership hands out stickers to those who demonstrate exemplary safety practices in the field. 
  • Acting on leading indicators: Before performing work, the crews fill out a pre-task plan that outlines how they will execute their assigned task in the safest manner possible. At the end of each week, these plans are reviewed and the three that demonstrate the most thorough safety action plans are awarded with free lunches. Those winning pre-task plans are then shared with the rest of the project team as an opportunity for learning. 

Safety results on the project speak volumes for the success of the team, as they make safety a value on site. In October, the team held a safety milestone barbeque for 270 people, celebrating 300,000 hours worked with a zero lost-time incident rate.

Read more about safety on the ACLS site here

February 24, 2016

LinkedIn Goes West

When you think of Portland, you might think of coffeehouses or the infamous Pacific Northwest rain. But did you know Portland is also quickly becoming a technology hub with a flourishing economy and countless new opportunities for innovation?

This very fact is one of the reasons LinkedIn has decided to build its newest data center in Hillsboro, a suburb just outside of Portland. With existing data center sites in Virginia and Texas, this new west-coast site will allow LinkedIn to achieve their goal of establishing data centers in varied regions across the United States. 

Additionally, this location enables LinkedIn to have direct access to green power. For 200 days out of the year the data center will utilize free cooling, reducing their overall energy usage. The location will also allow LinkedIn to explore new options for renewable energy and sustainable sourcing, leading to the company’s ultimate goal of 100 percent renewable energy usage.

So why the need for another data center? In the last year, LinkedIn’s storage and processing needs have increased by 34 percent. Working to stay ahead of this rapidly growing demand, LinkedIn is adding more capacity in order to maintain the consistent and reliable service LinkedIn members are expecting.

Construction of the data center will be completed in two phases. Phase 1, the build-out of data hall space for LinkedIn in an existing Infomart colocation facility, is comprised of 15,000 sq. ft. of white space and 3,000 sq. ft. of ancillary space. This will be DPR’s second time working in this facility, with the first time being in 2012 for Fortune Data Centers (now known as Infomart Data Centers).

Phase 2 is the construction of a new 100,000-sq.-ft. data center shell, 15,000 sq. ft. of which is confirmed for LinkedIn. Once both phases are complete, Infomart’s entire facility will be served by 16 MW of IT Critical Power.

Due to LinkedIn’s rapid growth and need for quick deployments, fast-track delivery is crucial for this design-build project. Even with the record-breaking amount of rainfall the area is experiencing, the project team remains confident in their scheduled completion dates.

LinkedIn’s latest data center will go online late 2016. 

The LinkedIn Data Center Services team breaking ground on the new facility in Hillsboro, OR with the help of the Infomart team and the Mayor of Hillsboro.

February 23, 2016

Raleigh-Durham Region Leverages Building Skills with Recent Habitat Workday

Working alongside a family who put in sweat equity as down-payment on their future new home, a group of 17 DPR volunteers was able to leverage their building skills on a recent Habitat for Humanity project in the Raleigh-Durham region.

The Jan. 29 project marked the final workday on a new Habitat home that is slated to be turned over to the homeowner in mid-February. DPR volunteers who turned out included four craft workers as well as an array of office, administrative and field personnel. They spent a full workday landscaping the backyard, cutting trees, mulching and planting shrubs in the front and building interior shelves and a bench.

Photo courtesy De'Lisa Stringer

Brian Tostenson helped organize the event for DPR along with community initiatives champion De’Lisa Stringer. Having the opportunity to meet the family that would be moving into the new home and sharing a lunch of homemade porridge provided by the family of new immigrants was a highlight of the day, according to Tostenson.

“It was awesome,” he said. “They brought out their 18-month old baby and shared this delicious lunch with us. It was cool to see the whole family there together and to get a sense of why we were actually there working.”

Photo courtesy De'Lisa Stringer

The opportunity to put DPR’s construction skills to use is also rewarding, according to Stringer. She pointed out that the Raleigh-Durham region is moving toward formalizing their partnerships with the local arms of Habitat for Durham County and Rebuilding Together of the Triangle.

“We are going to be contributing a certain amount of hours and donation funds every year from 2017 on,” she commented. “These organizations are huge supporters of low income development, and this really fits in with our focus on skills-based volunteering.”

DPR plans at least another five events this year, some large and some small, Stringer added. “The goal is to give everyone in our office an opportunity to participate in some way.”

February 22, 2016

Genentech CCP-2 Project Wins 2016 Facility of the Year Award

Congratulations to the Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, team for winning a coveted 2016 Facility of the Year Award (FOYA) in the Process Innovation category for the Cell Culture Biologics Drug Substance Plant 2 (CCP-2) Manufacturing Facility and Return to Service (RTS) project. 

Developed by the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE), FOYAs recognize the best pharmaceutical science and manufacturing industry projects in the world. The FOYA program seeks to showcase accomplishments in facility design, construction, and operation while sharing new technologies or advanced applications of existing technology. The FOYA judging team is made up of senior industry leaders with global experience across all sectors of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology manufacturing industry.

This year’s winning Process Innovation project focused on an upgrade to the original CCP-2 facility that was put into an “idle” status in 2010 and a fast-track Return to Service project that was driven by product demand levels that had tripled in recent years. 

At 450,000 sq. ft., the CCP-2 expansion to Genentech’s Vacaville, CA facility makes it one of the largest biotechnology fermentation facilities of its kind in the world. The CCP-2 facility includes manufacturing and support space, which houses some of the largest scale cell culture drug substance production equipment in the industry, including 8 x 25 KL production reactors. 

This project took an innovative approach to process and equipment design to improve the facility’s reliability and efficiency. Examples include: highly automated CIP systems, buffer concentrates, buffer bags, and in-line concentrates, as well as a centralized resin slurry and delivery system. 

Process innovations include: 
•    High titer yields at the largest bioreactor scale used in the industry, 
•    The conversion of downstream processing, and 
•    An all-fluid handling system to support the recovery of this higher titer output compared to the original installation’s lower titer design criteria.

Upgrading the existing CCP-2 facility to support new process technology instead of constructing a new building saved the owner $50 million. The project team also finished two months ahead of an aggressive 15 month schedule, making this truly a project of perseverance and a testament to the terrific amount of drive, innovation, and creativity from everyone who worked on the project. 

Fun Fact: DPR Construction was the builder for original CCP-2 Manufacturing Facility and Return to Service projects. In addition, DPR also built the Genentech Oceanside Production Operations facility, which won the ISPE’s 2007 FOYA in the Project Execution category and the overall 2007 Facility of the Year award. 

February 10, 2016

Build It Again, DPR

Almost 20 years after first entering the Richmond, Virginia market to build a semiconductor plant for Motorola and Siemens—a project that still ranks as one of the fastest-to-market facilities of its kind ever built—DPR is back at the same site. The current project? Repurposing and converting the former White Oak Semiconductor plant into a modern data center for Quality Technology Services (QTS).

“I guess if you’re in the technical building industry long enough, you get to build great things twice,” said DPR's Mike White, who is managing the current QTS data center project and also managed the original White Oak project back in the 1990s. 

With a wealth of technical expertise, this project was a perfect fit for DPR to take on. However, that's not to say the project was without its challenges, including aggressive energy use goals and a focus on the maximum repurposing of existing assets. 

How did the project team tackle these challenges? Find out by reading the full story here