April 25, 2014

The Unknown, Hidden Secret of SSG: Self-Performed Work

DPR Special Services Group (SSG) incorporates Self-Performed Work (SPW) in just about all of our projects. Why do we do that? The obvious benefits often cited are: time, budget, quality and safety. But there’s another dimension to SPW, a single defining idea that holds together the process and makes it a golden strategy for project success. That aspect is, in a word, communication.

We’re continually interested in innovative approaches to improving work method. Over the years, we’ve discovered that SPW can help the process in making jobs run smoother, by opening up and facilitating the channels of communication, as it monitors the interactions and intersections of every trade at work on a job. It turns out that high awareness and connection can both improve project completion, not to mention client satisfaction. As we have evolved our understanding of how this happens, we’ve experienced excellent results. Managing relationships definitely improves performance.

Classically, benefits in time can result. Owing to improved lines of communication, there is less wait for biddable documents.  Early estimating, logistics and scheduling means work starts earlier in the field. SSG and SPW are perfectly suited for projects that require completion on the fast-track.  Adjustments are made quickly to compensate for changes in conditions and scope of work. The size of teams can grow or shrink according to need. We more effectively stay on-track for delivery dates with everyone in the communication loop.

Budgets are more closely monitored because SPW engages the design team earlier than it traditionally occurs in projects. This allows greater influence in the project outcome. It translates into efficiencies and savings, among them smarter production details and the ability to specify cost-saving alternative materials.

It’s no accident that a safe workplace contributes to the overall success of a project. We find that our crews working onsite provide a consistent reminder of the company’s high expectations as they interact with other subcontractors. These teams also serve as an extra set of eyes on the project site. Despite the urban myth that safety means a sacrifice in productivity, DPR has found that with proper planning, production increases as jobsite safety increases.

You can easily quantify the benefits of SPW in time, budget, quality and safety. And it’s true that SPW improves the client experience. But the core concept of how it works comes down to simple relationship building.  It is no coincidence that relationship-building is a core tenet of DPR philosophy. The beauty of SPW is that it succeeds by promoting a commonality of goals, heightened communication and a great result for our clients.

SPW Photo Courtesy of David Cox

April 23, 2014

Tile Wall Spotlights Creativity at Milagro Center

Hundreds of creative, colorful stars and other patterns, hand-painted by youngsters onto 6-by-6-inch ceramic square tiles, currently adorn an entryway wall at the Milagro Center in Delray Beach, Fla. DPR had a major hand making the new tile wall a reality for the center, an organization supported by the DPR Foundation.

On a Saturday in early April DPR employees spent time installing the tiles as well as a much-needed custom storage cabinet for the Milagro Center’s volunteer coordinator.

The watercolor painted tiles not only serve to brighten the physical environment of the center where local disadvantaged youth enjoy after-school arts and education programs, but they also represent a source of pride for the 30 or so elementary-age students that use the center each day. The new display wall offers them the opportunity to publicly showcase their emerging artistic abilities in a setting that elevates art and music education. For many of those children, the Milagro Center provides a vital supplement to public schools that have cut art and music programs in recent years.

The children were reportedly delighted when they saw their handiwork up for the first time the following Monday. “I heard from the volunteer coordinator when the students started showing up after school that they were thrilled to see the (formerly) blank wall covered with their colorful tiles,” DPR's Milagro Center liaison Luke Stocking says.

Stocking’s own volunteer work with the Center initially began about a year ago when he helped out with renovation needs as the Center was readying its previous facility for sale. Over the last two months or so, he has committed time each week to meeting with and mentoring the students after school. The personal reward of spending time with the youth has been priceless, he says.

“The children at this center are from working class families, and their parents often have two or three jobs,” Stocking says. “Just being able to see their faces light up when an adult goes there to spend time with them, whether it’s helping with math homework or playing Monopoly, it’s a great feeling. It’s really fulfilling to see people be truly happy that you’re there just to spend time.”

And there is much more planned in the months ahead. DPR is working in partnership with other local community businesses including Bank of America to provide career development sessions at the Milagro teen center, located in a separate building nearby. Tentatively scheduled for May through August, once a month DPR employees will conduct an hourlong session to discuss the opportunities in construction and share the many diverse roles available in the industry.

The Milagro Center is one of 15 youth organizations nationally awarded a total of $900,000 in grants by the DPR Foundation in December 2013. Over the past six years, the Foundation has awarded more than $3.2 million to 22 different organizations focused on providing community support to grade school and high school-aged children.

April 19, 2014

Collaboration Brings New Bikes To Bay Area Youth

Every kid deserves a bike.

That was the underlying driver behind an innovative collaboration between two DPR Foundation-supported organizations in the Bay Area, 7 Tepees and Turning Wheels for Kids (TWFK). The result was an event March 22, 2014, that benefited nearly 20 youngsters, each of whom received a bike, helmet and lock as well as bike safety training.


A dozen DPR volunteers along with volunteers from the two charities and from Google (who work with the youth as mentors) turned out to support and run the event held at the 7 Tepees learning center in San Francisco’s Mission District.

The project was the brainchild of DPR’s 7 Tepees liaison, Steven Grandin, who says the idea came to him one day sitting at work. Knowing the excellent work San Jose-based TWFK does each year providing new bikes to underprivileged children in the Bay Area, Grandin wondered whether the youth they support in the 7 Tepees program could also benefit.

Ultimately, 19 middle and high school youth turned out for the daylong program which included each participant learning to build their own bike, bike safety training with the San Francisco Biking Coalition and a group ride. “It was really important to have the kids participate in the process,” Grandin says. “We don’t just hand things to them, in anything we do with them.”

For most of the youth from 7 Tepees, the bike they received was their first. Some had never even ridden a bike before and were taught how to ride that day, Grandin says.

The event was a homerun in a number of ways, he says. For one, it set a precedent for DPR Foundation-supported groups working together to maximize the benefits. “I think the synergy and the coordination between two of our supported organizations is really a milestone for us.”

In addition, the partnership will allow TWFK to collect information over time on how the youth are using the bikes. “We’ll check in quarterly and see how they are using the bikes, if they still have them, and how the bikes have impacted their lives,” Grandin says. “Being able to follow the metrics is extremely valuable and important.”

All in all, the day was a win-win for everyone involved, Grandin notes. “Everybody had a great time, and it was just a hugely successful event. The smiles on the kids’ faces really made it for me!”

April 18, 2014

DPR-Sponsored DiSC Training for MMYC Volunteers Offers Behind-the-Scenes Support for Mid-Atlantic Charity

When it comes to organizational effectiveness and the success of any business, the way in which people communicate, resolve issues and get along can have a big impact.

With that in mind, DPR recently led a DiSC training session for the AmeriCorps members who run the Maryland Multicultural Youth Center (MMYC), using DPR Foundation discretionary funds for supplies. The goal: to provide behind-the-scenes support to help train, develop and enhance the communication skills and insights of the volunteers who carry out the important mission of this DPR-supported center which serves local underprivileged youth.

Photo courtesy Jenn Bollenbacher

Liz Tershel, a DPR liaison to MMYC who led the March 22 session, notes that DPR is well acquainted with the value of the DiSC program. It is used companywide for new hire orientation, team building and developing jobsite teams. The program centers on the assessment of an individual’s personality type, as grouped into one of four basic categories: Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance. Related training can offer strategies for better communication with people of different personality types, greater insight and understanding of what makes oneself and others tick, and the best means to motivate people and to resolve and/or avoid conflict, among other things.

Nearly 20 AmeriCorps members turned out for the half-day class. The day began with a basic personality assessment test that generated an approximately 20-page report for each participant, outlining their general personality traits and communication characteristics. DPR field employees were on hand to share some of their own experiences working with different personalities, and a series of interactive activities and short movies along with discussion helped keep the class moving and the volunteers engaged.

The training was a hit with the AmeriCorps members according to Tershel, who noted they deal with a wide range of personalities and situations with the children in the MMYC program every day.

“They kept coming up to me and saying ‘this is amazing, insightful and helps me be reflective on myself,’’” she said. “The main objective for the class is to discover what your personality type is and how you communicate, then understanding how others communicate, and finally, how to build more effective relationships.”

MMYC is one of 15 youth organizations nationally awarded a total of $900,000 in grants by the DPR Foundation in December 2013. Over the past six years, the Foundation has awarded more than $3.2 million to 22 different organizations focused on providing community support to grade school and high school-aged children. MMYC, which provides educational support/tutoring, cultural enrichment, nutrition, summer programs and physical activities to middle school youth, is a member of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) family of organizations.

March 28, 2014

DPR Delivers Much Needed Space for LifeWorks in Austin

DPR volunteers donated their time and construction expertise to create a much-needed storage building at LifeWorks’ recently completed Supportive Housing Apartment development in Austin, Texas.

The team repurposed materials from a mock-up built as part of the new apartment construction project. Recycling that material was beneficial to both the environment and to the DPR-supported youth organization, according to LifeWorks chief operating officer Mitch Weynand.

“Instead of disassembling and dumping the mock-up, DPR helped turn it into a storage building for our Teen Parent Services and Supportive Housing programs,” Weynand said. “LifeWorks sincerely appreciates the partnership with DPR. This was a big win for the environment and our youth!”

The new mobile shed, which matches the apartment building motif, was sorely needed, as it provides the only general storage space at the complex. It is being used to house furniture, baby items, car seats and other supplies that the organization can distribute to young parents and former homeless youth served by the program.

Although the half-day project was cut a bit short by rain, DPR volunteers delivered the expertly framed, useable shed by mid-day, leaving it to LifeWorks’ facility staff to add the finishing touches. Following the construction work, DPR presented LifeWorks with a check for $50,000 from the DPR Foundation’s end-of-2013 grants.

The shed project is DPR’s third volunteer construction project for LifeWorks, according to Weynand. They are already planning another build project for the next quarter: to construct space close to the apartment complex that will accommodate a personal trainer to work with young people in the program.

LifeWorks serves more than 10,000 individuals each year through 19 programs and services to the Greater Austin community. Its goal is to create individuals that are self-sufficient by providing them with a firm foundation for success. Most of the youth it serves have had their early lives filled with abuse, neglect, abandonment and instability. LifeWorks focuses on building their self-esteem, literacy and educational skills, as well as providing them opportunities to develop their soft and hard skills in order to enter the workforce.

March 19, 2014

DPR Hosts College Hoops Outing for MMYC Students

Nearly 30 middle school students enrolled in the DPR Foundation-supported Maryland Multicultural Youth Center (MMYC) enjoyed a day touring the American University (AU) campus and watching college hoops Saturday, March 1. The students, along with DPR employees, their families and AmeriCorps staff who serve as mentors to MMYC, came together to watch AU take on Bucknell University, tour the campus and goof off together.

The excursion represented a chance for the middle-schoolers to travel out of their own neighborhoods, some for the first time, and visit a top-ranked college campus located right in their own city, according to Diane Petitt, DPR Foundation liaison for the Washington, D.C. office.

“Some of these kids don’t get out of their own neighborhoods much. Just going across town and out onto a college campus is a really great opportunity for them,” Petitt said.

“This was a purely fun event,” she added. “We got everyone food and drinks, and had the chance to just hang out together. Everyone had a great time. There was a lot of enthusiasm, shouting and cheering, and the game was close to the very end. It was a chance for them to just be kids.”

The event marks the second year DPR has sponsored a basketball outing for the students using DPR Foundation funds as well as tickets donated by American University. It was designed as an afternoon of fun for the youth who are part of MMYC, the youth organization that DPR Foundation supports in the Washington, D.C. area. MMYC provides educational support and tutoring, cultural enrichment, nutrition, summer programs and physical activities to middle school youth and is a member of the Latin American Youth Center family of organizations.

While much of the educational and mentor-based work that DPR supports with MMYC takes place after school on campus, DPR strives to host off-site events whenever possible. Upcoming events include an excursion to the Baltimore Aquarium later this year and a summer camp weekend with the children in July, according to Petitt.

MMYC is one of 15 youth organizations nationally awarded $900,000 in grants by the DPR Foundation in December 2013. Over the past six years, the Foundation has awarded more than $3.2 million to 22 different organizations focused on providing community support to grade school and high school-aged children.

March 12, 2014

Mid-Atlantic Spotlight: Looking Back on New Office and Regional Manager

DPR recently opened a new Baltimore office and welcomed new mid-Atlantic regional manager, Greg Haldeman

The new Baltimore office is targeting LEED Gold for Commercial Interiors (CI) and is also the fifth DPR office to monitor its energy usage through an online dashboard. DPR built the office through design-build project delivery. 

While new, the Baltimore office does not come without history, building a multitude of special projects in the area since 2002. 

New DPR Baltimore office, photo courtesy of David Galen

The mid-Atlantic region now includes the Richmond, VABaltimore, MD, and Washington, DC offices.

New regional manager, Haldeman moved from from the Raleigh-Durham, NC office to the Washington, DC office. Since joining DPR in 1997, Haldeman has served in a variety of key roles from estimator to project executive to regional manager.  A wood worker in his limited spare time, Haldeman's love of building began in childhood.

Read more about Greg Haldeman and the mid-Atlantic here in the latest issue of the DPR Review newsletter.


Photo of Greg Haldeman

March 4, 2014

Partner Profile: Talking Collaboration with SmithGroupJJR

Recently, we caught up with SmithGroupJJR’s Senior Vice President, William L. Diefenbach, FAIA, to talk about the different facets of collaboration in today's building landscape. No strangers to the concept of collaboration, DPR and SmithGroupJJR have worked on close to 50 projects together.

In this interview with Diefenbach, he discusses alternative project delivery methods, building information modeling (BIM), co-location, where innovative solutions come from, and more.

The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)—an award-winning DPR/SmithGroupJJR design/build project—is also discussed in the article. Built on a narrow, steep and sloped site, the $85 million, 67,000-sq.-ft,. LEED® Gold research facility required teamwork and creativity in the building process.

UCSF Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building, Photo Courtesy of Bruce Damonte

February 28, 2014

Taking a Break With Girls Inc.

Question: What do you get when you put together 40 enthusiastic elementary school girls and 15 DPR employees in a busy DPR office on an otherwise “typical” workday afternoon –then add in a healthy dose of games, food and fun? Answer: a large amount of laughter, positive energy and a living reminder of why Enjoyment is one of DPR’s core values.

That’s exactly what DPR’s Newport Beach employees experienced firsthand when the office hosted more than three dozen youngsters from Girls Inc. Feb. 12. The girls along with about 15 Girls Inc. staff descended on the office about 3:30 p.m., and few of the busy DPR employees could resist the chance to take a break and play. Girls rotated among game stations that included Wii Just Dance in the Innovation room, Twister in the training room, and a giant Jenga and cornhole set up outside. There were plenty of refreshments including a popcorn bar and other kid-friendly snacks set up by the office’s wine bar.

At the end of the afternoon’s festivities, DPR presented the organization with a $40,000 DPR Foundation grant and to offer a few words of support and encouragement. The DPR Foundation funds are earmarked for Girls Inc.’s STEM, College Bound and Career Development programming.

The interactive, fun event involving both the girls and DPR employees offered a break from the usual, more formal check presentation ceremony at the Girls Inc. Youth and Family Center as has been done in the past.

“The goal was to give employees an opportunity to interact with the kids in a fun, safe environment of the DPR offices,” said DPR’s Melissa King. “The event was a blast! It brought so much life to our office to host 40 elementary school girls, all of them living our core value of Enjoyment.”

Girls Inc. of Orange County is one of 15 youth organizations nationally awarded a total of $900,000 in grants by the DPR Foundation in December 2013. Over the past six years, the Foundation has awarded more than $3.2 million to 22 different organizations focused on providing community support to grade school and high school-aged children.

February 27, 2014

Future For Kids’ Winter Games Camp Delivers Day of Inspiration, Fitness and Fun

A variety of interactive games, food, music, appearances by ASU cheerleaders and the Phoenix Suns Gorilla mascot and more than 120 volunteers including former Arizona Cardinals quarterback John Skelton all helped create an exciting, rewarding day for more than 150 enthusiastic elementary-age children who attended Future for Kids’ (FFK) Winter Games Camp in Phoenix recently. 

The second annual FFK Winter Games Camp took place at Cesar Chavez Community School February 8, 2014. The school is one of several Phoenix-area locations that DPR Foundation-supported FFK serves year-round with its after-school mentor program. The camp is the brainchild of DPR Phoenix employees Tim Hyde and Ryan Young, who serve as chairs of FFK’s board of directors and junior board of directors, respectively. They worked in close cooperation with the FFK staff, their boards and numerous volunteers to deliver a day of inspiration, fitness and high-energy fun for at-risk youth in the Phoenix area.

Free for all children who pre-registered, the Winter Games camp supports FFK’s mission to provide local youth with education through mentorship and sports and fitness programs. Along with a number of sponsors, funding for the camp is derived primarily from the proceeds of a fantasy football league established by Young and the FFK junior board of directors. The league raised approximately $10,000 to host this year’s event.

Long hours of planning came together February 8 when the Winter Games Camp day finally arrived. The day officially kicked off at 8 a.m. as children were provided a healthy snack and enjoyed warm-up games at four parachutes accompanied by music from DJ Freshmaker. Zach Hall of the Arizona Diamondbacks, joined onstage by John Skelton, delivered a motivational address on the importance of maintaining a positive attitude in life. The children were then broken into groups by age and run through 10 different sports stations ranging from volleyball and football (run by former pro Skelton) to potato sack races, tug-of-war, an obstacle course and much more. Members from the FFK’s junior board of directors manned the various stations along with other volunteers.

The day concluded with races and lunch provided to the children. A special parent area set up on-site offered education and outreach, highlighted by a well-received drug awareness speaker.

DPR’s Hyde commented that the day was “just fantastic all the way around,” with standout highlights including the participation of John Skelton, the appearance of the Phoenix sun mascot and the ASU dance/cheer team and, most significantly, the buzz of excitement and positive energy generated from the children who participated. Hyde and Young were among seven DPR employees from the Phoenix office who devoted an estimated 50 hours for the camp and another 120 hours for the fantasy football league that funded it.

FFK Executive Director Madonna Bistany gave strong kudos to DPR for its longtime efforts helping the organization make a difference for needy children in the Phoenix area.

“DPR Construction’s dedication to the kids in our community through Future for Kids is tremendous,” she comments. “We love to share with the community that DPR understands the importance of community service by serving in the areas of leadership, volunteers and funding. Thank you for helping us help others!”

FFK is one of 15 youth organizations nationally awarded a total of $900,000 in grants by the DPR Foundation in December 2013. Over the past six years, the Foundation has awarded more than $3.2 million to 22 different organizations focused on providing community support to grade school and high school-aged children.