April 30, 2015

DPR, TSU and Rebuilding Together Team Up on Complex Community Project

An ambitious community service home renovation project undertaken by a group of construction students from Texas State University (TSU) this spring could have ended differently, had it not been for a partnership formed among DPR, the students and Rebuilding Together to jointly tackle the job. Those combined efforts, and particularly the expertise of 23 DPR craft workers who went “all in” to help get a difficult job done over three days, ultimately led to a successful finish.

The TSU students took on the remodel of the Byas family home in San Marcos as its “2015 Boko’s Builders Remodel project,” an annual outreach by the University’s Construction Student Association to give back to the local community. The project was chosen based on need and positive impact that could be achieved renovating the home, which had fallen to neglect over the years housing several generations of the Byas family.

Photo credit: Malia Rae Photography

While the students knew the project was a greater challenge than previous Boko’s Builders projects, they quickly discovered just how large that challenge was. Myriad hidden problems were uncovered beneath the floorboard, behind the walls and above the ceiling of this 100-year-old home. The construction expertise required was far greater than the students had understood when they took on the job.

DPR learned about the project while recruiting on campus, just three weeks before the renovation was to happen. They quickly agreed to partner with the students along with Rebuilding Together to help complete the community service effort.

“It ended up being a giant project that frankly would have been very difficult for the students to complete if we hadn’t gotten involved,” says DPR Austin community initiatives liaison Angie Weyant. “Everything we touched started to crumble. The more we did, the more we found needed to be done. In the end it was a pretty giant overhaul of the house in just three days.”

Key to completing the project were the 23 DPR self-perform crew members who volunteered more than 175 volunteer hours during the weekend. Photo credit: Malia Rae Photography

DPR’s self-perform craft workers were integral to the success of the project, bringing the expertise needed to handle many of the complex tasks involved.

“This project really was the best way we’ve ever gotten our craft workers involved in one of our community projects,” Weyant notes. “I think they’re really excited about doing more community initiatives as a result!”

Photo credit: Malia Rae Photography

From the students’ perspective, the chance to work on site with and be mentored by the pros from DPR was priceless. Chase Jones of the TSU Construction Student Association thanked DPR for their involvement. “It was an amazing experience for everyone, and we look forward to working with DPR on future projects, and their involvement in our program!” 

From barely habitable to family homestead in three days. Photo credit: Malia Rae Photography

April 23, 2015

Habitat Open Build Days Offer Raleigh-Durham Employees Chance to Give Back

DPR employees in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C. office have been putting their skills to work in their community through participation in “open build” events sponsored by Habitat for Humanity.

Since January, half a dozen DPR employees have taken part in eight Habitat for Humanity open build events. Working alongside other community members, DPR volunteers have been helping to renovate a pair of 100-plus-year-old residences that will house selected underprivileged families in the region.

De’Lisa Stringer, community initiatives champion for the Raleigh Durham office, forged the local partnership with Habitat for Humanity after recognizing the unique match of DPR’s corporate mission and its employees’ skill sets to Habitat’s goals and needs.

“Habitat was the perfect fit for us to use our skills and resources and to do what we’re good at, while giving back to the local community,” Stringer commented. “We worked with the director of Habitat for Durham County to outline two days a week, every other week, where we could have our volunteers go in, sign up and then just show up to work.

“Everybody that has volunteered has a day job, but they’re all interested in giving back and helping give somebody a home,” Stringer continued. “There is just a great sense of motivation and momentum to have a part in providing shelter for those in need in our community.”

During the typically three-hour build sessions, volunteers have done everything from caulking and painting to helping replace the foundation of one of the homes.

DPR plans to continue the involvement with Habitat well into the future, according to Stringer. They also hope to involve some of the young people DPR has worked with at the local Boys & Girls Club on future Habitat open build days.

“What better way to give back to children – but also for them to pay it forward – than to bring them to homes that we work on (through Habitat) and also have them get their hands dirty?” Stringer added.

April 14, 2015

Fortune Magazine’s “Toasting the Boss (a.k.a. Everyone)”

In 1990, Doug Woods, Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski founded DPR and vowed to create a company that prioritizes employee happiness. 

Fortune Magazine's "Toasting the Boss (a.k.a. Everyone)" explores DPR's unique structure and culture. It also explores how the company has empowered its employees to take the lead for the last 25 years.

Brian Gracz, who has been with the company for 17 years, is quoted in the article as saying: "We have the ability—no matter who you are in the organization—to be able to provide input and impact and have your thoughts and ideas considered."

Peter Salvati, who sits on DPR's Management Committee, goes on to say: "In a sense, everyone's in charge."

Click the image below to read the full article:

Photo Credit: David Cox

What do you think empowers employees?

March 30, 2015

DPR Hardin Helps Make Wish Come True for Young Atlanta Braves Fan Fighting Battle of His Life

DPR Hardin partnered with Make-a-Wish Georgia to make a young Atlanta Braves fan's wish come true. Photo credit: Make-a-Wish Georgia.

When 12-year-old Dalton – a red-haired, freckle-faced, avid Atlanta Braves fan – cut the ribbon leading to his brand new Braves-themed treehouse during a Make-A-Wish Foundation “wish reveal” event March 21, 2015, there were few dry eyes among those who gathered for the unveiling.

Designed and built by DPR Hardin to fulfill Dalton’s wish for a treehouse in the backyard of his family’s Canton, GA home, the project features a “crow’s nest” overlook platform that connects to the two-story treehouse structure via a 10-foot suspension bridge. Numerous baseball-related touches – including an actual Atlanta Braves stadium chair, posters and various bobble heads donated by the baseball franchise – make this a special place to get away from the worries of everyday life.

“I think by the end of this project we had 43 DPR Hardin associates that in some way, shape or form touched this project,” commented Angela Whritenour, who coordinated the volunteer efforts of DPR Hardin employees. “It was really a huge group effort, and it enabled DPR Hardin as a region to feel the accomplishment of coming together to get something like this done.”

DPR Hardin volunteers put in a cumulative 620 community service hours on the project working in partnership with Make-A-Wish Georgia. The initiative met the DPR Hardin community goals of using their expertise as builders to support distressed families in the greater Atlanta area.

The project broke ground in October 2014. Some of the prefab work took place at DPR Hardin’s Atlanta office site, which allowed employees to participate even if they couldn’t make it out to the residential jobsite. Several on-site workdays were also held over the course of the job.

Some of the prefab work was done at DPR Hardin's Atlanta office. Photo credit: Andi King.

In addition to building the structure, DPR Hardin contributed 120 hours of self-performed craft work. Donations also came in from DPR affiliated companies. One DPR Hardin employee donated several baseball bats, which were integrated into the bannister railing of the staircase that leads to the loft area of the treehouse.

Taking a break at the project site, November, 2014. Photo credit: Andi King.

At the wish reveal event, Dalton received a certificate of occupancy, a key to unlock the treehouse and a DPR Hardin hardhat signed by all the crew who helped build the project.  “It was really sweet; he teared up,” Whritenour said. “His parents had not let him go inside the treehouse until that day, so it was a total surprise. He couldn’t have been happier.”

Dalton received a hardhat signed by the construction team. Photo credit: Andi King.

“DPR Construction was an incredible partner in helping make Dalton’s wish of having a Braves-themed tree house come true,” said Amy Alvarez of Make-a-Wish Georgia. “We are grateful that companies like DPR Construction are investing time and resources to help bring hope, strength, and joy to the lives of the children we serve.” 

March 18, 2015

Habitat Home Dedication Honors Employee’s Legacy, And Helps Deserving Sacramento Mom

Ask anyone who knew or worked with the late DPR employee John Kramer, and they’ll tell you he was a man with a big heart and a passion for helping out those in need.

To honor the memory of this beloved colleague – and to carry on his legacy of community service – DPR Sacramento office employees partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help finance and build a new house for a carefully selected low-income, hard-working resident of the greater Sacramento region. About 20 DPR employees volunteered a total of 500 hours over the course of several months to help bring the project to fruition. They worked alongside the future homeowner, Mizan Tsegay, who also put in 500 hours of sweat equity helping construct her new Del Paso Heights home.

The new homeowner and her children in front of their home. DPR Sacramento volunteers put more than 500 hours of work into the project. Photo credit: Habitat for Humanity.

On March 7, representatives from DPR, Habitat for Humanity, the new homeowner and her family, news crews and others gathered to officially dedicate this 110th house completed by Habitat in the Sacramento region. In addition to handing over the keys to the new homeowner, a commemorative plaque was presented by DPR co-founder Peter Nosler which dedicated the home “to the memory of John Kramer, a most generous and caring friend.”

DPR co-founder Peter Nosler presents the homeowner with a commemorative plaque to honor the memory of DPR employee John Kramer. Photo credit: asb-photography.

Realizing a Dream

The brand new two-story, 1,500-sq.-ft. house represents the fulfillment of an American dream that had previously seemed far out of reach for the Tsegay family. An immigrant to the U.S. from Kenya, Tsegay is a single mom raising two young children that include a 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter with special needs. The family moved to the new home from a cramped apartment, from which Tsegay had run her home hair salon business while also tending to her daughter who requires constant supervision due to her severe autism.

Both Tsegay and John Kramer’s widow, Dory, shared their perspectives on what the project meant to them during the home dedication ceremony. The opportunity to hear Tsegay’s story and to work alongside her building the house made it that much more special for the DPR volunteers, according to Megan Valles, who along with Rodman Marquez helped spearhead DPR’s volunteer efforts.

The new homeowner shared some of her life story with the assembled crowd. Photo credit: asb-photography.

“We all talk about the ‘American dream,’ but I don’t think most of us having grown up here in America quite appreciate that as much as people from other countries,” Valles commented. “For Mizan it is very much about hard work and having a safe and stable home for her family. You really feel like you are a part of giving his incredible gift to this woman. I don’t think there was a dry eye there when she was speaking.”

Hand-Up, Not a Hand-Out

As a national nonprofit organization committed to helping low-income, working residents achieve home-ownership, Habitat’s stated goal is to serve as “an empowerment program, not an entitlement program, giving people a hand-up not a hand-out.” Homeowners participate in the home-building process and must be able to pay their 30-year, zero interest mortgages.

DPR volunteers’ efforts spanned four full workdays, where crews of 10 did everything from pre-framing walls off-site and then erecting them on-site after the slab was poured, to building a perimeter fence, installing wood siding and more. In addition to providing valuable skilled labor, DPR donated $21,000 to facilitate the John Kramer Memorial Build project. Because the organization was one that John Kramer had personally been involved with and supported, the project was a fitting way to honor him. “It’s something he would be proud of,” Valles said.

John Kramer's extended family, DPR volunteers and the new homeowner and her son pose with the plaque commemorating his legacy. Photo credit: asb-photography.

Continuing a Legacy

Although this was DPR’s first Habitat for Humanity project in the Sacramento region, it will certainly not be its last, according to Valles. “One of the things I think is so cool about having done this is that John’s legacy will extend beyond this new home on Oakmont Street, because DPR plans to continue our partnership with Habitat and through other local work projects,” she said.

“I think what Habitat is doing in our local community is definitely something we want to be a part of,” she added. “We are kind of uniquely suited to do this.” 

March 5, 2015

Pooling Resources Pays Off on LifeWorks Cleanup Project

Volunteers from DPR’s Austin office and the University of Texas Branch of the Society of Women Engineers (UT SWE) joined forces Feb. 20 to make a difference in the community.

DPR and University of Texas Society of Women Engineers (UT SWE) volunteers 'hook 'em' before getting to work. Photo courtesy Melissa Kosobud

A dozen members from the two organizations pooled their resources on a creek cleanup project at a LifeWorks transitional-housing apartment complex. LifeWorks, supported by the DPR Foundation, serves more than 10,000 individuals annually. DPR had previously been involved on several projects at the site, which includes a main office building as well as an apartment complex with housing for young parents and disabled youth.

The creek cleanup effort involved clearing brush, trash removal, and pulling weeds around a creek behind the apartment complex. The work transformed the area from a tangled mess into a more inviting, open space that can be easily maintained by the LifeWorks team. Work took place over the course of an afternoon. It followed a tour of the LifeWorks facility that allowed volunteers the chance to learn about the many ways LifeWorks is involved in supporting Austin’s disadvantaged youth.

The crew loaded a trailer full of brush, leaving behind a clean, welcoming creekbed for residents. Photo courtesy Melissa Kosobud

The day represented the first combined volunteer event between DPR and the UT SWE according to Melissa Kosobud, who helped coordinate the event for DPR. Formerly a member of SWE when she was in college in Illinois, Kosobud reached out to its UT branch when she came out to join the Austin office recently in an effort to establish ties between the two organizations.

“I think the benefits of joining forces are that SWE members get to meet and talk to other women in the construction field, we get to know potential intern/full time candidates better, and we’ve helped out a local nonprofit organization,” Kosobud said. “I really enjoyed seeing the DPR team mingling and joking around with the SWE members as we all worked together to clean up the creek. And seeing what a difference we made at the creek and the LifeWork’s team’s enthusiasm for the results was very rewarding.”

February 27, 2015

Newport Beach ‘School of Construction’ Builds on Success of Phoenix Event

Approximately 40 elementary school age girls involved with Girls Inc. of Orange County now know a bit more about engineering, design and construction – as well as the opportunities in the STEM fields – thanks to their participation in DPR’s School of Construction event in the Newport Beach office February 20, 2015.

Girls Inc. of Orange County is one of 17 organizations to receive 2015 grants from the DPR Foundation. Photo by Matt Pranzo

The event built on the success of DPR’s inaugural School of Construction launched by the Phoenix office last year. That hands-on learning day, the brainchild of project manager Tim Hyde, guided 100 or so youngsters from two Phoenix area nonprofit organizations through the process of designing and building a doghouse. The ultimate goal of both School of Construction events: to get children excited about construction and related industries.

In Newport Beach, the School of Construction day kicked off Girls Inc.’s Engineering Week (E-Week), which highlights the many opportunities and careers available in the engineering related fields.

“At Girls Inc. we teach the girls a lot about STEM careers because we know women are underrepresented in those fields,” commented Kelli Norris, Elementary Programs Coordinator for Girls Inc. “There are a lot of girls interested in (construction and engineering) but wouldn’t really know there’s a path for them to do that unless they’re given a chance to make connections with companies like DPR and to talk to women who work here.”

The day kicked off with a stretch and flex session. Girls then rotated through four stations, which included: a design station, where they sketched their ideas; a mock-build station, where they built small models of their design; a safety station, where they tried on personal protective equipment, saw a scissor lift demonstration and enjoyed a snack; and finally, a building station, where they instructed adult volunteers in the construction of the dog houses.

At the first station, the girls learned about the design process by sketching their doghouses. Photo by David Cox

A team of approximately 20 DPR volunteers were involved, guiding the girls from station to station and leading the hands-on learning sessions. “They really took the initiative and gave it a lot of careful thought and attention,” King said of the volunteers. “I think they had a great time too.”

DPR volunteers led sessions on design, mock-ups, safety and construction. Photo by David Cox

And by all accounts, so did the girls. One of the participants, Shelby, said her favorite part was designing the doghouse. “Maybe when I’m older I’ll look into designing things,” she said. “I love it here! I want whiteboard walls in my room!”

Some mock-ups were decorated with smiley faces. Photo by David Cox

At the end of the afternoon, all of the girls took home their sketches, their doghouse models and DPR hard hats. They also took with them a new experience to put in their own personal “toolboxes” as they build their knowledge base and increase their awareness about the many possible career paths available to them in the future. 

February 24, 2015

No Restrictions to Success at Milagro Center

Whether it is cultivating the unique capabilities and leadership skills of its employees, or supporting the missions of the nonprofit organizations that it partners with each year, DPR believes in the power of empowerment.

Nowhere is that better illustrated than through DPR’s ongoing relationship with the Milagro Center in South Florida. Established in 1997 to provide art education, academic enrichment and mentoring programs for local at-risk children, youth and families, the organization relies on DPR’s unrestricted grant funding and hands-on involvement to achieve its goals.

This January, the DPR Foundation presented Milagro Center with a $40,000 grant to help fund its important work in the year ahead.

“Milagro Center is extremely fortunate to have DPR as a loyal supporter and even more fortunate that this grant is unrestricted in its use,” commented Barbara Stark, Milagro Center President/CEO. “DPR’s generous support provides Milagro Center the ability to remain flexible as it moves forward in advancing its mission.”

“Just as important as the monetary support is the additional support DPR provides by helping with carpentry projects, providing volunteers and its additional support in the way of event sponsorships,” Stark added. “Without DPR, we can honestly say that Milagro Center would not be able to do what it does best and provide the excellent programming to its students – and have them succeed as they do!”

Success Story

Just one example of that success is a youngster named Brayan, who started at Milagro Center in kindergarten. Born into a Spanish-speaking home where English is his second language, Brayan has struggled with academics at school. He had begun to improve both his social and academic skills with the benefit of attention from Milagro staff and a one-on-one mentor, when he suffered a setback in testing at his school and was held back at the end of the 2013/14 school year. It dealt a major blow to his hard-won self-esteem and confidence.

Milagro Center staff members understand the impact that such academic struggles can have on youngsters like Brayan. As part of its efforts to serve students and provide alternative paths to helping them succeed, the Center had recently started a music program. Though reluctant at first, Brayan finally decided to sign up.

“Studies show that music has an incredibly positive impact on children, and Bryan is absolutely a shining example of that,” Stark said. “Even though he was weeks behind everyone else, he surprised our music teacher and the rest of us. He not only caught up with the lessons, he surpassed everyone. The music teacher has told him he has real talent. This success has renewed his confidence, helped rebuild his self-esteem and even though he still struggles academically, he is returning to the happy, sweet young boy he had previously become.”

DPR’s unrestricted grants were instrumental (no pun intended) in helping Milagro Center develop that music program, supporting the purchase of items such as microphones, mp3 cords and a portable boom box. Future planned purchases include additional musical instrument inventory, among other things.

And in addition to the financial backing it provides, DPR continues to maintain a hands-on presence at Milagro Center. This year that involvement will include expanded focus on career development for teens, with four events planned, as well as continued work with and events planned for the younger students in the program. 

February 18, 2015

The ‘Domino Strategy’ Of Healthcare Renovation & Reuse Projects

It’s no secret that healthcare facility dollars are at an all-time premium. Changes to federal Medicare and Medicaid funding to hospitals, combined with uncertainty about impacts of the Affordable Care Act, mean that now—more so than ever—owners must make every dollar invested in their facilities count.

As capital program budgets have tightened, renovation and adaptive reuse projects have surged. That trend stands in sharp contrast to the early- to mid-2000s, when mega-sized replacement hospital and expansion projects were booming.

Today, healthcare owners with limited dollars are taking smaller “bites at the apple” with targeted, strategically planned, smaller volume renovation and reuse projects.

The focus is on maximizing vital inpatient services by moving them into spaces previously occupied by less urgent ambulatory services and administrative spaces. Those, in turn, are being moved to lower-cost medical office building (MOB) facilities.Valuable hospital space is being reclaimed for high-demand critical patient services like cardiac cath labs, neonatal intensive care beds and more.

‘Domino’ Projects

The strategy behind shifting and reusing space in fully operational facilities may be likened to setting up a game of dominoes. The order in which an owner undertakes each needed renovation project—or domino —impacts the projects immediately before and after it. Place them in the most effective order (or with dominoes, at the correct angle), and they will fall in smooth succession achieving the desired result. Put one out of order or at the wrong angle, however, and the domino trail—the owner’s capital facility budget, that is—may lose momentum and deliver a less satisfying outcome.

So how are successful healthcare owners prioritizing and expending their limited capital dollars to most effectively meet the needs of an ever-growing patient base? And how do they decide which project should take precedence (i.e., how should the dominoes be stacked) to meet both patient demand and their own business objectives?

Savvy owners understand the value of a “big-picture” outlook. Sometimes it can be difficult to see beyond the demands of day-to-day operations, however, to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy.

Early Involvement Adds Value

That is where bringing a highly knowledgeable, experienced team on board early can reap the greatest benefits. The right team can help find efficiencies and preserve capital by setting up the most effective “domino plan” for a series of healthcare remodel and reuse projects in a given facility.

A prime example is the series of successive reuse projects DPR Hardin is performing for a confidential client in Greenville, SC. Commonly referred to as the “domino projects,” DPR Hardin’s work there has included an adaptive reuse of third floor hospital space to create a gastrointestinal (GI) unit for inpatient use. That project was enabled by first moving all outpatient GI functions to an MOB outside the hospital. Another project entailed moving doctors’ office space that previously occupied a wing of the hospital to the nearby MOB, making way for a project to add six more neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) beds.

DPR Hardin similarly is helping Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta strategize and construct the most effective reuse of some of its space. One project is moving administrative and executive offices out of the hospital to an MOB, freeing up hospital space that will be converted into additional neonatal ICU units.

Pinpointing Constructability Issues, Schedule Impacts, Conflicts

At Piedmont Hospital and on other projects, DPR Hardin’s early involvement in the strategic planning and development of healthcare remodel and adaptive reuse projects is delivering clear benefits. By coming on board from the beginning and working collaboratively with the owner and design team, DPR Hardin helped uncover constructability factors related to existing conditions of previously occupied space. The team also helped the owner leverage efficiencies in moving or adding building systems or relocating medical gas lines—elements typically associated with healthcare reuse projects.

An experienced contractor also offers capability to survey or laser scan existing space to uncover unknown impacts of a proposed project. That was the case on another project for the confidential client in Greenville, SC—the vertical expansion and relocation of a portion of the MRI department.

Designed to relocate two MRIs from the basement level to three floors above to better serve inpatient needs, the project was planned to go directly above the hospital’s kitchen. Existing conditions of the ceiling space above the kitchen were unknown, however. Brought on board early, DPR Hardin laser scanned the space and discovered that extensive structural work would be needed. The project team was able to devise a seamless solution well in advance of start of construction to avoid disrupting the vital 24/7 kitchen operations.

The bottom line? Having the right domino strategy in place can make a big impact in the successful completion of renovation and adaptive reuse projects. 

February 10, 2015

BIM-Enabled Virtual Reality at VA Hospital Renovation

At a renovation project within a working hospital at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCUHS), DPR is using Oculus Rift goggles to let end users virtually walk through BIM mockups. The team broke ground on this beta technology, which was originally created for the video games industry.

Using the goggles, end users (doctors and nurses, in this case) can explore the finished space and give feedback before construction begins. Given the portability of the system, the team can set up user feedback sessions easily and quickly, which is essential given the hospital staff's limited availability as well as space constraints.

How has the team's use of this technology benefitted the project?

  • Creating an immersive virtual mockup using Oculus Rift cost just a fraction—less than 15%—of what was originally budgeted for a physical mockup.
  • Virtual walk-throughs yielded more than 35 suggested changes (including added storage space and moving equipment).

Get the full story here.

Photo Credit: Mollie Shackleford