September 3, 2014

Home With a Heart: DPR Begins Habitat for Humanity Project in Memory of Colleague John Kramer

It’s safe to say there is plenty of heart going into a Habitat for Humanity new home construction project that a dozen DPR volunteers began building in Sacramento August 22nd.

The project, which will give a low income, working mother of two a chance for a new start, is being built in the memory of longtime DPR employee John Kramer. Kramer spent more than 14 years with DPR before passing away last September. He had worked alongside all of the Sacramento region employees who turned out to participate in the first day of the John Kramer Memorial Build, a project to which DPR donated $21,000 in Kramer’s honor.

In addition to honoring the memory of Kramer, the Habitat for Humanity project offers DPR a chance to give back to the community and to help Mizan Tsegay, a single working mother of two (including one child with special needs), fulfill her dream of home ownership.

The first official workday drew a broad spectrum of DPR volunteers. Whether skilled in swinging a hammer or not, everyone contributed. That included the future homeowner, who labored alongside the volunteers to help create her new 1,500-sq.-ft., two-story residence.

Over the course of eight hours volunteers prefabricated all of the walls for the residence off-site at Habitat for Humanity’s warehouse. The walls will be trucked in and place on the Oakmont Street site at a future work date once the home’s foundation is in place. DPR has set aside three additional workdays for the project in September and October.

Rodman Marquez is spearheading DPR’s community initiative efforts in the Sacramento region along with Megan Valles, and both participated in the first workday. Marquez said the project is rewarding on many levels.

“There’s a pretty big gratifying feeling you get from taking a sack of raw material and turning it into a wall that will be a home for someone to live in, raise a family in and be a productive member of society,” he commented. “Mizan has a lot of challenges as a single parent with a special needs child. She is very excited to be getting to move out of an apartment and into a home of her own.”

September 2, 2014

Is Guaranteed Building Performance Possible?

Guaranteed building performance has the potential to create more efficient buildings for the benefit of the owner’s bottom line, building occupants and the environment.

That’s the assessment of Steve Selkowitz, who explains the idea in a recent article for the DPR Review. Selkowitz has led Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Building Technology and Urban Systems Department for 20-plus years and has been recognized for his commitment to advancing building performance including winning the 2014 Award of Excellence from Engineering News-Record.

Tighter codes and regulations, rising costs, an increased demand for more employee-friendly workplaces, and commitment to sustainability are bringing discussions around guaranteed performance to the forefront. But the gap between predicted and measured building systems’ performance presents a major challenge.

 “Most people initially like the concept of guaranteed building performance,” Selkowitz said, “but they say, ‘Wait, how can I guarantee what an owner or occupant will do downstream?’ The key is to first define the energy use target, and then execute a design, construct and operate plan that keeps those targets in mind as a myriad of later decisions are made.”

Read the full article, “Is Guaranteed Building Performance Possible?”, in the latest issue of the DPR Review.

August 29, 2014

DPR Leads Record-Breaking Luau and Legends Fundraiser in La Jolla to Raise Money for Cancer Research

Some 25 legends of the surfing world joined an enthusiastic crowd of 450 or so at Scripps Pier in La Jolla recently to spread the spirit of aloha, while also raising significant funds for cancer research.

Members of the local community, representatives of the region’s biopharmaceutical industry, cancer survivors and surfing legends and aficionados were among those who gathered for the 21st annual Luau and Legends Surfing Invitational August 17th. DPR Construction, which has been integral to the planning and execution of the event since its inception, chaired this year’s event, which benefits the prestigious UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

The surfing legends pose with members of the event planning committee

Largely sponsored by top name biopharmaceutical companies including title sponsor Pfizer, this year’s event netted more than $160,000 after expenses. Throughout the past two decades, the unique fundraiser has brought in more than $6 million to support Moores’ cancer research, clinical trials and patient care.

DPR’s Alex Panici along with Jay Leopold (who has been involved with the surfing invitational from its inception) served as 2014 event chairs. More than 20 DPR employees devoted more than 1,060 total volunteer hours to ensure the fundraiser was a resounding success. DPR also sponsored two surf teams, and had no trouble filling the eight spots with eager San Diego office employees who were happy to ride the waves alongside the many surfing legends who turned out to support the event.

Being involved with this particular fundraiser was a personal mission for many, according to Panici.

“In one way or another everybody has been affected by cancer, whether it’s a relative or just somebody you know,” he commented. “This was a great opportunity to be able to contribute toward finding a cure for cancer, and it feels good to be part of it. In addition, it really is an event that allows DPR San Diego to be integral and indispensable for the community.”

Under DPR’s leadership, the 2014 Luau and Legends Surfing Invitational saw some changes designed to generate even greater community interest. A name change from years’ past (when it was called the Luau and Longboards Invitational) reflected the inclusion of all types of surf boards into the competitive aspect of the event. This attracted some younger surfing legends such as world champion Lisa Anderson and renowned surfer Pat O’Connell.

The planning committee also revamped the surf contest format to provide time for “regular” surfers from each of the 18 sponsored teams the opportunity to surf with the celebrity surfer “legends.” Pfizer donated one of its teams to a handful of avid surfers who are also cancer survivors. “It’s a really cool way for them to celebrate their survival,” Panici commented.

In addition to the surf contest the event included a specially prepared Luau feast, entertainment from the band Switchfoot, and silent auctions. 

August 28, 2014

Barry Bonds Takes ALS Challenge at UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay Site

A bucket, a bit of ice water and a challenge to friends are all that it took for a social awareness campaign to rapidly get the world’s attention and support, including that of former San Francisco Giants baseball star Barry Bonds.

Bonds accepted the challenge at the new UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay site in San Francisco (set to open February 1, 2015) and gave some of our project team members the honor of dumping ice water on him to help fight Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Bonds invited San Francisco Giants Manager, Bruce Bochy; Giants President and CEO, Larry Baer; and former 49ers safety and NFL Hall of Famer, Ronnie Lott to take on the challenge.

DPR’s Phoenix office also challenged other DPR offices across the country to face the ice bucket challenge and support the ALS Association.

According to the ALS Association, as of Wed., Aug. 27, the association has received $94.3 million in donations compared to $2.7 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 27). These donations have come from existing donors and 2.1 million new donors.

August 9, 2014

Putting Construction Skills To Work In The Community With Rebuilding Together

What better way to spend a 102 degree Friday than with Rebuilding Together? Seventeen volunteers from DPR Austin's downtown high-rise project donated 92 hours to make an elderly couple's flood-damaged home habitable. Scope included installing a new wheelchair ramp, exterior repairs and painting.

Austin team members take a shade break during a Rebuilding Together volunteer day,

Integral to the Austin community? Absolutely. TV crews were on hand to interview the homeowners about the ongoing flood issue -> Link to KTBC story.

DPR works with Rebuilding Together around the country. More than 2,000 volunteer hours were logged in 2013 with almost that many through just the first half of 2014. Other recent projects have included construction of wheelchair ramps for veterans in Phoenix, and home renovations for seniors in Washington, DC.

DPR's Phoenix office puts their construction muscles to work for Rebuilding Together on many projects, including wheelchair ramps for veterans.

In Washington, DC, DPR helped with major renovations to a low-income resident's home.

July 31, 2014

DPR Hardin Volunteers Support a Green Cause in Atlanta

Demonstrating that volunteerism is often a win-win proposition, some 18 DPR Hardin Construction employees recently participated in a volunteer effort that not only delivered needed improvements to the nonprofit Lifecycle Building Center (LBC) but also built teamwork and shared purpose among all who came to help out.

The Atlanta area volunteers helped spruce up the appearance and organize the stock of the community-based nonprofit organization during the half-day volunteer event July 25. Since opening three years ago, the Center has been dedicated to increasing the Atlanta community’s sustainability through educational outreach and salvaging materials from renovated or demolished buildings. The Center resells the materials to the public and donates a portion to nonprofits and schools.

DPR Hardin became a sponsor of LBC last year and continues to support the organization in various ways. When the need for aesthetic and functional improvements to the facility became apparent, DPR Hardin volunteer coordinator Andi King-Wieczynski saw a unique opportunity for employees looking for a hands-on, skill-based activity that also provided a valuable community service.

“It was a great turnout,” King-Wieczynski commented. “We helped them pull weeds, planted new flowerbeds and just made it more aesthetically pleasing for people to come into the store. We also helped them reorganize their stock so people can find what they need.”

The work was performed under less than optimal circumstances. Temperatures climbed to 95 degrees-plus with high humidity in the non-air-conditioned environment. Still that didn’t deter a larger-than-expected turnout that included everyone from marketing and regional management to preconstruction, safety, jobsite personnel and others.

“It was a good way of getting people together who don’t typically spend a lot of time with each other to work for a good cause,” King-Wieczynski noted. “I think it was a really good team building activity for us.”

King-Wieczynski expects the hands-on volunteer day to become a biannual event, with plans already in the works for the next one.

July 21, 2014

Students Learn Math, Science and Fun of Construction in DPR-Taught Peninsula Bridge Classes

What does it take to successfully create a bridge out of popsicles, use BIM to craft a logo out of Legos, or mix and mold a full-sized concrete hand? A group of fifth- through eighth-graders in Peninsula Bridge’s summer program can let you in on the secrets, thanks to their participation in classroom sessions led by DPR volunteers.

During the five week program, DPR taught at several program locations in the San Francisco Bay Peninsula area. The hands-on classes were designed to strengthen the children’s math, science, critical thinking and teamwork skills, while providing a fun and safe environment for learning.

Volunteer Brian Bangs led a session on concrete mixing and forming, where students created a concrete item such as a life-size hand, cup or concrete-stamped handprints. Seeing the joyful reaction of one particular fifth grade girl upon learning she’d get to make something to take home was a highlight for him. “Being able to do something the kids were really enjoying was very rewarding.”

Madeline Ziser spearheaded another new session this summer, leading seventh graders in an activity to create a DPR logo out of Legos by following a BIM model. “This was not an easy activity,” she pointed out. “The students are constantly challenged to complete the next step; there are all these mini-milestones as they work their way through it.”

“I’m constantly amazed by these kids,” Ziser added. “They are really smart and just fun to work with.”

Daniel Berson, who led a session on engineering, building and testing Popsicle stick bridges, said the biggest reward was “being able to show them the fun side to engineering.” There was special satisfaction breaking the stereotypes surrounding engineering and construction. “A lot of kids don’t see the teamwork that goes into construction or the level of thought required,” he said. “It’s nice to show them the fun side of both these fields.”

Since 1990, Peninsula Bridge has grown to provide academic enrichment programs to more than 350 low-income middle school students each year from the San Francisco Bay Peninsula’s under-resourced school districts.

July 19, 2014

DPR Hosts Cornhole Summer Classic to Raise Funds for Autism Tree Project

Sometimes the best ideas can spring from something as simple as a friendly office game of cornhole toss.

That’s where the idea initially arose for the First Annual DPR Cornhole Summer Classic hosted by the San Diego office June 19. The goal: hold a social event that brought together members of the design and construction community for an afternoon of networking and fun, while also raising money for a worthy cause.

The event far exceeded initial expectations, raising $10,000 for the Autism Tree Project Foundation in a single afternoon. Some 200 people flocked to DPR’s San Diego office for a backyard barbecue-style gathering featuring food, beer, networking and a cornhole tournament that would likely make the American Cornhole Association (yes, there is one) proud.

Players have their game faces on.

DPR Manager Ian Pyka, who introduced the game to the San Diego office, floated the initial idea and spearheaded the planning.

“Part of our goal is to become more integral to our community, and this was just one way to do that,” Pyka said. “This idea really fit in our wheelhouse – it’s fun, different and I think we all just always thought there was potential. We just didn’t realize how much!”

Tournament organizer Ian Pyka has everyone's attention as he lays out the rules of the game. 

The Autism Tree Project Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting with education, advocacy, screening and mentoring for families impacted by autism in the San Diego area. DPR employee Eric Cusick sits on its Board.

Approximately 20 DPR volunteers helped prepare for this event in various ways, doing everything from helping make the 32 sets of game boards/ bags to helping run the tournament. Every participant received an event shirt sporting the names of subcontractors who stepped up as sponsors: ClarkDietrich, General Coatings, Norman S. Wright Mechanical Equipment, Abbott Engineering, California Sheet Metal, Culinary Concepts, Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Systems, United Rentals and Vision Systems.

July 17, 2014

Topping Out in Downtown Austin

The team on the new Colorado Tower office building in downtown Austin celebrated a major milestone this month. Roughly 330 construction workers, developers, architects and engineers turned out for a traditional topping-out ceremony, watching from the 20th floor as the final 30-foot steel beam was hoisted to the top of the new tower. In keeping with the topping out tradition, an evergreen tree, an American flag and a Texas state flag were perched on top of the beam, which was decorated with colorful autographs of employees and construction crew.

DPR thanked the subcontractors and construction crew for their long hours of hard work and dedication. Jason Frost, vice president of developer Cousins Properties, Inc., also spoke. He thanked DPR for keeping the project on target for completion in December 2014.

This 30-story, 775,000-sq.-ft. Class-A office building and parking garage will include 10,000-sq.-ft. of ground floor retail, 372,000-sq.-ft. of rentable office space and a 12-level, 880-space parking structure. The building is designed to an Austin Energy Green Building Two Star rating.

July 9, 2014

DPR Volunteers Support Girls Inc. Participants Along Path to Successful Future

Whether it is providing needed supplies and support for girls on their way to college, mentoring young women seeking a future in the engineering-related fields or employing summer externs, DPR is taking an active role helping at-risk girls find a path to professional success through its partnership with Girls Inc. of Orange County.

“Girls Inc. and DPR have had a great partnership over the past two years,” said Orleda Azevedo, Director of Volunteer Services for Girls Inc. of Orange County. “DPR is one company who believes in the power of community involvement and giving back. (They) have been involved at multiple levels here at Girls Inc. The great employees at DPR help support us in maintaining a safe, nurturing and learning environment for hundreds of girls throughout the Orange County community who walk through our doors.”

Several female professionals at DPR are serving as mentors to college-bound Girls Inc. participants interested in engineering and construction fields. The girls gain valuable insight and support for the transition to college process from the mentors who help them prepare for this important next step into their educational journey, according to DPR’s liaison with the organization Melissa King.

“They don’t have built-in support with their families, so oftentimes the girls don’t know the challenges they will face, like understanding what it’s like to be homesick or how hard finals are,” she said. “We’re giving them another outlet or another person to talk to.” In June, DPR volunteers participated in Girls Inc.’s fourth annual College Shower, which celebrated the 25 girls from their chapter who are headed to college in the fall. Each girl received a giant basket of school supplies, dorm room needs and more.

Girls Inc. participants received school supplies and dorm room necessities at the recent College Shower.

In addition to its current work with high school and college bound girls at Girls Inc., DPR employees have provided a variety of outreach services with younger elementary school age girls in the organization as well. With a goal to expose the girls to opportunities in engineering and construction, DPR participates twice yearly in the National Engineering Week and summer STEM Programing efforts. They have also been an on-call resource for maintenance and repairs to the organization’s aging building. This summer, DPR is employing a Girls Inc. extern in the Newport Beach office.

“We appreciate all that DPR has done and continues to do for our agency and our girls,” Azevedo concluded. “We look forward to continuing to build together.”