20 Years of Building Great Things

DPR broke into green building with the 110,000-sq.-ft. campus for Aspect Communications in 1999.
Founded in 1990 in an uncertain market, DPR has since grown into a multi-billion-dollar organization.
The UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay's use of BIM exceeds the typical coordination and clash detection.
DPR broke into green building with the 110,000-sq.-ft. campus for Aspect Communications in 1999.
Founded in 1990 in an uncertain market, DPR has since grown into a multi-billion-dollar organization.
The UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay's use of BIM exceeds the typical coordination and clash detection.

Shortly after DPR Construction was founded by Doug Woods, Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski in July 1990, the Persian Gulf War began, and by September of that year the U.S. had entered a major recession. “Starting a company in a market that was in a state of flux was a bold move,” said Nosler. “When we started, construction companies were moving away from hands-on coordination of details and self-perform work. Not us—building is our passion.”

Two decades later, DPR continues to make “bold moves” as a customer-focused business committed to doing things differently in an industry traditionally resistant to change. With the purpose of building great things, DPR has grown into a multi-billion-dollar organization that has built long-standing relationships with some of the world’s most admired companies.

“We’re fortunate to work with great customers, some that have literally changed the world, especially over the last 20 years,” said Woods.


One of DPR’s largest projects early on was a 450,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing and warehouse facility for Apple Computer in Elk Grove, CA. Awarded in 1992, the project was the first of more than 70 DPR has completed for Apple over the past 20 years.

“When we started DPR, mobile phones were the size of bricks, and you had to dial up to get on the Internet,” said Woods. “Now, I can do everything with my iPhone.” Apple, which has repeatedly topped FORTUNE’s Most Admired Companies list, recently reported its iPhone 4 received more than 600,000 pre-orders in a single day.

Another early project was a 10,000-sq.-ft. fill and finish facility in 1994 for Chiron Corp., a multinational biotechnology company in Emeryville, CA, that was acquired by Novartis International AG in 2006. Today, operating as Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, it provides the systems used to test more than 80 percent of the U.S. blood supply.

“Our customers have saved millions of lives through the medicines they have discovered and manufactured along with the people they’ve helped in their hospitals and medical facilities,” said Woods. “And companies like Google and Yahoo! give millions of people access to a huge amount of information with the click of a button.”


In 1999—a year before the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program, DPR was awarded its first green project: a 110,000-sq.-ft. campus for Aspect Communications, a global provider of unified communications and collaboration services and software. Designed by William McDonough + Partners and Form4 Architects and completed in 2001, the headquarters was then touted as the greenest structure in San Jose, CA.

“Prior to the USGBC’s LEED rating system, the Aspect project positioned us to get thoroughly immersed in green philosophy as the right thing to do instead of focusing on how many points each idea scored. In turn, it helped us educate our subs and local building officials,” said DPR’s Mike Humphrey, project manager on the Aspect job. “It was the first step in our goal to be an industry leader in building green.”

DPR solidified that title in 2003, when it added its own 52,300-sq.-ft. Sacramento office to its green experience list. The office, the first privately held LEED certified building in California’s Central Valley, received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for sustainable facilities in 2004. The same year, DPR completed the USGBC’s own tenant fit-out in Washington, DC, which achieved LEED for Commercial Interiors Silver certification. The project was one of just 192 certified projects that year.

Today, the USGBC reports there are 5,787 LEED certified commercial and institutional buildings and more than 27,000 LEED registered projects. Among them is DPR’s recently completed San Diego office building, which is targeting Platinum level certification and is designed to be a net zero energy building. “The goal is to have the building generate as much energy as it consumes each year,” said Whitney Dorn, DPR “green guru” in Southern California.


In 1990, British engineer and computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web (www), Microsoft released Windows 3.0, and Autodesk shipped AutoCAD Release 11, the first version to allow the installation of a single copy of the program on a network server.

Osman Chao, who started with DPR in 1998 as a project engineer, recalls a time when computers weren’t an industry standard and submittals were done on an actual log book. “I remember making a deal with the chief estimator of the company I was working at before DPR to rent the project team a computer for $5 a month,” Chao said. “The computer was monochrome and DOS based.”

The computers are definitely not “monochrome” on Chao’s latest project, the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay in San Francisco. Chao has spent the last year co-located during preconstruction with teammates from 19 other companies planning and virtually building the 878,000-gross-sq.-ft. complex. Scheduled to break ground at the end of this year, the project is being virtually constructed 25,000 sq. ft. at a time using building information modeling (BIM), including all studs, seismic supports and every piece of backing—levels of detail far beyond the normal coordination and clash detection conducted during design.

“Technology is the most significant change in the industry,” said Gary Nauert, DPR regional manager in Texas. “Twenty years ago, a good majority of estimating, scheduling and field functions were done by hand. Now computers are involved in most everything we do from the way we communicate via email, to estimating, to BIM, to PDAs to perform safety audits and total stations to lay out work in the field.”