Amanda Sawit

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Posts In: Construction Technologies, Commercial


September 25, 2020

Delivering Predictable Outcomes through Design Coordination

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a digital model is worth a thousand pictures. The information and value represented in the model sums up why Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) should be used on every project – especially during the design and preconstruction phases.

VDC services like design coordination are enabled by a data-rich Building Information Model (BIM) and applied design integration processes, which DPR uses to identify and resolve issues before construction begins. In the early design phase, better collaboration and information enables project teams to make more informed decisions about design intent and constructability. When issues are addressed at this stage of the project, it leads to better predictability, productivity and quality.

DPR leveraged the data-rich virtual model to conduct equipment and overhead MEP coordination on a large pharmaceutical project in Massachusetts.

Breaking Down Silos

“There’s a common misconception that owners receive a coordinated design from the design team as part of the fee, but in reality there’s a significant effort in between early design and construction devoted to coordination or making the design constructible,” said Hannu Lindberg, DPR’s national VDC leader.

This process isn’t done on every project, but the case for it is clear, according to Lindberg.

“Hundreds or even thousands of issues on a project, regardless of scale or complexity, could be solved earlier in the project lifecycle,” he added. “That translates to reduced risk and greater schedule and cost certainty for all project stakeholders, which almost always exceeds the initial upfront investment.”

Another common mistake is assuming that design coordination happens by default on projects set up for a high level of collaboration, like Integrated Project Delivery or design-build. While it happens more often on these types of projects, silos can still exist in execution. Lindberg notes that, too often, preconstruction budgets for design integration and preconstruction services tend to be on the lighter side, whereas the construction budgets can be inflated with design contingency, mainly due to unforeseen issues that could be resolved during the preconstruction phase, without the added cost impact, delays or rework during operations.

Coordination Metrics

Of the nearly 300 projects DPR currently tracks, DPR has identified over 150,000 issues ranging from existing conditions, to design specifications, to maintenance access, to constructability, to traditional trade coordination issues typically found through clash detection. Using the BIM Track platform, DPR can analyze issues by location, system priority, impact and other sets of criteria to calculate the priority in which design issues should be addressed and resolved. Assigning and tracking issue accountability for all project team members translates to more agile issue resolution. It also helps promote “right behaviors” through the ability to track progress and overall project team performance using data points, such as average time to resolve issues and issue accountability.

With this information, along with historical data about the company’s core markets, DPR can inform owners and designers of typical design challenges and equip them with the added knowledge to make better and more informed decisions. For example, on a recent life sciences project in Massachusetts, DPR converted an existing 261,000-sq.-ft. office into a multipurpose facility including labs, clean rooms, clinical spaces and a vivarium over the span of 15 months. The project stipulated liquidated damages, which made coordination even more critical to ensuring successful delivery. During the coordination process, more than 2,000 issues were identified and resolved by the project team, of which 150 were escalated into RFI’s without schedule impact.

After completing coordination, the DPR team reviewed 6 major roadblocks and assessed the averted impact to the project, and the results were eye opening: if not for VDC coordination and early trade engagement, the project would have hit a 14-week delay. In comparing associated costs for the six roadblocks to the cost for coordination services, DPR found a 200 percent ROI. Keeping in mind these metrics do not account for liquidated damages, the benefits of model-based coordination have been fully embraced by the team as a standard moving forward.

The project, which involved converting a former office space into a multipurpose facility, employed early-stage design coordination.

Now vs. Later

“Teams should consider what percentage of the total construction cost comes out of contingency versus the upfront cost for design coordination services” said David Stone, DPR's Northeast VDC leader.

When comparing the two numbers, DPR is finding that when VDC services are applied in the preconstruction phase, all that does is re-allocate a portion of money from one slice of the overall budget into another. The contingency might shrink, but rework is significantly reduced and project teams can easily recoup the upfront investment. In most cases the project realizes ROIs that generate more than tangible cost savings, as well a qualitative value due to timely coordination effort.

“There’s an objective and quantifiable return on investment,” said Stone.

The big takeaway: VDC services like design coordination shouldn’t be siloed, operationally and financially. By making slight adjustments to how project teams – owners, designers, contractor and trade partners – integrate early on, it’s possible to influence and mitigate the impact of design changes later down the road during construction.

“We’ve seen how leveraging VDC can avert additional costs to our customers,” said Lindberg. “We know that when the VDC process is implemented successfully on our projects, all project health indicators are a lot higher on those that embrace design integration and VDC strategies from the outset. For us the goal is to incorporate VDC into how we conduct business eventually on every project.”

August 14, 2020

Q&A: DPR's Journey to Empowering Authenticity

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August 6, 2020

30 Years and Ever Forward

Editor's Note: This post was updated on Sept.15, 2020.

"The only thing to expect is the unexpected" has become the go-to line. Life looks different today than it did six months ago, much less 30 years ago when DPR Construction was founded. But celebrating an anniversary on the heels of a global inflection point is fitting for a company that has aimed to disrupt the industry since its inception.

“Looking back on what DPR has weathered is helping us move forward to achieve our mission of being a most admired company,” said George Pfeffer, member of DPR’s Management Committee. “If you focus on taking care of people and developing a strong organization to support them, you can continue to deliver great results.”

Starting a construction company in the fluctuating market of 1990 might've been buoyed by the pure confidence of founders Doug Woods, Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski (the D, P and R), but navigating multiple ups and downs since can be chalked up to more than tenacity; something is working here. The last three decades have taught DPR more than a few lessons that continue to shape its business, culture and people.

(From left to right) DPR Construction founders Doug Woods, Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski.

Doing Things Differently

“When we started DPR, we wanted to be a customer-focused organization," said Woods. "We’re a negotiating general contractor that takes care of our customers. To do that, we need great people, who are happy and willing to work hard. That’s one of the things that started us, making us different from the very beginning.”

DPR's first decade in business, what it now calls the “Decade of Development” (1990-2000), focused on building an entrepreneurial and innovative culture and empowering employees. It paid off with great success and accolades. DPR harnessed the rising semiconductor industry that was powering 1990s globalization to quickly establish itself as a competitive contractor. Its first semiconductor fabrication facility was awarded in 1994; a $43 million wafer fabrication project for Rockwell International completed in just six months. By the end of the decade, DPR had upwards of $2 billion in revenue and was quickly expanding operations across the country.

The next two decades marked a critical shift in DPR's approach to winning work and taking care of people. The dot.com bust and financial crisis bookending the 2000s necessitated strategic evaluations for taking on new work; spurred greater understanding of DPR's core customer markets; and underlined the importance of supporting the community. There were some hard pills to swallow: revenue shrinkage, office closures and the great recession among them. In reacting to the factors outside of its control, the company learned that a culture of discipline was needed to support its entrepreneurial spirit.

From 2010-2019, DPR shifted its aim from market dominance to positioning itself as a transformative entity in an industry traditionally slow to change. Part of that evolution was internal: instituting leadership transitions and hiring and development practices to provide leadership opportunities for more people. The organization also transformed to a collective "team of teams" approach, resulting in integrated regional business units to help identify and scale areas of excellence.

Taken during one of the largest ever self-performed concrete pour, this photo won ENR's 2018 Year in Construction photo contest. The intensity of the 11-hour pour of 4,800 cubic yards of concrete is captured in the focus of Ed Pratt. Photo courtesy of Everett Rosette

A Fully Integrated Business

No fewer than four inflection points later, DPR has a bench of experience to draw on as it enters the next 10 years, what it aptly calls its “Decade of Strategic Growth” on its way to Mission 2030. Now ranked among the top general contractors by ENR, and with about 8,000 employees worldwide, DPR has some scale to throw behind its efforts to optimize, innovate and change the world.

“Revenue and size are outcomes, or lagging indicators, of the strategic actions we take,” said Pfeffer. “As we move into our decade of strategic growth, we remain focused on hiring, inspiring, developing and growing the best people, operational excellence and delivering great results every time.”

Increasing alignment within its team of teams has translated to more predictable outcomes for DPR customers and partners. Looking at the integrated project lifecycle end-to-end is leading to an evolution of better workflows. Workflows enabled by technology and data bear out efficiencies in execution through virtual design and construction, increased prefabrication, and the capability to self-perform work.

DPR is ranked among the top general contractors by ENR, with about 8,000 employees worldwide. Photo taken prior to COVID-19 protocols.

Taking Care of People

"If you let people do the right things,and do what they're good at,good things will happen,” said Davidowski.

DPR prioritizes a well-rounded, supportive employee experience to enable the delivery of predictable outcomes across its enterprise. It’s a sentiment expressed in the company’s two central beliefs: Respect for the individual and change the world.

“Respect for the individual means that we trust and care about each other and our customers, and how we interact with others,” said Jody Quinton, member of DPR’s Management Committee. "Changing the world boils down to believing that what we do and how we do it truly matters, and that we’re always inspired to make a difference.”

These beliefs create alignment and foster a willingness to keep pushing forward. As the economic and social landscapes continue to evolve, DPR, like many companies, is looking deeper into Global Social Responsibility and its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practices. These are rooted in the idea that when employees are engaged, seen and heard, they’re more productive. In a company that runs on teamwork, diversity fuels understanding and communication, thereby strengthening trust in each other.

Although far from complete, DPR’s DEI journey thus far has included recasting partnership agreements to reflect diversity best practices, hiring new leadership to increase diversity in its supply chain, expanding its college recruitment portfolio, and breaking bias training.

“Having a work force that matches the customers we build for and the communities where we build is about social responsibility, but it’s also about getting results,” said Mark Whitson of DPR’s Management Committee. “Having a diverse group of people who feel included and can bring their whole selves to work changes the way we build. Having a diverse set of opinions and a diverse set of backgrounds allows us to make better decisions and explore new ways of doing things.”

DPR teams participate in OSHA’s annual National Fall Prevention Stand-Down to raise awareness of preventing fall hazards in construction. Photo taken prior to COVID-19 protocols.

Building Raving Fans

Where construction has been mostly focused on the transaction of getting work done at a good price, DPR’s dedication to collaboration both inside and outside its organization might feel against the grain. But that’s why it works.

“From day one we were really determined that every client we had would be a raving fan,” said Nosler. “Not just in the sense that we did a good job, and that they liked us, but also that they would tell their spouses and their neighbors, ‘Hey, we have this fantastic company that helped us build this wonderful project.’ That’s what we want."

DPR’s model highlights something inherent to the industry: Construction is a people business. By providing a cultural foundation focused on people, aligned by common goals and a commitment to operational excellence, DPR creates an environment that encourages people to be their best selves. Diversifying its business lines and workforce has brought new perspectives and approaches.The efficiencies and innovations gained as a result of a highly collaborative workflow lead to more predictable outcomes on projects. Put that all together, and the result is a blueprint for transforming the industry and delivering great results, every time.

“Everything we do adds up to two simple things: build great projects that create raving fans,” said Mike Humphrey of DPR’s Management Committee.

June 18, 2020

EVA Air’s North American Headquarters completes its landing in El Segundo

The campus encompasses two 5-story buildings totaling 150,000 sq. ft. wrapping around a 5-story above ground parking structure. Photo courtesy of EVA Air

International airline EVA Airways Corporation has a new office campus in El Segundo, California, which reached final completion in May. As one of the larger design-build projects in the region, the campus encompasses two 5-story buildings totaling 150,000 sq. ft. wrapping around a 5-story above ground parking structure. It all sits atop a once vacant site, completing an area in the business-friendly city that has seen major redevelopment in the last decade.

“This is a project for a good group of end-users, providing them with a new North American headquarters and the ability to create more dynamic working environments for many other local businesses,” said Brent Bunting, who serves as the project executive.

As the general contractor, DPR Construction leveraged self-perform work (SPW) and 3D modeling expertise to maintain a high level of collaboration between EVA Air and its design partners, as well as keeping the project on schedule and within budget. Collaboration allowed for smooth sailing on a tight site footprint, ensuring deliveries, cranes erecting portions of the work, excavations, concrete pump trucks and more to keep the project flowing.

Each “condo” includes its own private balcony or patio, and with a variety of materials and exterior articulation, the building skin design is different from any other project DPR has built in the region. Photo courtesy of EVA Air

Creating Space for All

The campus goes beyond a typical office park, featuring “office condos” available for sale to small businesses that may otherwise not be able to own their own space. DPR worked in collaboration with kmd Architects, EVA Air, Messori Development and CBRE to bring this focus on designing for multi-tenant functionality to life, giving rise to the building’s unique exterior and circulation. Each “condo” includes its own private balcony or patio, and with a variety of materials and exterior articulation, the building skin design is different from any other project DPR has built in the region.

DPR’s team navigated through a few unique circumstances that included custom weathered metal finishes, complex window and door design, and incorporating a variety of materials on the exterior like plaster and a rainscreen system with weathered metal and phenolic panels. Additionally, the parking structure’s 2nd and 5th floors are connected to the office buildings’ 2nd and 4th floors via four skybridges that improve accessibility for occupants. The connectivity between the structures added to the challenges with the site and skin coordination.

Additionally, the parking structure’s 2nd and 5th floors are connected to the office buildings’ 2nd and 4th floors via four skybridges. Photo courtesy of EVA Air

Flexibility though SPW and Virtual Modeling Expertise

Leveraging DPR’s sizable SPW team on the concrete parking structure helped minimize the impact of several weeks of unprecedented rain for the region, with onsite craftsmen working to prep for, clean up and mitigate the effects of the weather. SPW teams also performed other specialty and smaller scopes of work, such as miscellaneous carpentry, fire stopping and lobby ceilings, in addition to providing valuable design input throughout the preconstruction phase.

When a major design decision needed to be made, DPR worked closely with EVA Air to evaluate costs and weigh the benefits of each decision. An example of this was the decision between a cast-in-place concrete structure versus a structural steel structure. A concrete structure can provide a shorter overall height of building due to the depth of beams in a steel structure, and concrete can provide an attractive ceiling finish if left exposed. However, a concrete structure will require additional columns and walls within the footprint that steel structures can avoid with longer allowable spans. Ultimately, the openness of the spaces was a definable project feature for EVA Air, and so the decision to proceed with steel was ultimately made. DPR’s ability to demonstrate the end conditions through 3D modeling was essential to the ultimate decision to adjust the design, while simultaneously mitigating what would be major impacts to the design schedule.

As a result, DPR was able to collaborate with its design-build partners to work in constructability and value analysis into the design to ensure the project moved forward expeditiously.

February 25, 2020

Houston's recenter hits VDC, prefab and self-perform trifecta

A rendering of the recenter rehabilitation and housing complex in Houston, Texas. Photo courtesy of Brave Architecture

A Texas project is the latest example of the value and efficiency delivered when Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) is paired with digital prefabrication.

A rehabilitation facility located in Houston, Texas, recenter provides non-medical detox, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and housing services to those recovering from addiction. Through its “Hope, Healing, Home” approach, recenter provides a variety of programs focused on helping individuals find a path toward lifelong, productive sobriety.

recenter is also a hybrid project, employing structural steel for levels one and two, while levels three through five are made up of a structural metal stud wall and floor joist system. Forgoing a traditional approach using conventional steel and concrete, the top floors are comprised of 30,000 sq. ft. of load-bearing, digitally fabricated cold-formed steel structures manufactured by Digital Building Components. This method of layering levels of steel podium with additional floors of prefabricated walls has not been used previously on a DPR Construction site in the region.

As the builder, DPR leveraged its self-perform work (SPW) expertise and partnership with Digital Building Components to recover a month’s worth of weather delays to the project schedule.

Digitally fabricated panel structures were used for levels three through five, forgoing a conventional approach. The structural panels were fabricated by Digital Building Components. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Digital fabrication, powered by VDC

Digital Building Components uses VDC for model coordination. But uniquely, Digital Building Components takes the information gathered from the building’s design model to perform digital fabrication. The recenter project team engaged Digital Building Components early in the design process to help optimize the design for its digital fabrication software. On the production line, the software sends everything to the production machines to do the bulk of the work. There is a roll former that bends, cuts and engraves the “kit instructions” on each piece, robotic welders then connect studs with precision, and screw bridges that attach sheathing.

Leveraging the power of prefabrication and self-perform work

DPR worked with Brave Architecture and The Mathis Group, Inc., to bring recenter to life. The project scope consists of a new five-story 50,573-sq.-ft. mixed-use building complete with a dining room, meeting room, lounge, offices and 62 individual residential units. Outdoor amenities include terraces, porches and a garden roof deck.

DPR’s project superintendent, Brandon Liming, was impressed by the speed of installation. “We were able to dramatically increase production rates to even meet our initial ‘aggressive’ theoretical expectations.”

Liming attributes this success to vigorous preplanning. “Having preparation milestones was the key to success. At every stage, we knew the responsibilities of each crew member—from when the trailer arrived onsite to its departure.”

Working in small groups of two and three, DPR’s eight-person SPW installation team completed the work in 13 days, building on average 2,300 sq. ft. each day—four times faster than conventional building methods and well ahead of DPR’s already rigorous projected schedule of 17 days. A variety of trades were able to put their work in place sooner as the result of the accelerated structural schedule. DPR also self-performed the concrete and drywall scopes of the building.

DPR’s design and owner partners were also impressed with the rapid pace of construction, even though recenter had originally been designed using conventional steel. While the initial decision to pursue prefabrication was driven by scheduling considerations, the project’s overall budget also came in at the same cost as conventional steel.

“By the end of the project they were really surprised and impressed by the total benefits the system provided. They were also now more aware of how the system works so they could design the next one with that approach in mind,” said Dave Kloubec, Texas-based lead for DBC.

Using a digital fabrication and site assembly approach condensed what would have taken up to 60 workers onsite to construct in 3.5 months into mere weeks with only eight workers. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Delivering results

recenter had zero safety incidents, and the project’s reduced schedule helped reduce risk exposure. Not only did the recenter project team top the daily install average from previous projects, it condensed what would have taken up to 60 workers onsite to construct in 3.5 months into mere weeks with only eight workers. Additionally, leveraging SPW and digital prefabrication helped solve local trade resource deficiencies and avoided trade stacking on an already complicated site with tight access.