Eva Chotani


March 6, 2020

DPR's Vested Interest in the Workforce

DPR's Elke O'Neill and Joe Garza sat down with us to discuss the new adjustable fit PPE vest and the role it plays in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at DPR

Name: Elke O’Neill

Role at DPR: Preconstruction Manager for Northwest, Bay Area Women Who Build Steering Committee Member, D&I Task Force

Name: Joe Garza

Role at DPR: Regional Safety Manager for Central, Safety Leadership Team, D&I Task Force

Elke O’Neill began her professional journey with DPR Construction 18 years ago and now serves as a preconstruction manager in the Bay Area. Throughout her career and time spent as a project manager, she has carefully studied various aspects of the industry and sought opportunities to create a more equitable environment for women in construction. Elke utilized her experience to redefine, create and manufacture an adjustable fit PPE Vest to play a key role in furthering the conversation surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion at DPR and within the construction industry at large.

Joe Garza has spent a total of 25 years in the construction industry and has built a 17-year career at DPR. Currently, Joe is the face of regional safety for the Central region as well as a part of the Safety Leadership team and Diversity & Inclusion steering committee at DPR. With the ever-changing nature of construction, Joe wholehearted believes that one day the industry will be looking to DPR for ways to improve within the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion space. He believes we will be industry champions and leaders in the D&I conversation.

Question: What events or experiences inspired you to create a new PPE vest option?

Elke: I was inspired to look into a more customizable vest option for women several years ago when I was working on-site as a project manager. I tried to find a vest that me fit better and wasn’t as baggy than what was available, and it simply didn’t exist. I decided to reach out to different vest manufacturers to see if there were any vests out there that had the same features being offered in a men’s vest, but in a smaller size, and I couldn’t find any.

Question: What does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on a jobsite mean to you? Do Safety and DE&I work hand in hand?

Joe: It means an equal playing field for everybody and nobody having to change themselves because a group or person walked into the room—we want everyone to be authentic to who they are. When a problem arises, we want to solve it with a variety of people and perspectives. Look at any of our jobsite gates and you will see a community; how they interact is the same way DPR should operate with our teams. We also have to consider psychological safety: setting people up to think and feel that they have the freedom to be themselves. Over time, safety has been shown to be a gateway to DE&I and to creating a safe space and culture to speak up, especially when we look for those diverse ideas and different points of view.

Question: Explain the process you took to design and manufacture a new vest.

Elke: This process started in 2018 after talking to a manufacturer to see if there was a smaller vest option available—there wasn’t. I partnered with a former DPR employee – Sandy Grayson – who previously ran the DPR store, and worked with her connections to create a custom adjustable vest for everyone in the field. We incorporated all the safety features, sewed an initial vest type for fit and brought it to where we are now. The overall timing took about a year and a half from concept to creating the first vest prototype, but we wanted to make sure we took the time to produce a quality product. We also utilized feedback from women in the industry. We made changes based on their comments.

Question: Who do you think this adjustable fit PPE vest will affect the most?

Joe: I had the opportunity to try it on and think it’s an amazing product. The ripple effect of this vest is giving the user the ability to feel included. It’s the notion that before I walked into a room, someone thought about me and how I wanted to feel—not just that I would be given what is available, but that what I was given would fit me. I’m a medium size, but most jobsites only have XL or XXL available, and that tends to slouch on my body. You start to feel underappreciated and diminished. Having a vest that fits to your body makes you feel comfortable and allows you to put forth your best self on a jobsite.

Question: What has the reaction been so far after announcing the rollout of this new vest?

Elke: The reactions to the new vest have been overwhelmingly positive - people can't wait to get their hands on one. I recently showed the vest to some of DPR's female field and craft team members in Austin, and they were visibly excited about having their own adjustable vests to wear on site.

Question: Where do you see the future of DE&I going at DPR? How do you think our stance will affect the industry?

Joe: The reality is we are being very intentional about how we are growing for our new employees, how we work with our hiring managers, and the way these changes will impact our teams. When you make DE&I top of mind, it creates unique filters to ensure we are really taking care of our people. I hope we get to the point where the industry looks to us for inspiration because of how well we have embedded DE&I into our culture.

To watch the new adjustable fit PPE vest in action, please visit our Video section on the website or watch here.

For questions or purchase inquiries, please email [email protected]line.com.

November 8, 2019

Integrating Stakeholders within Lean Cultures Yields Benefits

Lean Construction continues to deliver benefits on a project-by-project basis, but how can these ever-advancing techniques stick on and off the construction site, changing the way business is done? DPR Construction and its partners gave three presentations at the 21st annual LCI Congress, the flagship event of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI), in Fort Worth, TX that aimed to push toward that goal.

This year's LCI Congress featured discussion of "essential-ism." Stemming from Greg McKeown, writer of "Essential-ism: The Discipline Pursuit of Less," the concept asks: How can the construction industry narrow its focus to improve on key scopes? Among the essential things DPR is aiming to excel at – in order to support the goals of its employees in the field and the customers it builds for – is creating alignment on project norms and goals to maximize efficiency.

The commitment to integrating customers is changing. Creating a Lean company and project culture means educating people to better focus Lean systems on job sites, in customer meetings, and in preconstruction. Throughout the industry, a key priority is finding ways for contractors to better align with customer expectations and leverage up-and-coming technology in new ways.

Aligning expectations toward defined success

During the presentation, DPR project manager Leigh Heller asked attendees to imagine building a swing with your friends. Each friend would probably bring a different design, technologies and mindset and that may not always equal the creation of one perfect swing.

Presentation
DPR’s Leigh Heller noted how DFOW gives project teams the knowledge to better understand what the customer’s expectations are.

Construction is no different than the swing analogy and the challenge is to create a realistic commitment to the customer while aligning with the intended vision and value.

Still, there is a tendency to wait until the end of the project to debrief and share everything that could have gone differently. DPR’s team suggested having this conversation at the outset. Setting expectations should be a priority for all members of the project teams. By setting priorities, every customer will come to the table with their own measurement for success. It is in the best interest of Lean project teams to implement steps to agree to and achieve this standard.

To create a unified assessment of success, DPR’s presenters shared the organization’s commitment to quality control known as Distinguished Features of Work (DFOW). DPR’s Leigh Heller noted how DFOW gives project teams the knowledge to better understand what the customer’s expectations are and, as a result, focus on them to reduce the chance of any rework.

DFOW/Quality/Aligning Expectations IS Lean, and we need to do a better job of sharing the documentation of our planning and learning with the field and with other projects,” Leigh Heller, DPR superintendent.

Lean Leaders Build Lean Cultures

Project teams also must establish a baseline of appropriate team behavior and workflow from the inception of a project to better align expectations on and off the jobsite. Successful Lean integration starts with an aligned and standardized workflow that enables the team to visualize and anticipate roadblocks.

“We must provide the highest quality service to our customers at the lowest possible cost while maintaining a respect for people. We all can influence that effort and help improve it,” said Heller.

Presentation
Cory Hackler and Jack Poindexter presenting about the UCSF project.

For example, remodeling projects will always have unknowns that could affect budget and schedule. DPR’s recently-completed shopping center makeover sparked conversation at LCI Congress about the many different team conversations that build trust and respect across project teams that will translate to a more efficient project. Through candid conversations and planned actions, the outcomes should result in a clear work process structured to help maximize the value and minimize any waste at delivery level. It’s a win for the project team and a win for the customer.

In doing so, the project can serve as a replicable model for recruits, new hires, and team members to understand what a Lean project is and ways to duplicate positive operational behaviors.

Building a Lean Culture: Engaging the Value Stream

Presenters also shared were examples of different activities that different project teams performed to map value streams. In each case, this helped establish unique site cultures while also identifying all possibilities of unneeded waste.

DPR Lean manager Cory Hackler noted in his presentation that the company’s method of personnel alignment stems from the development and use of Lean Leadership training across the company.

“Having 600 people go through DPR’s Lean Leadership class, we are getting aligned on a common language to enforce Lean thoughts throughout projects,” said Cory Hackler.

The “Big Room” environment is one of many tactics sowing value to any team, enabling better collaboration.

July 8, 2019

Transforming a Desert Landscape

Under the Arizona sun, DPR, along with leaders from Arizona State University (ASU), Mayo Clinic and the community came together with shovels to break ground on ASU’s new Health Futures Center (HFC). The greenfield project is positioned to be an anchor for cutting-edge health science work that will in turn change how the healthcare industry is perceived in Phoenix.

Groundbreaking
DPR Construction joined Arizona State University, leaders from Mayo Clinic and community leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking.

With a 20-year relationship with ASU, DPR was chosen to create yet another project and a new set of experiences with the ASU team. HFC will be a 150,000-sq.-ft., three-story ground up medical learning facility, adjacent to Mayo Clinic’s campus in North Phoenix.

The new facility will provide the surrounding communities with new technologies that will accelerate med-tech innovation. The center will be an integrated point between Mayo Clinic and ASU Alliance for Health Care with the goal of transforming medical education and healthcare in the U.S.

The new facility will provide the surrounding communities with new technology including a med-tech innovation accelerator, biomedical engineering and informatics research labs, and an education zone. Photo courtesy of CO Architects

"It's a great opportunity to be working side by side with two industry leaders to deliver a world-class research facility," said DPR's Casey Helburg, who is serving as project manager. "The new center will transform the medical education field, advance patient care and improve the lives of future generations. It's exciting for not only me personally, but all of us at DPR."

Determined to deliver, DPR’s Cassie Robertson, preconstruction, and Shashi Sriram, estimator, collaborated with the design team from CO Architects and DFDG Architecture. The team leveraged the vast estimating experience and precision to identify where the budget is being allocated at any given stage of design.

The late April 2019 groundbreaking event brought together Mayor of Phoenix Kate Gallego, President and CEO of Mayo Clinic Gianrico Farrugia, and ASU President Michael Crow. They all shared their stories to paint a picture of what the HFC building will stand for: To provide a collaborative environment for the future of Arizona’s healthcare industry.

HFC will be a 150,000-square-foot, three-story ground up medical learning facility adjacent to the Mayo Clinic. Photo courtesy of CO Architects

For DPR, the event inaugurated not only the first step in the physical build out of the building, but also a moment to reminisce on the months of preconstruction planning and collaboration to produce a project grounded in a shared vision to make a difference. Construction is expected to be complete in October 2020.

Community leaders joined representatives of the owner, design and construction teams for the April 2019 groundbreaking ceremony.

May 2, 2019

DPR Reaches for the Clouds in Austin, Texas

Delivering a new landmark, DPR Construction celebrated the completion of its Domain 11 project. The project is part of what many consider to be Austin’s “second downtown” within the growing Domain North development.

In just over 17 months, DPR’s team, including a robust self-perform work (SPW) crew, constructed a 16-story office building and parking garage that contains a 338,900-sq.-ft., nine-level office core/shell and a 560,000-sq.-ft., seven-level parking structure. The ground floor includes parking, lobby, occupied office space and 8,100 sq. ft. of retail space. Targeting LEED® Silver certification, Domain 11 can be seen from miles away as the tallest office tower within the whole development.

“It’s pretty sweet, and Domain 11 was definitely the tallest Class A office tower to come to the Domain. It has made a visual statement as much as anything. You can see the Domain 11 & Domain 12 office towers from downtown’s {Austin} office towers,” says Brett Bickford, Project Manager in Austin.

Exterior View
The project is part of what many consider to be Austin’s “second downtown” within the growing Domain North development. Photo courtesy of Cambrella Photography

Innovation Leads to Savings

DPR’s preconstruction team tapped into the SPW team’s concrete and formwork expertise to adapt the overall structure to better suit the customer. Originally, plans called for a concrete pan joist slab structure, which often requires extra labor and more time to construct the formwork system. SPW concrete crews instead used the Doka formwork table system, with tables up to 48’x 28’ in size, that could be quickly transferred to the next level, reducing the overall duration required to form the concrete frame structure.

Doka formwork
DPR’s preconstruction team tapped into the SPW team’s concrete and formwork expertise to adapt the overall structure to better suit the customer. Photo courtesy of Cambrella Photography

Using the Doka formwork table system led to increased productivity and a tighter schedule. The method saved money and increased productivity on top of saving four weeks on the construction schedule.

Additionally, the formwork system provided a better concrete finish on the underside of the elevated decks. Exceeding expectations of a Class C finish, the customer was impressed when the concrete was close to a Class B finish, providing higher quality and featuring exposed structure in the design.

"We were consistent in DPR's values and goals for customer service. This was the second project with TIER REIT (developer). Client satisfaction was always top priority for our project team," said Brett.

Construction view
Using the Doka formwork table system led to increased productivity and a tighter schedule. Photo courtesy of Cambrella Photography

Embracing the DPR culture on the jobsite with SPW

The Domain 11 team consciously worked to build a culture that made every worker feel like an integral part of construction. All of the SPW trade partners and the project management team worked in the same jobsite field office, fostering collaboration and inclusion between different partners. With a unified team, the relationship with the customer grew as everyone rallied for the same goal—the team finished concrete work a month early, translating to savings for the customer, and with clear communication, predictable outcomes were ensured.

SPW crew
The Domain 11 team consciously worked to build a culture that made every worker feel like an integral part of construction. Photo courtesy of Cambrella Photography

“We had amazing SPW partnerships. This project team has strived to perform work as one team, eliminating the labels in the office (i.e. GC team, Concrete team, etc.). We are just DPR,” says Brett.

Above It All

Rising high above its surroundings, Domain 11 leaves its mark on the northern Austin skyline and gives people a new perspective of the city.

“This was a very exciting project to be a part of! The Tier Reit, Endeavor Real Estate Group, Gensler, DPR Construction team was one of the best I have worked with. This collaborative team produced a top-notch project and had fun doing it. Currently, the Domain 11 office building is the tallest building in North Austin. As the building was constructed, the higher the structure went the better you could see Austin’s downtown skyline. It was cool to see this new perspective of Austin. Soon, Domain will have its own skyline,” says Brandon Murphy, Project Executive.

DPR is looking forward to being a part of the “new downtown” as northern Austin continues to grow and innovate.

Exterior view
Rising high above its surroundings, Domain 11 leaves its mark on the northern Austin skyline and gives people a new perspective of the city. Photo courtesy of Cambrella Photography

February 8, 2019

Challenges Deliver Innovative Success in Baltimore

The University of Maryland Medical Center’s (UMMC) new labor and delivery unit is a place where mothers, babies, and loved ones can feel calm, safe, and ready for the road of delivery ahead. By renovating the 30,000-sq.-ft. delivery floor and updating mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) systems, DPR Construction revitalized the 25-year-old center, enabling UMMC to provide better treatment for the 80 percent of pregnancies in Baltimore, Maryland which are high risk.

Hospital room
DPR Construction revitalized the 25-year-old center, enabling UMMC to provide better treatment for the 80 percent of pregnancies in Baltimore, Maryland which are high risk. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Sauers

The renovation includes new areas for triage, obstetric observation, high risk obstetric special care, elective obstetric surgeries/procedures and fetal procedures, and enhanced Neonatal Intensive Care Unit services, and presents a significant upgrade for the surrounding community.

Leveraging Communications for Success

Working within a functioning hospital always poses challenges. Safety, infection control and continuity of care are paramount. Often, these types of renovations require multiple phases and continual communication with all stakeholders throughout the project. The team on the UMMC project took a nimble approach, which allowed them to listen to the customer needs and requirements and put work in place seamlessly—without disruption.

“DPR established themselves as a partner by integrating with the clinical and design teams just after a concept schematic was solidified,” said Jarret Horst, Project Manager for UMMC. “Their early involvement and enthusiastic participation positioned them to be able to respond to the ever-shifting needs of the project while understanding of the objectives of the UMMC team. They were able to navigate the renovation process while remaining dedicated to the ‘true north’ vision of the clinical customers.”

Operating room
Often, these projects require multiple phases because hospitals cannot shut down multiple operations at one time and require continual communication with all stakeholders throughout the project. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Sauers

For example, initial planning called for the project to be completed in five phases. However, when certain tenants could not vacate the space, the plan morphed into 12 phases, increasing the complexity of the renovation with respect to noise, wall and ceiling access, and infection control. With existing operating rooms above and the pediatric cardiac suite below, work on the 6th floor required careful planning, resulting in the team scheduling noisy work around the OR schedule and implementing a process whereby the OR staff was able to contact DPR should work need to be shut down immediately. DPR continuously checked in with hospital staff to ensure work was not adversely affecting patients.

Bringing the Past into the Present

Like many healthcare renovations, the project involved creating access points to install new plumbing and electrical services. DPR developed comprehensive phasing plans and an Infection Control Risk Assessment solution to allow for safe updating of the MEP systems, which dated back to the 1960s.

The MEP work was approached methodically, beginning with thorough investigation and followed up with detailed planning meetings inclusive of subcontractors and the UMMC facilities group. Multiple temporary services were put in place as systems were changed out, allowing for continual service to existing areas of the hospital.

Hospital Hallway
The MEP work was approached methodically, beginning with thorough investigation and followed up with detailed planning meetings inclusive of subcontractors and the UMMC facilities group. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Sauers

However, upgrades were not limited to elements behind the walls. “The aesthetics also needed an upgrade. Now patients see walls awash in bright blues and yellows. In the architecture and finishing, there are a lot of wings and curving, both in the walls and floors, all meant to soothe and relax patients,” said Sarah Crimmins, medical director of the obstetric care unit and an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Producing Great Results

Through collaborative efforts, DPR and UMMC have created a space that Baltimore residents can rely on to help them navigate the delivery process.

“The end result is a space the team is very proud of, in part because so many details have been well planned. Everybody is very proud and passionate about this place,” Crimmins says. “Everyone wants to make sure this is the best it can be for the people in Maryland and the people in Baltimore.”

Hospital room
The University of Maryland Medical Center’s (UMMC) new labor and delivery unit is a place where mothers, babies, and loved ones can feel calm, safe, and ready for the road of delivery ahead. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Sauers