Haley Hirai

Haley Hirai

December 20, 2017

Celebrating Women Who Build: Kali Bonnell

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Photo courtesy of Mickey Fender

As an architecture and interior design student at Auburn University, Kali Bonnell always asked, “But can you actually build that?” Seeing her natural practicality and interest in constructability, Bonnell’s professors recommended that she look into construction or engineering. Construction made sense to her. Because her grandfather was an electrician, throughout her childhood, she learned to appreciate all that went into building.

When she fell in love with construction management, she never looked back. Bonnell began her career at DPR in 2008 as an intern in Atlanta. After gaining expertise as a project engineer with DPR’s Special Services Group (SSG), which focuses on small to mid-size projects, Bonnell wanted to experience larger projects and traveled to Clemson, South Carolina to work on Clemson University’s 100,000-sq.-ft. life science facility, designed to support scientific research activities and engage students via training and education. 

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Growing both her skills and her confidence in DPR’s flat organizational structure, Bonnell felt like she had a say in what she was able to work on and how she was able to develop her technical expertise. Photo courtesy of Mickey Fender

Early in her career, she found her biggest challenge was advocating for herself and feeling confident in what she was saying, especially when others disagreed with her. Growing both her skills and her confidence in DPR’s flat organizational structure, Bonnell felt like she had a say in what she was able to work on and how she was able to develop her technical expertise.

She raised her hand to move to Tampa, then Orlando, to work on advanced tech projects, telling her leadership teams, “let me take this, let me grow, let me learn.”  Each opportunity helped build her experience to prepare her for the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health and Wellness Institute project, her first job as a full-fledged project manager. The 90% female design-build team of architects, designers, builders and owner’s representatives shared a vision for creating the 45,800-sq.-ft. comprehensive women’s center with the patient in mind. With the institute serving five unique women’s health service lines, each discipline’s professional and personal experiences informed the overall design of the project.

“It was the tipping point for me,” said Bonnell. “It was so impactful to see the smart, technical, hard-working women on our team, all working toward the same goal of safely and efficiently building an amazing place–the place we all go to for our checkups. We know how scary and stressful healthcare can be, and every detail was designed and built with the patient in mind.” 

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Bonnell constantly balances what other team members are planning and thinking to solve problems proactively, instead of reactively–a tenet that has guided her own career path as well. Photo courtesy of Mickey Fender

As she is now working on an HCA vertical expansion and central energy plant upgrade that will add two floors to an existing hospital in Florida, Bonnell believes that ultimately, her job comes down to understanding others’ perspectives and intentions. She constantly balances what other team members are planning and thinking to solve problems proactively, instead of reactively–a tenet that has guided her own career path as well.

It’s important to Bonnell to foster DPR’s culture even as the organization experiences tremendous growth. In Ft. Lauderdale, DPR has grown from 20 salaried employees in 2014 to 60 salaried employees in 2017, and increased its revenue from $15 million to $150 million in three years.  Helping to spearhead people practices, Bonnell focuses on making sure that people develop and grow, get the correct training and are set up for success. Whether it’s going out to jobsites or talking to teams, she wants each person to know that his or her job is an integral part of building great things.

So today, when anyone asks the question, “can we actually build that?” Her answer is: yes. 

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Whether it’s going out to jobsites or talking to teams, Bonnell wants each person to know that his or her job is an integral part of building great things. Photo courtesy of Mickey Fender

November 27, 2017

Celebrating Women Who Build: Whitney Dorn

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Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

After 1992’s Hurricane Iniki, the strongest and most destructive hurricane to hit the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history, Whitney Dorn (then a construction management major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) headed across the Pacific Ocean to help rebuild Kauai. The six months she spent pouring concrete, bending rebar, performing demolition, framing and working as a hod carrier confirmed for her that she was going to school for exactly what she wanted to do for the rest of her career. She wanted to be a builder. 

“I could really picture myself being in the construction industry,” she said. “When you’re working in the field, you can see the fruits of your labor. That, combined with the constant problem solving, is what really attracted me to what I do.”  

She joined DPR after graduating, and spent the first 15 years of her career in operations. In 2008, she began leading DPR’s sustainability initiative to help customers develop and implement the best strategies through experienced people, a collaborative methodology, and custom tools to address the triple bottom line: environmental, social and economic.  

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The constant problem solving and ability to see the fruits of her labor out in the field is what attracted Whitney Dorn to the construction industry. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

After five years of educating customers and DPR teams about building sustainable structures, Dorn transitioned back to an operations role as a project executive. She has since worked on notable projects, including a wireless phone company’s headquarters, Torrey Pines Science Park and a 73-acre corporate campus project in Irvine, California, which is completing in January 2018. 

“There’s nothing like being on the jobsite. You spend so much time with your team, and you’re not only building great buildings, but building a great team at the same time,” she said.  

Dorn sees trust and respect as the foundation for any highly functioning team. "It’s about respecting what all the different roles on a jobsite bring to the table, abolishing a lack of trust, and figuring out how to move forward in a positive way together." Using a football metaphor, she tells her teams that they can be the running back, and she’ll be the blocker, taking out the obstacles so they can do their best work.  

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Dorn tells her teams that they can be the running back, and she’ll be the blocker, taking out the obstacles so they can do their best work. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

She has taken out many of her own obstacles, as well. When she meets her customers for the first time, she often finds that they are expecting a man to run their project. She doesn’t take it personally; she moves forward by never questioning what she brings to the table and uses her own technical expertise to deliver her projects successfully.  

“I know others are looking at me to see how I deal with situations, particularly the younger women. It’s very important to me to set a good example, and give them the confidence that this is a great career, something that they can do and make work for their lives,” she said. 

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Giving younger women the confidence that this is a great career, something that they can do and make work for their lives, is very important to Dorn. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Since 2003, Dorn has been mentoring youths through the San Diego ACE Mentor program, and is taking over as chairwoman this upcoming year. She also participated in DPR’s pilot high school internship program, offering under-resourced yet highly qualified high school students interested in STEM careers real-life professional experience on a jobsite. Dorn and other members of her project team mentored Jessica Reynoso, a high schooler from East Los Angeles who wants to become an engineer, exposing her to career paths available in the construction industry.  

Through her work both “on and off the field,” she hopes the next generation of builders will find their moment–like she did while she was laboring in Kauai. She hopes they can see themselves in this industry, picture the career paths ahead of them, and know that building great things is what they want to do for the rest of their lives. 

November 10, 2017

Honoring DPR Veterans: Landry Watson, U.S. Navy

In spring 2006, Landry Watson was in Fallujah, finishing up his last combat deployment as a lieutenant commander and operations officer of a U.S. Navy SEAL squadron. During his five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, his teams suffered no casualties–all his teammates were able to come home safely to their families.   

By the summer of 2006, Watson, who graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in construction science, was in San Diego, sending out resumes and trying to start a new career after over ten years serving in the Navy’s primary special operations force. Although he had led platoons and task units in complex and dangerous combat situations, while managing an ever-changing mix of time, resources and people, he found most companies weren’t willing to take a chance on him. He was an unproven variable in his late 30s, starting a second career from scratch, a humbling experience for the decorated military officer.  

“It’s DPR’s culture to create an entrepreneurial organization where people can make a difference with their ideas and hard work. DPR saw my raw talent and potential, believed I could develop and grow, took a chance on me and empowered me to be a contributor,” he said.  

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Landry Watson is presented with a Bronze Star Medal, awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement or service. Photo courtesy of Landry Watson

Now a project manager specializing in sustainable design and construction, Watson helps customers develop and implement the best strategies to build sustainable structures, improving efficiency, employee productivity and marketability. A self-proclaimed conservationist and environmentalist, his passion for sustainability was influenced in part by his time spent in the military. Serving overseas, he saw how other societies lived, deeply contrasted with the freedom, opportunities and social responsibility we often take for granted in the U.S.  

“In these countries where we were fighting, their primary resource is the oil that fuels the economy and the rest of the world. As a country, if we want to continue to be a global leader, we can’t continue to be dependent on traditional sources of energy and resources that we don’t have,” he said.  

On projects including the UCSD Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center and the San Diego Community College District's Miramar Science Building, Watson has educated customers and project teams, helping them use a collaborative methodology and custom tools to address the triple bottom line: environmental, social and economic. 

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On projects including the UCSD Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center, Watson has educated customers and teams about sustainability. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

One lesson that Watson learned in the military that translates to his career today is that being a leader is less about having every single answer yourself, and more about taking care of people and empowering their success.  

“It’s trusting the expertise of the teammate that is most likely to have the answer, usually the person who works on the issue in question every day. It isn’t wise to think that you are smarter than your subcontractor or one of your platoonmates; that doesn’t work in construction or the military. They know best how to solve your problems–you just have to trust them,” he said.  

On a jobsite, the most important variables to manage are time, resources and people, just like in the military. Watson’s understanding of how to triage all the tasks that need to be completed, while keeping people safe and overcoming obstacles that come in the way of sequence comes from his first career as a SEAL. Both fields of work have their own inherent dangers that require all the pieces to operate in tandem, like a finely tuned machine, to prevent injury, improve efficiency and successfully complete a project or mission.  

And just like his time in the military, at the end of the day when Watson sends every member of his team back home safely to his or her family, he will also send them back to a world that is a little better than when they left it. 

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When Watson sends every member of his team back home safely to his or her family, he will also send them back to a world that is a little better than when they left it. Photo courtesy of Landry Watson

October 16, 2017

Connecting and Inspiring Women Who Build in Austin

DPR’s Andrea Weisheimer once walked into a meeting she was leading, and a subcontractor asked her if she was there to take notes. She replied, “No. Are you?”

Weisheimer and five other professionals, who work across the AEC industry, recently spoke on a Women Who Build panel in Austin, discussing how to connect, inspire, develop and advance women in the industry as they build meaningful careers—whether it’s as a PE, a PX, an architect or an owner.

Melissa Neslund, Armbrust & Brown; Janki DePalma, DCI Engineers; Katie Blair, Charles Schwab; Pollyanna Little, STG Design–along with DPR’s Weisheimer and Bryan Lofton--shared experiences and career advice with more than 60 attendees. The discussion was focused on promoting change in a traditionally male-dominated industry that is only 9.3% women (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

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A Women Who Build panel in Austin discussed how to connect, inspire, develop and advance women in the industry as they build meaningful careers—whether it’s as a PE, a PX, an architect or an owner. Photo courtesy of Haley Hirai

The issue of the dearth of women in construction, as well as many other STEM fields, is complex, and there is not one simple answer. A confluence of factors ranging from unconscious bias learned at an early age, to a lack of women in the STEM pipeline, to recruiting, retention and development of women in technical and leadership positions will not likely be solved by any one quick fix. 

What the panel provided was a forum for sharing experiences and supporting each other. Weisheimer spoke about how she often feels the need to prove herself for people to accept that she knows what she’s doing, a sentiment echoed by the other women. 

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DPR's Bryan Lofton and Andrea Weisheimer discussed promoting change in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Photo courtesy of Russ Rhea

“You’re always trying to be a little ahead of the expectations of your role,” she said. “When you learn the technical details of how to build, it gets to the point where people do respect you, regardless of gender.”

Learning how to advocate for themselves was a common theme among the panelists. DePalma remembered how she moved to Austin from the Bay Area without a job in 2008, the height of the economic recession. She pitched an idea for DCI Engineers to hire her for a two-month trial in a business development role to help its fledgling office make connections in the local market. Nearly nine years later, she has helped DCI triple its office size and secure projects that have changed Austin’s skyline.  

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DCI Engineers' Janki DePalma has helped DCI triple its office size and secure projects that have changed Austin’s skyline. Photo courtesy of Russ Rhea

Neslund agreed that advocating for herself has been an essential skill in her success throughout her career in land use and entitlements at Armbrust & Brown, PLLC.

“I have always advocated for the promotion, or the extra resources I need for my team. I have advocated for respect, walking into a room and giving my 150% effort,” she said. “Even if you don’t have all the answers, speak with confidence. Believe in yourself, show that you care, and advocate for what you deserve in your career.”

The panelists discussed letting go of the sense of perfection that many of us put on ourselves. No one is perfect all the time, and many of them had to embrace the fact that they are enough in every one of their roles–as builders, designers and family members.

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Charles Schwab's Katie Blair discussed embracing the fact that we are enough in every one of our roles–as builders, designers and family members. Photo courtesy of Russ Rhea

“The hardest thing with confidence is that we are always comparing ourselves with everybody else. Be unique, set yourself apart, and go for it,” said Weisheimer. “The biggest mistake is not asking for help if you need it.”

Leaders like Weisheimer and the others on the panel showed the next generation of builders that success in the AEC industry doesn’t necessarily mean looking like everyone else, or fitting into any stereotypes. As Weisheimer likes to say, “be confident, be bold and be brilliant.”

October 12, 2017

First OSHPD-Approved Light-Gauge, Steel-Frame Structure Leverages Digital Fabrication for Rapid Growth

In an industry where it is status quo for skilled nursing to be part of continuing care retirement communities, a new kind of skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility is “growing” in Chino, California—Trellis. The first project of a collaborative statewide development program, the 59-bed, 40,000-sq.-ft. Trellis facility in Chino is also the first light-gauge, cold-form steel-frame structure to ever be approved by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), serving as a template to streamline lengthy aspects of the state agency’s approval process.

“Granite Development approached DPR to be a part of a collaborative team and provide strategic counsel through the entire life cycle of its vision for the Trellis skilled nursing facilities that are planned throughout the state,” said Brian Gracz, who leads DPR’s San Diego business unit. “We are helping them in the earliest stages of development with site assessment and rapid budget feedback for property comparisons, as they focus on creating a new kind of skilled nursing and rehabilitation experience in California.”

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The 59-bed, 40,000-sq.-ft. Trellis facility in Chino is the first light-gauge, cold-form steel-frame structure to ever be approved by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

The team, which includes Granite, DPR, Darden Architects, Kitchell and others, wanted to avoid the inherent issues of wood structures (e.g., pest control, water intrusion, fire protection), and improve speed of construction, reliability, and scalability of the program. They incorporated a load-bearing digitally fabricated light-gauge steel framed structure through Digital Building Components, which uses digital fabrication to transform computer models directly into precise-to-spec building assemblies.

Benefits of Light-Gauge Steel Framing and Digital Fabrication

  • Efficiency and Scalability: Off-site digital fabrication enables key components of the light-gauge framing to be produced together in a safe and controlled environment, reducing costs while enhancing safety and construction efficiency. Compared to a traditional wood-frame structure, the team shaved about four weeks off the schedule, and about $100,000 in general conditions cost on the first Trellis project. When multiplied by several facilities across the state, the savings grow exponentially, allowing Trellis to move into the nursing facilities sooner and begin positively impacting the lives of its patients. 
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The team incorporated a load-bearing digitally fabricated light-gauge steel framed structure through Digital Building Components. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo
  • Seismic safety: Lighter than concrete, or hot-rolled structural steel buildings of the same height, cold-form, light-gauge panelized structures have proven to be strong and flexible enough to move with seismic activity instead of against it. Last summer, DPR helped assemble the tallest cold-formed, steel-frame structure ever to be tested on a shake table. The six-story building withstood a simulation of 150% of 1994’s 6.7-magnitude Northridge, California earthquake, shaking and rocking, but remaining structurally intact and safe. The structure performed so well, the team ended up dismantling it themselves, since it never failed through testing.

Challenges and Design Strategy

  • OSHPD approvals:  Due to the prevalence of wood-frame construction for these types of facilities, the Trellis facility was a first for OSHPD. The regulatory agency’s preference is that structures be built on-site for easy inspector access. To help with the process, the team worked closely with OSHPD to coordinate having an inspector on-site to check and sign off on the first 100 digitally fabricated panels. After that, only 30% of the panels needed to be inspected on-site and the first project is expected to be completed in early 2018. 
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Off-site digital fabrication enables key components of the light-gauge framing to be produced together in a safe and controlled environment, reducing costs while enhancing safety and construction efficiency. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo
  • Strategic structural design: California has different seismic zones that affect structural design. To account for that, the team is constructing the Chino facility to meet the seismic requirements of one zone higher than necessary so the exact same structure can be replicated in different locations. Because the designs of the facilities are the same, OSHPD approval time is being drastically improved. In addition, different regions have varying pollution requirements. Designs of the facility were created with and without a diesel particulate filter, so both options could be approved by OSHPD simultaneously.

What’s next?

  • Since starting the Chino project, the team has gotten two projects approved through OSHPD, and is now working on the third.  By the end of 2017, the team looks forward to having three facilities across the state approved–with more to come. 
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The team has gotten two projects approved through OSHPD, and is now working on the third. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

September 26, 2017

Celebrating Women Who Build: Deepti Bhadkamkar

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Photo courtesy of Amed Aplicano

Deepti Bhadkamkar has always been driven by the impact of what she does. When she looks at a building, she sees more than a structure; she sees a place that will impact people with countless ripple effects. She sees stem cell labs that will significantly impact the way we understand and treat disorders and diseases; she sees world-class hospitals that will save children’s lives.

Most of all, she sees potential. A project manager specializing in complex MEP systems across core markets, Bhadkamkar’s passion is figuring out ways to make these labs, data centers and hospitals smarter and more efficient for the people who will eventually occupy them. 

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Deepti Bhadkamkar is a project manager specializing in complex MEP systems across core markets. Photo courtesy of Amed Aplicano

Since she joined DPR in 2005 as an intern, she has been continuously learning and honing her skills, as MEP systems and the ways to manage them are ever-changing. Bhadkamkar has worked on several large-scale projects throughout her career, including:

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Bhadkamkar’s passion is figuring out ways to make these labs, data centers and hospitals smarter and more efficient for the people who will eventually occupy them. Photo courtesy of Amed Aplicano

She is currently working on Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, where she is managing MEP systems for the entire hospital. The expansion project will more than double the size of the current facility, adding 521,000 sq. ft. and allowing the hospital to meet increased demand for pediatric and obstetric care as the Bay Area population grows.

Early in her career as a project engineer, Bhadkamkar struggled with people initially not taking her seriously. She made sure she always did her research ahead of time so she could speak with complete certainty about complex MEP systems to people who sometimes had double the experience that she did. Over time, as she built her technical expertise, this confidence came more naturally. She never hesitates to ask questions, rely on resources or step out of her comfort zone to learn something new in the field. 

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Bhadkamkar never hesitates to ask questions, rely on resources or step out of her comfort zone to learn something new in the field. Photo courtesy of Amed Aplicano

“Everyone has insecurities or biases, but whatever it is, just focus on what you love to do, and give your 100% full commitment to it,” she said. “Don’t get too bogged down with perceptions because ultimately, they are yours. I always treat myself as a leader and an engineer, and so does everyone else.”

The proudest moment of her career happened when a superintendent she has worked closely with on a few big projects pointed to her and told an engineer, “You have to be like her.

As a member of the Bay Area’s Project Engineer (PE) leadership group, as well as the MEP leadership group, Bhadkamkar helps mentor and develop curriculum that over 100 PEs in the Bay Area and over 50 MEP experts around the country can benefit from as they learn, develop and grow. 

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The proudest moment of Bhadkamkar's career happened when a superintendent she has worked closely with on a few big projects pointed to her and told an engineer, “You have to be like her.” Photo courtesy of Amed Aplicano

“I personally wanted to share with them the experiences I had, and offer them the same insights that I have learned over time,” she said. “I want to teach them something that will have an impact on them, and I learn so many things from them as well. Working with our next generation of builders gives me such a great energy to keep going.”

Bhadkamkar is passionate about anything that makes a difference in somebody’s life–whether it is mentorship or building highly integrated smart buildings that enhance the human experience. It’s not just the structures that Bhadkamkar builds that create ripple effects of positive impacts on countless people over time–she does, too. 

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Working with the next generation of builders gives Bhadkamkar energy to keep going. Photo courtesy of Amed Aplicano

August 31, 2017

Celebrating Women Who Build: Lauren Snedeker

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Photo courtesy of Brilliance Photography/Bob Hughes

When Lauren Snedeker was 22 years old, her manager pulled her aside and told her, “You’re wasting your life; you are meant to do so much more than what you are now. You need to build.”

After spending three years at Georgia Tech as a chemical engineering major, Snedeker realized that she hated the field in which she had planned to spend her whole career. A very social person, the solitary nature of research stifled her. Without strong career guidance, she quit school and fell into an assortment of temporary jobs, one of which was answering phones at a construction company in Atlanta. 

Sitting at the front desk, Snedeker–whose mind naturally craves challenges and problems to solve–began offering her help to the estimators and accountants in her office. With the encouragement of her colleagues, she earned her B.S. in construction management with a minor in business administration from Southern Polytechnic State University, and eventually returned to Georgia Tech for her master’s in building construction and integrated facility management. She became a project engineer, and never looked back. 

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For Lauren Snedeker, construction management is the perfect confluence of her social and engineering skills. Photo courtesy of Brilliance Photography/Bob Hughes

Since she joined DPR in 2013, Snedeker has been a crucial contributor to growing DPR’s relationship with the University of Georgia (UGA). Now a project manager, Snedeker has worked on UGA’s Terry College of Business, UGA’s Indoor Athletic Facility and is currently managing UGA’s design-build improvements to the west end zone at Sanford Stadium, the tenth largest college football stadium in the country.

Snedeker embraces the challenges of renovating the stands, locker room, recruit club, plaza and concourse area of UGA’s beloved Bulldogs, all while over 94,000 curious fans flood the stadium for this season’s six home games. Since the project is scheduled for completion in summer 2018, the DPR team has been carefully planning how to demobilize the entire jobsite, which is centrally located near a student center, main dining hall and several dorms, for each game day when football season starts in early September.

“Seventeen years ago, if you had told me I would trade high heels for steel-toed boots and safety glasses, and that I would be a contractor who builds things, I would have told you that you were nuts–but I love and am very fulfilled by what I do,” she said. 

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Snedeker’s biggest rule on the jobsite is to never ask anyone to do something that she is not willing to do herself. Photo courtesy of Brilliance Photography/Bob Hughes

She proudly remembers the first day she saw the completed UGA Indoor Athletic Facility, the first project she led in a project manager role from start to finish. The DPR team kept the facilities active and usable by the student-athletes and coaching staff 24 hours a day. Their late nights mirrored the work ethic of the UGA coaches, who from their offices overlooking the practice field were able to gain a tremendous respect for all it took to build their new home.

The collaborative team environment is one of Snedeker’s favorite aspects of her job. She believes no person on a team can be a success without the success of their teammates.

“One of my biggest rules is that I would never ask anyone to do something I’m not willing to do myself. If the PE’s are sweeping floors, I am sweeping floors. Everyone is a team, and I am no better or worse than anyone who works next to me in the trailer,” she said.

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Snedeker has been a crucial contributor to growing DPR’s relationship with UGA, and is currently managing design-build improvements to the west end zone at Sanford Stadium. Photo courtesy of Brilliance Photography/Bob Hughes

Leading by example is a tenet that drives Snedeker in all that she does. As Atlanta’s intern champion and college recruiter for the UGA campus, she is passionate about mentoring the next generation of builders. Investing her time and expertise into a young person’s career in turn makes her invested in their success, and she still keeps in touch with interns that she worked with many years ago.

Snedeker believes that if she can make a difference in a young person’s life, the impact could create ripple effects for the rest of his or her life. When she was young and unsure about what she wanted to do with her career, she didn’t have a strong mentor to turn to–and she wants her interns to always know that they have her.

Fifteen years ago, she was right to realize that she was meant to build. But she has gone on to build so much more than buildings; she builds relationships, creates teams and develops people in the same way she approaches every project–she builds them to last.

July 28, 2017

Celebrating Women Who Build: Andrea Weisheimer

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Photo courtesy of Brandon Parscale

Andrea Weisheimer was born with an inherent desire to create, to build, to do. Growing up with a passion for painting and design, she thought she would pursue a career in art until she discovered the construction engineering management program at Oregon State University.

Now a project executive in DPR’s Austin office, Weisheimer uses her art background to guide and connect construction and design teams, embracing the challenge of taking a rendering or sketch and figuring out how to technically bring it to life. It is this diversity of skillset that brings fresh ideas to her jobsites.

“Art has always been a passion of mine, but after first trying industrial engineering, I decided I didn’t want to be behind a desk all day. I needed to find something that could combine business with engineering and technical skills,” said Weisheimer. 

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Andrea Weisheimer grew up interested in painting and design, and discovered her passion for construction management in college. Photo courtesy of Brandon Parscale

When a college advisor suggested construction management, she asked, “Do I look like I would work in construction?” but gave it a try and fell in love with it.

After graduating and starting her career as a concrete field engineer, she laid out specific goals for herself. She wanted to learn how to build a high rise (she would build the tallest building in the world, if she could) and become a project manager. With a focus on high rise construction, and a penchant for balancing the structural design complexities of tall buildings with creating cost efficiencies for her customers, Weisheimer became a project manager by the age of 27. She asked herself, what’s next?

DPR was next. Since joining DPR in 2015, Weisheimer has continued with her passion for building commercial high rises, including Third + Shoal, a 29-story, 345,000-sq.-ft. Class-AA corporate office space in downtown Austin. The project, which features 24,000-sq.-ft. floor plates and Austin’s first ‘smart and connected’ building system, is expected to be completed in 2018.  As construction booms in the Texas state capital, DPR continues to change the city’s skyline, including the ground-up construction of Colorado Tower, the J.W. Marriott, the Aloft/Element Hotel, University of Texas Replacement Office Building, and more.

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A project executive at DPR, Weisheimer focuses on the construction of high rise buildings. Photo courtesy of Brandon Parscale

“Just being a part of this industry makes me proud,” she said. “It makes me proud to see others succeed, and I love to see others get passionate about building.”

Weisheimer has been a crucial contributor to developing DPR's Build Up high school internship program, which gives under-resourced students with an interest in construction or engineering a chance to work at a jobsite for the summer, exposing them to career opportunities available in the industry. She helped create curriculum for the interns’ initial tasks: writing daily journals, interviewing different roles on the jobsite, and operating in mock scenarios to get a sense of how to overcome typical challenges on a project.

She personally mentors a 17-year-old high schooler named Anais, who–just like her–loves art and even participates in art competitions. When people come into Weisheimer’s life, she figures it is for a reason and she sticks with them. She plans to mentor and guide Anais through her college education and beyond. 

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Weisheimer has a penchant for balancing the structural design complexities of tall buildings with creating cost efficiencies for her customers. Photo courtesy of Brandon Parscale

Weisheimer wants women to know that it is OK to let go of insecurities and follow your passions. Through her involvement with Girlstart and Girls Empowerment Network (GEN) Austin, organizations that focus on increasing interest and engagement in STEM fields, she wants to inspire young women to be confident, be bold and be brilliant.

“There aren’t a lot of women in this industry, and I can see the passion in Anais’ eyes,” she said. “I want to share my experiences with her, and I want to show her, ‘this is how we build!’ Construction is an option for women, too.”

Every day on the jobsite brings a new challenge for Weisheimer, whether it is figuring out how to construct a high rise double helix parking garage, install complex exterior skin systems, or integrate building system controls. When she goes home, she sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night, inspired with an idea for a sketch of a renovation project or a landscape design.

So she gets up in the pitch dark, and just like everything else in her life–she creates, she builds, she does. 

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Weisheimer wants to inspire young women to be confident, be bold and be brilliant. Photo courtesy of Brandon Parscale

July 12, 2017

Safety Spotlight: Standing Down for Safety

More than 10,500 people across 140 jobsites celebrated National Construction Safety Week and participated in OSHA’s 2017 National Safety Stand-Down this year.

DPR has participated in the National Safety Stand-Down since its inception four years ago, with company-wide efforts to educate our teams about how everyone has a role in safety, to make sure that every employee returns home to their family each night. 

Safety Stand Down 2017

This year, we nearly doubled our number of participants. In 2015 we reached 6,670 participants across 79 DPR jobsites; in 2016 we increased that number to 9,444 participants across 130 jobsites. This year, the stand-down included 10,503 participants across 140 jobsites nationwide.

The purpose of the National Fall Prevention Stand-Down is to raise awareness of preventing fall hazards in construction:

  • PLAN ahead to get the job done safely
  • PROVIDE the right equipment
  • TRAIN everyone to use the equipment safely
USC Michelson Stand Down
Photo courtesy of Tom Bonner

As one of the safest contractors in the nation, we’re committed to promoting and nurturing an Injury-Free Environment (IFE), with the goal of achieving zero incidents on every project. Participation in the annual Safety Stand-Down is a way for us to strengthen our culture of safety. Thank you to all who make safety a value at DPR every day!

July 6, 2017

DPR Completes Its Largest Ever Self-Performed Concrete Pour

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To avoid traffic disruptions, the team began the concrete pour at 4 a.m. Photo courtesy of Everett Rosette

On a Saturday morning this spring, Jon Shores and about 70 members of the DPR team rose much earlier than the sun and headed to a leading enterprise software company’s campus in Pleasanton, California. They positioned 15 light towers around the site to illuminate what would become DPR’s largest ever self-performed concrete pour. 

The 410,000-sq.-ft. commercial office space will become the company’s corporate headquarters when it is completed in 2019, and is a full cast-in-place concrete structure, unique in an area where most buildings are made of structural steel. The cast-in-place concrete structure will help foster a look and feel of structural, exposed concrete from a design perspective and reduce vibrations in the building for user comfort. To support the 3-foot thick concrete core walls that rise from the mat foundation all the way up seven stories to the roof, the team needed to build a thick mat foundation, as unique as the building it will hold up. 

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Approximately 70 DPR team members worked closely together to coordinate the pour of 4,800 cubic yards of concrete, using 1.2 million pounds of rebar. Photo courtesy of Everett Rosette

In 11 hours, DPR coordinated the pour of 4,800 cubic yards of concrete, reinforced with 1.2 million pounds of rebar. The foundation is notably 6 feet 6 inches thick in its center, and about 5 feet thick around the perimeter. Although the project is a large structure, the construction site itself is relatively small, bordered by a highway, a mall and a BART station.

The DPR team set up its own traffic control system to manage the nearby mall traffic and make sure the commercial hub and its shoppers were not affected by the 480 truckloads of concrete coming in and out of the site all day. The pour was serviced by four on-site concrete pumps and four concrete plants based in Pleasanton, Hayward, Oakland and Martinez. Because of the sheer volume of concrete needed for the foundation, the team was pouring as many as 500 cubic yards of concrete per hour. By the end of the day, the team had poured enough concrete to fill one and a half Olympic-size swimming pools, or 3.7 million 2-liter bottles of soda. 

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The team poured as many as 500 cubic yards of concrete per hour. Photo courtesy of Everett Rosette

“We were able to pull this off because of the strength of the team we have on site, including our highly skilled craftspeople and their dedication to quality and safety,” said Shores. “Self-performing structural concrete allows us to set the tone and pace for the job and ultimately allows us to deliver a quality product to our customer.”

11 hours after that dark, early morning, the team celebrated the major milestone, as the successful completion of the mat foundation cleared the way to begin vertical construction on the core walls. Eventually 600 lineal feet of walls will rise above the mat, as the team continues to build great things–from the ground up. 

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11 hours later, the team celebrated completing the milestone, and will continue to build great things–from the ground up. Photo courtesy of Everett Rosette