Working together at a confidential life sciences project in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, project engineers Devin Kennedy and Ben Salsman noticed that their customer was disposing of a few old bioreactors. Designed to grow and develop cells to extract proteins that are used to create injectable medicines, bioreactors are an important aspect of life sciences–a piece of equipment that engineers usually learn about out of a book.
Wanting to gain more hands-on MEP experience in DPR’s culture of continuous learning, Kennedy and Salsman decided to turn the discarded 60-liter bioreactor into a learning tool. With a core team of DPR’s technical experts, they brainstormed what they could do, such as adding valves and instruments, building a control panel and developing a sequence of operations. They stepped up to the biggest challenge: making the out-of-service bioreactor fully functional.
A team of 20 project engineers in DPR’s Raleigh-Durham office set out to create a physically self-contained bioreactor on one skid and understand how its components (sensors, valves, pumps, controls, wiring) interacted in a highly controlled, pressurized environment. Through hands-on workdays led by DPR experts focused on mechanical, controls and electrical aspects of the bioreactor, the project engineers gained experience from design through commissioning.
Focusing on the “why,” not just the “what,” the project engineers looked at the bioreactor as a holistic system that helped them connect to DPR’s work. They gained hands-on experience with concepts including controlled automation systems, welding and wiring–all of which reappear in projects across core markets, and all of which project engineers typically don’t get to touch with their own hands.
“Knowing how the bioreactors work, and knowing how to build them through their own experiences only makes our project engineers better team members for our customers,” said David Ross, who leads DPR’s life sciences core market in the Southeast. “On a broader level, Project Tinman helped them better understand our life science customers, as well as the perspectives of trade partners and equipment manufacturers.”
This spring, about 40 women from DPR and across the industry came together to make much-needed improvements at Project Bayview, a home in San Francisco for women transitioning out of difficult situations, including homelessness, addiction and human trafficking.
As part of Rebuilding Together San Francisco’s second annual SHEBUILDS community project, the team of all-female builders, engineers, craftspeople and community volunteers worked to increase health and safety at Project Bayview, empowering women to become change-makers in their communities.
Over the course of two build days, the SHEBUILDS team completed a series of improvements to the women’s home, including:
Turning an empty, unmaintained backyard area into an outdoor living space, including installing a new raised deck area and landscaping to create a safe, peaceful place for women and their children;
Building a platform for the washer and dryer to prevent flooding;
Installing a new pot-filler faucet and garbage disposal in the kitchen;
Patching holes, drywalling, painting, caulking and organizing throughout the home.
“The great thing was not only did we have skilled carpenters on this project, but also women who just wanted to learn more and wanted to give back,” said DPR’s Renee Powers. “We had an incredibly cohesive team of all-women builders working together to create positive change for other women.”
According to Heather Kusunoki, house manager at Project Bayview, some of the women living at the home joined the team to work on repairs, and were inspired working alongside and learning from the all-women team’s attention to detail and quality. One of these women now aspires to enter the trades after she finishes her program at Project Bayview, breaking a cycle of difficult situations and creating a new one: one of women empowering women to create positive change in their lives and communities.
Check out radio host Peter Finch’s podcast about the SHEBUILDS project, featuring DPR’s Vic Julian and Lea Rewinski here!
Joel Bass When DPR’s Joel Bass and his wife Wei-Bing Chen arrived at UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay because Chen was in labor, the staff told them that it might be helpful to go for a walk around campus. It was a familiar walk for Joel Bass, who was a superintendent on the award-winning 878,000-sq.ft. ground-up hospital complex renowned for its integrated project delivery (IPD) approach and state-of-the-art patient care. After walking the very same halls where he did countless job walks during the years he worked on the hospital, the parents-to-be sat on a bench and reflected on what was to come.
On March 12, 2015, the world welcomed Tyler Bass, the first DPR baby to be born at UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay. It was serendipitous, as the hospital had only moved deliveries into the new hospital a few days prior.
“It brought together so many things. At DPR, we try to be integral and indispensable to our communities, and having your baby in the building you built is a way to truly become a part of the building, and use it in the way it was intended,” said Joel Bass. “It’s important to see value and meaning in the work that you do, and know that you’re contributing to something larger than yourself. It was a special experience to share what we built with my family.”
Today, Tyler Bass is three years old–old enough to recognize UCSF’s helipad from nearby Highway 280 as “the place where dad works.” With his own hard hat, vest and boots, the toddler gravitates toward anything related to construction. He’s fascinated by cars, trucks and equipment, and is always lobbying his dad to take him to the jobsite.
Joel Bass now works a few blocks away from the hospital where Tyler Bass was born, as he and the DPR team build UCSF’s new 270,000-sq.-ft. Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building, which will bring together lab research programs and clinical care in what will become one of the largest neuroscience complexes in the world.
On his last visit, Tyler Bass proudly told his dad that he wants to work with him some day, a dream that makes Joel Bass smile–and a dream that might come true.
Dan Crutchfield When DPR’s Dan Crutchfield met his wife Lauren Crutchfield at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, he had no idea what big moments life would have in store for him at the hospital a mile away.
As a superintendent at DPR, Dan Crutchfield has worked on five straight projects for Carroll Hospital Center, ranging from outpatient suites to the expansion of the labor and delivery suites, often coordinating construction work within live hospital units. On Nov. 25, 2017, after enduring a long labor and delivery process, Lauren Crutchfield gave birth to Josephine (Josie) Crutchfield in one of the very same suites built by her father.
Dan Crutchfield still works within the same building, as the DPR team builds an expansion of the hospital’s couplet care program, which enables mothers and newborns to stay together for their entire hospital stay. Nurses, doctors and hospital staff run into him almost every day and check in for updates about his wife and daughter.
“Now that I am renovating and expanding the facility where Josie was born, I gained an appreciation for what the doctors, nurses and medical staff do every day,” said Dan Crutchfield. “I’m able to see it from two different perspectives, both professional and personal.”
A native of Carroll County, Maryland, Dan Crutchfield grew up his whole life in the community that Carroll Hospital Center serves and finds great meaning in building a facility that will positively impact so many people that he knows–including his own family. Josie Crutchfield is now six months old, and when she’s old enough, Dan Crutchfield plans to explain to her how she was born in the hospital that he built.
“I wasn’t just a contractor at a hospital. All the work I put into the expansion and renovations, I was making it better for her, and for families like ours. It was special, and a project that I will always remember.”
In 2016, DPR’s Gretchen Kinsella gave birth to her daughter at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix (BUMCP), in one of the very same rooms that she helped build back in 2004. Gretchen is DPR’s youngest project executive in the Phoenix region, managing the largest project that DPR has ever built in the area—the $318-million BUMCP.
When she started at DPR as an intern in 2002, Kinsella’s first full-time project at DPR was Banner Good Samaritan Hospital (now BUMCP). She was given a lot of responsibility, because she asked for it. She continued to raise her hand for challenging projects as she progressed to becoming a project engineer, project manager and project executive.
And 15 years later, she chose an OB/GYN that delivers at BUMCP because she felt there was no better place for her personally to bring her daughter into this world. She was coming full circle, with the child she gave birth to at the site of the project she helped create.
Today, Gretchen reflects on her special moment, and shares how passion for her work empowers her to be her best self, making her the best mom that she can be.
Read Gretchen’s full story, “How to Ask for What You Want and Find Your Voice in a Male-Dominated Industry,” on ENR.
Building upon prefabrication strategies and lessons learned from the nearby dual-branded Aloft Austin Downtown and Element Austin Downtown hotels, White Lodging’s Marriott Downtown Austin, which broke ground in January, will take the creative use of prefabricated exterior skin panels to the next level. At the Marriott Downtown Austin, prefabricated skin panels will be built with gaskets added to the top and side edges of the panels to create the skin’s first layer of waterproofing and a temporary weather seal to protect the building upon installation.
Scheduled to open in summer 2020, the Marriott Downtown Austin will complement the existing JW Marriott Austin to together provide more than 1,600 rooms and nearly 180,000 sq. ft. of meeting space within two blocks of the convention center.
“The Aloft Austin Downtown and Element Austin Downtown hotels represent how the team creatively overcame the challenges of a tight, downtown jobsite to safely and efficiently deliver a first-of-its-kind dual-branded development for a repeat customer,” said Matt Murphy, who leads DPR’s commercial core market nationally.
On a crowded block in the heart of downtown Austin and the city’s renowned 6th Street entertainment district, a 34-story tower is home to both the Aloft and Element hotels, which opened in summer 2017. Surrounded by a theater, adjacent historic hotel, restaurants and shops, the LEED-certified hotels are separate, but share amenities including a terrace, fitness center and meeting space. The 278-room Aloft is aimed at travelers in town for short trips, and the 144-suite Element caters to longer stays with kitchenettes and functional workspaces. On the hotel’s exterior skin, the hotels are differentiated by EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) plaster panels for Element, and gray metal panels for Aloft.
At many downtown sites, below-grade parking provides much-needed laydown space for the team, but the Aloft and Element hotels do not have any parking onsite above or below ground, and are valet-only for customers. The team heavily scheduled deliveries, forcing themselves to be precise and not make exceptions, because they didn’t have a place to store materials.
Closely collaborating with architect HKS and a Dallas-based prefabrication subcontractor, the team secured early and final design approval to prefabricate the hotel’s panelized skin offsite. In the safe and controlled environment of a warehouse, the team lost no days to weather conditions at the actual jobsite. The panels, built to very precise tolerances, included windows, which were set and sealed while rigged to a forklift. All water testing was also done offsite, enabling the panels to arrive at the jobsite in Austin ready to be installed, caulked at the perimeter joints and waterproofed by DPR’s self-perform work crews.
In a market where construction is booming and there is a high demand for labor, the prefabricated skin allowed the team to use smaller crews on-site, meaning less people on an already crowded downtown jobsite, and less people exposed to fall hazards by working on the leading edge of the building. Safety risks were also mitigated by the fact that workers needed to go up and down the side of the 34-story tower less frequently than they would have if the panels were not completely prefabricated offsite. To install the skin with minimal impact and disruption to neighbors, work was done at night, with small crews installing an average of one floor a week. A traditional installation of one floor of skin typically takes three to four weeks of onsite work, which the team reduced to three nights of onsite install time.
“Aside from schedule savings and greater safety for the workers, the offsite prefabrication reduced the burden put on shared resources onsite, from the single delivery lane to the personnel hoist, aiding every subcontractor onsite,” said DPR’s Nick Sultenfuss. “The hotels were also built with a smaller environmental impact, as the jobsite reduced waste by 10% compared to traditional systems.”
As it brings these creative prefabrication strategies to the Marriott Downtown Austin, not only will the DPR team continue to reshape Austin’s fast-changing skyline, but it will keep innovating and challenging itself to find ways to do it more efficiently.
In the small town of Winters, California, on 40 acres of former tomato fields and apricot orchards, is the PG&E Gas Safety Academy, a training center that will make California a safer place. One of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the U.S., PG&E will use the facility as its primary training center for employees learning to operate and maintain every aspect of the company’s natural gas infrastructure.
After breaking ground in fall 2015 and completing in winter 2017, the Gas Safety Academy becomes the third in a series of gas safety facilities opened by PG&E since 2013. The academy uses simulators, virtual learning resources and hands-on scenarios to field-train and educate employees about gas transmission and distribution pipelines, meter maintenance, heavy equipment operation, welding pressure control and excavation, among other curriculum. The academy is a constant reminder of the importance of education, safety and the critical role PG&E employees play in keeping customers safe while delivering reliable service.
“This one-of-a-kind training facility not only represented a complex, technical project, but also reflected many of DPR’s own values,” said project manager Ian Bolnik. “Safety, integrity, and self-initiated change while striving for continuous improvement in quality and service are tenets that motivated us every day as we built the gas safety academy, which will foster the same principles for its trainees.”
Mirroring its customer’s commitment to safety, the DPR team (including subcontractors) completed more than 140,000 hours of work with no recordable incidents, as it built the $82 million, 96,000-sq.-ft. facility during Northern California’s wettest winter on record (National Weather Service). Bordered on two sides by a Caltrans drainage canal, the site was used as a contingency relief area during years with heavy rain. According to drainage studies completed in the 1970s, if the water levels in nearby Putah Creek were too high for the canals to drain excess water into, the water would back up onto the tomato field. Prior to the start of construction, a civil engineer coordinated with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to create a diversion channel and remap the site. To avoid impacting schedule, DPR found a solution to raise the building pads by 6 inches to get them above the flood plain, allowing construction to begin.
Because of its various labs and simulators, the academy has a uniquely large amount of both gas and high-pressure compressed air below grade, as well as inside the building, which was installed by PG&E’s own crews. This amount of gas and compressed air is typically installed beneath roads, not under active construction sites. The DPR team engaged with PG&E subject matter experts and coordinated with other utilities to ensure that the infrastructure beneath the facility was installed safely.
PG&E employees will be trained in three distinct buildings on the campus:
The Learning Center: In addition to eight classrooms, a simulator room, and electrical workshop, the learning center includes a flow lab for high pressure gas simulation and gas chromatography, where employees gain hands-on experience in regulating and monitoring the pressure and flow of natural gas. A focal point of the facility, the flow lab contains large, 46-ft. long pipes that have nearly every valve that PG&E technicians might encounter in the field on transmission and distribution gas lines. The pipes are pressurized by a large 300-horsepower air compressor, about the size of an SUV, capable of reaching pressure between 700-800 PSI, allowing PG&E to train their technicians under real-world conditions without the hazards of actual gas.
Transmission & Distribution Tech Center: This area includes a utility worker covered training area, plastic fusion lab and an industrial safety at heights training area, giving students a simulation experience on trucks and excavation machinery used in the field.
Weld Lab: The lab accommodates apprentice welders during three-year apprenticeships.
Outdoor training areas include the Utility Village, made up of 15 small homes to create near real-life conditions of emergency response and leak detection training for gas service representatives, the people who would come to customers’ homes if someone thought they smelled gas. At the mock neighborhood of single-family residences, duplexes and apartments, technicians practice everything from soft skills such as knocking on the doors of homes, to the technical skills of detecting, stopping and repairing gas leaks.
Designed to achieve LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, the academy has reduced water usage by 35 percent, energy usage by over 20 percent and recycled 75 percent of construction waste. Other sustainable features include the site’s stormwater management, as well as sunshade louvers on exterior windows, deep overhangs and covered outdoor areas on the building’s south side.
Employing 150 people, the academy provides nearly 36,000 hours of training each year as PG&E trains its next generation of energy experts. Through its commitment to continuous improvement, the academy will create ripple effects throughout the state as its graduates create safer gas and electric transmission and distribution lines, making California a better place to live for all.
This time last year, DPR Construction launched a monthly blog series dedicated to sharing stories of women who build great things in honor of International Women’s Day, International Women’s Week, Women in Construction Week and Women’s History Month.
Construction is a traditionally male-dominated industry that is only 9.3 percent women (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Since spring 2017, the Celebrating Women Who Build blog series has told stories of women who are successfully executing complex, technical projects for some of the world's most progressive and admired companies. The goal has always been to help connect and inspire women in the industry as they build meaningful careers—whether it’s as a project engineer, a superintendent, a project executive, an architect or an owner.
The experiences, challenges and ambitions of the Women Who Build featured in the series resonated with people across the country, who responded with encouragement, support and excitement. Many reached out to share how the determination, strength and spirit of women they read about positively impacted their day, life or career path.
DPR’s initial yearlong campaign culminates with a video, but the Celebrating Women Who Build blog series will continue, just like our efforts to create a strong, inclusive environment where everyone thrives.
DPR recently broke ground on The Foundry, a mixed-use project
for Cielo Property Group in East Austin designed by Sixthriver Architects.
Thirty thousand sq. ft. of its workspace will become DPR’s new Austin office, bringing the team closer to projects and customers
downtown. Building great things in Texas since 1994, DPR’s staff in Austin has
grown by 50% since 2015, causing the team to outgrow its current office space.
“We were looking for office space and Cielo was looking for a
contractor to build the building as well as a tenant, so it seemed like a
perfect opportunity to extend an already successful partnership,” said
DPR’s Matt Hoglund, member of DPR’s management
committee who leads operations in the central region. “The location is ideal
for a number of reasons, including providing us with an opportunity to create an
environment where our employees will be able to take advantage of green space
and other amenities.”
With its interior designed by IA Interior Architects, DPR’s
office at The Foundry is aiming to become one of the first commercial office
spaces in Austin to earn net-zero energy certification from the International Living Future
Institute, meaning it will produce as much or more energy as it consumes. It
also aims to become one of the first spaces in Austin to earn WELL
Certification from the International WELL Building Institute, a designation
that recognizes buildings that improve health and human experience through
“This project is all about creating an office space that
promotes wellness for our employees and at the same time ensures the building
is efficient,” Hoglund said. “That is the reason we plan to seek the WELL
Building Certification, which includes everything from the food brought in for
employees to access to fitness programs.”
Opening in spring 2019, The Foundry will become not only a great
place to work, but serve as DPR’s home in Austin for years to come.
When Pat McDowell was a kid, she thought she was going to be a “mad scientist” when she grew up. With a desk covered with pipettes, test tubes and beakers, she conducted her own experiments for hours and hours–never enough to satisfy her curious mind.
Today, she builds the laboratory and research facilities where life-saving medicine and therapies are brought to market. As a MEP coordinator at DPR, she specializes in complex and ever-changing MEP systems in life sciences facilities, made particularly challenging because of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements and procedures. In most situations, the products being created in the facilities she builds will eventually end up in a person’s body, giving her work extra meaning. To her, MEP systems are “alive,” and once they are installed, it’s just the beginning. McDowell’s passion lies in making sure the systems–whether it is mechanical, electrical or piping–are integrated so facilities run as safely and efficiently as possible.
McDowell joined DPR in 1994 after she graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in construction management, because she was attracted to the company’s entrepreneurial culture and opportunities for growth. Early in her career, she had trouble initially convincing customers and craft workers in the field that she knew what she was doing. She chooses to drive a DPR truck because she has encountered people who have difficulty accepting that she works for a general contractor and belongs onsite–especially guards at security gates–while she is driving her personal car. Over time, she built a reputation as a hands-on, well-respected builder, earning the trust of her teams and customers.
“There aren’t a lot of people who do what I do, who look how I do,” she said. “Trust and respect are built by helping each other. We’re all one team, so something as simple as giving people a heads up of what’s to come, so we don’t get ourselves backed into a tight situation, goes a long way.”
In her nearly 24 years with DPR, McDowell has grown with DPR, working on several large-scale projects, including:
UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, an award-winning 878,000-sq.ft. ground-up hospital complex renowned for its integrated project delivery (IPD) approach and state-of-the-art patient care.
McDowell remembers how in the early days of DPR, everybody worked across multiple roles, creating well-rounded talent and teams of dynamic seller-doers. After years of growth and change, she’s seen DPR’s unique, empowered culture remain intact and provide people with even more opportunities to develop and grow. Now, her focus is on sharing her experience and passing knowledge on to the next generation of builders.
Speaking at a Girls, Inc. after-school workshop about careers in the construction industry, McDowell told the group of third to fifth graders, “Never settle thinking that you know everything, because every day you can learn something new. Be curious, and always try to learn just a little bit more. You never know when you will have your next breakthrough.”
It is this constant curiosity and desire to learn, develop and grow that has driven McDowell throughout her entire career. And every day she goes to work, doing what she loves, she hopes to teach and inspire others to become the builders, engineers or mad scientists that they dream to be.
To honor the milestone, which occurred by drilling the first production auger cast pile, the team celebrated with all project partners in the Big Room, a collaborative space that physically brings together designers, builders, trade partners and facility operators.
“After a year and four months in preconstruction, we are extremely excited to celebrate the start of construction. We wouldn’t be here today without all our tremendous design and trade partners. Everyone in this room should be very proud to have played a part in this project so far, and I can’t wait to see the project built,” said DPR’s Tim Kueht, during a cake toast to kick off the celebration.
Prior to the ceremony, the entire Big Room team attended a presentation given by UCSF Medical Center’s nurses, doctors and researchers. These monthly presentations inspire and help the project team better understand the greater impact the facility will have on advancing the full spectrum of brain health through research, education and patient care.