Jay Weisberger


May 26, 2020

Resilience in Workspaces Part 4: A WELL Future

This is Part 4 in a series where DPR experts look at ways to build resiliency into commercial spaces as we move through the COVID pandemic and beyond. Part 1 looked at improvements that can be made to existing spaces. Part 2 and Part 3 examined ways to spread out individuals within a workforce and technology for remote asset management, respectively. This final segment discusses planning for healthier future spaces.

At some point, the pandemic will subside, the economy will recover and true, long-term planning will begin. When it does, it is likely that the momentum that was building behind healthy buildings and systems like WELL Certification will become mainstream.

The advantages of healthy workplaces have been highlighted from business researchers to innovation consultants to the medical community. Now, as many firms that are bringing workers back put measures including temperature checks into place, employees will be scrutinizing how well their offices support their health.

“We believe in the benefits of WELL from a standpoint of increasing productivity, lowering absenteeism and more,” said Matt Murphy, DPR Construction’s core markets leader. “The primary reason we’ve built our new offices to WELL standards, though, is because of the tangible benefits to the health of our employees.”

DPR's Sacramento office with spaced-out workstations and daylighting.
High performance can be achieved even in instances where existing buildings were renovated, like DPR's WELL certified office in Sacramento. Photo courtesy of Chad Davies

Including the 1918 flu pandemic, the COVID-19 pandemic is the second worldwide event of this scale in 100 years. For anyone aiming to build higher performing buildings with a lifespan of 50-100 years, it’s worth considering that pandemics have more in common with earthquakes than hurricanes: they’re less frequent, but when they happen, it’s a widespread disruption.

“In places where earthquakes are common, we’ve taken a lot of measures to ensure the resiliency of the built environment,” Murphy said. “Shouldn’t we do the same with health and doing things to minimize disruption should another pandemic occur within our lifetimes?”

Planning for a truly healthy workspace, though, isn’t something to do after design has taken place. Buildings and workplaces with the best results and returns from green building strategies are the ones that started with integrated approaches from the start, setting high performance as goals and letting those goals shape the design and construction process. Achieving the same sort of results with WELL Certification takes a similar approach.

Living Walls filled with plants are pictured in DPR's Austin, Texas office.
WELL Certified spaces, like DPR's Austin, TX office, could be the way of the future. Photo courtesy of Peter Molick

“Our customers were already facing high bottom line expenses for health insurance and wellness programs,” Murphy said. “While there are cultural factors that affect employee behaviors, we’re finding a whole-building approach to wellness and health can influence culture. Putting measures in for physical distancing will be important, but so will building systems and materials that hinder spread of disease. Designs that help with circulation and provide employees with comfortable spaces to have physical distance while collaborating and feeling productive make a difference, too.”

Ultimately, putting all these strategies together should lower any given business’ exposure to pandemics or other disruptions.

“Businesses need to know their ability to operate can move forward. Employees want the peace of mind that their work and lives won’t be disrupted. Every business is connected to supply chains and customers and the larger economy,” Murphy said. “Any office that moves to make its own operations resilient makes our entire economy more resilient.”

May 21, 2020

Resilience in Workplaces Part 3: Keeping the Lights On

This is part 3 in a series where DPR experts look at ways to build resiliency into commercial spaces as we move through the COVID pandemic and beyond. Part 1 looked at improvements that can be made to existing spaces. Part 2 discussed ways to spread out individuals within a workforce. This segment discusses technology for remote asset management and the final installment covers planning for healthier future spaces.

Physical distancing will mean fewer workers in offices. With reduced staff levels in a given workplace, some of the things taken for granted in offices will need to change. For example, workers are used to having on-site IT help. On any given day, that may no longer be the case and remote options will be the first course of treatment when the “blue screen of death” appears.

For facility managers, the need for remote monitoring of building systems is going to be equally important. Operations dashboards that may have seemed like luxury items may get another look as essential software tools. With many projects already using robust virtual design and construction (VDC) programs, it’s not a big jump to reposition digital models for remote asset management.

A screenshot of the VueOps platform showing building elements digitally.
Asset management platforms create many efficiencies, but the the ability to monitor building systems remotely has even more value in the post-pandemic world. Photo courtesy of VueOps

“This pandemic has shown that, in buildings, the safety of teams, occupants and visitors will always be the top priority,” said Aaron Peterson, leader of VueOps, a strategic partner of DPR Construction that aims to put building operations information at customers’ fingertips. “More than ever, it is the responsibility of facility management, engineers and operators to take action toward implementing the right prevention and containment strategies.”

As it stands, research shows that facility engineers spend 50% of their time simply searching facility data. The faster an issue can be identified and addressed or prevented, the less disruption to operations. Doing so remotely, though, is going to become more common.

“Reduced workforces, remote work and limited staff proximity on-site just underscores the need for integrated data tools that can enhance and increase facility uptime, prevent downtime, improve workflow and eliminate pain points,” Peterson said. “This will be the ‘new normal.’ Much like restaurants will be shy to remove a revenue stream like takeout even after reopening, why would a facility manager want to pivot back to a monitoring approach that has increased risks?”

May 18, 2020

Resilience in Workspaces Part 2: Together Apart

This is part 2 in a series where DPR experts look at ways to build resiliency into commercial spaces as we move through the COVID pandemic and beyond. Part 1 looked at improvements that can be made to existing spaces. Part 3 examines technology for remote asset management and Part 4 discusses planning for healthier future spaces. This segment discusses ways to spread out individuals within a workforce.

Once offices come back online, facility leaders will have much to consider in the longer term. For example, physical distancing requirements in offices are almost sure to be a fixture for months to come, if not permanently. Certainly, the ability for any workplace to pivot to a setup that places employees at more physical distance from one another will be needed.

While that’s good practice for disease prevention, other potential disruptions may influence where people are able to go to work.

The entrance to DPR Construction's office in Reston, Virginia.
An aging suburban office space in Reston, VA has been given new life through renovation. Photo courtesy of ©Judy Davis / Hoachlander Davis Photography

“Natural disasters have disrupted regions and businesses in the past. Mobility in many communities was an issue prior the pandemic, too. Our nation’s infrastructure is in great need of upgrading. As recent events like Seattle’s bridge closure show, that affects a group of people’s ability to commute reliably," said Matt Murphy, DPR Construction's core markets leader. "One outcome of this crisis, especially with the knowledge of how effective workers can be remotely, is flexible options for where to come to work.”

With billions of feet of suburban office park space on the market, some businesses may consider repositioning them to match the experience of their more urban office spaces. With technology to connect teams seamlessly, satellite spaces provide more options for workers and give companies an easy way to spread out their workforce to avoid overfilling an office.

“Obviously, this means taking on more real estate, but a lot of larger firms already have this setup,” Murphy said. “It’s more about aligning the office space to provide a unified worker experience.”

An interior area of Behr Paints' headquarters in Newport Beach, California.
Renovations to suburban spaces can create the same feeling as a downtown office tower, as shown by Behr Paints' Newport Beach, CA headquarters. Photo courtesy of Takata Photography

Fortunately, there are examples of how suburban real estate doesn’t need to resemble the Office Space stereotype. DPR’s work with Behr Paints on its Newport Beach, CA headquarters, for example, shows that the kind of workspace and amenities that one might expect in a downtown skyscraper is absolutely feasible in the suburbs. Additionally, DPR’s Washington, D.C. and San Diego offices show how inefficient suburban spaces can be renovated to achieve net-zero energy. In fact, many of the strategies leveraged to reposition urban commercial spaces apply to any sort of workplace.

“On a longer horizon, many customers may consider spreading their workforces out simply to ensure that, whatever happens wherever, they can plan on limiting disruption to operations,” Murphy said. “If you’re a company with thousands of square feet of space, the more you can spread those square feet out, the more agile you will be in the face of disease outbreaks, infrastructure disruptions, natural disasters and more.”

May 13, 2020

Building for Resilience in Workspaces: A Series

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, there has been significant speculation about what the pandemic will mean for workplaces in the future. As certain as it is that changes in workspaces will be the new reality, the fact is that, generally, people like going to the office (and many people miss doing so!) The fast internet connections of office spaces provide a form of digital equity for workers, many of whom have certainly felt the limitations of their internet bandwidth at home. Many businesses that are doing well with keeping operations moving remotely are struggling to replicate the organic interactions of face-to-face contact in offices that help support everything from professional development to camaraderie. While amazing work is happening via video conferencing, there is no replacement for that one-on-one interaction in real time with coworkers.

The return to the office will happen, and when it does, it will look different for every organization. What will be important, though, is making sure offices are set up in ways to minimize further disruptions and optimize the health of their occupants. Through the design and construction approaches, businesses can plan for resiliency in the face of not only this pandemic, but other potentialities that could disrupt business for weeks or months at a time.

“The COVID pandemic has shown businesses where they have some risk exposure and that design and construction solutions can help alleviate those risks,” said Matt Murphy, who acts as DPR Construction’s core markets leader. “It’s clear that offices are not just places people gather, but key business assets, and there are strategies that can be put into place to help ensure those critical assets can always stay online.”

A DPR worker is the only person shown in a DPR project trailer at her desk, which has been equipped with a clear barrier.
Project site offices that were active during the COVID-19 pandemic provide examples of how to create physical distance and add safety measures like barriers. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

In this series, DPR experts look at ways to build resiliency into commercial spaces as we move through the COVID pandemic and beyond. This segment looks at improvements that can be made to existing spaces. Upcoming installments will examine ways to spread out individuals within a workforce, technology for remote asset management and planning for healthier future spaces.

Making Existing Spaces Work Today

While long-term solutions are needed, in coming weeks, carefully opening existing spaces will be the top priority. Businesses that want to reopen offices are considering everything from bringing groups of workers back in rotations, enhanced cleaning efforts to new ways to use kitchen and amenity spaces as well as office-wide physical distancing measures.

“Workspace utilization at DPR has never really been your standard 'space-centric focused' space planning. We've always been focused on human-centric metrics. Collaboration thrives in open office environments,” says Scott Sass, who acts as DPR’s national special services group (SSG) leader. “This pandemic has allowed us to reimagine the workplace and find new ways to satisfy the needs of our people. We're discussing new ways to enhance already human-focused design strategies that will ensure the highest levels of collaboration and safety in workplaces.”

A safety screen and floor tape to encourage physical distancing have were added to this customer's reception area.
A safety screen and floor tape to encourage physical distancing were added to this customer's reception area. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Temporary safety measures are likely at the start, but customers looking for more permanent solutions will want to make adjustments to existing spaces without disrupting day-to-day operations. DPR’s SSG group and its corps of self-perform workers have some ideas in mind to consider.

“At the beginning of this, there were a lot of articles stating, '‘this is the end of the open-concept offices,’” Sass said. “That’s probably hyperbole. However, there will be a need to evaluate the existing office and determine if changes are necessary. Immediate changes like auto-operators on doors, new antimicrobial hardware and touchless operation kitchen equipment are considerations. There also may be a need to adjust workspace configurations, or add screens for the interim measures.”

The reception desk at DPR Construction's Dallas office with a newly-installed barrier.
The reception desk at DPR Construction's Dallas office with a newly-installed barrier. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Sass added: “One thing all offices should consider is re-commissioning HVAC systems. It’s like doing a tune-up on your car. It will give you the peace of mind that systems are doing what they’re supposed to, and changing the filters regularly is important.”

In other words, it’s the kind of work an SSG group is well positioned to support.

“Doors, hardware, drywall, MEP… this is what we were doing before the pandemic and finding ways to do it in active workspaces,” Sass said. “Delivering that with quality is more about planning. We want to work with individual customers to understand their needs and find ways to install what they need in ways that don’t disrupt their operations at a time when another disruption could be a critical threat to business.”

Sass believes that can mean after-hours work with thorough cleaning afterward, deliberate planning on crew sizes and phasing of work.

“The advantage of having a nimble crew ready to go is that it perfectly aligns with the idea that there isn’t one grand solution out there for everyone,” Sass said. “Every customer is going to have different needs and, through collaboration, we can get them online faster and in ways they can count on moving forward.”


Read other parts of this series: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

May 5, 2020

Post-pandemic, 3 Ways to Better ROI in Healthcare IT & Facility Investments

This article was written by Carl Fleming.

Healthcare leaders are busier than ever, focused on weathering and responding to the worst of COVID-19 and, as things stabilize in their markets, planning for future resiliency.

Coming into 2020, one of the most significant challenges they faced was managing strategic growth during the potential shift from a fee-for-service reimbursement model to value-based payments. Then COVID-19 changed the game and completely disrupted capital spending. Moving forward, the ability to drive hard ROI and benefits from capital expenditures will become even more important and complicated under a system focused on value and the myriad care model changes likely to come in the post-COVID-19 pandemic world.

Headshot of DPR Construction's Carl Fleming
Carl Fleming advises DPR's healthcare customers on how a builder can help them realize their goals for patient care. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Two of the largest line items of capital spending belong to technology and facilities (construction), a trend that sees no letting up in the foreseeable future. Interestingly, technology initiatives and construction projects are not always in-sync, which is a problem for organizations that have not yet fully embraced the digital transformation of the care environment.

The resulting disconnects between the digital environment and built environment stymies innovation at scale, leading to less than optimal return on investment.

There are several drivers behind the importance of blending the digital and build environments:

  • Regulatory demands of value-based care for reimbursement and quality of care, which are placing an even greater importance on the patient experience and the location in which services are performed. The uptick in telehealth services during the pandemic has cemented the viability and necessity of digital venues for patient care. How healthcare systems will be reimbursed for telehealth and how they deal with HIPAA will be key moving forward.
  • Providers closely evaluating capital investments to ensure they create convenience for patients, reduce costs, provide continuity of care, and maintain or improve quality, all of which are critical under a post-pandemic value-based reimbursement.
  • Technology demands of consumerism (provider and patient) are placing unfamiliar strains on healthcare organizations, operations and technology infrastructure.
  • Consolidation of provider organizations result in a broad mix of technology systems and physical assets, inhibiting standardized care models and eliminating efficiencies required to thrive in a value-based care model.

The interior of a modern patient room.
Today's healthcare facilities include more digital technology than ever and that growth will continue. Photo courtesy of Rien van Rijthoven

As we begin to plan for the future, we have to ask: how can we start being smarter about making it all work together? It’s by connecting the dots between system strategy, clinical operations, technology and facilities planning design and construction that we start to see the challenges and opportunities from multiple perspectives. These insights produce a more comprehensive vision and path to succeed in this new value-based paradigm.

As also seen in the recent RX for a Successful Healthcare Project study, engaging the right internal and external partners early and often will reveal insights to maximize efficiencies in workflow, enhance the provider and patient experience and create spaces that allow provider organizations to optimize capital expenditures and thrive in the new paradigm of value-based care.

A video conferencing tool in use among big room partners
Video conferencing helps project partners in a Big Room collaborate in the early stages of a North Carolina healthcare project. Social distancing doesn't mean key partners have to work in silos. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction.

Three concepts we believe healthcare providers should consider are:

  • Build a team and use it – In addition to the management consultants often engaged to guide strategic visioning sessions, healthcare systems should also engage designers and construction managers earlier in the process to provide insight to growth strategies and industry pressures. Viewing these groups as partners instead of commodities provides new perspective with the ability to better align future building initiatives with overall healthcare system goals.
  • Get into the details – As healthcare systems expand, we’ve seen situations where aligning IT systems with newly-acquired assets are taken for granted. This leads to more time and money being spent, which erodes the hoped-for return on investment.
  • Use data in new ways – We have more systems than ever to support good decision making and, ultimately, day-to-day operations. The entire lifecycle can be made more efficient, from programs like Modelogix used during preconstruction services or VueOps, which takes existing virtual design and construction tools and leverages them as a true asset management suite.

Putting it all together best positions healthcare organizations to realize maximum ROI for both their facility and digital investments. Ultimately, it will help make the patient and provider experience more seamless, as well, fulfilling the vision we share for the next generation of healthcare facilities.

April 29, 2020

Hindsight 2020: Upfront Costs Bring Long-Term Benefits

As much as the word “disruption” gets thrown around by thought leaders, we know this: customers don’t like surprises. Surprises in the course of a major construction project create disruptions that can ripple through a project and an entire customer organization. Surprises in the field can be costly and can affect project schedule.

Even while striving to deliver more predictable outcomes, surprises emerge in the field from time to time. Just as safety incidents can be mitigated through the proper steps taken prior to and during work, DPR believes many costly surprises in the field can be prevented.

By spending a little upfront, projects can often avoid spending more due to unforeseen issues. Too often, those costs look easy to cut in early project stages, leaving little recourse when something unexpected arises.

“Throughout the lifecycle of any project, there are a lot of unknowns,” said Rishard Bitbaba, DPR’s large project corporate service leader. “You wouldn’t want a doctor performing surgery without first looking at scans, using tools to evaluate the best approach and using data from similar situations to inform next steps. Contractors and their project partners have a similar set of tools to get rid of the unknowns before a shovel hits the ground.”

Four specific things can help get projects off to the right start.

DPR's Hannu Lindberg with a quote from the upcoming section.

Sometimes on projects, what you see isn’t what you get—but it can be easy to take existing conditions for granted.

“It’s inevitable that existing buildings, over years of operations, have made a variety of modifications and upgrades, large and small, to systems that may not be fully captured in operations manuals and the original drawings,” says Hannu Lindberg, DPR’s Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) leader. “But for all project types, at various stages, reality capture can be a great example of spending a little now to save more down the line.”

Reality capture methods like laser scanning of existing conditions involves time, labor and some equipment cost, but by setting the basis for the larger digital model – helping support preconstruction activities ranging from procurement to how the work will be phased – it has larger benefits. While many project teams see the utility of doing this before a project begins, that is often left until the end when it’s almost too late to adjust for the discrepancies. Doing so misses the real value.

“The main reason to keep scanning is to ensure quality and catch errors in the field,” Lindberg says. “If you spent the money to coordinate the building, you should ensure you’re following the coordinated design. And, when you crunch the numbers, the cost of upfront labor is far cheaper than rework, change orders and loss of productivity in the field.”

Consider scanning and as-built verification together on a given project. Weekly scans of work put in place for a period of four months could run $46,000 – exactly the kind of money that looks easy to trim on a line-item basis. What if each scan found 10 minor issues that could be quickly addressed before they became $80,000 in major rework costs over the same time period?

Similarly, it might seem like spending $22,000 annually for a drone to capture aerial progress photos for site mapping is unnecessary. The same task with five field crew members and equipment could end up costing upwards of $52,000.

“These things add up,” Lindberg says. “For things like scanning and aerial progress mapping, before work commences, it might seem like trimming $68,000 upfront is cost savings and a better short-term trade off. But, if that results in spending more than $130,000 later in avoidable rework… I’m not sure anyone wants to have to explain that to their supervisor…or owner, for that matter.”

Reality capture can also prevent surprise costs and increase ROI through better overall productivity, quality control, and by reducing waste (in both materials and processes).

DPR's Blair Calhoun and a quote from the upcoming section.

Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) scopes typically account for 25% to 40% of a project’s total construction costs and drive the operating costs during the facility’s life. Since MEP systems have a significant impact on project budgets, they are often the first scopes that teams look to reduce in the early stages, often without the guidance of a MEP professional.

“Too often MEP systems are taken for granted in early stages of a project,” says Joe Dillingham, one of DPR’s leading MEP coordinators. “We’ve seen assumptions about these systems during design and buyout that lead to costly redesign and rework during construction.”

Bringing MEP professionals into these early stages reduces project teams’ reliance on assumptions when making decisions that affect construction all the way through facility operation.

Often, project teams do not bring on MEP professionals until the commissioning phase, when addressing issues hampering a system’s performance adds cost that could have been avoided with more oversight from the beginning. Even during this late stage, MEP professionals frequently save expenses from hitting clients’ bottom lines.

Blair Calhoun, another MEP professional at DPR, recalls a time when a warehouse manager called him to voice safety concerns with a recently commissioned tenant improvement. Her staff had difficulty navigating almost a 1/4 of the space because it lacked adequate lighting. After some investigation, Calhoun discovered the owner’s recently departed PM had opted to save upfront costs by not replacing the preexisting lights and the project's coffers were tapped. Calhoun asked the electrical subcontractor who previously submitted a proposal to replace the outdated existing lights with contemporary, high-efficiency ones for an estimate of the energy saved with the new lights. The team ended up showing the warehouse manager that the $22,000 change order would be paid for in less than three years from the savings on monthly electric bills, a true win-win.

Recently, DPR’s MEP and data groups began analyzing nearly 40,000 “Requests-For-Information” (RFIs) related to MEP trades from over 1,700 projects. Fundamentally, an RFI indicates an unwanted break in the flow of required and accurate data. The disruptions in data flow often lead to lost production time and pose threats to the quality and predictability of project outcomes. The groups are planning a rigorous analysis to find insights to shine a light on issues affecting MEP upfront costs that ultimately lead to lower total costs for clients.

DPR's Chris Dierks and a quote from the upcoming section.

Things like a truly engaged owner, project partners co-located in a “Big Room” and more were among the nine key indicators DPR identified for executing successful healthcare projects. Another is having the right team who exhibits the Lean principle of “Respect the Individual.” The traditional, more siloed approach to project delivery, where a contractor comes into the process after design is finalized and many key decisions have been made, though, puts the teambuilding starting blocks farther back. In doing so, things like design management fall by the wayside and there isn’t proper time to organize both the design and building team members.

“On a large project – half a billion dollars, say – success depends on organizing a large team up front and how they will make decisions,” said DPR’s Chris Dierks, one of the company’s Lean leaders and a project executive. “The larger a project, the larger potential issues could be if they’re not tackled early on. So, we always recommend getting the teams together early and spending some time and money upfront to not only properly organize as one team but also to focus on developing relationships to head off anything down the road. Strong relationships directly tie to strong trust.”

You can’t implement a successful Design Management process without this sort of team. High-level discussions that combine the customer’s goals, the designer’s vision and the contractor’s knowledge of what is constructible can only benefit from high levels of trust. What’s more, one of the most effective tools for cost control strategy is Target Value Delivery (TVD) and how projects organize and manage the design and preconstruction efforts. The value can be initial cost, total cost of ownership and user experience, which then informs design decisions, means and methods, project sequencing, and cost priorities with accountability to all parties to maximize value in a quantifiable way.

“TVD presents unique challenges over the course of a long project planning effort including ambiguity about timing of decisions, and a tendency to revisit previous decisions when the value is not clear and quantifiable,” Dierks said. “It’s really shifting costs. It’s heavier upfront, but the payoff, ‘the value,’ comes from implementing the right strategies and processes to identify and bring resolution to arising issues so they never materialize in the field.”

The departure from “typical” project startup costs can be a barrier and overcoming it takes an honest appraisal of the stakes in the field.

“I get it. If you’re a customer, you hear ‘teambuilding event’ or ‘building a Big Room’ and you think, ‘sounds like a lot to spend upfront for … what, exactly?’” Dierks said. “It takes seeing how it unlocks the full toolbox of Lean concepts and processes to make the entire project more efficient. [Efficiency] meaning where trust is so high that everyone is aligned and wrinkles are ironed out quickly, with quality in mind, to deliver that cost certainty, again ‘the value,’ ultimately desired by the customer.”

DPR's Rishard Bitbaba and a quote from the upcoming section.

The root of all of these, however, is the long-standing ways construction has been procured and the traditional relationships among project partners. To take advantage, a perspective change is required on all parts.

“Our industry has been called ‘slow to change’ when we’re actually seeing more tools and technologies that can change project outcomes in positive ways,” Bitbaba said. “What has been slow to change is the traditional model of construction so we can properly leverage these new tools.”

Behavior change may not have a dollar cost, but there is certainly a mental cost. No one likes change, but more than enough projects using alternative delivery setups – ranging from design-build to more robust integrated project delivery agreements – to show the way.

“Too often, the new ways of working are being assumed to just work under the traditional, more siloed ways of working,” Bitbaba said. “Owners have to have a mind shift to where they seek to be more engaged early and not be afraid to get into the details, rather than questioning some of the details.”

Bitbaba recalls times when customers wondered why so many superintendents’ hours were needed in preconstruction phases or that terms like TVD were just something a contractor would do.

“The engagement makes the difference,” Bitbaba said. “It’s easy to look at worker hours or assume it will all go to plan, but when a contractor submits the RFI that a wall in a design wasn’t included in project budget, are you going to wish you had considered more engagement upfront? Likely so.”

Which is why Bitbaba likens the entire process of “knowing the unknowns.” Essentially, when all project partners are aligned and working together, using all available tools from VDC to field expertise to working in new ways, it allows projects and the people that make them happen to be more nimble when outside forces are thrust upon us.

“We can’t control the rain,” Bitbaba says. “Let’s work together early on in projects to control the things we can so the only surprises are if the weather forecast is wrong.”

October 4, 2019

Supporting Apprenticeship in the Carolinas

DPR Construction's projects don’t just build themselves. Our craft employees and subcontractors make amazing things happen on site every day, but the need to recruit a new generation of people to the trades is vital.

At Wake Tech, in the heart of North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, DPR’s sponsorship of the university’s apprenticeship program is just one of the ways we aim to support a sustainable, skilled workforce. Watch the video to learn more.

September 20, 2019

Data-Driven Decisions

It seemed like a given: renovating a 1980s office space to achieve Net-Zero Energy (NZE) use would require additional insulation. But the team designing and building DPR Construction’s new Washington, D.C. regional office had three prior DPR NZE offices' worth of data to lean on as they worked.

The first estimate of the insulation cost was $130,000. However, deeper examination and a subsequent comparison of energy models with and without insulation demonstrated only a $460 per year savings with insulation.

"The payback was never!" according to DPR’s Chris Gorthy, who helped lead the project. The 20,000-sq.-ft. office is not only tracking for NZE certification, but also achieved LEED® Platinum and WELL™ Gold certifications.

The data meant that, instead of a costly upgrade for a negligible return, DPR made a better investment by buying another solar panel for that cost and more than offset the minimal insulation loss.

Such is the power of data. When it comes to high-performance buildings, DPR is working on more fronts than ever to collect data that can mean returns for customers. For the D.C. office, data was key for decisions, from the best ways to incorporate daylighting to the selection of the mechanical system.

Located in Reston, VA, DPR’s D.C. office is one of many “Living Laboratories” created to push the boundaries of what’s possible. DPR is using data from these projects to inform future projects, both for the company and customers. With billions of square feet of office park space of a similar age, the right data could mean more affordable ways to extend the lifespan of the buildings while also operating at leading edge energy and water efficiency.

Reston interior view
Located in Reston, VA, DPR’s D.C. office is one of many "Living Laboratories" created to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Photo courtesy of Hochlander Davis photography

"The construction industry has so many metrics, but the overall quality of available data is low," said Kaushal Diwan, who leads innovation for DPR. "We want to change that so we can deliver more value to customers, new possibilities for existing buildings and, ultimately, more predictable outcomes across the project lifecycle."

This is especially true with high-performing buildings and the trend toward healthy workspaces, including those seeking WELL certification.

Building WELL

"During procurement for the new Charlotte office of architect Little [Diversified] in uptown Charlotte, NC, we had to comb through a ton of products," said DPR’s Ryan Poole. "There was an emphasis on locally-sourced wood, as well as materials that met WELL requirements. Now, we have a tool that can expedite that process, combining data from across geographies to streamline procurement."

While there are tools for data on the front end of a project, real-time building performance data can inform decisions for customers.

"Actual data on building operations in a variety of climates could be incredibly valuable," said DPR’s Greg Amon. "There is a big opportunity with live tracking abilities to see where there are spikes in energy usage and how we can mitigate them. That information will be actionable for many of our customers in similar facilities."

That should have near-term benefits for building performance, but the opportunities a few years out are even more exciting. For example, as buildings aim to apply artificial intelligence (AI), those sorts of metrics can help build smarter AI systems.

"There is great potential for data to lead to new ways buildings are operated and maintained," Diwan said. "But building an AI platform that can fulfill ‘intelligent’ decisions takes having good data. The systems we’re starting to implement in our Living Labs provide a basis for that next step."

Building a Data Set

Ultimately, data will change the way buildings are designed, built and used.

"Think about a university classroom building," Diwan said. "If it’s only occupied and used eight hours a day, but lit 16 hours and climate-controlled 24 hours, that’s a lot of inefficient use. Using campus-wide building usage data could show when and how different buildings are used. All of that together could change how we design and build for those places."

PV panels atop DPR's office in Reston, Virginia
DPR's D.C. office features a rooftop photovoltaic array. Photo courtesy of ©Judy Davis / Hoachlander Davis Photography

https://www.dpr.com/assets/cas...For DPR, those changes start with its Living Labs. Lessons from the D.C. regional office—which built on knowledge from offices in San Francisco, San Diego and Phoenix—have already informed decisions at new spaces for DPR in Austin and Sacramento.

"It’s not good enough to wait for the market to build the data set for us," Poole said. "If we want to truly deliver high-performance buildings at market rates, we need to be the pioneers. The tools we’re putting in place will get us there."

A Living Lab is buildable, usable, sustainable and operable. With its new D.C. office, how did DPR realize each?

Buildable: The team chose to forgo an expensive insulation upgrade—which according to living lab data wouldn’t have penciled out—and instead invested in an extra solar panel.

Usable: Employees were surveyed to ensure that features and spaces were configured to meet the needs of the team working in and using the space.

Sustainable: The building showcases dozens of sustainable and cradle-to-cradle materials to demonstrate quality and test their durability over time—like the four different concrete floor finishes used throughout the space.

Operable: Real-time analysis and monitoring systems, as well as dashboards, help users see water usage and energy usage/generation.

To learn more about the sustainable building strategies and office features that helped DPR earn WELL Gold, LEED Platinum, and NZE certifications, click here.

July 17, 2019

New Workday Headquarters Opens in Pleasanton, California

Fast-growing enterprise software company Workday, Inc. celebrated the completion of its new 410,000-sq.-ft., corporate headquarters in Pleasanton, California this spring. Leaders from the City of Pleasanton, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Workday, and the DPR-led project team were among those who gathered for the May 13 ribbon-cutting ceremony, marking the official opening of the innovative, transit-friendly project that has been hailed as a state-of-the-art building.

The new Workday headquarters in Pleasanton, California.
The new Workday HQ connects employees to the community. Photo courtesy of Workday

Located just steps from the West Dublin/Pleasanton BART station, the architecturally striking, six-story structure ranks as the tallest office building in Pleasanton. It will house some 2,200 Workday employees by August, mostly from the company’s product and technology team. A focal point of Workday’s 10-building Pleasanton campus, it also houses a new 16,000-sq.-ft. Workday Customer Center slated to open later this summer.

Workday leadership and community members cut the ribbon for the building.
Local officials joined Workday leadership and the project team to cut the ribbon. Photo courtesy of Workday

Local Partnerships Aid Development

From the outset, Workday was committed to creating a transit-oriented development that would attract potential employees from around the Bay Area, including San Francisco and Oakland. The company forged strong ties with BART and the City of Pleasanton to develop a project that benefited both the local community and Workday employees.

A green space walkway, featuring native California plants, connects the BART station with the new headquarters building. Similar pathways connect the headquarters building with existing buildings on the company’s Pleasanton campus.

Workday Co-Founder and CEO Aneel Bhusri hailed the “strong partnerships” between Workday and the City of Pleasanton and BART during an address at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We’ve created a place that is an extension of our culture and brand, one that is built for continued innovation and one that reflects how our employees want to work and build products for the future,” he said.

“Workday had a very specific vision for this project and we worked to ensure we were aligned throughout the project,” said DPR’s Karri Sieler, a senior project manager. “It was a great example of how the things we build – and how we meet expectations for a project – are core to our customers’ businesses.”

One interior area of the new Workday HQ.
A variety of interior environments are designed to support employees. Photo courtesy of Workday

Core Values on Display

Designed by Gensler Architects, the new headquarters building draws inspiration from Workday’s core values of innovation, and fun in support of the company’s number one asset -- its employees. It provides an ideal environment for software development with plenty of open spaces, entire walls made of whiteboards, new high-tech tools like video walls and digital whiteboards, and four great rooms that provide comfortable spaces for large groups to gather.

Numerous other amenities support the fun, collaborative environment, including:

  • An open-air amphitheater with seating for 1,500 people along with a large grassy area suitable for outdoor games;
  • A “Data Diner” café complete with a 12,000-pound pizza oven and an “XpressO” coffee bar;
  • Two spacious second floor balconies that allow employees to enjoy fresh air while they work;
  • Wellness rooms with treadmills, amenity rooms for therapeutic services, showers and lockers;
  • Large game rooms on each floor;
  • Two dog runs where employees of the pet-friendly company can bring their dogs to run around and play throughout the day.

The building incorporates a highly sustainable design that is targeting LEED® Platinum certification. Among the green features: a large 865-kw solar array that provides up to one-third of the building’s electricity, an innovative onsite greywater recycling system designed to save up to 720,000 gallons of water each year, and a “cool roof” to mitigate the urban heat island effect.

Interior of the new Workday HQ
DPR self perform work crews performed a signficant portion of the project, including concrete visible throughout the project. Photo courtesy of Workday

DPR Sets Self-Perform Concrete Record

Constructed as a fully cast-in-place concrete structure, Workday tapped DPR’s self-perform concrete skills early in the building of its new headquarters. To support the 3-ft-thick concrete core walls that rise seven stories to the roof, the DPR team needed to build a thick mat foundation – leading to DPR’s largest self-performed concrete pour in company history. Over the course of 12 hours in May 2017, workers poured 4,800 cubic yards of concrete, which was reinforced with 1.2 million pounds of rebar.

The team poured as many as 500 cubic yards of concrete per hour – ultimately pouring enough concrete to fill one-and-a-half Olympic size swimming pools, or 3.7 million 2-liter bottles of soda.

Self-performing that structural concrete portion of the job enabled DPR to set the tone and pace for the job, and to keep a firm handle on quality control.

From planning and partnering to construction completion, the end result is a building that has garnered accolades on several fronts, including from Workday Co-President and CFO Robynne Sisco. “We’re extremely grateful to the City of Pleasanton and BART for their partnership,” she commented. “It’s because of their partnership in addition to our work with the building’s general contractor, DPR Construction, the architect and designer, Gensler, and literally hundreds of additional vendors that we’ve been able to make our beautiful new headquarters a reality.”

October 8, 2018

Advancing a Paradigm Shift in Construction at LCI Congress

DPR's Mike Cummings and Banner Health's Aaron Zeligman discuss what will be most important for the end users of the project.
DPR's Mike Cummings and Banner Health's Aaron Zeligman discuss what will be most important for the end users of the project. Photo courtesy of Mindy Gray

How can contractors and their partners collaborate with customers to deliver projects more efficiently? Or change the way all stakeholders approach projects to drive success? Those topics are the core of what DPR and its partners will discuss in six presentations at the 20th annual LCI Congress, the flagship event of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI), Oct. 15-19 in Orlando, Florida.

The paradigm shift is being advanced through a focus on jobsite culture, better alignment with customer expectations and leveraging technology in new ways. By breaking free of traditional workflows, new efficiencies can be realized leading to benefits for all project stakeholders.

Three of DPR's six presentations are discussed below. To learn more, click on the section headlines and view videos detailing the topics.

Matching Methods with Culture

When it comes to safety, we know procedures and protocols won’t prevent incidents unless a strong jobsite culture of caring and risk rejection exists. Similarly, all the tools of Lean, from kaizen to pull planning, will be limited in their effectiveness without the right culture. True commitment to continuous improvement, for instance, requires trust in your teammates and a sense of a shared goal that’s bigger than one’s self.

DPR’s Daniel Berger understood that his customer at HCA Northwest Hospital Medical Center in Margate, Florida wanted the project team to share its Lean goals. He knew, though, that simply executing Lean methods would only take the team so far.

“For the last 10 years, there’s been such a focus when it comes to Lean construction on things like ‘what can we prefab?’ and ‘what can we do more efficiently,’” Berger said. “We’ve lost track of the soft skills and what those can accomplish on the job and how those skills can help build a culture that supports the Lean process.”

At LCI Congress, Berger and DPR’s customer, HCA, will discuss how they worked together to achieve results. The key was creating a team that hold one another accountable and can thrive during the “tough” conversations that take place during any project. They will also discuss how planning took a whole-project approach rather than being individual scope-specific, how productivity and safety performance improved vs. baselines, and how, once the project is completed in 2019, the culture will continue on future projects.

Aligning Lean Approaches with Customers

When DPR’s team in Phoenix completed the first phase of a large hospital project for Banner Health, it achieved zero defects. Why fix what’s not broken for the second phase? The customer shifted its approach to quality by focusing on Distinguishing Features of Work (DFOW) that were closely associated with the end use of the building and patient care, building a Lean program to support them.

“When people think of quality, they think of aesthetics,” said DPR’s Mike Cummings, who is presenting at LCI Congress. “For Banner, it’s the functionality of those things and how they come together and how they will eventually affect their patients.”

As a result, the entire project team shifted its approach to focus on DFOW and saw fantastic results. For example, work on elevator lobbies (a DFOW) included eight RFIs prior to work starting and zero once work was under way. Trade partners saw increased productivity, too. The team originally planned for 53 days of elevator lobby work, but by aligning around DFOW resulted in only 32 days of work—all with zero defects. Similar improvements were achieved across the project because of increased communication and focus on what was important for all stakeholders.

Technology as a Time Machine

The Lean method of a gemba walk involves going out in the field to see the work and collaborating with partners to address a specific issue in production or key performance indicator. But what if the work doesn't exist yet and won’t be for another year? Easy: use a time machine.

“With 4-D, we can now collaborate more efficiently with our partners to deliver predictable results,” said DPR’s Charlie Dunn. “You can deliver much faster, so you can get a drug to market sooner or a hospital to treat patients earlier.”

Essentially, technology has unlocked the ability for partners to virtually walk through a job site far in advance of the work being put into place. Teams can gain a common understanding of the challenges of a dynamic construction environment, viewing it differently than the fixed nature of an assembly line. As a result, stakeholders can test strategies and make mistakes early—and virtually—while avoiding expensive problems that traditionally emerge after crews have mobilized.

At the 2018 LCI Congress, DPR and its partners will show how this is working to improve delivery of a large project in Orlando. Using 4-D eliminates waste throughout the delivery process and illustrates how we’re utilizing innovative technology with exciting visualizations that promise to alter the way we construct in the future.