Tyler Wilson

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Posts In: Commercial, Healthcare, Safety, Sustainability


January 8, 2021

Going Big in North Texas

DPR self-perform crews work together to install prefabricated panels. Photo courtesy of Photo by Tyler Wilson

Everything’s bigger in Texas and the ever-expanding footprint of healthcare facilities in North Texas is no different. It also provides an abundance of opportunity for DPR’s technical expertise in building highly complex medical facilities, oftentimes on occupied campuses currently caring for patients around the clock.

One healthcare provider took advantage of a myriad of Ever Forward innovations in DPR’s toolbox, using prefabrication, digital building models, and augmented reality (AR) to coordinate a three-story, 90,000-sq.-ft. vertical expansion above a functioning Emergency Department (ED)—all while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The DPR-client partnership approach and "one team" mindset feeds the hunger to continue to move the needle for continuous improvement.

The four-phase project consists of a third and fourth floor patient room build-out, relocating three departments, all while expanding and improving the operational flow of many other existing spaces. The vertical expansion is currently in its second phase and targeted for overall completion in the summer of 2022. DPR previously completed the hospital’s ED expansion, and provided counsel on how to ensure possible expansion of campus master planning in the future.

“The original drawings specified that the air handling unit be located at a certain point on the roof, but after coordinating with our trade partners, we noticed that if it stayed in that location, the hospital would face challenges if they wanted to further expand vertically,” said DPR’s Amanda Thomas. “They trusted DPR, they saw what we saw, and they supported our plan to revise the location and save their staff conflict later in the future.”

Fully finished prefabricated panels are installed during the vertical expansion phase of the project in June 2020. Photo courtesy of Photo by Tyler Wilson

Prefab Making Milestones

The project team leveraged prefabricated panels from DPR’s strategic partner, Digital Building Components, to help circumvent some of the challenges of working on an active healthcare campus. This vertical expansion is Digital Building’s first deployment of fully finished EIFS and ACM panels in Texas.

Building three stories vertically on a one-story building with an ER directly underneath left little room for costly scaffolding without a lot of shoring beneath, as it would substantially affect the function of the ED, so prefab made sense as a solution. The Digital Building system installed is made to accept another future two-story vertical expansion without compromising the waterproofing integrity of the system. However, that wasn’t the only reason that implementing prefab was a significant solution.

“The key benefit to prefabricating exterior panels was that we accomplished in three weeks what we would conventionally do in three months: framing, sheeting, waterproofing, and preparing for window installations,” said Digital Building’s David Kloubec. “The front-facing side was installed in nine days. It was pretty exciting to watch and we’re very proud of the result.”

AR and As-built Verification

Another innovative application came from DPR’s Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) toolbox: a combination of BIM and a mixed-reality platform called Visual Live. The entire project’s virtual model was used to track real-time production progress on existing construction conditions and trade installations using an AR HoloLens wearable and a tablet.

“The advantage of this approach is that no one needs to guess—you are standing at the actual location on-site and looking at the model on your iPad and seeing it through the HoloLens in the building,” said DPR’s Yoganand Mandali.

The platform allows the team to leverage all the upfront efforts spent on model coordination to minimize issues in the field. This “apples to apples” approach to quality assurance gives a leg up to catching issues versus looking at two or three different 2D plans to see what is being installed in each area. It also allows for remote streaming: a superintendent can resolve issues by sharing the field conditions instantly with designers at off-site locations.

Self-Perform Success

DPR’s self-perform concrete, drywall and waterproofing teams played a huge role in project development.

“With VDC, we were able to determine what our priority walls were, where they were located, and what needed to be built first,” said DPR's Jeremy Wiginton. “We established a plan and our self-perform interiors team built it accordingly. We also were able to show the owner what we intended to build and what was actually built in a much easier way.”

“By having several key scopes of work performed by our professionals, we were able to be nimble and quickly adapt to the project's needs and reduce unknown for our client,” said DPR’s Wes Schreiber. With so many DPR teams working through a Takt Plan schedule that included specific zoning for each trade and material, the teams and trade partners were able to work alongside each other and exhibit agility and flexibility when transitioning to other zones to complete their work.



August 21, 2020

Teamwork Wins at The Woman's Hospital of Texas

Renovated lobby at The Woman's Hospital of Texas in Houston. Photo courtesy of Jud Haggard Photography

DPR Construction is hard at work on a complex renovation project at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas. The scope of work consists of 52,000 sq.-ft. of interior renovation encompassing labor and delivery and antepartum patient rooms, operating rooms, the addition of new service elevators within the existing facility, demolition of an existing parking structure and construction of a 9-story 732,500 sq.-ft. precast parking garage. Since 1976, the hospital has helped bring 170,000 babies into the world and become one of Texas’s foremost care centers for women and newborns. Located just off The Old Spanish Trail and minutes away from The Texas Medical Center, a dense 2.1-square-mile medical district in south-central Houston, The Woman’s Hospital is one of 13 in HCA Houston Healthcare’s network that together treat more than 1 million patients each year.

Much of the project’s complexity stems from the fact that it is being carried out while the facility remains occupied and fully operational, as well as from the addition of the two elevators in the core of the building. Patrick Gorman, who serves as project manager, says “the addition of two staff elevators in the core of the hospital is by far the most complex portion of this project .”

The elevator shaft was built into the structure during initial construction, designed with knockout slabs in preparation for adding the elevators later. But over the years, several projects had been undertaken in the area which lead to some unforeseen obstacles that required solutions-based strategies. Upon demolition, the team encountered numerous existing unidentified conditions with conduit, piping and steam lines that had to be rerouted to clear the way for the new elevators.

Says Gorman, “On every floor, we’ve overcome major conflicts and challenges to prepare to demolish the slabs for the shaft. But the demolition is almost complete, and we’re gearing up to start the penthouse expansion to support the elevators.”

DPR’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing expertise was vital in the planning and relocating of these existing utilities. The team worked together to come up with a plan for the complex series of shutdowns that were necessary, but that would mitigate potential downtime. They utilized an existing fusible crane disconnect that was left in place from previous work, refeeding it with normal power and using it to temporarily feed each panel as it was shut down to relocate the conduits and feeders.

“The whole project has really allowed us to showcase our abilities as a true self-perform builder,” said Gorman. When the original subcontractor was unable to man the demolition portion of the project, DPR’s self-perform corps stepped up to complete the demolition, met the schedule perfectly and smoothed out the entire process.

DPR self-perform team members are also completing the concrete on the 2000-space parking garage, which includes an expansive site work utilities package for the garage and to support the adjacent medical office building. And since the project is at a major medical center, work must align with requirements for infection control and other measures inside the hospital. The work carried out by DPR’s craft team members, including Jose Rubio and Jose Zelaya, to meet these requirements has garnered raving reviews from the hospital and its staff. Says Gorman, “We truly could not complete a project of this magnitude without their help.”

Navigating the project’s unique challenges requires extensive coordination amongst the various trades on-site and the use of VDC site models that are color coded by scope and serve as visual aids for sequencing of the work. “This job is different from the traditional approach to a project schedule,” says Robert Parham, a project engineer on the team. “We have six phases. In the first phase, we’re in 12 areas of the building at one time. Each space is phased out, so it’s a lot of communication and coordination with the trades out in the field.”

The team uses Smartsheet for collaboration and work management, meticulously reviewing every activity with the responsible foremen. The goal is not only to notify each trade of schedule commitments, but also to obtain educated buy-in from each trade on-site, committing to the schedules agreed upon with the customer. Planning includes daily coordination with facility staff on the ground, to notify them of what spaces are scheduled for work and to coordinate the various access plans.

As a result of these efforts, the project is on track for its scheduled 2021 completion.

May 26, 2020

EHS Protocols, Fewer Guests Mean Opportunity for Major Hilton Renovation in Houston

DPR employees carry out administrative functions while wearing masks and maintaining a safe physical distance.
As a major renovation is carried out, DPR, Hilton and Houston First worked together to implement advanced EHS protocols. Photo courtesy of Chris Gehring

Editor's Note: This post was updated on Sept.10, 2020.

Houston’s largest hotel, Hilton Americas, first opened its doors in 2003 to host hundreds of sports fans for Super Bowl XXXVIII. Sixteen years later, DPR Construction partnered with Hilton, Houston First and Gensler to undertake a major renovation of this award-winning AAA 4-Diamond property in the heart of downtown. The renovation includes significant demolition, build back and upgrades to all 1,200 guestrooms and corridors, alcoves, landings and elevator lobbies on all 17 guestroom floors.

Phase 1 got under way in June 2019, with the first 600 guest rooms completed by December. The project then paused to allow for planned downtown conferences—some in the adjacent George R. Brown Convention Center—that included events for large tech firms and big businesses. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these conferences were cancelled and DPR was asked to remobilize earlier than planned to complete Phase 2—the remaining 600 guest rooms.

“Working in an active hotel in the middle of downtown is already challenging. Add in a global pandemic, and the challenges only increase,” says Houston Business Unit Leader, Nick Abay.

DPR worked closely with Hilton and Houston First to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Response/Mitigation Plan, that includes:

  • A rigorous sign-in/health screening process with a sophisticated QR Code system, unique electronic badging, bilingual staff, infrared thermometer scans and color-coded wrist bands that alternate each day.
  • A second sign-in/screening location at the one and only entry/egress into the building as a second COVID-19 stage gate.
  • The implementation of four (4) separate shifts to manage the more than 250 people who are on-site during an average workday.
  • Dedicated freight elevators, with delivery access and debris removal scheduled at specified times to manage the limited loading dock space available.
  • Additional temporary restrooms and touchless handwashing stations.

These steps are part of a set of comprehensive EHS protocols that, when properly planned and executed, demonstrate that construction can continue to move forward without compromising the safety of employees or the community.

To allow for the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended six feet of social distancing, DPR also worked with Hilton to identify a larger office space within the hotel. The larger area allows DPR staff and other project stakeholders to carry out administrative functions and hold daily meetings while maintaining a safe physical distance.

Stickers on an elevator floor show where riders should stand to maintain social distancing.
Signage has been placed in elevators indicating where passengers should stand to maintain a healthy physical distance. Photo courtesy of Chris Gehring

These measures complement the safety protocols being developed by Hilton to protect its staff and guests. From seals placed on guestroom doors after cleaning, showing that no one has since accessed the room, to contactless check-in and extra cleaning of high touch areas, the industry is preparing for a necessary new travel experience.

Construction continues as the hotel still hosts guests, most of whom are part of the COVID-19 response: troops from the Texas National Guard, who are providing support to the Houston Food Bank, along with healthcare workers providing front-line support to patients in the Greater Houston Area.

Texas National Guard troops providing front-line support arrive as guests of the hotel.
While the renovation continues on the hotel, guests continue to arrive, including troops from the Texas National Guard providing support to the Houston Food Bank. Photo courtesy of Chris Gehring

The 509,289-sq.ft. project is a careful balance between construction and hotel operations. With continued room occupancy, work is being completed in blocks of 11 guestrooms—up to 298 rooms out of order or under construction at any one time. Of course, this couldn’t be possible without the value of DPR’s Self-Perform Work teams. Hilton Americas is the largest SPW project in Houston to date with over 55 craft working in the following scopes: demolition, drywall, wood blocking, tape and float, doors, frames and hardware, specialties, and FFE warehousing and installations. Even with the COVID -19 impacts on Phase 2 renovations, the SPW crews are trending an improvement in estimated man hours by as much as 10-15%.

“Using multiple scheduling tools, including a ‘Room Work Status board’ that displays the current status of each individual room as it progresses through the 28-day renovation cycle, our team is able to closely track progress and strive for guest rooms with zero defects,” said Ryan Schoeneberg, DPR superintendent. “With a total of 1,200 individual punch lists spanning 17 floors, this is critical to minimize rework and maintain our aggressive schedule.”

DPR's schedule dashboard is used to closely track the progress of each guestroom.
DPR closely tracks project progress with multiple scheduling tools, including a Room Work Status board that displays the current status of each individual room as it progresses through the 28-day renovation cycle. Photo courtesy of Chris Gehring

This high-profile project at Hilton Americas continues to excel in challenging conditions. Chris Gehring, Senior Project Manager, summarizes the experience with a nod to company culture. “DPR is proud to support Hilton, Houston First and our State and local front-line workers on this major renovation of a Houston icon.”

September 26, 2019

DPR Construction Shows off the Spirit of Austin with Sustainable Office Design

Built by employees, Austin's net-zero office becomes first WELL-certifiedworkplace in the city.
"The barn doors at the Innovation Room by Austin-based wood artist Aaron Michalovic are my personal favorite design element,” Jason Carr, who serves as project superintendent. Photo courtesy of Peter Molick

Since 1994, DPR Construction has had a home in Austin, growing its scope to projects ranging from tenant improvements to landmark jobs that have dramatically altered the downtown skyline.

Now, it has a new office that even better aligns DPR’s approach to business with the vibrant Austin community.

DPR’s Austin office is now in the up-and-coming East Side. The newly-built office building, located off Comal Street not far from the popular 6th street district, is slated to be the first WELL-certified office in the city while also pursuing Zero Net Energy certification. It proudly reflects DPR’s self-perform work culture and values, as well as the personality of Austin.

In a city where environmental care is boasted just as much as stock market returns, being “green” is no longer good enough when it comes to standing out in this community. Thankfully, sustainability plays a very important role in the way DPR operates. From local community initiatives in the places where it builds to decreasing its own operational environmental footprint, sustainable building operations is embedded in DPR’s DNA.

With the move to Austin’s East Side neighborhood, DPR is strategically positioning itself to be a groundbreaking presence in the area by showing what is possible for sustainability, while being closely integrated in a community with a firm grasp on that value.

“Making the East Side DPR’s new home is special for a number of reasons,” said DPR’s Austin Business Unit Leader Bryan Kent. “Aside from East Austin’s growth, the thriving entertainment district, the eclectic local business and diverse community, the Foundry’s location offers a new proximity to many of our clients, partners and projects.”

Built by DPR employees and designed by Interior Architects, the building marks the fifth net-zero energy office built by the company across the country (DPR recently added its sixth, in Sacramento). Not only does this effort have a positive impact on the neighborhoods they reside in, but systems and sustainable measures tested in these “living labs” allow for replication and inspiration on other projects. It also allows the chance to implement more efficient technologies that may emerge in the future.

Austin's iconic "I love you so much" wall mural, with a DPR twist of course, is featured in the front lobby. Photo courtesy of Peter Molick

“The overall environment of the space is collaborative, inviting, and open. The barn doors at the Innovation Room by Austin-based wood artist Aaron Michalovic are my personal favorite design element,” said Jason Carr, project superintendent. These doors add a striking visual that greets employees and visitors upon entry along with a floor-to-ceiling plant wall and a tribute to one of Austin’s most iconic and photographed features, an 'I love to build so much' mural.

Pursuing LEED® Platinum for Commercial Interiors from the United States Green Building Council

While the building is already targeting LEED Gold certification, DPR's space within it is aiming higher.

In collaboration with IA, DPR designed the office with features that should enable Platinum certification, such as the use of locally sourced materials, a recycling program, energy efficient equipment that complies with Energy Star, and a long-term commitment to the space (a 10-year lease). Skylights bring daylight to interior and limited use of volatile organic compounds in interior paints, coatings, and flooring – avoiding the production of harmful and unpleasant aromas in the office – also help the space go above and beyond.

The key to a WELL workplace is a kitchen that promotes healthy nutrition, natural lighting, and recycling features. Photo courtesy of Peter Molick

Pursuing WELL Certification™ from the International WELL Building Institute

Enjoyment is significantly reflected in the new space. And a crucial aspect of daily enjoyment for a progressive community like Austin is the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. It’s no secret that a major factor in supplementing or sabotaging that goal is a healthy workplace, designed and built to support the health of its occupants.

The office is designed to give employees and guests a space that will generally enhance, not compromise, their health and wellness.

“Having had the opportunity to work in a WELL-certified DPR office and a non-WELL-certified DPR office, I am surprised and inspired by the impact it has on myself and my fellow employees’ day to day life,” said Lexie Hood, who is a part of the Preconstruction team. “WELL office spaces are brighter, quieter, and overall more pleasant. We spend so much time in our offices, it makes such a difference to feel comfortable, clean and healthy.”

Key features including circadian lighting design, ergonomic workspaces, acoustic planning, healthy eating promotion, activity incentive programs for employees, and visually-delighting art installations celebrating self-perform capabilities and the local community will enable this new space to achieve WELL Certification

“It’s a different energy around the office,” said Nick Moulinet, who sits on Austin’s Business Unit Leadership Team. “You see a greater level of personal interaction and palpable sense of pride in what we have accomplished to get here. We want this to be a place that everyone feels welcome, whether you are coming in from a job site or visiting from another office. I think the consensus is that the entire team nailed it.”

"We want this to be a place that everyone feels welcome, whether you are coming in from a job site or visiting from another office." Photo courtesy of Peter Molick