Builders at our Core: Francisco Rodriguez, Miguel Zamora, Saudo Ortega, Teodulo Ramirez

This article is included in the Great Things: Issue 6 edition of the DPR Newsletter.

Drywall foremen Ortega, Ramirez and Zamora
Drywall foremen Ortega, Ramirez and Zamora learned and applied a new technology together to construct interior walls on a ground up medical facility just outside Washington DC. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Just outside Washington, DC, a team of drywall foremen recently completed work on a 45,000-sq.-ft., ground-up medical facility that differed from their typical build. This new, two-story facility called for the deployment of technology that was new to this group of self-perform builders: DIRTT(Doing It Right This Time) walls. The majority of the building’s interior walls were constructed using this prefabricated, modular system, so after first earning their certification in DIRTT demountable partition installation, the team worked together to apply this new method. They were ultimately able to shave time off the schedule and enhance the project budget, and they couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve achieved.

Q: What is your role at DPR and describe the path you took to get there.

Ortega: I’m a drywall foreman. My dad got me into construction in 1999, doing interiors, ceilings, doors, drywall. After about 12 years, a superintendent I’d worked with asked me if I wanted to move over to DPR, like he had done, so I made the switch. People had told me it was a different kind of company, and to be honest, it really is. The culture is totally different.

Ramirez: I’m also a drywall foreman. As soon as I came here from Mexico when I was 15, I started working in construction, and four years ago I got the chance to move to DPR. I had family working here, so it was an easy decision.

Rodriguez: I started at DPR as a carpenter in 2013 and became a foreman shortly thereafter due to my construction experience. I later became a safety foreman, then a safety manager, and most recently, I became a craft advocate. I help our self-perform teams in the DC/Baltimore region with safety needs and craft communication.

Zamora: I’ve been working in construction for about 12 years and I’m now a drywall foreman. When I was 17, I started working for the same company as my dad. About five years ago, he joined DPR, and two years later, I followed him. That was 2016. I became a foreman a year later.

Rodriguez lists cost and schedule savings benefits
Rodriguez lists cost and schedule savings as key benefits DIRTT wall installation brought to this project. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: Why do you think being a self-performing general contractor makes a difference on a project?

Ortega: In construction, there are always going to be changes. Sometimes the owner wants a change or wants to modify something. Because we self-perform work, we are on-site and can make plans to accommodate changes quickly. SPW is always prepared to solve any of those issues.

Rodriguez: I think one of the benefits is schedule, especially on a project like this where our self-perform team is installing DIRTT walls. It helps decrease costs, and you don’t have to build all of that stuff on-site; it comes in on rolling carts. It’s all ready. You roll it in and just frame around it. It saved a lot of time. We trained our own folks on how to deploy this system, so we know it’s being done right.

Q: Has this project been different from others you’ve worked on? How?

Rodriguez: Along with the DIRTT walls, we’ve also implemented VDC for layout with our foremen. So, now we download drawings and information to their iPads. If there’s a change in the field, they go to their iPads and look it up, and it’s right in there. And now we’ll be able to carry over VDC and these other technologies to the next project.

Zamora: We had a strict schedule to meet and it was a new system for us, but we took the training together, worked together to apply what we learned, and we did the job.

Ramirez: DPR sent us to Phoenix two times for training on this system, and then we came to this job to apply what we learned. All of the material came in on trucks, and we worked together to come up with a schedule to align delivery with install. It was a challenge, but we did it.

VDC implementation
The team also implemented VDC for layout, using their iPads for information and to view changes in the field. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What is one thing you think everyone can do to make the industry safer for everyone?

Ortega: Encourage everyone to follow rules and let them know they must wear full personal protective equipment all the time. Also, inspect all of your equipment regularly. The big difference I see at DPR is that this company really encourages safety every day. We notice sometimes with new folks, they’re not used to that focus and wearing the PPE all the time because it wasn’t a priority at their other companies and they weren’t well educated about safety. They sometimes struggle at first, so we talk about safety every day.

Ramirez: The right tools are important, and DPR provides the tools—whatever we need—to work safely and to do the job right. At some other places, they’ll tell you to make do with what you have, which isn’t safe. That’s the difference. Safety is the first priority here.

Zamora: I always think about my family and getting home safely to them, and I remind others to do the same thing.

Q: What is your proudest moment at DPR?

Rodriguez: You start noticing all of the things you’ve built, and you see the beauty of it. Once you turn over the building, you get to see all of the end-users, and you get to see them smile. You get to see the final product, and maybe sometimes even use the building you built.

Ortega: When we are done with something—a project or a building—when you see the finished structure, that’s the moment you feel so proud of what you did.

Ramirez: When you build something from beginning to end, you say, “Oh, my goodness. I made this!” It makes you feel good that you created something.

Proud team moment
The team is proud not only of this most recent build, but of all the finished structures they’ve had a hand in. “It makes you feel good that you created something,” says Ramirez. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field?

Ortega: In construction, there are always things to learn. It’s like a school; every day you learn something new. Be open-minded. That’s one of the keys to success.

Rodriguez: If you have passion for construction, follow it.