Builders at our Core: Gerardo Herrera

This article is included in the Great Things: Issue 7 edition of the DPR Newsletter.

A builder stands in front of a construction site with a building and equipment in the background.
South Florida VDC layout modeler, Gerardo Herrera, uses technology to help keep schedules on track and ensure better quality for DPR customers. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

At a South Florida university, construction is well underway on a building dedicated to the study of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), housing research and teaching labs, offices, classrooms and study space. It’s fitting, then, that this building dedicated to research and technology is being constructed with the use of modern building technologies. South Florida VDC layout modeler, Gerardo Herrera, is part of a self-perform work team using Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) on the project. By employing building information modeling (BIM) to create models and coordinate with those in the field, Herrera explains how he is able to keep schedules on track and better ensure quality.

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

I’m a VDC SPW Engineer, doing layout and modeling for Drywall Framing with DPR’s self-perform work group in South Florida. I came to the US from Mexico when I was almost 15 years old and started hanging drywall for a subcontractor. Almost four years ago, I had the opportunity to come to DPR, and it has been the best decision I ever made. DPR gave me the opportunity to get to where I am today. I’ve been able to learn how to use different types of technologies and equipment, like a robotic total station system to connect and manage our data, laser scanners, Matterport cameras and virtual tour software—all thanks to the support of my supervisors.

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

When a construction project is in process, there can be changes to navigate. Sometimes the owner changes their mind on some aspect of the design. We work as a team and try to solve these issues together. Since we actually do the work of building, we can plan and address the challenges in the best way possible so our owners are satisfied with the final product. VDC is very helpful with this.

Two men are sitting at two monitors, and one is pointing to the screen to indicate where the other man should look.
For Herrera, creating a 3D model in advance simplifies the construction process by minimizing surprises for the customer and allowing changes to be easily shared with craftspeople in the field. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

With VDC, we’re able to coordinate from the beginning. The client can see a 3D model before we even start the job. That’s how we offer quality for the job from the beginning. By using the robotic total station, we save time and can even accelerate schedule. I can create the model and send it in an email to our foremen on the jobsite. Then it’s easy for me to update the model based on site conditions they communicate, send the update right to their iPads, and they are ready to go.

Q: What have you learned from your team members?

I’ve learned the importance of really listening. It’s important to listen and pay attention to everyone we’re working with—supervisors and co-workers—so we can work as one team, working toward the same goal with no surprises. Communication is really key here.

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

Safety precautions exist for a reason. We must ALWAYS follow the rules of safety at work to protect not only us, but our families and loved ones at home. We all deserve to return home safe and sound every day.

Two men look up at something, while one of them points to an object to call attention to it for the other man.
Herrera’s scope of work on his current project is broader, involving modelling and coordination with the larger DPR team and learning AutoCAD, Revit modelling software and Metal Wood Framer software to virtually frame the project. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: Tell me about the project you talked about in the video. How has it been different from others you’ve worked on?

I’m currently working on a new STEM building for a university here in South Florida. We’ve completed the first and second floors, and we’ll be finishing up the third soon. This project is different for me because my scope of work is broader. I’m not only doing layout, I’ll also be involved in modeling and coordination with the larger DPR team. This project has given me the opportunity to learn and use new technologies, like AutoCAD, Revit modelling software, and Metal Wood Framer (MWF) software, which we can use to virtually frame entire projects. I also have the opportunity to use PlanGrid software to share construction information like issue tracking and field markups with the foremen, so we can work easier together as one team.

Q: What is your proudest moment at DPR?

To be able to see a project built from the beginning, to see what I have achieved and to step back and say, “Wow!” at the thought that I was part of creating it. I like to do field work. I like to create things with technology and then bring them to the field. It makes me so happy to see the final product. I feel good about my work, and I come home happy. It makes a difference when you really enjoy what you do.

Two men stand on a construction site with two large piles of dirt in the background. One gestures in an explanatory manner.
Herrera enjoys the process of creating a 3D model and watching it take shape in the field: “It makes me so happy to see the final product.”. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

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

My advice is to never allow yourself to say it is not possible and to always take advantage of the opportunities offered to you. If you want to do it, do it!