December 23, 2020

Neither Rain nor Pandemic Stops DPR From Delivering Viasat’s New East Coast Headquarters

In the midst of the uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, DPR Construction overcame a variety of challenges to complete a ground-up, three-story office building for satellite internet provider Viasat on a six-acre site in Germantown, MD. The project is a structural steel-framed building with a curtain wall, brick, and composite metal panel exterior envelope. The project also included a 200-car parking garage and extensive site work. Designed by Gensler, the facility will be the new East Coast home for 150 of Viasat’s engineers and support staff.

Effects from the pandemic hit the Viasat team in March of 2020, well into the project and during a time of critical project activities. In compliance with local and state government mandates, the job site was initially shut down for three weeks. Once work resumed, construction workers had to be 6-ft. apart at all times, which significantly impacted the schedule.

Drone view of exterior
The project, a structural steel-framed building with a curtain wall, brick, and composite metal panel exterior envelope, is the first ground-up office building completed by DPR in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Photo courtesy of PrecisionHawk

To communicate the schedule impact to the client, the team relied on the DPR data team (based in the Washington D.C office) to support an extended construction schedule. Utilizing data from CMiC, the data team created a graph that included pre-and post-shutdown productivity levels. This graph visually identified the project shutdowns and lost productivity, and it created a consensus around a realistic end date for the project.

“COVID-19 was one of the biggest challenges and most uncertain situations I've encountered in my career. The entire team’s ability to adapt to the environment that COVID created for us was phenomenal,” noted Stephen Hatch, Viasat Project Manager, and Levine Investment Owner Representative.

Topping out exterior view
In the midst of the uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, DPR Construction overcame a variety of challenges to complete a ground-up, three-story office building for satellite internet provider Viasat on a six-acre site in Germantown, MD. Photo courtesy of Daniel Burson

To adapt to the pandemic's challenges, the team utilized a large shell space inside the new building that allowed them to conduct daily meetings with trade partners while maintaining a safe distance. The team relied on virtual tools to continue to keep the lines of communication open between all stakeholders. Daniel Burson, DPR’s project manager noted, “Viasat’s West Coast headquarters is in Carlsbad, CA, the building owner and architect Gensler are both located in Phoenix, AZ, and the project itself took place in Maryland. Even before the pandemic, we were utilizing video conferencing, so we didn’t skip a beat when everyone else was going virtual for the first time.”

In progress exterior view
Effects from the pandemic hit the Viasat team in March of 2020, well into the project and during a time of critical project activities. Photo courtesy of Daniel Burson

Pandemic effects asides, a constructability challenge was the significant amount of earthwork that had to be done early on in construction. Breaking ground in early 2019, the team overcame the challenge of mass excavation during the wettest year on record for the area.

“Our successful solution was introducing lime into the soil, which allowed us to achieve moisture and compaction requirements that would otherwise have been unattainable. This solution helped us meet our scheduled date for earthwork, even with all the rain in that year,” Burson said.

Ultimately, the project was completed in Fall 2020 with plaudits to go around. “The DPR team’s adaptability and consistent communication throughout the course of this project were impeccable,” Hatch said. “Their reporting techniques were clear and never left me with questions on cost or schedule.”

Exterior view
Ultimately, the project was completed in Fall 2020 with plaudits to go around. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin

July 29, 2020

DPR Construction Bridges a Gap and Drives Chiller Ingenuity at Baptist Health’s Jacksonville Campus

Prefabricated bridge being placed onto the columns for its final placement. Photo courtesy of Scott Gibbs

Editor's Note: This post was updated on Sept. 8, 2020.

Even as the pandemic requires constant vigilance from site teams, DPR Construction’s project team in Jacksonville continues to raise industry standards with a bridge placement at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital. At 110 tons and 85 feet long, the prefabricated pedestrian bridge was successfully lifted and installed by the project team. The bridge will provide visitors, patients,and team members with access to garage parking and a safer path to cross the street and enter the future Baptist Jacksonville Entry Building/Wolfson Children’s Critical Care Tower.

Prefabricated bridge being transported to the location of its placement. Photo courtesy of Beard Transport

Directed by remote control, the project team utilized a self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT) to move the bridge down the street. “The bridge along with the overall hospital project is one of the largest self-perform concrete projects in the region,” said Matt Bishop, DPR project executive.

First lift of the bridge from its build site onto the equipment used to transport it to its final location. Photo courtesy of Scott Gibbs
Prefabricated bridge being lifted to its final location. Photo courtesy of Beard Transport

Following the bridge placement, the project team secured an additional milestone with the arrival and installation of a 1,800-ton chiller.

Due to the existing size of the building’s central energy plant (CEP), the chiller was disassembled in a day inside a climate-controlled warehouse space near the project site.“We factored in several key elements during the chiller disassembly phase to ensure for a seamless reassembly process,” said Scott Gibbs, DPR superintendent.

The project team followed strategic technical steps including:

  • Cleaning of the refrigerant lines in the warehouse to eliminate a day of purging
  • Advanced preparation of refrigerant line fittings
  • Storing refrigerant in the vacuum pump until recharging the system onsite
  • Sealing all parts of the assembly to prevent Trane from testing fluids in the system
  • Prefabrication of all of the linkages for the compressors
  • Preassembly of orifices and gaskets on economizer base and refrigerant oil separator
  • Pre-alignment of the motor on the compressor
  • Prefabrication of the rupture disk and flex

With the chiller components separated and ready for mobilization, the team along with project trade partners built a custom compressor roller for use at the project site to slide the chiller parts inside the narrow space of the existing CEP of the building. “Based on the BIM model, we were able to determine travel paths and swing radius specs to transport the chiller elements on the specialized transport dollies,” said Gibbs.

The team successfully transported, reassembled, and installed the chiller inside of the project space in under 48 hours.

The project is slated to be complete by the end of 2021.

July 21, 2020

Miller Hull Studio Earns Petal Certification for Sustainable Design

Exterior of Miller Hull San Diego studio
The Miller Hull studio in San Diego was the first project to earn Petal Certification under the latest version of the Living Building Challenge. Photo courtesy of Chipper Hatter

The Miller Hull Partnership recently received Living Building Challenge Petal Certification for the renovation of its San Diego studio. Built by DPR Construction, the 4,600-square-foot tenant improvement included upgrades to the open office, conference rooms and model shop.

“Through efficient building systems and responsible sourcing, Miller Hull was able to reach their sustainability goals and raise the bar for modern green projects,” said DPR project manager John Kay. “Because the Living Building Challenge is based on a building’s performance rather than projections, we’re demonstrating that these ambitious standards can be realized in a commercial tenant improvement.”

Miller Hull San Diego Open Office
The San Diego studio successfully pursued six of the seven Petals including place, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty. Photo courtesy of Chipper Hatter

To meet energy conservation goals and achieve net positive energy, the building features a 24-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array on the roof and was designed to take advantage of natural lighting in the sunny Southern California climate. In the first year of operations, the studio produced 30 percent more energy than it used. Fresh air can be accessed from almost anywhere in the space through manually operated, full-height windows. There is no artificial air conditioning in the building.

Salvaged and Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood as well as locally sourced materials helped the project reach the Materials Petal. The project team also prioritized manufacturer transparency and products without materials or chemicals of concern.

It took vigilance and an integrated approach to attain the net positive waste standard during the construction phase. “We challenged conventional waste management practices and reinforced the importance of rigor with the diversion work,” said Kay. “The so-called ‘waste’ became a valuable resource. The interior wall paneling removed during demolition was reused for bracing and protection during construction. Excavated soil was repurposed for offsite gardening and landscaping.”

Kitchen at the Miller Hull San Diego studio
The Miller Hull office produces 30 percent more energy than it uses. Photo courtesy of Chipper Hatter

The Miller Hull San Diego studio is the first project certified under the fourth version of the Living Building Challenge, which continues to set visionary but attainable building goals, while focusing on the relationship between impact and effort in the design and construction industry. It is also the first Living Building Challenge certified project in San Diego County.

Presented by the International Living Future Institute, Petal Certification falls under the larger Living Building Challenge program and is awarded to projects that achieve at least three complete “Petals,” or performance categories. The San Diego studio successfully pursued six of the seven Petals including place, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty.

Interior of Miller Hull San Diego office
The 4,600-square-foot studio meets rigorous performance standards based on a building’s performance rather than projections. Photo courtesy of Chipper Hatter

July 16, 2020

HRI Properties is on Top in Tampa

DPR Construction recently celebrated the topping out of the new HRI Properties dual-branded Hyatt Place and Hyatt House project. Located adjacent to the historic Tampa Old City Hall building, the 364,000 sq.-ft. design-build space will feature 345 hotel rooms, 4,800 sq.-ft. of meeting space, an outdoor rooftop pool, 3,000 sq.-ft. of ground-floor retail space and 220 parking spots, 127 that will be reserved for public use.

To mark the topping out of the HRI Hyatt House and Hyatt Place project, the team signed their names to the building’s final steel beam and watched as a crane elevated it 17 stories into place.

A member of the project team signing the final steel beam. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

“There is nothing more rewarding than watching the months and months of hard work and planning culminate into a single event signifying the hard work and dedication of all the craft workers who enabled this milestone. We’re all glad to witness the last piece of signed steel soar overhead and into place,” said DPR’s Project Executive, Barry Cole.

The project’s downtown location and dense workspace added a layer of complexity. “Working in a downtown site is always fun! New challenges to tackle can emerge on an almost hourly basis,” said DPR Project Superintendent, John Donovan. Working within a tight footprint, the project team was able to coordinate traffic flow efforts to reduce any potential effects on neighboring businesses while continuing to maintain on-site safety.

“Anytime you’re working in a tight downtown site, there is nothing more rewarding than playing what feels like a real-life game of Tetris. We jockey full-size trucks and equipment around the project like a finely orchestrated dance,” said DPR Project Manager, Jason Page.

The final steel beam is raised into place. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

DPR self-performed the first-floor drywall and hard lid ceilings, three elevator lobbies, doors, and specialties. Self-perform crews also handled the installation of prefabricated exterior panels. The building’s exterior panels were prefabricated offsite utilizing Digital Building Components’ (DBC) robotic technology. The DBC panels are created in a controlled environment, rather than in the field, to ensure their quality. In a four-month span, the team installed 516 exterior panels, averaging about 12 panels per installation shift, a significant schedule savings compared to traditional exterior framing and Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) installation.

By using DBC, in addition to the schedule, a labor efficiency was also created. The project had a six-worker crew for the entire panel installation, compared to an average EIFS application which has roughly 50+ workers on the exterior of a building. DBC also promotes cleaner and safer installations by eliminating debris from an EIFS process and also by bypassing the need for mast climbers.

In addition to attracting new business and leisure visitors to the Tampa Bay area, upon its completion, the hotel will provide approximately 70 new employment opportunities. “As we work to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and get our economy back on its feet, we are so excited to celebrate new developments like the HRI Downtown Hyatt House and Hyatt Place Project. DPR Construction has been steadfast in their commitment to keeping our city moving forward safely in the midst of this pandemic. This project will help elevate our tourism industry as we reopen slowly and look forward to welcoming visitors back to our beautiful city in the future,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

July 14, 2020

DPR Completes Inova Loudoun’s Vision of High-Quality Care with New Patient Tower

erial view of Inova Loudoun Hospital's Patient Tower in Loudoun County, VA.
Aerial view of Inova Loudoun Hospital's Patient Tower in Loudoun County, VA. Photo courtesy of Louay Ghaziri

Inova Loudoun Hospital’s (ILH) Patient Tower in Loudoun County, Virginia, DPR Construction's largest healthcare project of its kind in the region, reached completion, wrapping up the final phase of ILH's $300 million master plan to expand the hospital’s facilities and services. Along the way, close collaboration among partners, leveraging data and careful planning were key components driving quality outcomes.

The Tower takes center stage as the new front-entrance of the hospital and spans a total of 382,000-sq-ft. DPR’s team constructed the seven-story Patient Tower in two years, with features including a dramatic main lobby, public circulation and waiting space, a new gift shop, provisions for a future rooftop helipad, a new pedestrian bridge linking the parking garage to the new tower, and state-of-the-art patient care capabilities to support expecting mothers, babies and in-patient needs.

“ILH put careful planning and consideration into the needs of the community in order to provide families with access to high quality medical care without having to leave Loudoun County,” said DPR Senior Project Manager Kimberly Shumaker.

The Patient Tower was ILH’s response to provide the Loudoun County community, one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, with private rooms and high-tech amenities. Because of this project, the hospital now has an expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with enhanced capabilities. The ILH Patient Tower is built to accommodate a total of 228 beds, including 24 NICU beds; 12 labor and delivery rooms; 5 C-section ORs; 10 prep and recovery rooms; 96 acuity adaptable beds allowing for care of postpartum, surgical and progressive care patients.

Interior shot of Inova Loudoun Hospital's Patient Tower lobby.
The Patient Tower was ILH’s response to provide the Loudoun County community, one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, with private rooms and high-tech amenities. Photo courtesy of Louay Ghaziri

To better understand Inova’s project needs, DPR referred to its experience working together on a past project, the Inova Ashburn HealthPlex. “The HealthPlex served as a stepping stone for our team and allowed us to get closer and understand Inova’s key priorities,” Shumaker said.

With their robust planning, DPR committed to respecting the hospital’s operations while it remained open through construction. This approach was made possible due to using data management systems and other tracking tools. Data visualization tools, such as Power BI, allowed their project team to forecast trends and transform data into actionable items on the jobsite.

DPR’s initial challenge was finding a solution for foundation installation after discovering during precon the jobsite was predominantly covered in diabase rock. ”This extremely dense diabase rock was just two feet under the topsoil, creating a large undertaking for the team. Blasting was required and we knew it had to be done with no disruption to the existing facility whatsoever,” said Shumaker.

Although blasting with dynamite occurred for almost 90% of the foundational work over the course of 12 weeks, normal campus operations were never interrupted.

Shumaker noted: “Each blast took one minute after a full day of preparation and conducting safety protocols. They even became an attraction that many spectators looked forward to, enticing visitors, patients and staff alike to safely observe.”

DPR’s Kimberly Shumaker and ILH President, Deborah Addo.
DPR’s Kimberly Shumaker and ILH President, Deborah Addo. Photo courtesy of Debra Troell/Inova Health System

Shumaker cites the partnership forged between DPR and Inova Loudoun early in the project as a key to success. The President of Inova Loudoun Hospital, Deborah Addo, and Shumaker worked together frequently, driven by their passion for the community they reside in, both having personal ties to the hospital and Loudoun.

“The success of the project is a testament to Deborah’s engagement, which continuously motivated our team to meet every challenge head on,” Shumaker said.

In mid-April, the ILH team began the multi-phase move into their new home two weeks early in light of COVID-19. The DPR team maintained a presence onsite for 36-hours straight during the move-in with key subcontractors to mitigate any arising issues as patients were being transferred. The hospital’s decision to move its labor and delivery unit early to the DPR-built new patient tower was done so to increase the number of beds available in the existing hospital for COVID-19 treatment and recovery.

July 9, 2020

Leveraging Prefab to Minimize Impact on Hospital Operations

DPR Construction used prefabricated modules from Digital Building Components to build temporary bypass hallways to minimize the impact of construction at a major hospital in the Phoenix area. The expansion project will add approximately 580,000 sq. ft. to the existing hospital building, with construction to be completed adjacent to the current Emergency Department (ED).

“We needed to perform major construction work while the busy emergency department remained functional,” said DPR project manager Mike Cummings. “Patients and staff needed access to the hospital, but the building expansion couldn’t be completed without moving the entrances.”

Hallway module lifted into place at Phoenix hospital
A hallway module is suspended via crane and guided into place at the Arizona hospital. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

The enclosed walkways routed pedestrian traffic to the hospital’s entrances, allowing patients to access critical care services while reducing disruptions. One hallway provides public access to the ED while the other provides ambulance and helipad personnel access.

With a combined length of approximately 700 ft. and interior dimensions of 8 ft. x 8 ft., each hallway was designed to ensure the comfort and safety of those who use them throughout the two and half years of the construction project. The prefabricated hallways meet stringent code requirements including a two-hour fire-resistance rating in the case of an emergency.

Several building methods were considered for the hallways. Cummings said the project team looked at traditional onsite construction, onsite fabrication, and offsite fabrication. All three options had similar costs, so the project team looked more closely at other factors: safety, on-time delivery, and impact to the hospital staff and patients.

The project team chose offsite prefabrication with components manufactured by Digital Building Components to best meet customer needs. Specifically, this method was projected to reduce the overall schedule by an estimated three weeks. The onsite team could pour concrete foundations to support the module components while the hallway sections – fitted with mechanical, electrical, and HVAC elements – were built in the fabrication shop.

“It took a lot of detailed and upfront coordination with our trade partners, but we were able to cut the installation time in half from what was anticipated for a traditional ‘stick-built’ system,” said Cummings. “This meant less disruption to patients and hospital operations.”

He notes that prefabrication wasn’t used for the entire passageway. The project team analyzed existing conditions and determined that a traditional construction method was more appropriate at the ends of the hallways. Canopies at the connections to the building meant cranes couldn’t drop the modules into place, so those sections were built conventionally. “We used prefabrication where it made the most sense and increased our productivity,” explained Cummings.

The productivity during installation far exceeded expectations and showed off the benefits to building some components offsite. Digital Building installed roughly 12 units a day and completed 47 in four days totaling roughly 520 linear feet with a crew of four. In the end, using prefabrication sped up completion of the temporary hallways by about five weeks and reduced onsite labor by approximately 2400 worker hours.

“We had been considering prefabricating other elements on the hospital too,” said Cummings. “After the successful hallway installation, the value was clear. We received customer approval to move forward with prefabricating the exterior wall panels.”

Crane lifting prefabricated hallway module
A crane lifts the prefabricated hallway module for installation. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

July 7, 2020

ATCC Project Tops Out Early, Despite Pandemic Restrictions

In late May, DPR marked the steel topping out for the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) Administrative Wing Expansion project in Manassas, VA. The $22M addition includes an open office plan, conference rooms, break areas, private offices, data center, an exterior canopy, and loading dock.

American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) Administrative Wing Expansion project
DPR marked the steel topping out for the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) Administrative Wing Expansion project in Manassas, VA. Photo courtesy of David Galen

Almost 6 months since construction began in November 2019, the topping out marks an important milestone for the project. The new structure, totaling 35,000 sq. ft., connects to the west side of the existing building, allowing ATCC to house all its employees under one roof for companywide collaboration.

Photo of the ATCC project jobsite.
The steel topping out marks an important milestone for the ATCC project. Photo courtesy of David Galen

The milestone occurred during Virginia’s COVID-19 “stay-at-home” order, so the team had to take extra measures to keep people safe and the project on track. Tyler Atkins, who serves as DPR’s project manager, said that the jobsite crew was reduced to enforce physical distancing guidelines and that DPR required that only craft workers directly involved with the project’s critical path were on site to continue with construction.

“We limited our crew to only having our steel subcontractor onsite for about one month at the beginning of the pandemic,” shared Atkins. “This resulted in a 95% completion of the steel, just four weeks before the final topping out, positioning us ahead of schedule.”

Exterior shot of the ATCC jobsite.
This milestone occurred during Virginia’s COVID-19 “stay-at-home” order, so the team had to take extra measures to keep people safe and the project on track. Photo courtesy of David Galen

Atkins shared how proud he is to work with a client on the cutting edge of cell research and development.

“ATCC cultivates primary and stem cells, which is not only fascinating, but also their research could be a catalyst to finding cures for various diseases and illnesses, such as COVID-19. It is an honor to work with a client who is making a positive difference in the world,” said Atkins.

ATCC’s administration wing is expected to be completed in March of 2021.

June 29, 2020

A “Beautiful” Utility Plant? At W&M, DPR Makes it Happen

“It’s a beautiful building to look at,” DPR Construction’s Kate Nice said of William & Mary’s new West Utility Plant, a project for which she served as senior project engineer. “Beauty” and “utility plant” don’t often go together, but the design by RMF Engineering and architect Lord Aeck Sargent makes it possible.

The plant’s design documents note that the glass-and-masonry building “creates a display case like experience for automotive and pedestrian traffic that filters through campus” that lets the campus community see the complex systems inside while also managing to blend in with the entire campus aesthetic.

A view of the the building showing colorful pipes and ductwork because of the utility plant's design.
The plant's systems are in clear view of the campus community. Photo courtesy of Lee Brauer

For DPR to bring vision to life, though, took considerable planning, a robust virtual design and construction (VDC) program, prefabrication, and skillful work in the field – especially solutions developed by DPR’s self-perform work corps. The result: a building that students have already dubbed “the Mario building,” an allusion to the famous video game plumber and the colorful pipes that make up his world. As students return to campus this fall, it will be hard to miss.

Going Virtual

Situated nearly in the center of the campus and adjacent to active roadways and sidewalks, the utility plant site was smaller than an acre but would require a dozen trades and significant amounts of materials.

“It was a very complex mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) system,” Nice said. “We really had to coordinate schedule, delivery of materials and more.”

Those needs underscored the need for a VDC program geared to making sure execution was seamless.

Pipes and ductwork overlapping throughout the interior of the utility plant.
Complex systems were handled digitally first, enabling more seamless operations in the field. Photo courtesy of Lee Brauer

“VDC tools meant we were able to do a lot of clash detection early and update plans accordingly,” Nice said. “That also meant nearly every piece of pipe and ductwork could be prefabricated offsite. Even the building pad work was made possible through our laser scanning team.”

Having such a robust digital model meant that W&M got a head start with operations and asset management, which includes using DPR’s strategic partner VueOps.

“The facility managers can manage this building on VueOps down to individual valves if they choose to,” Nice said.

Office space inside the plant where digital models of building systems are shown on screen.
Use of VDC means facility operators are a step ahead on operations and able to put VueOps to use. Photo courtesy of Lee Brauer

Getting Practical

While VDC and prefabrication allowed work to happen offsite, making it happen on-site fulfilled what was envisioned in planning. One key aspect was keeping the campus community safe.

“We could shut down vehicle traffic adjacent to the site, but not pedestrian traffic,” Nice said. “Lots of students would walk by the site, heads down looking at their phones. We ended up painting safety signage on the ground to make sure they knew what was happening off their screens and earbuds.”

Behind the site fence, the trades – including a significant number of DPR self-perform craft workers – installed more than 5,000 ft. of underground heating hot water and chilled water infrastructure to create a secondary underground piping loop which tied into six existing buildings. Among the crews’ accomplishments was finding a solution to prefabricate cold form metal framing for metal wall sections that included insulation and other elements. Doing so shrank a six-week portion of work down to a week and required fewer people on the site’s tight site footprint.

In the end, the 12,000-sq.-ft. project was completed with zero defects.

“It’s what we love to do,” Nice said. “This was a very complex project that required us to leverage our technical building ability and our tools like VDC, self-perform and prefabrication. That it’s become so visible on campus is gratifying for the entire team.”

The exterior of the plant with masonry that matches the rest of the campus.
The building's design matches the rest of the campus. Photo courtesy of Lee Brauer

May 7, 2020

DPR Means Business at Clemson University

DPR Construction recently celebrated reaching substantial completion on Clemson University’s College of Business. The $87M project, features 24 teaching spaces, a five-story interior atrium, faculty offices, and amenities including a fireplace lounge and La Madeleine Café.

Clemson’s new College of Business is redefining the center of the university’s campus while creating a state-of-the-art think tank environment for the college’s growing student population. The 176,000 sq.-ft. facility’s collaborative, 21st century design overlooks the famous Tillman Hall clock tower and Bowman Field creating a new center of campus with room for future expansion beyond the business school.

Notably, DPR’s project team was able to hit substantial completion on time while adhering to physical distancing protocols. A new front door to Clemson’s historic campus, the new College of Business will open its doors to students this fall.

March 11, 2020

At NIH, Prefabrication Delivers Quality on Schedule

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Sep. 4, 2020.

DPR installed 10 prefabricated modules for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. The Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TIL) Cell Processing Modular Facility, where the National Cancer Institute (NCI) delivers cutting-edge cancer treatment, is the first large-scale, fully prefabricated and modular multi-module cGMP manufacturing facility of its kind ever built in the United States.

DPR workers finalize installation of a modular unit at the NIH project.
DPR workers finalize installation of a modular unit at the NIH project. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin Photography

The prefabricated modules were supplied by subcontractor Germfree’s Ormond Beach, Florida, manufacturing facility. The modules, which span an average 14 x 40 feet each, include a cell processing suite, cleanroom lab space, a cold storage room, office and work spaces and more.

Construction crews undertook an extremely complex rigging procedure to move the modules into place. It involved a carefully choreographed sequence of rigging and hoisting the 40,000- to 50,000-pound modules some 35 to 40 feet into the air, over the structural steel exterior building envelope and through the open roof to set them in place on their foundations.

Magnifying the challenge, the entire operation took place a mere 40 feet from two adjacent, fully operational medical and research buildings. Vibration monitoring required close coordination with users in adjacent buildings to ensure that sensitive activities were not affected. “The logistics of planning the rigging was extremely complex,” commented DPR Project Executive Jeff Vertucci. He noted that the decision to construct the building’s exterior structural steel frame prior to installing the modules – essentially building the structure from the outside in – helped the team keep to schedule even as elements of the project changed. It is just one example of the solution-oriented approach adopted by the DPR-led design-build team working in concert with Germfree, architect Perkins & Will, and owner/end user, NIH and NCI.

The DPR team prepares a modular unit to be hoisted into the NIH structure.
DPR worked with its design-build team to develop a complex rigging plan that helped ensure project schedule. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin Photography

“We were already well into design and planning when we collaborated with our customer to recalibrate the scope for NIH, while also retaining a schedule that met their needs,” Vertucci said. “By enclosing the building and getting structural steel erected before the modules showed up, then reworking a rigging plan to drop the modules in through the roof, it made the rigging much more challenging but allowed us to save at least three months versus a traditional approach.”

That solution worked so well that NIH has asked DPR to re-sequence another job they are currently building on campus, the six-module CCDTM project, using the same approach, according to Vertucci. This DTM Modular Facility is using the same Germfree components as the TIL Facility.

Groundbreaking Technology

As DPR’s seventh project on the NIH campus, the TIL facility is a groundbreaking project in the world of cancer treatment. DPR Project Manager Ignacio Diaz said the facility’s lifesaving mission has provided the design and construction team extra motivation to work collaboratively and overcome an array of challenges in order to get the project up and running as quickly as possible.

“This is one of those jobs that did not need much outside influence to motivate people,” Diaz commented. “Cancer is such a common thing; virtually everybody is touched by it. The fact that we are building this facility that really impacts almost everybody is powerful. It gives us more incentive to finish fast so the end users, the researchers, can get to doing what they do – curing cancer, or at least helping to do so.”

A worker welds at the NIH project
A worker welds at the NIH project. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin Photography

Leveraging Expertise to Move Project Forward

With a footprint spanning approximately 6,000 sq. ft., the TIL Cell Processing Modular Facility is supported by an auger pile foundation drilled as deep as 30 feet. The structure has three levels: a bottom floor “crawl space” that follows the existing site slope, containing gas piping that includes the supplies of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) to the facility; a first floor comprising the 10 prefabricated modules; and a mechanical floor above. The mechanical level contains the building’s HVAC system, including two air handling units and two exhaust fans, electrical conduit for building controls and power systems, IT infrastructure and more.

Since being awarded the project in October 2017, DPR leveraged its design management capabilities, its technical construction skills and its off-site construction management expertise to help keep the project moving forward while contending with underground utility rerouting, logistical challenges and tight site access, among other things. When the owner needed to make extensive programming changes to reconfigure the facility’s planned workflow during the design phase, DPR worked to re-sequence the project’s construction processes in order to make up some of the lost time.

Construction formally kicked off on the TIL Facility jobsite in August 2018, just two months after the off-site module prefabrication work was getting underway at Germfree’s Florida manufacturing plant.

An aerial view of the NIH project shows a modular unit in place inside the building.
From above, it's easy to see how the modular units piece together inside the structure. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin Photography

Modular Construction Delivers Quality Benefits

Off-site construction has provided significant quality and quality control benefits, according to Vertucci. Both the modules and the majority of the building systems were prefabricated off-site.

“I think ultimately NIH & NCI ends up with a phenomenally high-quality, state-of-the-art project when this is completed,” Vertucci commented. “Building this in a controlled environment in a warehouse manufacturing facility, by Germfree technicians who do this work all the time, makes the quality excellent.”

Adding to the quality control benefits, DPR self-performed significant portions of the work with its own crews, including all exterior framing, sheeting, vapor barriers, doors, masonry and various other items.

Push Towards Completion

The project team also had an integrated commissioning plan to allow the owner’s Commissioning Qualification and Validation (CQV) agent to start with commissioning of systems earlier and more time to work through the NIH document reviews that come with the cGMP facility requirements.

DPR also handled all scientific equipment procurement on the project for the owner, a turnkey approach to project delivery that adds additional value for the client. This integrated approach ensured that DPR’s scientific equipment team handed over a project with the necessary components needed for the research program the space is being used for.