We believe that building sustainable structures is simply the right thing to do. We’ve even built three net-zero energy buildings as our own offices in Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco. Read some of our green stories and thoughts from some of our over 400 LEED accredited Professionals.



November 12, 2018

Leading the Sustainability Discussion at Greenbuild 2018

The stage setup for Greenbuild plenary sessions.
Greenbuild brings together thought leaders to advance the sustainability discussion in the built environment. Photo courtesy of Jay Weisberger

The conversation about sustainability is evolving. We’re on the cusp of some exciting things that could have long-term benefits for communities everywhere; construction has an opportunity to play a leading role in making these things a reality.

DPR Construction sustainability leaders are gearing up for Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Nov. 14-16, in Chicago. Here are a few of the things we’re excited to talk about this year, especially with partners who want to align construction delivery with their organizations’ wellness and sustainability goals.

The intersection of wellness and green in buildings

From the start, LEED® has recognized contributions to healthier indoor environmental quality. Guidelines for the WELL Building Standard™ take things a step further, aiming to create spaces that proactively help occupants be healthier. Combining these two rating systems is now delivering value that pencils out.

DPR Construction's Washington, DC regional office.
DPR's Washington, DC office shows the intersection of green building methods with employee health. Photo courtesy of ©Judy Davis / Hoachlander Davis Photography

Additionally, recently published books like Rex Miller’s Healthy Workplace Nudge are connecting the dots between workplaces and healthcare costs. Miller notes the rise in chronic diseases in the United States is increasing healthcare cost to a point where they will be unsustainable for businesses, with projections that companies will pay $25,000 for health insurance per employee each year as soon as 2025. At the same time, companies spend nearly $700 per employee annually on wellness programs that do not deliver results. Instead, we should imagine an environment where decisions are made based on employee health and well-being instead of upfront cap ex costs.

DPR’s new office in Reston, Virginia—a significant renovation of the common type of office park building found in every major U.S. market—shows how. The team found ways to marry LEED and WELL approaches and track for Net Zero Energy certification. The new space “nudges” occupants toward healthier behaviors through things like making it easier to find a healthy snack than junk food and an in-office workout room for employees to consider with their busy schedules. It accomplishes this without compromising building energy and water performance targets. The WELL Certified Gold and LEED Platinum space will pay for itself over the life of the lease through on-site energy generation, water savings and resulting lease negotiations due to the increased appraisal value of the building and long-term net savings to the landlord from the green retrofit.

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

Real world Net Zero applications for private development

In Reston, DPR’s Net Zero certification will be enabled by rooftop photovoltaics, which have also reached a point where the costs of the equipment and installation are offset by the cost savings from on-site energy generation or reduced lease rates for usage. Potentially, communities can now start to look at rooftop spaces and build a more robust PV infrastructure to generate more power and, ultimately, inoculate building owners from energy cost fluctuation. Think about the rooftop of a convention center or sports arena: huge spaces we could put to work. If we make a similar commitment to rainwater collection to what we believe we can do with PV, we could help alleviate drought problems, too.

Social equity through a construction lens

Sandoval-renteria in a group discussion on his job site.
DPR's Alberto Sandoval-Renteria recommends entering the trades as early as possible to start learning and build a career, even without a college degree. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

More and more, we’re discussing social equity when we get together to discuss sustainability. It might seem like a construction firm wouldn’t have a lot to say on this subject. Instead, we believe construction is uniquely positioned to be a major contributor to a more equitable society.

For starters, construction is among the few industries hiring people without a college degree and putting many of those folks on fulfilling career tracks. This is true not only in the trades but also for our office management staff. The majority of DPR’s superintendent and craft leadership do not have degrees and came up through the trades. With a labor shortage across our industry, construction can be an attractive career for anyone who doesn’t want – or simply cannot afford – the financial burdens of attending college. Making well-paying careers attainable for more people would be a significant step toward bridging the wage gap. We’re seeing some tech companies create these opportunities for white collar workers; construction can set the tone in the blue collar workforce.

Moreover, construction also hires a significant number of local small businesses, many of which are certified minority-, woman- or veteran-owned emerging small businesses. Much as we try to source regional materials for greener projects, the more we can use our projects to help these small, local businesses grow, the more we guarantee the health of local economies. As DPR strives to be integral and indispensable to the communities where we operate, our ability to include local partners in our projects is a significant focus.

We’re past the time of simply talking about making greener buildings. Now, when we go to Greenbuild, we focus on our ability to truly create sustainable communities.

April 20, 2018

Next Stop on the Road to Sustainability: Carbon Neutral

san diego office
The recent purchase of 16,500 metric tons of Verified Carbon Offsets certifies that DPR's offices in Phoenix, San Diego, Pasadena and Newport Beach are carbon neutral through 2020. Photo courtesy of Hewitt Garrison

At DPR Construction, the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions just shifted into neutral. Through a pilot program in the technical builder’s Southwest region, the recent purchase of 16,500 metric tons of Verified Carbon Offsets certifies that DPR's offices in Phoenix, San Diego, Pasadena and Newport Beach are carbon neutral through 2020.

Through the program, the Verified Carbon Offsets will balance the estimated amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere by employees and jobsites, with an equal amount of CO2 that’s captured through Green-e Climate, a global third-party certification program. DPR’s Southwest region is already home to highly sustainable office locations, with both San Diego and Phoenix achieving net-zero certification in 2016 and 2013, respectively. 

The investment in neutralizing the region’s carbon footprint is the next logical step in environmentally forward thinking, according to Brian Gracz, who leads DPR’s San Diego business unit. He cited the importance of setting and achieving tangible goals as part of the builder’s unwavering commitment to sustainability, particularly in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

“DPR set a companywide goal in 2007 to reduce employee greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by the year 2015, and we exceeded it,” Gracz shared. “Not only did we reduce emissions by more than 30 percent, we received a Climate Leadership Award for Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management from the EPA in 2014.

indoor outdoor space
Environmentally friendly indoor/outdoor work spaces featured throughout DPR's Newport Beach office. Photo courtesy of Victor Muschetto

2020: a sustainable vision   
For the Southwest region, projections to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020 are based on several factors, including a 2013 carbon footprint study of the region’s offices and an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Climate Leadership Award. The 2020 projections also take into account an expected doubling of DPR’s staff in Phoenix and tripling of staff in Southern California.         

Just as Fortune Magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies” for social responsibility—Walt Disney, Starbucks and GE among them—have a sustainability story to tell, so does DPR. In addition to earning International Living Future Institute (ILFI) net-zero energy certification through its net-zero energy offices in Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego and Washington, D.C., DPR has also implemented a number of solutions to reduce its carbon footprint at both the regional and national levels.

The 2007 national initiative began with the documentation of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon footprint survey was conducted to determine individual employee emissions such as travel and commuting, as well as jobsite emissions. As a result, DPR implemented employee education campaigns, along with targeted reduction strategies such as the use of more efficient fleet vehicles.   

solar panels
Solar panels installed on the roof of DPR's Phoenix office. Photo courtesy of Gregg Mastorakos

The value of capturing carbon
While companies and individuals everywhere are embracing various forms of renewable energy, carbon likely will continue to fuel the energy demands of a global market. That’s why carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology can play an important role. According to the Carbon Capture & Storage Association, CCS can capture up to 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions produced by fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, and prevent it from entering the atmosphere.

As a member of the EPA Center for Corporate Climate Leadership, DPR is steadfast in continuing to do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Purchased in bulk, the Southwest region’s 16,500 metric tons of Verified Carbon Offsets are sourced through a landfill gas project capture validated and registered under high-quality project standards through Green-e Climate. 

According to Gracz, the bulk price value of approximately $2 per ton made the investment in Verified Carbon Offsets to balance the region’s carbon emissions all the more worthwhile. Total cost for the Southwest region to remain carbon neutral through 2020: approximately $20,000. 

The investment is another step forward on an environmental path paved with voluntary actions and sustainable results.  

April 2, 2018

DPR, Gensler/CCG Design-Build Team Helps Merck Achieve its First ENERGY STAR Certified Data Center

Merck K 22 data center rendering
Photo courtesy of Gensler

Energy efficiency is a challenge for many mission critical, energy-intensive data centers, but top pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck and Company’s new Tier III data center facility in Kenilworth, New Jersey has achieved just that. The facility recently received coveted ENERGY STAR certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Delivered by the integrated design-build team of Merck, DPR, Gensler and CCG, the data center has been commissioned to satisfy Merck’s stringent design criteria and performance-based certification process to earn ENERGY STAR designation. This is the first ENERGY STAR certified data center for Merck.

Designed and built in just eight months, the integrated team delivered the facility a full month ahead of schedule. The project scope included conversion of a one-story, steel-framed manufacturing building into a new state-of-the-art energy efficient data center. The 42,000-sq.-ft. facility includes two data halls and administrative support space. Major components include a chilled water cooling system utilizing prefabricated chiller plants and computer room air handler units in each data hall, and an electrical system comprising two power train systems in an N+1 redundancy configuration. Each of those systems consists of switchgear with dedicated standby generators and four uninterruptable power supply modules.

DPR’s Brett Korn pointed out that the data center’s ENERGY STAR designation translates into real operational savings for Merck, estimated at around 5 percent of the facility’s typical operating budget. Achieving ENERGY STAR status also highlights the responsibility global market leaders like Merck place on reducing carbon footprint and lowering operating costs through environmentally responsible development.

Korn added, “ENERGY STAR certification shows that a company is looking to reduce costs and to operate the facility in the most efficient way possible, even while focused on creating highly reliable infrastructure. In data centers, you’re putting in redundant equipment which can impact energy efficiency. By installing highly energy efficient data processing equipment that allows the facility to operate at higher temperatures, Merck achieved maximum efficiencies and lowered its operating costs. Monitoring and documenting the equipment’s performance for a full year afterwards was key and takes time and patience.”

Photo courtesy of ENERGY STAR

Engaging a design-build team with the level of technical construction expertise and data center experience that Merck, DPR, CCG and Gensler possess was also crucial to the project’s success. The project team focused on achieving energy efficiency goals from the onset. The team meticulously tracked and adhered to performance milestones to help the facility achieve both ENERGY STAR status and LEED Silver certification from the US Green Building Council.

At the end of the day, Korn pointed out that multiple factors contributed to driving the project forward to successful completion and to helping it attain ENERGY STAR status, including:

  • a knowledgeable motivated client committed to achieving specific energy-related savings goals and willing to take a different path in the design, construction, operation and monitoring of their data center facility;
  • a highly experienced project team that pursued targeted energy-related goals from day one, understanding if any system deviated from pre-established guidelines, it could not negatively impact the energy consumption of the facility;
  • the appointment of specific individuals on the project team responsible for actively tracking and monitoring the design criteria, systems, and performance indicators to ensure milestones were met; and
  • the team’s willingness to innovate by employing lean construction and extensive levels of prefabrication (estimated at 25 percent of the facility).

This data center project has allowed Merck to meet its business objectives in the region while building a solid foundation for future work and forging a lasting bond between DPR and Merck. “Merck’s mission is ‘Inventing for Life’ by improving the quality of life for the world,” shared Michael J. Abbatiello, who oversaw creation of Merck’s design criteria document which outlines the required technical specifications used for bidding, detail designing, commissioning and operating the facility. “Not only do energy efficient facilities reduce operating costs, but they also represent the environmental benefits that align with our mission.”

The Merck project was DPR’s first major new customer for its New Jersey office, which initially opened in 2008 and has doubled in size, serving customers throughout the state.

ENERGY STAR certification requires that energy consumption data be continuously tracked and professionally verified using an online reporting tool via EPA, hitting specific benchmarks. Recertification is required annually. For more specifics, go to www.energystar.gov/ENERGYSTARS.

November 10, 2017

Honoring DPR Veterans: Landry Watson, U.S. Navy

In spring 2006, Landry Watson was in Fallujah, finishing up his last combat deployment as a lieutenant commander and operations officer of a U.S. Navy SEAL squadron. During his five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, his teams suffered no casualties–all his teammates were able to come home safely to their families.   

By the summer of 2006, Watson, who graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in construction science, was in San Diego, sending out resumes and trying to start a new career after over ten years serving in the Navy’s primary special operations force. Although he had led platoons and task units in complex and dangerous combat situations, while managing an ever-changing mix of time, resources and people, he found most companies weren’t willing to take a chance on him. He was an unproven variable in his late 30s, starting a second career from scratch, a humbling experience for the decorated military officer.  

“It’s DPR’s culture to create an entrepreneurial organization where people can make a difference with their ideas and hard work. DPR saw my raw talent and potential, believed I could develop and grow, took a chance on me and empowered me to be a contributor,” he said.  

Landry Watson is presented with a Bronze Star Medal, awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement or service. Photo courtesy of Landry Watson

Now a project manager specializing in sustainable design and construction, Watson helps customers develop and implement the best strategies to build sustainable structures, improving efficiency, employee productivity and marketability. A self-proclaimed conservationist and environmentalist, his passion for sustainability was influenced in part by his time spent in the military. Serving overseas, he saw how other societies lived, deeply contrasted with the freedom, opportunities and social responsibility we often take for granted in the U.S.  

“In these countries where we were fighting, their primary resource is the oil that fuels the economy and the rest of the world. As a country, if we want to continue to be a global leader, we can’t continue to be dependent on traditional sources of energy and resources that we don’t have,” he said.  

On projects including the UCSD Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center and the San Diego Community College District's Miramar Science Building, Watson has educated customers and project teams, helping them use a collaborative methodology and custom tools to address the triple bottom line: environmental, social and economic. 

On projects including the UCSD Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center, Watson has educated customers and teams about sustainability. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

One lesson that Watson learned in the military that translates to his career today is that being a leader is less about having every single answer yourself, and more about taking care of people and empowering their success.  

“It’s trusting the expertise of the teammate that is most likely to have the answer, usually the person who works on the issue in question every day. It isn’t wise to think that you are smarter than your subcontractor or one of your platoonmates; that doesn’t work in construction or the military. They know best how to solve your problems–you just have to trust them,” he said.  

On a jobsite, the most important variables to manage are time, resources and people, just like in the military. Watson’s understanding of how to triage all the tasks that need to be completed, while keeping people safe and overcoming obstacles that come in the way of sequence comes from his first career as a SEAL. Both fields of work have their own inherent dangers that require all the pieces to operate in tandem, like a finely tuned machine, to prevent injury, improve efficiency and successfully complete a project or mission.  

And just like his time in the military, at the end of the day when Watson sends every member of his team back home safely to his or her family, he will also send them back to a world that is a little better than when they left it. 

When Watson sends every member of his team back home safely to his or her family, he will also send them back to a world that is a little better than when they left it. Photo courtesy of Landry Watson

May 24, 2016

Bloomberg Takes Viewers Inside Facebook’s Sweden Data Center

Status updates, comments, likes, photos, videos... they all require data and need to be accessible within just a few clicks, 24 hours a day, by Facebook's 1.65 billion monthly active users around the world.

That calls for large quantities of data, strong processing power, and a lot of cooling. This is why the seaside town of Luleå, located on the edge of the Arctic Circle and considered Sweden's Silicon Valley, was a perfect location for Facebook to build one of its massive greenfield data center developments.

At 300,000 sq. ft., Facebook's Luleå Data Center is one of the largest and most efficient data centers ever built. The data center, like Facebook's other facilities built by DPR in Oregon, North Carolina and Texas, features a super-efficient design that uses 100 percent outside air to cool the data center. This eliminates the need for power-hungry chillers to cool the tens of thousands of servers that run around the clock. Excess heat that is generated from the servers is pumped back into the building to keep the office space warm for employees. Power is provided locally by a reliable, 100 percent renewable energy source: hydroelectricity. Hydroelectricity is so reliable that Facebook has been able to eliminate the number of onsite backup generators by 70 percent.

As part of Bloomberg's "Hello World" video series, in which journalist and best-selling author Ashlee Vance explores the tech scene in various countries, Ashlee finds out where "all [his] embarrassing photos live" while he takes a guided tour of the facility with Joel Kjellgren, Facebook's site manager. 

DPR completed building one of Facebook's Luleå development, aptly named "LLA1," in 17 months through a joint venture between NCC Construction Sweden and Fortis Construction in Portland, Oregon. LLA1 achieved LEED-NC Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and received top honors with the "Innovation in the Mega Data Center" award at the Datacenter Dynamics EMEA Awards in 2014.

July 28, 2015

Is a Net-Zero Energy Campus Possible?

When it comes to higher education facilities, how attainable is net-zero energy? 

During the Florida Educational Facilities Planners’ Association, Inc. (FEFPA) 2015 Summer Conference, I joined industry leaders Nick Ertmer with DPR Construction, Stella Perico with Leo A. Daly, Scott Robinson with AEI Consultants, and Buck Martinez with FPL on a panel to discuss sustainable design and construction strategies, and lessons learned from prior campus projects.

Here's a summary of what we discussed:

  • Change starts early. And it starts with all of us inspiring and challenging industry professionals to push themselves and help their customers consider incorporating sustainable options, such as Architecture 2030’s “2030 Challenge.” Imagine if we could meet the goal of all new buildings being carbon neutral by the year 2030!
     
  • Consider the human impact on sustainability. The next phases of green building will be as much about people as technology. To evolve to the next level of green, the industry needs to embrace using energy models and building owners need to commit to collecting post-occupancy data. Facility managers can then compare data to the energy model to verify that the building meets the performance metrics it was designed to achieve. To bridge the gap from construction to efficient operations, the campus facility manager can participate in design discussions. Why? Through early education, the facility manager can use the energy model to establish a performance baseline, and have a solid understanding on how to maximize the building’s performance to track each year.
     
  • Success stories. While we can use technology to measure successful sustainable practices, one thing will always affect the bottom line, and that’s the end user. Consider Florida International University’s Academic Health Center 4. Completed in 2013, the team on the 136,000-sq.-ft. project used the energy model and as a result, was able to modify the building controls to make sure the building performs as designed. In just one year, the university saved $77,000 in gas and electric costs.

By challenging ourselves, our project teams, and by raising awareness on lessons learned from others on the path to sustainable campus design and construction, net-zero energy can be attainable.

Learn more about DPR's green and net-zero energy experience here.

(Left to Right) Buck Martinez, Scott Robinson, Stella Perico, Kirk Stetson, Mouji Linarez-Castillo (blog author), and Nick Ertmer speak on a panel discussing ‘Is a Net-Zero Campus Possible? What Others Have Done and What the Payoff Can Be’ during FEFPA’s 2015 Summer Conference

February 4, 2015

Tracking Green at Space Designed for Net-Zero Energy

At DPR's San Francisco office-—which is designed for net-zero energy—it's all about collecting data and using it for optimization. Like each DPR green/net-zero energy building before it, DPR will use the collected building data to improve the next space. 

The office uses 3 primary data collection and building management technologies, which include:

  • Integrated Honeywell building management system—the “brains” of the building;
  • Lucid Building Dashboard®— the key energy use “benchmarking” tool; and
  • LEED Dynamic Plaque™—a new technology that tracks LEED certification. 

Learn more about how DPR is using these technologies to optimize the high-performing building in this article.


DPR's office is one of the earliest adopters piloting the new LEED Dynamic Plaque™. Photo Credit: Lyzz Schwegler

December 16, 2014

ENR Picks Net-Zero Energy Office as Project of the Year

“A beautifully done project that pushed existing technology.”

That’s how one of the Engineering News-Record (ENR) judges described ENR’s Northern California Project of the Year and Best Green Project: DPR’s net-zero energy designed office in San Francisco.

The team with the award at the ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Walker)

There were 140 total entries for ENR California’s Best Project Award. Judges evaluated projects on five distinct criteria:

  1. Overcoming challenges and teamwork
  2. Safety
  3. Innovation & contribution to the industry/community
  4. Construction quality & craftsmanship
  5. Function & aesthetic quality of design

Along with DPR as the builder, the design and consulting team included FME Architecture + Design, Integral Group, Paradigm Structural Engineers, Inc., Decker Electric, Anderson, Row & Buckley, Inc. and 58 other essential partners.

In five months, the team researched, designed, permitted and built the highly-efficient, 24,000-sq.-ft. modern workplace with a number of sustainability features, including the LEED Dynamic Plaque. DPR’s office and the U.S. Green Building Council’s headquarters in Washington, DC, are the first two to use the LEED Dynamic Plaque, which is a building performance monitoring and scoring platform.

Watch the videos below, which explain DPR's net-zero energy designed office and its LEED Dynamic Plaque.

December 3, 2014

What Gets Measured Gets Done

Measurement is key to getting things done. This is especially true when it comes to creating smarter, better functioning buildings to bridge the gap between predicted and actual building systems’ performance.

To achieve net-zero certification, for example, organizations such as the International Living Future Institute look at a building’s annual performance to ensure that it produces all of its energy (examples include DPR's Phoenix Regional Office and the Packard Foundation Headquarters). 

However, at DPR, we believe that there needs to be an energy measurement for all buildings beyond LEED, not just net-zero buildings. This will help building owners and users compare results to improve building performance. 

Learn about what DPR’s Management Committee recommended for the industry to benchmark energy usage. 

(Hint: It's a metric called energy use intensity.)

September 21, 2014

Insights on Total Cost of Ownership

How can BIM help reduce operations and maintenance costs? What data yields the biggest results? Why isn't it being captured? What is "total cost of ownership" (TCO) anyway? 

DPR's Director of Consulting Andrew Arnold answers all these questions in a Q&A for the latest edition of the DPR Review. In the article, Andrew explains that the cost of designing and constructing a building is only 10 percent of the cost over the lifecycle of the building. The operation cost, which includes regular service and preventive maintenance for building systems, ongoing repairs, consumables and energy consumption, is 90 percent. This is why owners are realizing the importance of designing for TCO–often, investing a little more up front in a better building will mean savings over the long term.

Andrew highlights the value that building information modeling (BIM) can provide to operations and maintenance teams. When the right BIM data flows easily to operations teams, they can manage a building more efficiently and effectively. 

Read Andrew's entire Q&A here.