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.



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

September 20, 2019

Data-Driven Decisions

It seemed like a given: renovating a 1980s office space to achieve Net-Zero Energy (NZE) use would require additional insulation. But the team designing and building DPR Construction’s new Washington, D.C. regional office had three prior DPR NZE offices' worth of data to lean on as they worked.

The first estimate of the insulation cost was $130,000. However, deeper examination and a subsequent comparison of energy models with and without insulation demonstrated only a $460 per year savings with insulation.

"The payback was never!" according to DPR’s Chris Gorthy, who helped lead the project. The 20,000-sq.-ft. office is not only tracking for NZE certification, but also achieved LEED® Platinum and WELL™ Gold certifications.

The data meant that, instead of a costly upgrade for a negligible return, DPR made a better investment by buying another solar panel for that cost and more than offset the minimal insulation loss.

Such is the power of data. When it comes to high-performance buildings, DPR is working on more fronts than ever to collect data that can mean returns for customers. For the D.C. office, data was key for decisions, from the best ways to incorporate daylighting to the selection of the mechanical system.

Located in Reston, VA, DPR’s D.C. office is one of many “Living Laboratories” created to push the boundaries of what’s possible. DPR is using data from these projects to inform future projects, both for the company and customers. With billions of square feet of office park space of a similar age, the right data could mean more affordable ways to extend the lifespan of the buildings while also operating at leading edge energy and water efficiency.

Reston interior view
Located in Reston, VA, DPR’s D.C. office is one of many "Living Laboratories" created to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Photo courtesy of Hochlander Davis photography

"The construction industry has so many metrics, but the overall quality of available data is low," said Kaushal Diwan, who leads innovation for DPR. "We want to change that so we can deliver more value to customers, new possibilities for existing buildings and, ultimately, more predictable outcomes across the project lifecycle."

This is especially true with high-performing buildings and the trend toward healthy workspaces, including those seeking WELL certification.

Building WELL

"During procurement for the new Charlotte office of architect Little [Diversified] in uptown Charlotte, NC, we had to comb through a ton of products," said DPR’s Ryan Poole. "There was an emphasis on locally-sourced wood, as well as materials that met WELL requirements. Now, we have a tool that can expedite that process, combining data from across geographies to streamline procurement."

While there are tools for data on the front end of a project, real-time building performance data can inform decisions for customers.

"Actual data on building operations in a variety of climates could be incredibly valuable," said DPR’s Greg Amon. "There is a big opportunity with live tracking abilities to see where there are spikes in energy usage and how we can mitigate them. That information will be actionable for many of our customers in similar facilities."

That should have near-term benefits for building performance, but the opportunities a few years out are even more exciting. For example, as buildings aim to apply artificial intelligence (AI), those sorts of metrics can help build smarter AI systems.

"There is great potential for data to lead to new ways buildings are operated and maintained," Diwan said. "But building an AI platform that can fulfill ‘intelligent’ decisions takes having good data. The systems we’re starting to implement in our Living Labs provide a basis for that next step."

Building a Data Set

Ultimately, data will change the way buildings are designed, built and used.

"Think about a university classroom building," Diwan said. "If it’s only occupied and used eight hours a day, but lit 16 hours and climate-controlled 24 hours, that’s a lot of inefficient use. Using campus-wide building usage data could show when and how different buildings are used. All of that together could change how we design and build for those places."

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

https://www.dpr.com/assets/cas...For DPR, those changes start with its Living Labs. Lessons from the D.C. regional office—which built on knowledge from offices in San Francisco, San Diego and Phoenix—have already informed decisions at new spaces for DPR in Austin and Sacramento.

"It’s not good enough to wait for the market to build the data set for us," Poole said. "If we want to truly deliver high-performance buildings at market rates, we need to be the pioneers. The tools we’re putting in place will get us there."

A Living Lab is buildable, usable, sustainable and operable. With its new D.C. office, how did DPR realize each?

Buildable: The team chose to forgo an expensive insulation upgrade—which according to living lab data wouldn’t have penciled out—and instead invested in an extra solar panel.

Usable: Employees were surveyed to ensure that features and spaces were configured to meet the needs of the team working in and using the space.

Sustainable: The building showcases dozens of sustainable and cradle-to-cradle materials to demonstrate quality and test their durability over time—like the four different concrete floor finishes used throughout the space.

Operable: Real-time analysis and monitoring systems, as well as dashboards, help users see water usage and energy usage/generation.

To learn more about the sustainable building strategies and office features that helped DPR earn WELL Gold, LEED Platinum, and NZE certifications, click here.

August 20, 2019

DPR Construction’s New Sacramento Office Pushes the Envelope in Sustainable Design

Office Incorporates Material Never Before Used in Sacramento for a Building’s Structure

In an area famed for its fertile farmland, a new type of green initiative has been taking root as DPR Construction puts the finishing touches on its innovative new office space at 1801 J Street in Sacramento. When DPR opens a new office, it aims to forge a new path for sustainability, creating “living labs” to show what is possible in green and healthy workplace design. In Sacramento, DPR is manifesting that by incorporating a material never before used for a building’s structure in the city: mass timber with cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels. A renewable resource, mass timber can be an integral part of a low-carbon development; for this project, it was vital to DPR meeting its goals for sustainable design, as well as achieving LEED® Platinum and WELLTM certification standards.

For its new Sacramento home, DPR purchased an existing property for re-use, adapting it to be net-zero energy. Photo courtesy of Marshall Andrews

In a move that itself demonstrates the “reduce, reuse and recycle” mantra of conservation, DPR purchased an existing property for re-use, utilizing a design by SmithGroup to transform it into DPR’s new Sacramento home. The existing 28,833-sq.-ft. midtown property’s two buildings are targeting Zero Energy Certification (ZNE) from the International Living Future Institute. To achieve ZNE, the office will offset its energy use via on-site photovoltaic solar energy generation and ban the use of any combustibles, relying on electrical energy alone. Key to DPR’s ability to meet sustainable design goals for this project was the incorporation of mass timber construction with cross-laminated timber panels made up of pressed, dried timber boards stacked at right angles and glued together with non-toxic adhesive—a material not previously used in this manner in Sacramento.

Mass timber products are engineered for loads similar in strength to structural materials like concrete and steel, but they allow crews to build tall, with a lighter, natural, low-carbon and high-quality material. This effort sheds light on the possibilities for the region’s aging building stock, and it showcases how incorporating wood in an exciting, sustainable manner can benefit commercial projects.

Wood Elements Deliver Strength, Resiliency While Reducing Carbon Footprint

From a structural perspective, CLT and mass timber elements provide high-strength, resilient systems capable of long spans and significant wind and seismic force resistance. At the time of design review, Sacramento building codes did not yet recognize these systems for use as lateral force-resisting elements, so design teams reached beyond existing codes to demonstrate equivalent or superior performance with CLT. They made use of the many years of research and testing conducted by organizations such as WoodWorks, FP Innovations, ANSI/APA and Structurlam to navigate code, design and construction issues. It is also the first multi-story shear wall application of CLT in the State of California.

Mass timber elements provide high-strength, resilient systems capable of long spans and significant wind and seismic force resistance. Photo courtesy of Marshall Andrews

From a sustainability perspective, mass timber offers even more benefit. Because of its use in this structure, the embodied carbon is estimated to be lower by 170 metric tons than comparable structures using traditional materials. Further, it is estimated that US & Canadian forests grow enough wood for this project in only 12 seconds, highlighting the current availability of wood product. And it’s not just the timber; the building utilizes mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems to reduce energy use vs. baseline by 45%, with 424 photovoltaic panels for an annual production of 265,178 kWh/year. In the sunny Central Valley, this is projected to yield 107% of onsite energy needs annually. A 9.8 kWh battery backup system is included for added resiliency during system outages and to serve as a community hub in the event of natural disaster.

Exposed Timber Provides Unique Connection to Nature

Exposed timber also provided DPR with the opportunity to create a high-end, modern office environment that showcases not only its skill but also its environmental stewardship. Wood elements also accomplish something other building materials cannot—they have the unique ability to connect people to the natural environment. This unique combination of attributes provided advantages not offered by other building systems. The challenge was to make full use of these benefits in a manner most compatible with the existing concrete and masonry structure. It is here that CLT framing became the clear choice.

Overall, the building reduces energy use by 45% and is projected to yield 107% of onsite energy needs annually. Photo courtesy of Marshall Andrews

Mass timber also means the application of interior finish materials is unnecessary, helping to limit the amount of toxic materials present. Exposed wood also brings nature into the space by creating a tactile experience and a healthy indoor air quality. The sense of biophilia, the connections humans subconsciously seek with the rest of life, is reinforced by Solatubes® on the roof to diffuse light and bring in anti-glare, natural light, operable windows that highlight the local microclimate’s Delta Breeze, and material finishes with familiar patterns and textures, such as wood, stone, hexagons, bubbles and wool. The second story terrace engages with the community in the “City of Trees” that is Sacramento, and can be accessed through a new communicating stair from Level 1 to Level 2. The stair uses a CLT landing and old growth Douglas Fir treads and risers.

The unusual application of mass timber in this project pushed the boundaries of what is possible with the material and challenged the entire design and consultant teams. When considering the massing, the perception of the structure in three dimensions, the design concept called for the placement of a distinct pavilion atop the historic building to help define the exterior shape. The use of mass timber as a way to distinguish the pavilion addition from the rest of the existing building created a recognizable stark contrast consistent with the design scheme.

Exposed wood also brings nature into the space by creating a tactile experience and a healthy indoor air quality. Photo courtesy of Marshall Andrews

A Continued Commitment to Sustainable Design

DPR has long been committed to green building and sustainable design, and this project further demonstrates this. Originally constructed in 1940 and renovated in 1993, this adaptive re-use will house the DPR office, with open office seating areas, an active/addressable seating plan, meeting rooms, break rooms, open collaborative areas, focus areas, a training room, lounge spaces and other special use spaces. This design allows DPR to provide leasing opportunities on the ground level, a move that will not only activate J Street but will also connect DPR to the community at large. While the west building is a two-story structure that received extensive interior and exterior improvements, the single-story east building received a full second story addition constructed entirely of mass timber.

As an active member of the US Green Building Council since 1999, DPR has constructed green/LEED™-certified projects for various customers across the nation. In 2003, DPR completed construction of its 52,300-sq.-ft., high-performance office building in Sacramento, a ground-up facility that was designated the first privately owned LEED™ project in the Central Valley.

July 17, 2019

New Workday Headquarters Opens in Pleasanton, California

Fast-growing enterprise software company Workday, Inc. celebrated the completion of its new 410,000-sq.-ft., corporate headquarters in Pleasanton, California this spring. Leaders from the City of Pleasanton, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Workday, and the DPR-led project team were among those who gathered for the May 13 ribbon-cutting ceremony, marking the official opening of the innovative, transit-friendly project that has been hailed as a state-of-the-art building.

The new Workday headquarters in Pleasanton, California.
The new Workday HQ connects employees to the community. Photo courtesy of Workday

Located just steps from the West Dublin/Pleasanton BART station, the architecturally striking, six-story structure ranks as the tallest office building in Pleasanton. It will house some 2,200 Workday employees by August, mostly from the company’s product and technology team. A focal point of Workday’s 10-building Pleasanton campus, it also houses a new 16,000-sq.-ft. Workday Customer Center slated to open later this summer.

Workday leadership and community members cut the ribbon for the building.
Local officials joined Workday leadership and the project team to cut the ribbon. Photo courtesy of Workday

Local Partnerships Aid Development

From the outset, Workday was committed to creating a transit-oriented development that would attract potential employees from around the Bay Area, including San Francisco and Oakland. The company forged strong ties with BART and the City of Pleasanton to develop a project that benefited both the local community and Workday employees.

A green space walkway, featuring native California plants, connects the BART station with the new headquarters building. Similar pathways connect the headquarters building with existing buildings on the company’s Pleasanton campus.

Workday Co-Founder and CEO Aneel Bhusri hailed the “strong partnerships” between Workday and the City of Pleasanton and BART during an address at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We’ve created a place that is an extension of our culture and brand, one that is built for continued innovation and one that reflects how our employees want to work and build products for the future,” he said.

“Workday had a very specific vision for this project and we worked to ensure we were aligned throughout the project,” said DPR’s Karri Sieler, a senior project manager. “It was a great example of how the things we build – and how we meet expectations for a project – are core to our customers’ businesses.”

One interior area of the new Workday HQ.
A variety of interior environments are designed to support employees. Photo courtesy of Workday

Core Values on Display

Designed by Gensler Architects, the new headquarters building draws inspiration from Workday’s core values of innovation, and fun in support of the company’s number one asset -- its employees. It provides an ideal environment for software development with plenty of open spaces, entire walls made of whiteboards, new high-tech tools like video walls and digital whiteboards, and four great rooms that provide comfortable spaces for large groups to gather.

Numerous other amenities support the fun, collaborative environment, including:

  • An open-air amphitheater with seating for 1,500 people along with a large grassy area suitable for outdoor games;
  • A “Data Diner” café complete with a 12,000-pound pizza oven and an “XpressO” coffee bar;
  • Two spacious second floor balconies that allow employees to enjoy fresh air while they work;
  • Wellness rooms with treadmills, amenity rooms for therapeutic services, showers and lockers;
  • Large game rooms on each floor;
  • Two dog runs where employees of the pet-friendly company can bring their dogs to run around and play throughout the day.

The building incorporates a highly sustainable design that is targeting LEED® Platinum certification. Among the green features: a large 865-kw solar array that provides up to one-third of the building’s electricity, an innovative onsite greywater recycling system designed to save up to 720,000 gallons of water each year, and a “cool roof” to mitigate the urban heat island effect.

Interior of the new Workday HQ
DPR self perform work crews performed a signficant portion of the project, including concrete visible throughout the project. Photo courtesy of Workday

DPR Sets Self-Perform Concrete Record

Constructed as a fully cast-in-place concrete structure, Workday tapped DPR’s self-perform concrete skills early in the building of its new headquarters. To support the 3-ft-thick concrete core walls that rise seven stories to the roof, the DPR team needed to build a thick mat foundation – leading to DPR’s largest self-performed concrete pour in company history. Over the course of 12 hours in May 2017, workers poured 4,800 cubic yards of concrete, which was reinforced with 1.2 million pounds of rebar.

The team poured as many as 500 cubic yards of concrete per hour – ultimately pouring enough concrete to fill one-and-a-half Olympic size swimming pools, or 3.7 million 2-liter bottles of soda.

Self-performing that structural concrete portion of the job enabled DPR to set the tone and pace for the job, and to keep a firm handle on quality control.

From planning and partnering to construction completion, the end result is a building that has garnered accolades on several fronts, including from Workday Co-President and CFO Robynne Sisco. “We’re extremely grateful to the City of Pleasanton and BART for their partnership,” she commented. “It’s because of their partnership in addition to our work with the building’s general contractor, DPR Construction, the architect and designer, Gensler, and literally hundreds of additional vendors that we’ve been able to make our beautiful new headquarters a reality.”

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 D.C. 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