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.



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.

FEFPA 2015 Summer Conference members
(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.

September 1, 2014

Is Guaranteed Building Performance Possible?

Guaranteed building performance has the potential to create more efficient buildings for the benefit of the owner’s bottom line, building occupants and the environment.

That’s the assessment of Steve Selkowitz, who explains the idea in a recent article for the DPR Review. Selkowitz has led Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Building Technology and Urban Systems Department for 20-plus years and has been recognized for his commitment to advancing building performance including winning the 2014 Award of Excellence from Engineering News-Record.

Tighter codes and regulations, rising costs, an increased demand for more employee-friendly workplaces, and commitment to sustainability are bringing discussions around guaranteed performance to the forefront. But the gap between predicted and measured building systems’ performance presents a major challenge.

 “Most people initially like the concept of guaranteed building performance,” Selkowitz said, “but they say, ‘Wait, how can I guarantee what an owner or occupant will do downstream?’ The key is to first define the energy use target, and then execute a design, construct and operate plan that keeps those targets in mind as a myriad of later decisions are made.”

Read the full article, “Is Guaranteed Building Performance Possible?”, in the latest issue of the DPR Review.

May 28, 2014

San Francisco Office Makes Big Green Move—First Net-Zero Energy Office in the City

It really is greener on the other side of the street—or in this case a few blocks away.

DPR’s San Francisco office made a big move this month from its long-time home on Sansome Street to a new net-zero-designed space at 945 Front Street. Recently featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, the office space is on track to be the first net zero office in San Francisco and one of only a handful in the nation.

Lobby of DPR's new San Francisco office featuring a living wall (Photo: Drew Kelly)

While the previous DPR San Francisco digs were LEED certified, this new space pushes green building further. The office boasts a host of unique green solutions, including recycled products throughout, dynamic glass that tints to let in the appropriate amount of light, fans to circulate air, and solar panels to convert San Francisco’s sunlight to power, which should generate more electricity than the building needs—about a third of the amount that a typical San Francisco office building uses—to run comfortably over the next year.

For more features and details read the full press release.

May 9, 2014

The Net-Zero Energy Building Challenge: Who Will Be Next?

Recently, Ted van der Linden and I published an article with USGBC, "The net-zero energy building challenge: Who will be next?".

The article outlines DPR's approach to "deep green" construction, highlighting our San Diego and Phoenix offices, which have both achieved ZNE status. Getting to ZNE is a a tall order, but as we've proven twice over, it's attainable with an owner and project team who are committed to the goal. Contrary to a common misconception, highly sustainble buildings can actually cost less to operate over the long term, and can be achieved in both temperate and severe climates.

Our new San Francisco office will soon join our San Diego and Phoenix offices as ZNE, LEED-Platinum renovations.

Photo: DPR's Phoenix regional headquarters has been certified net zero energy.

November 13, 2013

How Do We Measure Energy Use as an Industry?

Given that most urban buildings will not likely get to net-zero energy consumption any time soon, it begs the question: how do we benchmark energy use as an industry? The industry needs to include a standard measurement for comparing buildings beyond LEED so that tenants and owner/users can compare results to improve building performance. Innovation and improvement typically occur when a standard exists to compare performance of a product, such as the “miles per gallon” metric used in automobiles.  

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) is an organization that promotes intelligent urbanization and densification with members of the real estate industry. It focuses on integrating energy, resources and uses to reduce the impact of the built environment and determine the best future use of land. Recently, I was on a ULI panel in Chicago, organized by Mark Kroll of Sares-Regis. It was a Red Flight meeting of the Urban Development and Mixed Use Council (UDMUC).

Our panel addressed cost and payback of green strategies such as LEED and net-zero energy initiatives. I presented several examples of recent DPR “dark green” projects, certified as net-zero by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). These include DPR’s Phoenix Regional Office, which was the world’s largest ILFI-certified net-zero energy building until October 2013. The “world’s largest ILFI-certified net-zero building” title was then awarded to another DPR project--the 51,000-sq.-ft. Packard Foundation Headquarters in Los Altos, CA.

These net-zero energy buildings generate 100 percent building energy through onsite renewable sources such as photovoltaic (PV) panels. Both the Phoenix office and Packard Foundation Headquarters are low-rise buildings in suburban environments that have space to offset energy use with PV panels.


(Packard Foundation Headquarters photo on left courtesy of Jeremy Bitterman; DPR Phoenix Regional Office photo on right courtesy of Gregg Mastorakos)

In my view, the best metric for comparing buildings is kBtu/sf/yr (also known as EUI--Energy Use Intensity). This metric is calculated by dividing the total energy consumed by a building in one year by the total gross floor area of the building. It is used in calculations of Energy Star ratings developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

I believe the kBtu/sf label should be required for all buildings. You would need to compare similar building types in similar geographies, of course (office buildings in Chicago versus houses in Atlanta versus retail space in Seattle, etc.). This measurement could lead to more direct comparisons of buildings and results. It may also lead to legislation to require minimum energy performance for different building types. 

Our industry needs to align around standard metrics for built environment energy use to promote environmental responsibility and spur innovation.