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.



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.

October 17, 2013

The Packard Foundation Achieves Net-Zero Energy Status

About 16 months ago, we helped one of Silicon Valley’s leading foundations open the doors of its new Bay Area office building. The Los Altos-based David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which has already received a number of awards, including ENR’s National Best of the Best Projects 2012, adds one more accolade to its name: Net Zero Energy Building Certification™ through the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).

Project Manager Mike Messick with Project Superintendent Bob Colhour Photo courtesy of Ted van der Linden, Project Sustainability Manager

At 49,000 sq. ft., the Packard Foundation headquarters is, to date, the largest building to be certified for producing as much energy to meet or exceed its energy needs. The title of "world's largest ILFI-certified net zero energy building" was previously held by our own Phoenix Regional Office.

The Packard Foundation is one of very few buildings worldwide to carry both that designation as well as LEED® Platinum (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Net Zero Energy Building certification (Photo courtesy of Integral Group); David and Lucile Packard Foundation (Photo Courtesy of Ted van der Linden)

This building was one of DPR’s first ground-up, net-zero energy projects and it was unlike any other. Our job included deconstructing the prior building, 96% of which was recycled. With EHDD as the design architect, our team built the existing structure using a diverse array of exterior building materials including aluminum, glazing, copper panels, stone, stone veneer and wood siding – all carefully overlaid to form a highly thermal rated exterior skin.

Every building component contributed to the net-zero energy goal. This included highly energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems to rooftop photovoltaic panels that generate onsite energy, to native plants and innovative drains that capture and filter runoff before it enters the storm drains and ultimately, our oceans.

We are proud to call ourselves partners of the Packard Foundation. It has been through a partnership of mutual vision and trust, that we’ve been able to help the Foundation bring its hopes to life. It has also been through our experienced and dedicated project team that we were able to ensure the Foundation would be capable of its sustainability goals.

Often, business leaders believe that a choice needs to be made between comfort and care for their building’s inhabitants and being an environmentally-friendly place to work. However, we would challenge this assumption whole-heartedly. We believe that comfort and environmentally-friendly design do not need to be a choice, but can be built and operated successfully hand-in-hand.

The Packard Foundation building is a physical manifestation of the Foundation’s and our long-term commitment to sustainability.

September 11, 2013

UCSF Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building Wins CBE’s Living Building Award

The University of California, San Francisco's (UCSF) Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building won the Center for the Built Environment's (CBE) Livable Building Award.

CBE's Livable Buildings Award recognizes projects that meet the highest standards for providing healthy, productive indoor environments and represent best sustainability practices. It's given to buildings that demonstrate exceptional performance in terms of resource efficiency, overall design and occupant satisfaction using CBE's Occupant Indoor Environmental Quality Survey. Check out the Regeneration Medicine Building's survey scorecard here

To meet the 24-month design and construction window required by funding, the design-build team of DPR Construction, SmithGroupJJR and Forell/Elsesser Engineers was chosen for the project along with Rafael Viñoly Architects PC as the design architect. With little space available for expansion, the project team was challenged with designing for and building on a narrow, steep and sloped site. Crews had to wear rock climbing gear just to combat the steep slope!

The result is a series of terraced floors expanding horizontally across the site, and includes both indoor and outdoor spaces. Green roof terraces impart environmental benefits and an outdoor amenity for building occupants and campus community. The team used a steel space truss system to maximize usable space below the building, and keep costs low. In addition to advancing the emerging field of stem cell research, the team used building information modeling (BIM) and integrated project delivery (IPD)

Here are just a few things that have been said about the building:

  • “The project was constructed by a team working collaboratively and skillfully to craft design solutions to issues that came up in an accelerated implementation schedule. The building was finished on time and on budget, which is a testament to the discipline, skill, and commitment of all who participated. The UCSF community is extremely excited about this new building, and the reception since it opened has been enthusiastic.” - Michael Bade, Assistant Vice Chancellor, UCSF Capital Programs and Campus Architect
  • "The essential concept of a collaborative atmosphere is beautifully developed in a unique way from any of our other research buildings. Open interaction spaces, where researchers naturally gather throughout the day, provide visual connectivity from one lab floor to another through the “split-level” design as well as to office/conference suites." - Bonnie Maler, Associate Dean for Research Facilities Planning, UCSF School of Medicine
  • "UCSF is a phenomenal design in terms of how they approached the site. It includes beautiful transition from building to nature, and there is a holistic story to building that made it stand out." - CBE Living Building Award jury

Photos courtesy of Bruce Damonte

Congrats to all involved!

Last year's CBE Livable Building Award went to DPR's Clif Bar Headquarters.