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 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.

August 14, 2013

Green Video: Return on Investment (ROI)

Sustainability doesn't have to be more expensive. In many cases, green building can result in savings for the building owner (whether upfront or in the long term). This Return on Investment video is just one (of 8 green videos) that was filmed at the DPR Phoenix office, which was certified by the International Living Future Institute as a net-zero energy building. It explains how pursuing sustainability can be a business decision as well as a thoughtful environmental consideration.

Government incentives—both local and federal—are great ways to maximize green building benefits. In addition, creating an energy-efficient design upfront reduces operational expense and can pay off in a big way over the life cycle of a building./p>

Watch the entire green video series here (8 videos total). These videos cover the broader themes of sustainability and net-zero energy building, and include the following topics:

  • Evolution of Green Design
  • Low Tech Meets High Tech
  • A Living Lab
  • Walking in the Owner’s Shoes
  • Sustainability and Employee Satisfaction
  • Reuse of Existing Buildings
  • Why Net-Zero?

These videos scratch the surface. Read the DPR Phoenix office case study to learn about the path to net-zero energy building in much more detail.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below.

July 31, 2013

Green Video: Low Tech Meets High Tech

Sometimes simpler solutions are better. This video, "Low Tech Meets High Tech," explains how green buildings can use a combination of low tech methods in conjunction with modern technology.

DPR's Phoenix officean ILFI-certified net-zero energy building—used established, even ancient techniques as well as complex, cutting-edge technologies to achieve its lofty sustainability goals.

In the video, project team member, Jim Dinan from Bel-Aire Mechanical explains, "Ultimately, it's not that the equipment drives the building space, the building space drives the equipment. On buildings like this, there's most likely less maintenance costs because the building is simpler and it still meets the needs. So less maintenance, meeting the needs; that's inherent built-in value."

This is just one video (out of 8) that was filmed at the DPR Phoenix office. The video series covers the broader themes of green and net-zero energy building, and includes the following topics:

  • Evolution of Green Design
  • Return on Investment
  • A Living Lab
  • Walking in the Owner’s Shoes
  • Sustainability and Employee Satisfaction
  • Reuse of Existing Buildings
  • Why Net-Zero?

Watch the entire green video series here (8 videos total).

Read the DPR Phoenix office case study to learn about the path to net-zero energy building in much more detail.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below.

July 14, 2013

Facebook Travels Abroad

On June 14, the first phases of Facebook's first data center outside the U.S. went live in Lulea, Sweden. With approximately 80 percent of Facebook's 1.11 billion users residing outside the U.S. and Canada, the new data center is now handling status updates, comments, likes, and more from around the world.

Located on the edge of the Arctic Circle, nearly the same latitude as Fairbanks, Alaska, the seaside town of Lulea is a near-perfect location for the new sustainable data center. Facebook's super-efficient design uses 100 percent outside air to cool the data center, eliminating the need for power-hungry chillers, to cool the tens of thousands of servers running around the clock.

Powered locally by hydroelectric energy, the facility "is likely to be one of the most efficient and sustainable data centers in the world." Hydroelectricity is not only 100 percent renewable; it’s so reliable that Facebook has been able to eliminate the number of onsite backup generators by 70 percent.

Another unique design feature of the facility is that it uses excess heat generated from the servers to keep the office space warm for employees during those chilly days in the artic.

Built in a tri-venture with DPR Construction, NCC Construction Sweden and Fortis Construction, the 290,000-sq.-ft. data center is not Facebook's first ground-up facility to be built on a greenfield site. DPR and Fortis are currently wrapping-up the latest phases of construction for Facebook's first two super-efficient data centers, built in Prineville, Oregon and Forest City, North Carolina. Both data centers use 100 percent outdoor air for cooling and are being built to LEED Gold for New Construction specifications.

As with Facebook's first two greenfield data centers, the company is using servers and infrastructure design outlined in the now well-known Open Compute Project, an initiative started by Facebook "that aims to accelerate data center and server innovation while increasing computing efficiency through collaboration on relevant best practices and technical specifications."

Facebook custom-designed their own servers, power supplies, and UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) units, and is sharing these designs online, free for anyone to use in their own data center. Facebook’s data centers--using their "vanity free" servers--are 38 percent more efficient and 24 percent less expensive to build and run than the leased capacity they relied on before their Prineville data center launched.

During initial tests, the Sweden data center averaged a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of 1.07, which makes this one of the most efficient data centers in the world. For context, a PUE of 2.0 is considered "common", 1.6 is considered "good", and a PUE of 1.2 or under is "excellent". It is important to note that PUE is dynamic and changes with outdoor temperature and humidity.

Facebook will soon be launching a real-time PUE monitor, so anyone can see how the facility is performing on a minute-by-minute basis. Water Usage Efficiency (WUE) will also be viewable on the online dashboard, a topic of growing interest in the data center industry. Online dashboards for the Prineville, OR and Forest City, NC sites are currently online.

Impressive, to say the least. The future of data center design is unfolding right before our eyes.

June 27, 2013

Green Video: Reuse of Existing Buildings

Old things can become new again, as shown in this short video, "Reuse of Existing Buildings: DPR Phoenix Case Study."

The video explores how sustainable building does not necessarily require new construction. In the case of DPR's Phoenix office, the team took an older retail building—seemingly at the end of its lifecycle—and completely transformed it into a model for green construction.

In the video, project team member, DNV KEMA's Shayne Rolfe explains, "When you're working with an existing building, you're able to take what may be limitations and make them into opportunities. That doesn't that doesn't occur in new construction."

SmithgroupJJR's Mark Roddy says, "I can't think of a better way to maximize a recycle concept than to use an existing building."

This is just one video (out of 8) that was filmed at the DPR Phoenix office. The video series covers the broader themes of green and net-zero energy building, and includes the following topics:

  • Evolution of Green Design
  • Return on Investment
  • Low Tech Meets High Tech
  • Walking in the Owner’s Shoes
  • Sustainability and Employee Satisfaction
  • A Living Lab
  • Why Net-Zero?

Watch the entire green video series here (8 videos total).

Read the DPR Phoenix case study to learn about the path to net-zero energy building in much more detail.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below.

June 13, 2013

Green Video: A Living Lab

In this 2 minute video, "A Living Lab: DPR Phoenix Case Study," the project team chats about the thought behind setting up DPR's Phoenix office as a living lab for the community.

DPR was the owner and the client for this ILFI-certified net-zero energy building. It demonstrates the viability of attaining net-zero energy operations within any environment—even a desert environment—and serves as a model for sustainable development and urban renewal.

In the video, DPR's Cassie Robertson explains, "We know we're going to be making adjustments and improving what we've put into place for the life of the building and we're excited to do that. It's a laboratory because of that. It's almost like an experiment for the rest of the community."

This is just one video (out of 8) that was filmed at the DPR Phoenix office. The video series covers the project's green and net-zero energy building themes and includes the following videos:

  • Evolution of Green Design
  • Return on Investment
  • Low Tech Meets High Tech
  • Walking in the Owner’s Shoes
  • Sustainability and Employee Satisfaction
  • Reuse of Existing Buildings
  • Why Net-Zero?

Watch the ENTIRE green video series here (8 videos total).

Read the DPR Phoenix office case study to learn about the path to net-zero energy building in much more detail.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below.

May 31, 2013

Green Video: Why Net-Zero?

Filmed at the DPR Phoenix regional office, which just received ILFI-certification as a net-zero energy building, this new video asks the question: Why Net-Zero?

In under two minutes and with interviews from project team members who worked on the Phoenix office, the video quickly provides an overview of this emerging trend in green construction and explains the benefits of net-zero energy buildings.

This is just one video (out of 8) that was filmed at the DPR Phoenix office. The entire video series covers the project's green and net-zero energy building themes and includes the following videos:

  • Evolution of Green Design
  • Return on Investment
  • Low Tech Meets High Tech
  • Walking in the Owner’s Shoes
  • Sustainability and Employee Satisfaction
  • Reuse of Existing Buildings
  • A Living Lab

Check out all 8 of our green videos here.

Read about the project in full detail in this case study.