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.



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.

May 17, 2013

The Largest ILFI Certified Net-Zero Energy Building in the World

Mission accomplished; DPR’s Phoenix office is officially certified as a Net-Zero Energy Building (NZEB)! Producing as much or more energy than it consumes, the LEED®-NC Platinum office building is the first in Arizona and only the second office in the U.S. to achieve NZEB certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) through its Living Building Challenge(SM) program. To date, there are only four buildings in the nation with this certification.

How did we get to this point? Let’s back up. Since 1998, DPR has maintained a presence in Phoenix’s Camelback corridor. When it came time to renew our office lease, we decided to find a new location that would bring us into greater alignment with our sustainability mission and goals as a company. We found and purchased a 16,533-sq.-ft., circa-1972 building, located in the Discovery Triangle at the corner of 44th Street and Van Buren. The building was vacant for several years and needed a major facelift. Luckily, it had great bones; the roof and structure were strong and intact, and the space was conducive to our open office layout. We purposely chose a building that was nearing the end of its intended lifecycle in a redeveloping area to show our commitment to the local community and to demonstrate the impact of revitalization.

While we had already achieved net-zero in a temperate climate with our San Diego office in 2010, it was also important for us to prove that this was possible in an extreme climate like Phoenix. Our Phoenix office team researched, designed, permitted, and built a highly-efficient, modern workplace in less than 10 months. 

By being both the owner and contractor, and leveraging our project experience, we were able to push the limits and go for net-zero energy, which we hope will pioneer a movement to make it the “new norm” in green construction.

According to recent research from Navigant Research, while net-zero buildings currently make up a small fraction of the overall green building market today, worldwide revenue from net-zero buildings is projected to grow rapidly over the next two decades and reach $1.3 trillion by the year 2035.

The renovated, award-winning office building is now a living lab for our community. Through creativity and ingenuity, we have achieved beauty on all fronts.

Office Photos Courtesy of Gregg Mastorakos

Here’s one of DPR’s green leaders, Whitney Dorn, accepting the Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute at an event on Thursday, May 16.

Photo courtesy of Ted van der Linden

Read more about the office in this in-depth case study and here. You can also learn more about green construction and net-zero from this series of videos.

May 10, 2013

5 Ways to Green Your Existing Office

Many companies are looking for ways to green their offices without building from the ground up. Doing so can help reduce demands on the environment as well as reduce costs for your organization in the long run. Here are five ways we’ve greened our own offices through renovations: 

  • 1. Install monitoring software to track energy usage in real-time

Take a look and compare how much energy we used today in four of DPR’s own offices.

DPR San Diego Office Photo courtesy of Hewitt-Garrison

Installing monitoring software allows owners and employees to track their energy usage and view energy savings in real-time. A dashboard such as the Lucid Building Dashboard® system used by DPR’s offices in San Diego, Phoenix, Raleigh Durham and Newport Beach allows employees to track their use of electricity, water and natural gas. The dashboard tells users exactly how much energy is being used hour by hour in terms of total electricity as well as the amount of solar energy being produced so that users can meet—or even surpass—sustainability goals.

  • 2. Use outside air to cool your building
DPR San Diego Office Photo courtesy of Hewitt-Garrison

Natural ventilation systems use outside air to keep buildings cool, reduce energy, and lower costs. Our San Diego office’s natural ventilation system (like operable windows) cools our office and it helped us achieve net-zero energy status, meaning we generate as much or more energy than we consume.

DPR Phoenix Office Photo courtesy of Gregg Mastorakos
  • 3. Install Solatubes® to reduce the need for artificial light
DPR Phoenix Office Photo courtesy of Gregg Mastorakos

Windows and natural light reduce the need for electric lighting and the costs associated with it. The expansive windows and 82 strategically placed Solatubes® in our Phoenix office nearly eliminate the need for artificial daytime lighting all year long.

  • 4. Install a photovoltaic canopy over your parking lot
DPR Phoenix Office Photo courtesy of Gregg Mastorakos

A photovoltaic-covered parking canopy generates power from the sun that offsets a building’s energy usage and cools cars under in the canopy all at the same time. Generating even one kilowatt-hour prevents 170 pounds of coal from burning, protects 105 gallons of water from consumption, and saves 300 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each month. Our Phoenix office’s photovoltaic-covered parking controls the indoor environment naturally and produces energy onsite, generating 180,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year.

  • 5. Install a vampire shut-off switch

Phantom energy accounts for nearly six percent of our country’s energy consumption, costing the U.S. billions of dollars in expenses and wastes unnecessary energy. Phantom energy happens when a device consumes energy even when it’s turned off (i.e., computer monitors, TVs, or cell phone chargers).

Install a vampire shut-off switch to disconnect phantom-plug loads, saving money and energy. In our Phoenix office, the switch disconnects 90 percent of plug-loads at the end of each workday. The last person exiting the building is responsible for activating this switch.

Which one of these energy-saving techniques is most interesting to you? Let us know in the comments.

February 28, 2013

Recap of Industry Discussion on the Next Generation of Net-Zero

On February 26, I was thrilled to be a presenter in a thought-leading panel discussion about the 'Next Gen of Net-Zero' in design and construction. Net-zero refers to a building that returns as much, or more, power than it takes from the grid on an annual basis.  Hosted in Charles M. Salter Associates’ office in San Francisco, the event was facilitated by Lisa Matthiessen and Kevin Hydes (Integral Group) with presentations from Peter Rumsey (Integral), Matthew Porreca (BNIM Architects) and Steve McDowell (BNIM).  The event was set up in a PechaKucha (pa-cha-ka-cha) 20x20 format where each of us had timed our presentations to deliver 20 graphic slides with only 20 seconds for each slide.  You'd be surprised how fast 20 seconds goes by when you're excited about the topic! 

The presentations were followed by an interactive conversation with a highly engaged and highly informed audience.  Our own Ted van der Linden added some valuable insights.  Here are a few of the topics that gained some audience traction:

  • How will we capture the voice of the younger generation?  Environmental responsibility is an expectation for them, not a luxury.
  • How can we shift attention (and budget) towards designing and building very efficient and interactive exterior skin systems…all five facades…instead of focusing on mechanical systems to counterbalance the inefficiency of the skin?
  • Do automated 'red-light, green-light' systems really have an impact on occupant behavior?  Are there more intuitive, simple cues that can help shift occupant behavior?

Fascinating conversation!  This was a group with the power and passion to transform our world.  I can hardly wait for the next discussion!

Check out some of DPR’s net-zero work: DPR Phoenix office, DPR San Diego office, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters (the headquarters was designed for net-zero and we hope to know the official status by the end of the year).

December 20, 2012

Happy Holidays from DPR!

In case you missed it...DPR has completed a series of small renovations that have made a big impact to our iconic customer. Over the last several months, DPR’s Special Services Group (SSG) has worked to transform a centuries-old facility into a modern example of energy efficiency—just-in-time for the holidays. Though until recently bound by a strict confidentiality clause, DPR can now share the details of this previously “top secret” project...HAPPY HOLIDAYS! See you in 2013.