Data Centers: Leading the Charge

Workers installed some 35 miles of conduit and 250 miles of wire.
Up to 250 workers were on the jobsite each day during the three shifts.
DPR combined resources from all four of its Northern California offices for the 159,000-sq.-ft. project.
The new facility will support the expansion of KP Healthconnect, which is the largest civilian medical record program in the world.

Combining resources from all four of its Northern California offices, Redwood City, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose, DPR pulled together the right team to meet the needs of long-standing customer, Kaiser Permanente. For many contractors, the prospect of building a new data center with a “go live” date just 10 months after groundbreaking might be deemed an impossible goal. For DPR, the recent completion of Phase 1A of a 159,000-sq.-ft. data center project merely represented another challenge, one that the team embraced from the outset and committed to making a reality.

Kaiser Permanente selected DPR for its data center renovation in May 2006, based on a 13-year history of successful projects together and knowing it needed just the right contractor to accomplish its highly aggressive schedule. The project’s Phase 1A completion date also remained unchanged despite a significant scope increase, as well as a major change order just 11 weeks prior to this year’s March 31 deadline.

To achieve project completion and have the data center up and running in time to meet Kaiser Permanente’s needs forced DPR to work three shifts round-the-clock for several months, exhausting the full resources of the local labor market for electricians in the area. More importantly, it required the team to maintain strong communication and teamwork every step of the way, with all members focused on the common goal.

“To be able to do a data center as fast as this was done, the communication and teamwork between Kaiser Permanente, DPR and the subs had to be really exceptional,” said DPR’s Jerry McKinley, who served as senior superintendent. “Everybody knew what the completion date was and just remained focused on making sure we hit that target.”

Team Players

Client: Kaiser Permanente

Architect: Hawley Peterson & Snyder Architects

The 159,000-sq.-ft. facility, which includes 60,000 sq. ft. of raised floor and 15,000 sq. ft. of office space, will support the expansion of KP HealthConnect®, which is the largest civilian medical record program in the world. KP HealthConnect enables physicians to access patient information electronically and members to access their medical information online at

When Kaiser Permanente originally purchased the existing building that it planned to convert into its new data center last May—a building that had previously served as a data center for another owner—the complete scope of the needed renovation was unclear. DPR began construction just three weeks following the purchase, and it quickly became apparent that the building’s infrastructure did not meet Kaiser Permanente’s needs. A full gut and replacement with all new equipment and support systems was required. With the “go live” date unchanged, DPR knew it needed to take some aggressive steps to make the project a success.

To accomplish the large volume of work within the highly fast-track schedule, DPR implemented a continuous construction schedule for most of the project’s duration. Up to 250 workers were on the jobsite each day during the three shifts that kept work ongoing 24 hours a day, six days a week.

The sheer volume of the electrical conduit needed to support the central plant required excavation of a hole 40 ft. wide by 100 ft. long by 8 ft. deep. To speed conduit installation, the hole was layered with red slurry concrete lifts. During the day, electricians installed conduit, while night crews would then cover the conduit with a layer of slurry. Ultimately, workers installed some 35 miles of conduit and 250 miles of wire to support the advanced technology operations planned for the building.

To meet the rapid schedule and secure the amount of manpower needed for the job, electrical subcontractor Cupertino Electric subbed out the fire alarm system installation to another subcontractor. “It was really a struggle to get enough people on the job to work all this shift work. We emptied the (union) halls up here,” said McKinley.

The team devised a phased completion schedule to facilitate the required commissioning and subsequent testing and authentication of each piece of IT equipment that was installed in the data center, gradually turning over areas of the data floor to the owner right up until Phase 1A completion. Maintaining the critical load, or power, to each area that had been commissioned and turned over to Kaiser Permanente was vital to ensure that testing and authentication of the equipment was never interrupted, adding another level of complexity for the project team.

The team faced another major hurdle just a few weeks before the project was scheduled for completion. Kaiser Permanente discovered it needed to add a major new piece of equipment, which represented a significant change order, with no allowance in the schedule. The new equipment required the relocation of eight remote power panels, the installation of electrical systems to four additional computer room air conditioning units, additional fiber pulls, a cable tray, and the reconfiguration of the associated power distribution units. The work was performed successfully with no negative impact to the completion schedule.

Strong communication and cooperation among all parties were critical to the success of this project, according to DPR’s Peggy Fischer. Daily meetings between various team members, as well as weekly “same page” meetings involving DPR, the owner and subcontractors helped keep the team focused and on-track.

“We went over milestones to make sure everybody was on the same page and clearly understood what we were giving them on certain dates, because we were slowly turning items over to Kaiser Permanente right up until the March 31 deadline,” said Fischer. “It was also great to work with an extremely collaborative owner, Don Rudy, who, with his leadership and attitude, helped turn a very stressful project into a strong example of what can be accomplished through teamwork.” Good communication and a strong working relationship with the city of Napa was also a major contributor to the project’s success, with the city providing courtesy inspections even as the team worked through the permitting process.