One Year Later: DPR Phoenix’s “Living Lab” Office

The most difficult owner I've ever worked with was us...DPR. That's no typo, you read that correctly. We--DPR--acted as our own customer and builder when we decided to renovate an existing building in the redeveloping Discovery Triangle neighborhood and turn it into our cutting-edge Phoenix regional office. It was a challenge, to say the least, but the end results exceeded our expectations and created something that has never been done in the state before.

As builders, we're used to coming in and asking the owner questions. This time, we were the ones pushing the direction, which we was a new, eye-opening experience. We had the outlandish goal of creating a Net Zero building in one of the most severe climates in the country and learned that an engaged owner is really what makes the difference. It's almost been a year since we moved into our renovated office and it's been a great learning experience. Among other things, we learned that being an owner is no easy task.

Targeting Net Zero energy consumption, last year, we created an open-office environment that we call a living lab. While Net Zero was the focus, we knew that as a result of this effort, we would achieve LEED certification; we actually achieved LEED Platinum in July. A key part of making this happen was staying engaged. Our key players were engaged from the beginning and stayed engaged. Lessons learned included identifying adequate resources and staying focus all the way through. While the design stage is fun and creative, following through with the execution of the project is necessary.

We learned to:

  • Stay engaged
  • Have a full resource plan
  • Follow through

10 months later since we began this process, we moved in to our new space last October 10th. Our Phoenix office has been called The Workplace of the Future. We definitely think it is. Our office is a living building. When it's cold out, the office heats itself. When it's hot out, it cools itself. You can hear it. Before we moved, we had a company meeting to let employees know things would be different in this type of environment. Move-in was smooth, easy and seamless. People got settled in and had fun acclimating to the new space. Then, we had to work out the bugs. We adjusted and tweaked some things to find a middle ground of comfort. Everyone's different--some people run hot, some run cold, byt people adjusted their expectations and the space works. There was some trial and error, for example, in winter time, when everyone was in hats and gloves in the offices, we realized that the window was too broad so we tightened that up and adjusted accordingly. We've worked out most of the major issues by now.

A year after move-in, we have made substantial progress and are adjusting the minor details as opposed to the major details that we adjusted during the first year. This space really inspires collaboration, creativity and enjoyment, which we are just thrilled about.