April 22, 2020

We love the things we build, and we care about how we build them. While the world has changed in recent months, the importance of the built environment and high-performing spaces remains the same.

Since completing its first LEED-certified project twenty years ago, DPR Construction’s approach to sustainability and wellness centers on collaboration and data-driven decision-making. DPR leverages integrated project delivery to reduce waste of all sorts throughout the construction process, and it has proven true triple bottom line benefits for customers, communities and employees.

This Earth Day, DPR is taking stock of its impacts on the planet and communities where it operates and reflecting on the environmental performance of its office operations, especially the observation that high-performance buildings at market rates are realistic.

Biophilic design encourages connection to the natural world and can reduce stress while increasing productivity, creativity and wellbeing. Photo courtesy of Peter Molick

Lessons from Living Labs

Anyone who has worked on an office renovation knows the importance of setting a vision for the design. But meeting project goals and making informed decisions – while preserving the budget –takes data and experience.

Testing out leading-edge design and construction methods is the primary driver behind DPR’s “Living Labs,” which are new and renovated regional offices that DPR brings online. Each office is an opportunity to think about space differently, and to set goals not only for functionality and effectiveness, but also comfort and enjoyment.

With each Living Lab completion, there’s more evidence that renovations can be done to high performance standards and competitive rates, and that sustainable design and construction works in every climate. These offices endorse multiple green building rating systems, including LEED, WELL, Fitwell and ILFI Zero Energy certification, and DPR intends to scale up certifications across future offices. Each one employs a unique combination of green strategies, but some features standout:

Photo courtesy of David Hardman
  • San Diego: The DPR San Diego office used a broad-based natural daylighting strategy which includes Solatubes and south facing roof monitors, which reduce overall lighting requirements. As a result, the building performs 97% better than similarly modeled buildings.
  • Phoenix: DPR’s Phoenix office was the second office in the U.S. to achieve net-zero energy certification and incorporates several passive heating/cooling solutions. These include including 87 operable windows and a stack ventilation system which draws air up and out through the building.
  • San Francisco: As the first net-zero energy building in the city, the San Francisco office is a textbook case on adaptive reuse. Unique circumstances included no space between buildings, cast shadows, and the need to “right-size” the roof PV system for foggy weather and structure upgrades.
  • Washington D.C.: In aiming for net-zero energy status, the team leading the DPR Washington, D.C. office used a combination of passive and active strategies first and then focused on offsetting with a 141kW rooftop PV system, which more than makes up for the building’s minimal insulation loss.
  • Austin: Living walls are one of the most noticeable elements of DPR’s Austin office, which is the first WELL-certified building in the city. Biophilic design encourages connection to the natural world and can reduce stress while increasing productivity, creativity and wellbeing.
  • Sacramento: The relocation and renovation of DPR’s Sacramento office included a 6,000-sq.-ft. mass timber addition – the first cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure in the city. CLT panels were prefabbed to reduce onsite waste, and timber requires less energy to produce and has lower embodied carbon.

Look to the Data

Each office employs different techniques to achieve and maintain its green performance status because technology, systems and equipment are constantly evolving. And more than ever before, there are tools available to demonstrate that environmental performance equates to business and financial returns.

DPR partners with Lucid to optimize building performance and metrics tracking. The Lucid BuildingOS system allows for monitoring and sharing building water and power consumption, and photovoltaic energy production in real time. In the last 12 months, five representative DPR offices produced 448,751 kWh from PV installations, and consumed approximately 601, 116 kWh – making up nearly 75 percent of the energy used. As DPR continues to expand its use of the dashboard, keeping track of stats over time will help the organization figure out strategies for further reduction, and continually optimize its offices.

Living Labs may be the first space where DPR tests new approaches to sustainability, but the data on cost and performance provide reference points for all building owners seeking to achieve big results at market rate.