November 30, 2020
Half of DPR Construction’s employees are craft workers in a variety of trades. That means DPR is able to leverage the benefits of being a self-performing general contractor to better control schedule and quality, and to react quickly when conditions change in the field. While maintaining a strong commitment to local trade partners, DPR project teams and their talented self-performing crews are making big things happen.
Building a state-of-the art plant research facility in Southern California
DPR’s self-perform capabilities were instrumental in the recent construction of the $22 million, 31,500-sq.-ft., two-story Plant Growth Environments Facility on the University of California, Riverside campus—the first new greenhouse facility built on the Southern California campus in nearly 40 years.
The design-build team of DPR and Perkins+Will, along with design-build subcontractor Stuppy Greenhouse, created a research facility that puts science on display. The facility was constructed with concrete walls on the first floor and glass-encased greenhouses elevated above. Individual growth chambers on the first floor will house plants, pathogens and insects in separate, controlled environments. DPR concrete crews self-performed roughly 15% of the project volume, while self-perform drywall crews played a key role in pushing the schedule forward.
Early on, the team faced some challenges with the greenhouse framing. At the time work was to begin on the greenhouse portion, DPR’s concrete crew was on-site completing the cast-in-place structure that would serve as the first-floor foundation for the glass building. The site was tight, with only one point of access and limited space between the site wall and finished concrete structure to receive and offload material for the entire project. Because of the high risk of loading and offloading materials and the lack of a certified forklift driver on the part of the greenhouse vendor, DPR’s self-perform group was able to quickly pivot to take on the scope of managing the hundreds of thousands of intricate pieces making up the state of the art research facility. “Given the small site and elevated work platform, material management was no small task,” said Damon Hole, who served as superintendent on the project.
DPR team members received load after load of metal, glass and other components from the greenhouse vendor’s Midwest location to keep the project on track. “They also went above and beyond to keep the work environment clean and safe to keep other trades effective and efficient,” said Hole.
Once the greenhouse vendor started erecting the structure, DPR’s concrete and drywall corps supplemented their crew to push the project forward.
“For months these carpenters traded their concrete formwork, chop saws and metal studs in for aluminum glass extrusions, ridge vent systems and bug screens on the 100% exposed structure,” said Hole. “Every screw, bracket and brace here is exposed to view through the glass walls and corridors. The team essentially plumbed and squared the building up, took over structural framing activities in their entirety, and corrected existing issues,” explained Hole.
Once framing was complete, SPW team members were divided among the greenhouse crew and assisted with the various greenhouse components that make the building so unique. They learned, assisted, then led the crews with installation and built 100% custom evaporative cooling systems with large vertical vent sashes that automatically open and close according the cooling demand of each individual plant house. Additionally, the DPR team installed custom-designed direct drive worm gear shade systems that open and close based on sunlight exposure and heat control requirements of each room. Operable glass ridge vents that allow fresh air to be pulled into the building when needed, along with thousands of feet of exposed flashing and 60 large greenhouse benches to support the plant research and growth were also completed by the DPR crew. “Perhaps the biggest lesson we learned on this project is that no matter how big or small the job, you can’t do it alone. We were lucky that we have so many talented craft men and women at DPR. Our client recognizes the monumental effort they have put into this success, and it is a testament to what our self-perform work can do for our clients to help ensure their projects will be successful,” said Hole.
Attention to detail saves schedule at The Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood
In The Villages, Florida, DPR recently completed The Villages Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood (CAHB) and Brownwood Hotel & Spa, a unique 31-acre project that includes over 400,000 sq.-ft. of interior space. The four-story medical facility is the first phase in the development of a long-term ambulatory care program that will provide a host of comprehensive services ranging from Dermatology to Urology. One notable tenant, the AVIV Clinic, offers a first-of-its-kind hyperbaric oxygen treatment center featuring two 138,000-pound hyperbaric chambers, making it the largest hyperbaric medicine operation in the United States.
The adjacent Brownwood Hotel & Spa connects to the specialty center on the second floor, allowing patients to receive outpatient procedures and then check into the hotel ever without leaving the premises. Inspired by the nearby Brownwood Town Square, the hotel utilizes a warm, rustic interior and an exterior facade that features locally sourced stone and prefabricated wall panels on the hotel tower.
DPR actively embraces such innovative design and construction methods that can positively impact project schedules, and by paying close attention to specific details, project teams are able to adapt and overcome real-time challenges in the field that often prohibit construction advancement. On this project, the team’s diligence and proactive solutions allowed for an efficient and fluid construction sequence. The team was proactive in seeking out solutions and collaboratively developed an actionable plan to address finite details.
An example of this was related to the Doors, Frames and Hardware (DFH) in the Brownwood Hotel & Spa. Setting the appropriate budget and schedule from the outset, DPR’s self-perform group was able to get into the details both virtually and in the form of physical mock-ups. A mock-up hotel room was created for early approvals and team alignment. Often overlooked, the entry doors had unique features that included a small rubber cap between the hotel corridor carpet and the entry suite LVT rather than the typical detail with a transition strip. Originally, the team planned on using a small transition strip, but the mock-up enabled and informed some early decisions, including incorporating the ½-inch rise strip. With the short time frame between mock-up approvals and the release of materials, DPR was able to make adjustments in the field without disrupting critical procurement milestones.
“We called the manufacturer and were able to change the size of the entry doors in time, just as they were about to run them through the mill. If we hadn’t done so, we would have spent hours modifying doors, or potentially having to order new ones altogether,” said Chris Lowe, who served as a project manager on the build.
Pushing schedule with self-perform work in Texas
In Austin, Texas, DPR’s concrete, framing and drywall, interiors/DFH and Division 7 (firestop & waterproofing) self-perform crews were instrumental in the early completion of the Austin Marriott Downtown, a 32-story, 613-key hotel project six weeks ahead of schedule.
“On this project, SPW made all the difference with our schedule,” said DPR’s Steven Paredes, a general superintendent. “Concrete was able to gain us about a month overall.”
In a dense, downtown environment, logistical challenges are many and construction crews look for innovative ways to build. The team in Austin decided to utilize a system that was uncommon there at that time but was familiar to DPR’s concrete lead from their time on the West Coast.
“We used a climbing core system,” Paredes said. “It allowed us to keep the form work intact. With limited space around the project, keeping that form work up on the deck rather than having to fly it down after every pour was pretty instrumental.”
In addition, DPR drywall crews performed all framing and drywall on the hotel’s guest room levels, from level 7 through level 34. Additionally, DPR’s interiors group installed all doors, hardware and bathroom accessories throughout the building and installed the shower glass enclosures in all of the guestrooms, while the Division 7 team performed all the acoustical and firestop, as well as all below-grade waterproofing. “We never missed a drywall hang date throughout the entire project. That was a big milestone, and we hit it on every single one of those floors,” said Paredes.
Utilizing DPR self-perform trades for the critical path work made this Austin project a success not only because of their skill and the presence of a solid plan. The high degree to which everyone was aligned, regardless of role, played a huge role in their success. Paredes and his team simply decided they would not allow themselves to fail. “We refused to allow that to happen on this job. Once we all agreed that we were in this together, we fought for each other. Having that mentality set up from the beginning had a huge impact on our overall success,” shared Paredes