March 6, 2019

Giving the Industry a Nudge: Leading a Healthy Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion

Empowering women has been part of DPR Construction’s entrepreneurial spirit since the beginning. When the company developed its first mission in 1992, “to be a truly great construction company by the year 2000,” it cited a tangible image to have minorities and women in senior level estimator and project manager positions.

“We’ve always aspired to be a diverse and inclusive company,” said Jody Quinton, who serves on DPR’s Management Team. “It’s inspiring to see the progress that has been made, especially over the last few years as more and more companies focus on raising awareness, providing training and driving change.”

In a traditionally male-dominated industry, construction companies, like DPR, have an opportunity to set an example and help nudge the industry forward with increased unconscious bias training and dialogue around what diversity and inclusion looks like for the leading technical builder as it expands its operations internationally.

In that vein, the Women Who Build of DPR met in Amsterdam at the Women in Construction Europe conference late last year. The DPR team, consisting of members from DPR’s U.S. and Amsterdam offices, met over the course of two days to not only discuss the progress that women have made, but also the tangible steps can be taken to make the industry even more equitable.

The DPR team, consisting of members from DPR’s U.S. and Amsterdam offices, met at the Women in Construction Europe conference to not only discuss the progress that women have made, but also the tangible steps can be taken to make the industry even more equitable.

“It helped spur conversations that I wouldn’t have participated in otherwise, and it helped me think about how I can be more proactive in my day-to-day work,” said Shelby Riddell, who currently works as the Southwest marketing lead but is transitioning into a new marketing leadership role for DPR’s Europe and Asia-Pacific operations.

Riddell found DPR when interviewing a woman for a class project who happened to be recruiting for the company. Upon learning more, she knew that DPR was a place where she could explore different roles.

“Having such diverse interests and limitless curiosity, this was hugely important to me,” Riddell said.

Mary Romeo happened upon construction in an introductory class in college and was drawn to DPR because of its reputation for operating differently and for pushing innovative efforts in construction. After volunteering with AmeriCorps after graduation, she knew DPR was the only company she wanted to work for and now serves as a preconstruction manager on a Data Center campus project near Amsterdam.

As DPR continues to establish a presence overseas, it continues its journey to actively support and promote women. Its operations in Europe reflect those values—within a year of operating from its base in Amsterdam, more than a third of its leadership positions are held by women.

Many of the women who build at DPR stumbled upon it serendipitously and come from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds, but all found themselves drawn to the spirit and strong values that DPR upholds. Rachael Broad, who initially wanted to be an architect before pursuing engineering, works as a project engineer in the Amsterdam office. According to her, DPR gave her more purpose and meaning than where she had previously worked.

“I felt that I had found something I didn’t even know existed and aligned with many of my closely-held values,” Broad said.

As a sponsor of the Women in Construction Europe conference, DPR led a panel discussion about unconscious bias and gave a skills-based training presentation on negotiation. The panel discussion was especially powerful as it gave attendees the opportunity to speak frankly about the challenges they face as women in a still heavily male-dominated industry, such as a lack of female mentors and prevailing stereotypes.

Attendees of the Women in Construction Europe conference said it helped spur conversations that they wouldn’t have participated in otherwise.

“My drive and natural leadership have been misunderstood as ‘intense’ or ‘bitchy’,” Riddell said.

Lael Blum echoed a similar frustration, saying she often has a difficult time being heard.

“It’s a fine line to tread between being confident and driven, and being perceived as tough and bullish. This is not something men have to compete with in the same way,” she said.

Romeo added that she wishes there was a greater spirit of women helping other women.

“I think women work so hard to get where they are that sometimes they forget to look back and help other women in the industry,” Romeo said.

As DPR continues to establish a presence overseas, it continues its journey to actively support and promote women. Its operations in Europe reflect those values—within a year of operating from its base in Amsterdam, more than a third of its leadership positions are held by women.

It is a business imperative to advance women both internally and externally, and DPR hopes that by providing more training, celebrating women who build, and participating in the conferences to create more open and honest dialogue, it will continue to help shape an industry where women are able to succeed no matter their position or employer.

Blum worked for a DPR competitor in the Bay Area before moving to Amsterdam with her family but found that she missed the construction career she had built.

“When I got a call that DPR was opening an office in Amsterdam I was absolutely thrilled to join a company I had long admired and get to continue in an industry and career I love while living in Amsterdam,” Blum said. She now serves as a project manager.

By DPR continuing to prioritize the advancement of women, it continues to lead and help change the field for the better. It is a business imperative to advance women both internally and externally, and DPR hopes that by providing more training, celebrating women who build, and participating in the conferences to create more open and honest dialogue, it will continue to help shape an industry where women are able to succeed no matter their position or employer.

“Working at DPR means you were part of an incredible team to make it happen. Construction doesn’t happen because of only one person, we’re only able to accomplish what we do because we work together so well,” Romeo said.

February 28, 2019

Renovating a Hospital and Strengthening a Community

In Gloucester, Virginia, situated on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, Riverside Walter Reed Hospital (RWRH) celebrated the completed phases of its $55 million renovation and expansion with a ribbon cutting ceremony in January. Nearly 150 dignitaries, local officials and Riverside team members were in attendance to view the hospital’s new Surgical and Inpatient Services Building, which aims to better serve its patients and their loved ones.

Nearly 150 dignitaries, local officials and Riverside team members were in attendance to view the hospital’s new Surgical and Inpatient Services Building, which aims to better serve its patients and their loved ones. Photo courtesy of Sara Nicholas

The hospital’s Renovation and Expansion is the result of years of planning and is the most significant construction project in its more than 40-year history. It delivers a new two-story, 54,000-sq.-ft. surgical center with three new operating rooms, a more centrally located pharmacy, pre- and post-operative care, 36 new private patient rooms, and a new hospital entrance and lobby. The new emergency department will more than triple in size, expanding from 6,000 to 16,000 sq. ft. This creates room for seven more beds, three major treatment rooms, a trauma room, dedicated Family Care Room and a new waiting/lobby area to better service the more than 22,000 patients it sees each year.

The new Surgical Services Suite includes features such as camera-equipped, advanced LED lighting for surgical video integration. Photo courtesy of Sara Nicholas

The new Surgical Services Suite boasts features such as camera-equipped, advanced LED lighting for surgical video integration, as well as the ability to use any operating room for any surgical case, translating into greater scheduling flexibility. Each new pre-op room is fully private and is equipped with available music therapy. Thirteen post-surgery patient bays/rooms allow for increased patient privacy while supporting state-of-the-art infection prevention and monitoring. The new inpatient unit includes 36 next-generation, private inpatient rooms equipped with computer systems that can be monitored by nearby staff 24/7. With convertible sleeper sofas and additional seating for visitors and families, the renovation aims to improve the overall experience not only for patients, but for their loved ones as well.

The hospital’s Renovation and Expansion is the result of years of planning and the most significant construction project in its more than 40-year history. Photo courtesy of Sara Nicholas

According to Riverside, its services on the Middle Peninsula reflect the organizational mission of “caring for others as we would care for those we love.” That is a mission echoed by DPR Construction, general contractor on the Riverside Walter Reed Hospital campus project, as well as on two other campuses in the area—Riverside Regional Medical Center and Riverside Doctor’s Hospital Williamsburg. “For us, it’s not just about the project, it’s about the community,” said Greg Haldeman, a member of DPR’s Management Committee. DPR operated with decisions centered around concern for patient safety and with the goal of doing everything “to make sure the construction of the expansion and renovation of this active campus creates the least amount of impact possible for the patients of RWRH.”

The renovation delivers a new surgical center with three new operating rooms, a more centrally located pharmacy, pre- and post-operative care, 36 new private patient rooms, and a new hospital entrance and lobby. Photo courtesy of Sara Nicholas

The expansion and renovation of this vital medical facility is not just about adding more rooms and updating technology; it is about better serving the community. Riverside President and CEO Bill Downey summed up his view of the project by saying, “This is a great community and a great group of people, and we look forward to the next 40 years, as we continue to expand and grow further.”

February 21, 2019

Builders at our Core: Annie Brown

In the latest installment of Builders at Our Core, DPR focuses on SPW Laborer, Annie Brown. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

A significant contingency of DPR Construction’s self-perform work corps are laborers, who do everything from loading and unloading building materials, to building and tearing down scaffolding, to cleaning and preparing construction sites by removing possible hazards—work they perform with the core value of safety serving as a guide.

One such SPW Laborer is Annie Brown, who works out of DPR’s Richmond, Virginia office. Her personal commitment to safety is informed by the belief that safety is everyone’s job, and she weaves it into everything she does. Her path has been driven by hard work and determination to “not only get the job done, but get the job done the right way.” She shared some of her insights on doing great work while keeping those around her safe on the job.

Q: What do you love about construction/your job?

Brown: I love being a part of the great things DPR has constructed and continues to. But I also love connecting with the clients and staff at our project sites. When I worked on the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health PSR Operating Room Renovation, we used to pass out ice cream to the nightshift staff.

DPR’s Annie Brown believes the key to her success is focusing not just on getting the job done, but getting it done right. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What’s your favorite thing to build/type of project to work on?

Brown: I believe every project that I’ve been on has been and is a great experience, small or large, but I loved working on the VCU Health PSR Operating Room because I was able to see the transformation from start to finish. It made me feel great that I was able to contribute to the improvement of medical services, not only for the staff, but also for the patients.

Q: What are you most proud of?

Brown: I enjoy working for a company that continuously makes me feel like part of the team. Each one of DPR’s core values has not only projected into my career but also into my personal life. I’m reliable, a team player, a hard worker and very personable.

DPR’s Annie Brown gets personal satisfaction out of delivering quality work to DPR’s customers. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Brown: Making sure that each project has a clean and safe work environment. Because I’ve been through OSHA 10, I look out for safety. If I see someone doing something with more risk, I correct them. I say, 'Just letting you know. Just keeping you safe.' It's everybody's job.

Q: Over the course of your career, what is the most important thing you have learned?

Brown: Each project has its own unique way of doing things. Each project has its own challenges. As long as you work together as a team, you can overcome those challenges.

DPR’s Annie Brown espouses not only hard work and determination, but also working together as a team to get the job done. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field?

Brown: You need to work hard and be determined, but the most important thing is to be a team player. You absolutely have to work together to get the job done.

From ensuring jobsite safety to building relationships with colleagues and clients, Annie Brown imbues her work with the values DPR holds dear.

February 12, 2019

Integrated Approach Leverages Technology for Customers

An ever-increasing stock of technology tools holds promise in the construction industry. It’s tempting to use the latest and greatest “shiny object” immediately, but it takes a strategic approach to get the best results. Leveraging these assets to improve efficiency requires an intentional approach that implements the right technologies on the right projects to maximize predictable outcomes, transparency and bottom-line value.

This value-driven approach led DPR Construction to pilot and then fully implement a new technology integration manager role in each of its five business regions over the last three years. Something akin to curators of emerging technology, these professionals help project teams select and integrate the various applications and technologies for their projects, from preconstruction to closeout.

“DPR is known in the industry for experimenting with and leveraging a lot of technology,” said DPR’s Krupesh Kakkente, whose role includes tech integration nationally. “We realized there is a consequence to innovating without knowing where the value lies.”

To address this, DPR’s integration managers, a troupe of experienced, crossed trained employees, get involved as early as the RFP stage to dive deep into exploring what the customer is truly looking for. Based on this analysis, a tailored solution is devised to deploy the right technologies. The number one objective? “Align our project team’s expectations with the customer’s expectations,” said Kakkente. “DPR’s team of integration managers possess a ‘big picture’ perspective on what different project stakeholders bring to the table and the processes and standards that drive their work.”

An owner discusses the project with the construction team.
Listening to customer needs is a vital first step to properly deploying job site technology.

Start to Finish: Integration in Action

Starting with the earliest planning meetings, a DPR integration manager is at the table to understand what the customer needs and expects, while also taking in to account the project team’s experience and preferences when it comes to working with various applications. Those details inform recommendations for specific applications and technologies that will best deliver value. The goal is to support the full duration of a project and can include document hosting applications to design decision tracking and RFI tracking applications, to name just a few.

After guiding the initial selections, the integration manager works with project teams to ensure team members are up to speed on best practices and procedures at each stage, providing training whenever needed.

“We introduce them to all the apps and connect all the processes together so that they can use them efficiently on jobsites,” Kakkente said. “The overriding goal is transparency and using leading indicators to drive success; that is the real value for the customer.”

A group of people learn about VR technology.
Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies get a lot of attention, but how it will be used on a project is a key question to ask.

Measuring Success – Best Practice Adoption

DPR measures what percentage of the applications and processes used on DPR projects are best practice standards. Those best practices include technologies that have delivered significant returns in terms of adding efficiency to the construction process and increasing predictable outcomes for customers. Currently, DPR’s teams are adopting best practice programs at an average rate of 86 percent on projects companywide, according to Kakkente.

Why 86% best practice adoption rather than 100%? It leaves room for innovation. DPR’s overarching focus on bringing the highest degree of predictability, reliability and efficiency to owners’ projects is balanced with the understanding that innovation also has a significant role to play in a project’s success. Testing and implementing new technologies and approaches are part of the process of continually improving project schedules, cost, value, and quality for customers.

February 8, 2019

Challenges Deliver Innovative Success in Baltimore

The University of Maryland Medical Center’s (UMMC) new labor and delivery unit is a place where mothers, babies, and loved ones can feel calm, safe, and ready for the road of delivery ahead. By renovating the 30,000-sq.-ft. delivery floor and updating mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) systems, DPR Construction revitalized the 25-year-old center, enabling UMMC to provide better treatment for the 80 percent of pregnancies in Baltimore, Maryland which are high risk.

Hospital room
DPR Construction revitalized the 25-year-old center, enabling UMMC to provide better treatment for the 80 percent of pregnancies in Baltimore, Maryland which are high risk. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Sauers

The renovation includes new areas for triage, obstetric observation, high risk obstetric special care, elective obstetric surgeries/procedures and fetal procedures, and enhanced Neonatal Intensive Care Unit services, and presents a significant upgrade for the surrounding community.

Leveraging Communications for Success

Working within a functioning hospital always poses challenges. Safety, infection control and continuity of care are paramount. Often, these types of renovations require multiple phases and continual communication with all stakeholders throughout the project. The team on the UMMC project took a nimble approach, which allowed them to listen to the customer needs and requirements and put work in place seamlessly—without disruption.

“DPR established themselves as a partner by integrating with the clinical and design teams just after a concept schematic was solidified,” said Jarret Horst, Project Manager for UMMC. “Their early involvement and enthusiastic participation positioned them to be able to respond to the ever-shifting needs of the project while understanding of the objectives of the UMMC team. They were able to navigate the renovation process while remaining dedicated to the ‘true north’ vision of the clinical customers.”

Operating room
Often, these projects require multiple phases because hospitals cannot shut down multiple operations at one time and require continual communication with all stakeholders throughout the project. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Sauers

For example, initial planning called for the project to be completed in five phases. However, when certain tenants could not vacate the space, the plan morphed into 12 phases, increasing the complexity of the renovation with respect to noise, wall and ceiling access, and infection control. With existing operating rooms above and the pediatric cardiac suite below, work on the 6th floor required careful planning, resulting in the team scheduling noisy work around the OR schedule and implementing a process whereby the OR staff was able to contact DPR should work need to be shut down immediately. DPR continuously checked in with hospital staff to ensure work was not adversely affecting patients.

Bringing the Past into the Present

Like many healthcare renovations, the project involved creating access points to install new plumbing and electrical services. DPR developed comprehensive phasing plans and an Infection Control Risk Assessment solution to allow for safe updating of the MEP systems, which dated back to the 1960s.

The MEP work was approached methodically, beginning with thorough investigation and followed up with detailed planning meetings inclusive of subcontractors and the UMMC facilities group. Multiple temporary services were put in place as systems were changed out, allowing for continual service to existing areas of the hospital.

Hospital Hallway
The MEP work was approached methodically, beginning with thorough investigation and followed up with detailed planning meetings inclusive of subcontractors and the UMMC facilities group. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Sauers

However, upgrades were not limited to elements behind the walls. “The aesthetics also needed an upgrade. Now patients see walls awash in bright blues and yellows. In the architecture and finishing, there are a lot of wings and curving, both in the walls and floors, all meant to soothe and relax patients,” said Sarah Crimmins, medical director of the obstetric care unit and an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Producing Great Results

Through collaborative efforts, DPR and UMMC have created a space that Baltimore residents can rely on to help them navigate the delivery process.

“The end result is a space the team is very proud of, in part because so many details have been well planned. Everybody is very proud and passionate about this place,” Crimmins says. “Everyone wants to make sure this is the best it can be for the people in Maryland and the people in Baltimore.”

Hospital room
The University of Maryland Medical Center’s (UMMC) new labor and delivery unit is a place where mothers, babies, and loved ones can feel calm, safe, and ready for the road of delivery ahead. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Sauers

January 31, 2019

Trends to Watch in 2019: DPR Focused on Efficiency and Collaboration Across Core Markets

The new year will be a continuation of the current construction boom. Even if economic headwinds arise this year, the effects won’t be felt by active construction projects in 2019. Even in a busy market, the year ahead comes with challenges. DPR national core market experts each weigh in about a trend they’re watching that has the potential to impact customers.

“The Cloud is central to everything we do at work and at home. There is no short-term ease on demand. As such, the focus in 2019 will be minimal speculative builds with optimized speed-to-market strategies. The customers of our customers are exerting a lot of pressure on getting things online. Contractors need to use every tool at their disposal to ensure just-in-time delivery of materials and methods like prefabrication to shorten schedules. That said, the magic will happen in the planning stages; preconstruction and VDC services have the tools to really drive the process, especially in collaborative arrangements like design-build.”


“The single biggest driver in the market this year will be the younger generation of the workforce and the expectations they have for workplaces and lifestyles. On the office front, we’ve seen how spaces that offer flexibility and nudge toward healthy decisions and sustainability are preferred. Beyond that, in sectors like hospitality, the effect is even greater. With travel trends, it’s not OK to have a cookie cutter hotel anymore, and owners are spending more time looking at things like lighting to encourage selfies and food posts to social media. Cost is a pressure, but the need is real. We expect, even with a potential slowdown, we’ll see owners taking advantage of lower costs to renovate existing spaces to these new standards.”


“There continues to be a lot of discussion about how driving services to less acute facilities will ultimately lead to the increased development of outpatient facilities. However, the majority of work we continue to see are major patient tower expansions and renovations to existing acute care facilities. This is due to more access to insurance, an increasingly older population and a desire to capture market share with nicer amenities and newer technologies.

“That being said, healthcare systems continue to look at doing more with less to increase profitability due to lower reimbursement rates. Prefabrication and modularization, particularly for things like exterior skin and headwalls to corridor racks and full bathroom pods, will be key in helping customers maximize their returns. The good news is this is driven by more access to insurance, so systems are aiming to support a larger share of the population and providing key services to those who need it.”


“We keep hearing from customers that their biggest uncertainty is knowing what majors will be in demand in five to ten years. Plus, technology changes quickly. As a result, we see high demand for lab/STEM/STEAM spaces, but with an emphasis on flexibility. How can we best advise a customer on design and construction of a new space that they can literally roll in new equipment in a few years to meet student and professor needs? The way we address that issue will be a key issue in 2019."


“Manufacturing is trending towards scaling-out instead of scaling-up to keep pace with exciting new life science discoveries that demand a more targeted and personalized approach to treating diseases. We know that there is a trend toward smaller production spaces, where smaller lots can be produced before making the investment to manufacture at large scale. On the R&D front, there is a growing number of projects that are converting office buildings into lab buildings; that will involve some very technical needs from a contractor. Additionally, there is more reliance on data, so we see a convergence among the interests of life sciences, healthcare and data center customers.”

January 9, 2019

DLR Opens the Doors to its first “Mega Scale” Data Center

Digital Realty (DLR), a real estate investment trust and leading global data center provider, recently opened its latest ground-up data center in Ashburn, Virginia. With the concrete tilt-up panels set in place for the 230,000-sq.-ft. building this summer, DLR’s first deployment of the “mega scale” prototype data center came online in only eight months—from ground breaking to IST/Occupancy.

The project team manages the start of the tilt-up panel installation, a key project milestone.
The project team manages the start of the tilt-up panel installation, a key project milestone. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin

Built to host a single customer, the project required a unique approach. DLR worked collaboratively with the customer and project team as the design evolved and adjusted needs accordingly. The confidential end user requirements incorporated a high-density rack layout, optimizing the dollar value of each rack. With power and cooling accounting for 80 percent of the data center operating costs, customers are trending towards this high-density layout which reduces the distance in cable runs and networks, minimizing the cooling and space footprint, resulting in increased efficiency. Every two years, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles, and the high-density layout offers more flexibility for these future needs.

DPR incorporated lessons learned from past buildouts through installing all future steel supports to eliminate re-work at the roof and through resequencing future equipment rigging to minimize the number of temporary roll-up doors. Now complete, Phase 1 includes a six-megawatt (MW) data hall. Once fully occupied, the building will have six separate data halls, built-out over the next two to three years, hosting 36MW of critical power.

More than 50 guests gathered to celebrate the opening of the new data center.
Now complete, Phase 1 includes a six-megawatt (MW) data hall. Once fully occupied, the building will have six separate data halls, built-out over the next two to three years, hosting 36MW of critical power Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin

More than 50 guests, including the customer, design partners, subcontractors, craftspeople and DPR employees celebrated the achievement, as well as the hard work and dedication put forth by all involved with the project. “We can’t thank all of you enough for your efforts to bring this one home,” Dan Kingman, Director of Construction for DLR, told the team. “This was an incredibly impressive performance by the DPR team. This was one of the most challenging and important projects Digital Realty has ever completed, and you more than delivered. Looking forward to continuing to build great things with you.”

More than 50 guests gathered to celebrate the opening of the data center and take a tour of the site.
More than 50 guests gathered to celebrate the opening of the data center and tour the new site. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin
“We can’t thank all of you enough for your efforts to bring this one home,” Dan Kingman
“We can’t thank all of you enough for your efforts to bring this one home,” Dan Kingman, Director of Construction for DLR, told the team. “This was an incredibly impressive performance by the DPR team. This was one of the most challenging and important projects Digital Realty has ever completed, and you more than delivered. Looking forward to continuing to build great things with you.” Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin

January 4, 2019

Builders at our Core: Heraldo & Yordan Vasquez Sanchez

In the latest installment of Builders at our Core, we talk with father-and-son team Heraldo and Yordan Vasquez. Heraldo started as a carpenter at DPR and worked hard to become a general foreman, while his son, Yordan, worked his way up from laborer to lead carpenter, followed by foreman training. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

When we asked DPR’s leader of SPW field operations in Austin, Texas, BB Lopez, about father-and-son team Heraldo & Yordan Vasquez Sanchez, he didn’t hesitate to answer with praise. “Listen, I wouldn’t be where I am today without these two guys. Their success is the key to my success. They’ve always been leaders and mentors, and that’s been the key.”

That theme runs through Heraldo and Yordan’s careers: mentoring and building up the careers of others. Heraldo started as a carpenter at DPR and worked hard to become a general foreman, while his son, Yordan, worked his way up from laborer to lead carpenter, followed by foreman training. We sat the duo down to find out what makes them so successful, not only at building world-class structures, but at building great people.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to build/type of project to work on?

Heraldo: I like everything. I like seeing my son as a tradesman. I like the small group of eight workers we’ve had working together for 12 years—our original group is still together—and seeing them grow.

Yordan: We all started as carpenters, and he’s always tried to motivate us and push us forward. We kind of complement each other; we know what everyone is best at and we can pick each other up and cover each other without even saying a word.

Q: What are you most proud of in your work at DPR?

Heraldo: All the jobs I’ve completed with the minimum number of incidents and the overall completion and quality of my work.

Yordan: Heraldo is a good boss, but he’s real picky. He doesn’t like messy work. He wants it fast, but he always taught me this: construction is based on quality, safety and production. Delivering that makes me proud.

DPR's Heraldo Vasquez Sanchez believes that quality and safety are the keys to his success. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo.

Q: Over the course of your career, what is the most important thing you have learned?

Heraldo: Overall, I would say I value safety much more. About four or five years ago I suffered an injury to my right hand. I was close to being disabled. After I got better, I started seeing everything differently. I became even more focused on safety. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I did to learn how important it is.

Yordan: Always hearing about safety from my father and seeing him practice what he preaches. He shows everyone you can deliver quality safely and on schedule.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Yordan: Family and work-life balance. Wanting to spend more time with my family but not leaving my profession and my workers behind; it’s a balancing act. And my family is small—only five. I’m the oldest of three brothers, but my father has 18 brothers! But DPR wants us to spend time with our families so we can focus better when we’re on the job.

DPR's Yordan Vasquez Sanchez strives to continuously learn to make himself and his work better. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo.

Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field:

Yordan: Learn! One of the biggest things for us, something we emphasize for the whole family, is to never be satisfied. Always learn, learn, learn!

Q: It sounds like you could work for anyone. I’m curious, what do you tell people when they ask, “Why DPR?”

Heraldo: Honestly, DPR has given me opportunities other companies would never entertain. I think there are a lot of folks who don’t see or appreciate what DPR does. But I’m proof that DPR can help people have a career, not just a job. I always try to share that with my crews. The culture and support at DPR is really what got me where I am today.

Yordan: One thing I would add is that Heraldo has VERY high standards. He doesn’t allow sloppy work, and his crews are good because of that. DPR empowers all of us to take action when someone isn’t living up to what we expect. Don’t get me wrong, Heraldo gives everyone an opportunity to earn it… but if they won’t listen and adhere to DPR’s high standards, then they don’t belong at DPR.

BB Lopez sums up how instrumental strong leadership from the trades is: “These guys built these crews on their own, and that really is the bedrock of success at DPR. And it’s not just their crews. We wouldn’t be as strong as we are today without them mentoring the guys running other jobs.”

DPR's father-and-son team Heraldo and Yordan Vasquez Sanchez set their standards high for every project they manage. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo.

December 27, 2018

Collaborative Spirit and Technical Expertise Combine to Deliver a New Cancer Center in Jacksonville, Florida

When three years of dreaming, planning and building concluded, a new standard for patient-centered cancer care began as the Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center welcomed its first patients in Jacksonville, Florida. DPR Construction teamed with customer, Baptist Health, and a strong team of design and contracting partners to deliver the new, 330,000-sq.-ft., nine-story cancer treatment center, creating new possibilities for care providers and patients near Florida’s First Coast.

Rallying–and collaborating–for a cause

Baptist MD Anderson Cancer center creates welcomed its first patients in Jacksonville, Florida during September of 2018
The new, 330,000-sq.-ft., nine-story Baptist MD Anderson Cancer center welcomed its first patients in Jacksonville, Florida in September of 2018. Photo courtesy of Tom Harris

Knowing the customer saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime project, DPR turned to Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) to comprehensively understand the needs of the owner, to draw upon the expertise of local trade partners and to build trust and rapport with project stakeholders. The team included local contractor Perry McCall Construction and design partners HKS, FreemanWhite and Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.; all partners collectively utilized a co-located “Big Room” as a hub for operations. The team was so focused on collaboration that after Hurricane Irma destroyed the co-location site in August 2017, they created a new and improved Big Room with a renewed synergy and sense of purpose within weeks.

DPR turned to Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) to comprehensively understand the needs of the owner and others.
DPR turned to Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) to comprehensively understand the needs of the owner, to draw upon the expertise of local trade partners and to build trust and rapport with project stakeholders. Photo courtesy of Tom Harris

DPR also drew on the knowledge and skills from its network of projects nationwide. Self-performing trades—such as concrete, doorframes, hardware and acoustical ceilings—on a facility of this size meant sourcing help from DPR craftspeople across multiple states, including California, Texas and North Carolina. This strategy not only contributed to the on-time delivery of the center, but resulted in considerable cost savings and unparalleled quality discoverable in even the smallest design details, as well.

Technical expertise bridges the old with new

A key aspect to successful delivery—and a significant technical challenge—was connecting the existing patient tower to the new cancer center by way of a 150-ton glass and steel enclosed pedestrian skybridge. Erection of the prefabricated bridge required meticulous planning for nearly a year prior to installation. Spanning across 124 feet of one of Jacksonville’s most traveled local thoroughfares, San Marco Boulevard, the bridge required installation with no disruption to patients, visitors and the public—in addition to Baptist Health’s existing emergency department.

A key technical challenge was connecting the existing patient tower to the new cancer treatment center.
A key technical challenge was connecting the existing patient tower to the new cancer treatment center by way of a 150-ton glass and steel enclosed pedestrian skybridge. Photo courtesy of Tom Harris

The team explored options for the bridge’s frame system, exterior detailing, interior design features and MEP layouts while working with the hospital to understand how the bridge could be installed to maximize the facility’s ability to serve its patients.

Bridge erection involved two, 450-ton cranes that placed the structure on top of two, 36,000-pound trusses. The team planned MEP tie-ins between the two towers and the bridge with provisions for any contingency, and work at the outpatient facility was scheduled at night to avoid disruption of care and life safety systems. Additionally, 4D building information modeling kept the project moving on a fast-track, enabling prefabrication of significant electrical, plumbing and mechanical components, saving time during the construction process.

Work at the outpatient facility was scheduled at night to avoid disruption of care and life safety systems.
Work at the outpatient facility was scheduled at night to avoid disruption of care and life safety systems. Photo courtesy of Tom Harris

Remarkable partnerships, remarkable care

Nearly 1,200 construction workers from 45 different contractors and partners contributed to the new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center. Together, they have delivered an advanced cancer treatment center that will provide remarkable care in the Southeast region of the United States for years to come.

DPR's SPW crews self-performed concrete, doorframes, hardware and acoustical ceilings.
DPR's SPW crews self-performed concrete, doorframes, hardware and acoustical ceilings. Photo courtesy of Tom Harris

December 5, 2018

Builders at our Core: Marc Agulla

Marc Agulla on his Orlando, FL job site.
The work of DPR self-perform drywall crews caught Mark Agulla's interest, and he created an opportunity for himself to join DPR as an apprentice, specifically learning about hanging and framing. Today, he has a goal of becoming a superintendent. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Marc Agulla first connected with DPR in 2015 working in the trades with a subcontractor at a Central Florida DPR project. The work of DPR self-perform drywall crews caught his interest and, through conversations with DPR staff, he created an opportunity for himself to join DPR as an apprentice, specifically learning about hanging and framing. Today, he’s not only leading drywall crews for a large portion of work on The KPMG Learning, Development and Innovation Center in Orlando, he’s set a longer-term goal of becoming a superintendent.

Agulla recently discussed his career path, how DPR recognizes hard work with opportunities and how the trades have helped him grow.

Q: What is your role at DPR? Describe the path you took to get there.

Agulla: Right now, I lead a drywall crew on the “hotel” portion of the KPMG project, the place where employees will stay during training. It’s pretty amazing how I got here. I was working on a DPR job in a different trade, but I always wanted to frame and hang. I got to know DPR’s team and, after quite a bit of insistence on my part, DPR gave me an opportunity to come in as an apprentice. At that point, the team grabbed a hold of me and took it upon themselves to mentor me. I was placed at a large job site and mentored by the superintendents and foremen there. They had a class where I learned to read drawings, to know the Underwriters Laboratories types, the codes and similar topics. The framing and hanging I learned hands on. So many people took me under their wings. Now, I’m in a bit of a leadership position where I can guide and instruct the craft and utilize all I’ve been taught from DPR.

DPR's Marc Agulla examines his work area.
DPR's Marc Agulla committed himself to learning and has quickly risen through the ranks of DPR self-perform crews. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What’s your favorite thing about construction work?

Agulla: I enjoy the end result more than anything else. I really like that when you first come in, there’s nothing, but you can picture the end product in your mind. You watch the process and then, to see it come to fruition, is gratifying.

Q: What’s the most technical thing you’ve worked on?

Agulla: The stage of the game we’re at on the KPMG project has prefab bathroom units. We’re getting ready to set the pods in place and all the trades have to work together because everything has to be perfect to be able to just put these in place. We all know how this will affect the customer and its end users.

DPR's Marc Agulla chats with his crew
DPR's Marc Gulla says communication skills have been key to his success in the field. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: To be successful in your role, what skills does a person need?

Agulla: You need to be able to multitask. Also, communication skills are key, especially listening. Listening and being open to advice from everyone and anyone is something I’ve really learned at DPR. I didn’t always have a construction background. I’ve managed people before, but it’s a different kind of management in construction. We’re a team. My mentors are great, but the craft guys who are installing, the laborers… you can learn anything from anyone on the job site if you listen. I don’t pretend to know everything.

Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field?

Don’t sell yourself short. If you’re a laborer and you choose to apply yourself, DPR will give you these opportunities to go as far as you are willing to go. If you put the work in, DPR will help you get there. They want to help. It’s just a matter of applying yourself. Stay focused, study and work hard and you can have it all. Ultimately, my goal is foreman, then superintendent. That’s my hope and dream and, with time and hard work, I know those are realistic goals.

Q: How is working with DPR’s self perform workers different than other work you’ve done?

You know, I got married since I’ve been with the company. Today, we’re getting ready to have a baby and what’s different at DPR is that it’s like a family. Everyone is so loving and supportive, from the office to out here in the field. I’ve worked at other places and done other things and never had people that truly cared about your spouse or your child the way they do here. Stuff like that to me is important. DPR puts value on that. You see it in the way people genuinely care and in things like the lengths we go to for safety every day. I love that about DPR.

Marc Agulla in his job site trailer
DPR's Marc Agulla loves his work, but also the culture DPR has throughout its company. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo