January 31, 2020

If These Walls Could Talk... They'd Share MEP Stories

Buildings are, in some ways, like our bodies:

  • The skeletal system is like the structural elements of a building, supporting all that goes inside.
  • Our skin provides a protective barrier from the elements, protecting what’s inside, just as a building’s curtainwall does. Of course, our bodies rely on systems of veins, arteries, nerves and more to handle critical functions. A building does, as well; the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems are the “guts” of a building.

Just like our bodies’ systems, MEP systems are extremely intricate. Technical expertise is required to keep them in optimal health once up-and-running. Unlike the human body, buildings don’t have the benefit of nature to install every inch of the systems automatically and precisely. It takes MEP professionals engaging at every stage of the project to make sure that the systems that power, cool, heat and provide water for buildings and installed correctly and work as expected. They’re not cardiologists and neurologists… or are they, in a sense?

The work MEP professionals do is vital and most building occupants never see what goes into it because much of their work is shielded by the walls, floors and ceilings of a building. But, if these walls could talk, they’d share a lot of stories of how MEP pros made great things happen.

In this series, DPR Construction shines a light on the work of MEP professionals, from how they get involved to make sure designs come to life to how their work can help support lower operating expenses for facility owners.

In this first installment, we look at how MEP pros are among the unsung heroes of any construction project.

January 23, 2020

Builders at our Core: Hershal Rogers

Hershal Rogers, superintendent for DPR's SPW crew, talks about his experiences.
Hershal Rogers has witnessed a lot of positive industry change since he started in the drywall business over 35 years ago. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Hershal Rogers began his professional journey nailing off houses in Texas at the age of 13. He has witnessed a lot of change in the industry, from the adoption of iPads in the field to the use of digitally fabricated panels. He spoke to us about the benefits of using prefabricated panels over traditional stick-built methods in accelerating project schedules and improving overall safety in the field. And the tools he has found most useful on his journey? Honesty and integrity.

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

Rogers: I came to DPR a year and a half ago, but I‘ve been a superintendent level or above in the drywall trade for a long time. My brother started me in the business when I was 13 years old. After I served in the Navy, I worked for a small construction company. I was self-employed for years, then worked as an operations manager for an interiors company. Then a coworker referred me to DPR. I work as a superintendent, running various projects.

Q: How does your team integrate with other teams? How do you work with each other or make things easier for each other?

Rogers: One thing I’ve learned over this last year and a half with DPR is it’s all about relationships. We’re all one team. If there's something we can’t do, suggest alternatives. Offer a solution rather than a flat out “no,” to build trust that our group is going to be there to take care of the job and we’re not going to fail. I try to build that into our craft—to be solution-minded. Point out solutions to problems rather than the problems themselves. And it seems to be working. We’re training people right and getting the right people for the job.

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

Rogers: The most challenging part is proving yourself on a daily basis. I always try to be out in front of everyone, schedule-wise. We have to be organized and make sure the right materials are there when we need them. Everybody else is in same boat, so you can’t be too far ahead. I’ll set up delivery of a truckload of drywall for every Wednesday and Friday so the materials are there, but also not too many at once because it would clutter the jobsite. The good thing about the job is that each one has its own personality. You don’t do the same thing every day. It’s really about doing whatever task is at hand and trying to get things right. I’m always figuring out how to adjust things to fit the needs of the project.

Hershal Rogers focuses on being solution oriented and tries to impart the importance of this goal to everyone he works with.
Building trust is important to Rogers. He and his team accomplish this by being solution oriented and sticking to their promises. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

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

Rogers: Patience is paramount, so I think patience and just being versatile. Being willing to make changes and to adjust to the needs of the other individuals on the job. Things can change constantly. I’ll have my plans for the day, and by 7:15 my plans have changed. You prioritize the project needs and decide what should come first. It’s a juggling act, but I don’t drop many balls.

Q: How have you grown since you started here?

Rogers: I come from a background of all "Mom and Pop" type shops. This is my first experience with a large general contractor. Where I was working before, we still used a hammer, a chisel and a rock to communicate. When I walked into DPR to get onboarded, the first thing they did was hand me an iPad, which I wasn’t used to. But I’m learning. I see the advantages of the technology, whereas before I thought of it as a hindrance.

If you ask anyone who knows me, I’ve even grown as a person. My wife, my fishing buddies, my hunting buddies… they all say I’m a completely different person than I used to be. Where I worked before, it was a negative, high-pressure environment. It was one of those situations where you pretty much had to give your personal life away. Now that I’ve been here a little bit longer and have learned to embrace the DPR culture, I realize that all the things I was told aren’t just empty words. They’re real. If you do something right, you hear about it. If you do something wrong, you hear about it. Whatever you’re doing, the occasional pat on the back goes a long way toward morale. A happy employee is a productive employee. I’m happy to be involved with a company that believes that.

Hershal Rogers is a believer in the benefits of prefabrication panels in accelreating schedule and improving jobsite safety.
Rogers cites accelerated schedule and increased safety as crucial benefits of building with prefabricated panels. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: Tell us a bit more about the technology aspect of your work here.

Rogers: We’re working on a job in Fort Worth using prefabricated panels. Because DPR is a self-performing general contractor, we can get the job started at least a couple weeks faster than anybody else in town would have. There have been several jobs in the past year where that’s really been a benefit to everyone. From a scheduling standpoint, you can’t build walls in the air near as fast as you can put one up with a crane, like we do with our prefab panels. It takes about 20 minutes to set a 16-foot by 25-foot wall, 28 floors in the air. It would take two weeks to build it the traditional way.

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

Rogers: Honesty and integrity are the things that have gotten me where I am. I don’t have a college education, but I served my country and I’m proud of that. I’ve always done my best. It’s like I tell some of these young men and women: If you say you’re going to do something, do it. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing; come in every day and do your best. If you want opportunities, look for them and make the most of them. Like me—I started out nailing off houses in East Texas. I’ve pushed brooms thousands of miles. Don’t view what you’re doing today as meaningless because it’s not. It takes all of us to make this work. The sky is the limit. Set your own goals and meet those goals. If an opportunity happens, step through that door and knock it out of the park.

January 17, 2020

Trends Affecting Customer Outcomes in 2020

Pressures customers face are changing as their industries evolve. At the same time, construction is employing new technology and delivery methods to address these challenges, all while delivering value for customers.

In that context, some of DPR Construction's core market experts tried to answer this key question for the year ahead: “What’s one thing that will change customer outcomes in 2020?”

John Arcello says that, in 2020, we're putting the data back in data center construction.
Photo courtesy of David Hardman

"Putting data back in data center construction. Customer-specific data analytics, business improvement metrics and collaborative platforms will improve project delivery for our customers, bringing them online faster, no matter where they’re deploying new facilities." - John Arcello

Andrea Weisheimer thinks VDC and Prefabrication will affect the commercial market.
Photo courtesy of David Hardman

"VDC and Prefabrication. Robust VDC programs will let us show tenants and developers spaces sooner, provide synchronized visual schedules so they can see visual plans as we build and help enable virtual quality control programs. VDC and will also enable quality prefabrication that helps guarantee schedule, addressing a key pressure for customers throughout the sector, from offices to hospitality facilities." - Andrea Weisheimer

Hamilton Espinosa thinks contractors will adjust their delivery to help provide value for customers facing thin margins.
Photo courtesy of David Hardman

"Optimizing construction as healthcare providers face reduced operating margins. Reimbursement rates are decreasing and as a result healthcare systems are forced to operate at razor thin operating margins. At the same time, spending on technology is almost equal to normal capital expenditures. Through early design collaboration, lean delivery and prefabrication, we can increase efficiency, maximize value and make sure providers are getting the most ROI both in construction and facility operations." - Hamilton Espinosa

Tracy de Leuw believes design management will be a key factor in 2020.
Photo courtesy of David Hardman

"Collaborative design/build delivery with a focus on design management. With public money/fixed budgets adding pressures to institutions more than ever, owners require cost and schedule certainty. Through the DPR design academy and the use of programmatic estimating and Modelogix, we will show how design management can ensure certainty when all of the moving parts of a project work together." - Tracy de Leuw

Scott Strom sees new ways to lower costs of cleanrooms.
Photo courtesy of David Hardman

"Driving down the cost of cleanrooms in new ways. There are practical modular solutions that address both functional requirements inside of the room along with structural support requirements outside of it. Additionally, design management, minimizing air changes per square foot of manufacturing area and exploring less expensive – yet durable/cleanable – surface materials will provide new ways of delivering these spaces." - Scott Strom

January 14, 2020

DPR Takes the Lead in Digital Transformation

If there is one main lesson DPR has learned on its multi-decade digital transformation journey, it’s that the implementation of technology alone cannot deliver the level of results the industry has come to expect or desire. To be successful, you need to:

1) identify the problem you’re trying to solve,

2) look at process and workflow issues,

3) research and pilot digital solutions that can help, and

4) create a plan for training and scaling

According to research by the McKinsey Global Institute, digital transformation in construction can result in productivity gains of 14-15 percent and cost reductions of 4 to 6 percent.

Eric Lamb, DPR Construction, took the stage as a keynote speaker for Autodesk Forge DevCon in Las Vegas, to share lessons learned during DPR’s multi-decade digital transformation journey and how the organization continues to test, invest and scale digital solutions aimed at not only improving productivity during project delivery but also optimizing building performance throughout its lifecycle for customers.

“Driving digital transformation at DPR really means we are pushing the power of BIM data and workflow optimization to the edge of our network,” said Lamb. DPR began using BIM in the 1990s for 3D visualization and to coordinate design and production model clashes virtually, before they became problems in the field, and has progressed to a Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) process that allows for digital fabrication/prefabrication directly from the model and the creation of a digital twin that can be used for facility management.

Digital Fabrication with Digital Building Components

By digitally fabricating building components through Digital Building Components, DPR transforms design and construction BIM and CAD/CAM drawings directly into precise-to-spec digital models of the products that are installed during construction. From these models, DPR optimizes installation sequencing and product delivery logistics. This strategic sequencing approach based on prefabrication helps to build faster projects at lower cost and provides a higher level of quality.

“By leveraging our expertise as a builder and staying at the forefront of tech, we are addressing problems, updating workflows and improving productivity significantly to fix our customer’s pain points and deliver more predictable outcomes,” said Lamb.

According to Lamb, integration of every data point and detail into a 3D model allows placement with well over 99% accuracy, for a third of the cost and makes the process a lot safer.

Building the Digital Twin with VueOps

DPR has taken the model with integrated data one step further through VueOps. Utilizing the Autodesk Forge platform, VueOps creates a facility digital twin that captures and integrates FM data and turnover documents for building locations, equipment, and systems. Facility managers and operators can then manage and integrate the information with the owner’s work order and energy management systems.

VueOps helps building owners achieve their own digital transformation to more effectively operate their buildings through the collection, quality assurance, integration and visualization of building data from capital projects for FM uses. Facility up time and productivity are mission critical to revenue especially in life sciences and healthcare facilities. With VueOps, FM can now be a key strategic player in optimizing building performance. The ability to access and use the integrated data set ultimately improves the owner’s CapEx ROI and OpEx efficiency.

For example, a healthcare customer reported a late-night drain/waste line leak that impacted a first-floor cafeteria in a hospital. The leak occurred in a 2h rated vertical shaft. To contain the problem, the facility engineers located the control valve for the line within one hour using the BIM. The valve was only accessible from an operating room (OR), two floors above, that normally generated revenue of $10k/minute. Engineers were able to get the OR and cafeteria up and running before 7am the next morning, with no loss of uptime. In contrast, a similar incident at a different healthcare provider that had no model to facilitate rapid containment and repair, incurred over $20M in down time and repair costs.

This customizable digital solution helps building owners and facility managers maximize how their facility is managed after construction and throughout the entire lifecycle of a building.

By taking advantage of the latest in data management and visualization, VueOps gives clients faster and more accurate information about the sources of building problems and their resolution. In addition, clients achieve faster responses to regulatory agencies, longer equipment lives, and lower energy use to power better building performance.

Digital construction technology and transformation has not been elusive for DPR, as it has arguably been for other construction companies throughout the years, due to long term commitment to innovation and investment. As DPR continues to capture the value of technology, it is making a positive difference, improving performance and delivering greater benefits.

November 27, 2019

Builders at our Core: Andres Sanchez

Andres Sanchez has a keen appreciation for and experience with integrating various teams.
Andres Sanchez has a keen appreciation for and experience with integrating the various teams it takes to deliver a successful project. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Over the past year, DPR Construction has shared stories of its self-perform work (SPW) teams. We’ve heard from builders who successfully execute complex technical projects every day by working closely with their teammates. But a key part of project success also lies in the collaboration and integration between teams, so we’re shifting our focus to highlight those synergies. We begin with Andres Sanchez, a self-proclaimed “office guy who came from the field and every day takes the field to the office.” Sanchez began his career as a craft team member, transitioned into virtual design and construction and currently acts as a project engineer, so he has a keen appreciation for and experience with integrating the various teams it takes to deliver a successful project.

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

Sanchez: I’m currently a project engineer, managing SPW work. I started working in the field as a craft employee, and I was fortunate to get the chance to be part of the laser scanning unit when it was brand new to our region. We laser scanned as-built conditions, floor flatness, concrete pre-pours, and after we were successful we trained other regions in laser scanning. I liked laser scanning because it allowed me to visit multiple offices and work with various teams, because we were performing work outside of our Phoenix office and training others. We mastered the process so we could share our learning. I’m currently managing the ASU Health Futures Center projects and assisting at other SSG projects on other campuses.

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

Sanchez: The main thing I love about construction is just putting my two cents in to get something done. To be the bridge between our design and our craft. To be able to translate what’s being requested to put that in place. That’s team integration in a nutshell.

Sanchez points out that each person he works with has the same goal: to work together to deliver a successful project. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: How does your team integrate with other teams? How do you work with each other or make things easier for each other?

Sanchez: In my role, we deal with Preconstruction before the project even starts. We deal with BIM coordination. We work with our superintendents to be able to manage the correct schedule, and with other trade partners to coordinate the work in place. At the end of the day, we’re all working together to achieve one goal: a successful project. And teamwork makes that happen.

One good example was the laser scanning. I was doing framing on a project, and I was asked if I was interested in being part of this new team that was being developed. I didn’t hesitate for a minute. I said, “Yes, when do I start?” Our group of three had no real experience with it, but we knew we needed to master it as soon as possible. With support from our Southern California team, we purchased our own laser scanner and brought in a specialty team from the vendor, Trimble, to train us. On a scale from one to 10, our first project was a 9. To be able to exceed the owner’s expectations and showcase the benefit of laser scanning was mind-blowing. As a region, it was just the beginning of a new way of implementing technology into construction. From that project, it skyrocketed. We did Shea Hospital in Phoenix. That lead us to go to Austin, Dallas and Houston to coach and train our Texas folks, where concrete was taking off. After that, we did the same thing in Florida.

Sanchez loves his job, especially being the bridge between design and the craft, and to help translate what’s being requested into what gets built. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What are you most proud of / what is your proudest moment at DPR?

Sanchez: One of my proudest moments was to be able to share my love of construction with my daughter. When I worked on the project in Tucson, my 9-year-old daughter, Mia, visited the jobsite with me on multiple occasions until completion. During our daily dinner conversation, she always asked me, “Is it done yet?” It was like having to give a superintendent a daily project update. Now that we moved back to Phoenix, she tells everyone, “I built a hospital in Tucson. I worked for DPR.” And now she wants to be an engineer.

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

Sanchez: (Laughs) Going home! There are days when I get calls from home telling me dinner is ready, and I say, “Give me 20 more minutes.” I always try to stay ahead of things and be on top of what’s coming up next week: forecasting, what’s going to be impacting our schedule. I must stay on top of all that.

According to Sanchez, a great attitude and a great smile make every day, and every project, easier. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

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

Sanchez: Attitude. Having the right attitude, the will to learn and to be teachable. You could have all it takes to master a skill or a task, but not having the correct attitude will not give you great results. It can be as simple as sharing a smile with someone who might be having a bad day. A great smile and a great attitude make everything easier. I’m always smiling. Even when something goes wrong, they say, “Why is he smiling?” And I say, “Well, let’s figure something out!”

November 22, 2019

DPR Leverages Data Center Expertise in Booming Atlanta Market

Data center development has surged in the Atlanta metro area in recent years, fueled by rich connectivity options, reasonable power costs, low natural disaster risk, easy access to tech talent, and a state tax break passed by Georgia legislators in 2018 designed to spur growth in the data center market.

Databank building in Midtown Atlanta Photo courtesy of Halkin I Mason Photography

Long recognized as a financial technology hub (Atlanta is a clearinghouse for some 70% of all electronic payments worldwide and home to 16 Fortune 500 companies), the city has garnered recognition in recent years as the 7th largest wholesale data center market in the United States according to CBRE, with 132.5 MW of inventory. Forbes named Atlanta one of the top five up-and-coming “tech meccas” in 2017. And in a nod to the region’s growing data center market, Bisnow held its Data Center Investment Conference & Expo in Atlanta the past two years, while CAPRE held its fourth annual Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure Summit in Atlanta this August. CBRE Research recently ranked Atlanta fifth in the U.S. for the region’s 14.5 MW currently under construction and sixth in the nation for its 40% growth in inventory since 2015 (North American Data Center Report H1 2019).

The leading names in data center ownership are expanding their presence in the Atlanta market – enabling the region to hold its own against other leading powerhouse data center markets throughout the U.S.

DPR Construction, a leading builder of data centers and advanced technology facilities, has found itself in the midst of this boom.

DPR recently completed two major data center projects for clients in the burgeoning Atlanta region; a signature data center project in Midtown Atlanta for leading enterprise-class data center provider Databank and a 70,000-sq.-ft. data center facility for Flexential on their Alpharetta campus. The projects showcase how DPR was able to leverage its technical expertise and its national data center experience to support customers’ needs for highly technical, mission critical projects in the Southeastern U.S.

Databank's central energy plant Photo courtesy of Halkin I Mason Photography

Databank Expands to Atlanta Market

The three-story, 110,000-sq.-ft. data center and adjoining 645,000-sq.-ft., 21-story mixed use office complex are the latest addition to the Georgia Institute of Technology’s “Tech Square.” The project is Databank’s first data center in Atlanta, representing the company’s expansion into its ninth U.S. market.

Databank is leasing 30% of the data center facility to Georgia Tech for its high-performance, research computing needs. The ATL1 facility will also house part of the Southern Crossroads network node which provides high-speed, high bandwidth connectivity to research and education sites throughout the region and across the nation.

Georgia Tech’s fleet of super computers operate at five-times the density of traditional computer racks and produce heat loads that would overwhelm traditional, air-cooled data centers. Working with DPR, DataBank and Georgia Tech opted to address those unusual heat loads with rack-mounted heat exchanges that allow Georgia Tech to significantly reduce the energy required to manage that heat.

DPR completed the initial 3.2-megawatt buildout on time and under budget. The space is now being operated by Georgia Tech for university support and research activities and by DataBank as part of its Atlanta service offering for companies seeking colocation, cloud or hybrid cloud solutions.

Additionally, DPR was selected as the general contractor for both the Coda Tower project (built for Portman Holdings) and Databank’s ATL1 data center project, employing two separate project teams that worked simultaneously on site. The Databank project team overcame an array of logistical, technical, and project management hurdles to complete the facility in February of 2019, just 11 months after construction began. The complexity of the conjoined development was further compounded by an extremely tight development schedule, mid-project design changes, equipment issues, ongoing weather factors, and finally, a construction moratorium enforced by the City of Atlanta to minimize any impact to the Super Bowl festivities.

“Our relationships with the subcontractors and vendors helped us cut short some of the long delivery equipment times so we could still meet our substantial completion date,” commented DPR project executive Vikesh Handratta. “Everyone stepped up to help find solutions whenever we faced a challenge on this project.”

Handratta said that clear, open communication, a highly collaborative and committed project team and DPR’s ability to leverage its national data center knowledge base were all critical factors in the project’s success. “Everybody had one end goal in mind: let’s be successful as a team,” he said.

Databank's data center floor Photo courtesy of Halkin I Mason Photography

Solution-Oriented Approach

Success on the project required the team to innovate solutions to myriad challenges that came up. Among them:

  • Groundbreaking on the Databank project was dependent on Coda tower’s completion of five levels of parking below the plaza level, which is the ground floor for the data center. Although the plaza level had some challenges in delivering as originally planned, the team came up with a strategy to mitigate that delay and still complete the data center on schedule.
  • Constructing the project in the middle of busy midtown Atlanta created some logistical challenges which required DPR to hyper coordinate activities with subs and suppliers and the city of Atlanta on all project deliveries and equipment installation activities that impacted traffic.
  • Transporting the chillers inside the building through the Coda tower loading dock proved to be a challenge that required careful preplanning and coordination ahead of time with the trucking and equipment vendors.

Tapping DPR’s National Data Center Expertise

DPR leveraged its national data center expertise to assist with commissioning, bringing in a highly experienced MEP coordinator from the West Coast to work alongside DPR’s Atlanta-based team.

“As a national data center builder, we were able to easily bring in someone who was extremely knowledgeable about all stages of data center commissioning to work hand-in-hand with our project-based commissioning agent, which was really helpful,” Handratta concluded. “Leveraging the power of our nationwide knowledge base and the depth of DPR’s expertise as a technical builder helped us deliver a first-rate data center project for Databank.”

Facility for Flexential

That same approach was also key to DPR’s success on the new 70,000-sq.-ft. Flexential data center facility in the northern Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, completed this April. The project followed another recent data center project that DPR completed for Flexential in the Pacific Northwest, boosting the company’s national colocation footprint to more than 3.1 million square feet.

Flexential's data center cage Photo courtesy of Gregg Willett Photo

Constructed on the site of a former parking lot, the new facility ties into an existing two-story data center on Flexential’s Alpharetta campus. It contains 3 megawatts of UPS power, two 2.5 megawatt generators, two 500-ton air cooled chillers and 4 switchgear lineups.

DPR broke ground on the project in July 2018 and successfully completed it on schedule just nine months later. The team contended with one of the region’s wettest seasons on record, facing 30 rain days and more than 59 inches of rain during construction.

“It was substantially more rain than anticipated, but we were able to fast track a few scopes of work and still finish the project within the timeframe we originally told the owner,” said DPR project manager Robby Wright. “That was a big accomplishment.”

Flexential Data Center electrical switchgear Photo courtesy of Gregg Willett Photo

The project was the first to employ Flexential’s newest data center design. DPR relied on its extensive bank of data center knowledge and previous work to overcome various hurdles and even shared lessons learned with a competitor Nashville who built Flexential’s second project with that same design in Nashville.

Wright said DPR’s consistency across its data center work processes was a key success factor on the Alpharetta data center project. Similar to the Databank project, the Flexential project team also brought in a national MEP expert to help guide the project through commissioning. “DPR has many resources across the country and we definitely appreciate leveraging those as much as possible to benefit our customers,” he added.

November 21, 2019

DPR Leads Volunteer Team to Help Habitat for Humanity Expand Program Capacity

November 11, 2019

Honoring the Veterans in Our Lives

“Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul.” – Michel de Montaigne

Veterans walk among us and work alongside us, and we’re often unaware of the contributions they made to protect our nation and ensure our safety. We might not know that the nurse taking our vital signs learned his trade as an Army combat medic; or that the project engineer on our jobsite was part of a Navy construction battalion.

These stories aren’t always shared, so we asked DPR employees to tell us a bit about the veterans in their lives. The response was overwhelming and inspiring. So, on this Veterans Day, we’d like to take a moment to honor the extraordinary men and women who answered the call to service.

November 8, 2019

Integrating Stakeholders within Lean Cultures Yields Benefits

Lean Construction continues to deliver benefits on a project-by-project basis, but how can these ever-advancing techniques stick on and off the construction site, changing the way business is done? DPR Construction and its partners gave three presentations at the 21st annual LCI Congress, the flagship event of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI), in Fort Worth, TX that aimed to push toward that goal.

This year's LCI Congress featured discussion of "essential-ism." Stemming from Greg McKeown, writer of "Essential-ism: The Discipline Pursuit of Less," the concept asks: How can the construction industry narrow its focus to improve on key scopes? Among the essential things DPR is aiming to excel at – in order to support the goals of its employees in the field and the customers it builds for – is creating alignment on project norms and goals to maximize efficiency.

The commitment to integrating customers is changing. Creating a Lean company and project culture means educating people to better focus Lean systems on job sites, in customer meetings, and in preconstruction. Throughout the industry, a key priority is finding ways for contractors to better align with customer expectations and leverage up-and-coming technology in new ways.

Aligning expectations toward defined success

During the presentation, DPR project manager Leigh Heller asked attendees to imagine building a swing with your friends. Each friend would probably bring a different design, technologies and mindset and that may not always equal the creation of one perfect swing.

DPR’s Leigh Heller noted how DFOW gives project teams the knowledge to better understand what the customer’s expectations are.

Construction is no different than the swing analogy and the challenge is to create a realistic commitment to the customer while aligning with the intended vision and value.

Still, there is a tendency to wait until the end of the project to debrief and share everything that could have gone differently. DPR’s team suggested having this conversation at the outset. Setting expectations should be a priority for all members of the project teams. By setting priorities, every customer will come to the table with their own measurement for success. It is in the best interest of Lean project teams to implement steps to agree to and achieve this standard.

To create a unified assessment of success, DPR’s presenters shared the organization’s commitment to quality control known as Distinguished Features of Work (DFOW). DPR’s Leigh Heller noted how DFOW gives project teams the knowledge to better understand what the customer’s expectations are and, as a result, focus on them to reduce the chance of any rework.

DFOW/Quality/Aligning Expectations IS Lean, and we need to do a better job of sharing the documentation of our planning and learning with the field and with other projects,” Leigh Heller, DPR superintendent.

Lean Leaders Build Lean Cultures

Project teams also must establish a baseline of appropriate team behavior and workflow from the inception of a project to better align expectations on and off the jobsite. Successful Lean integration starts with an aligned and standardized workflow that enables the team to visualize and anticipate roadblocks.

“We must provide the highest quality service to our customers at the lowest possible cost while maintaining a respect for people. We all can influence that effort and help improve it,” said Heller.

Cory Hackler and Jack Poindexter presenting about the UCSF project.

For example, remodeling projects will always have unknowns that could affect budget and schedule. DPR’s recently-completed shopping center makeover sparked conversation at LCI Congress about the many different team conversations that build trust and respect across project teams that will translate to a more efficient project. Through candid conversations and planned actions, the outcomes should result in a clear work process structured to help maximize the value and minimize any waste at delivery level. It’s a win for the project team and a win for the customer.

In doing so, the project can serve as a replicable model for recruits, new hires, and team members to understand what a Lean project is and ways to duplicate positive operational behaviors.

Building a Lean Culture: Engaging the Value Stream

Presenters also shared were examples of different activities that different project teams performed to map value streams. In each case, this helped establish unique site cultures while also identifying all possibilities of unneeded waste.

DPR Lean manager Cory Hackler noted in his presentation that the company’s method of personnel alignment stems from the development and use of Lean Leadership training across the company.

“Having 600 people go through DPR’s Lean Leadership class, we are getting aligned on a common language to enforce Lean thoughts throughout projects,” said Cory Hackler.

The “Big Room” environment is one of many tactics sowing value to any team, enabling better collaboration.

November 1, 2019

Employee Volunteers Renovate 100-year-old House for Girls Rock CLT

Girls Rock CLT is a nonprofit dedicated to helping young girls and gender diverse youth express themselves through music and film. Photo courtesy of Kelly Finley

This post was updated March 4, 2020.

From aesthetic upgrades to complete landscape and fencing replacements, DPR employees work yearlong to build possibilities for the under-resourced. As a partner to local nonprofits serving economically underserved communities, DPR performs facility improvements to enable its partners to maximize their impact through increased capacity, promoting a greater sense of pride in their spaces, and increased safety and access.

One such effort was the renovation of a 100-year-old house for Girls Rock CLT, a nonprofit dedicated to helping young girls and gender diverse youth express themselves through music and film. Employees from the Charlotte, NC, office relied on strong relationships with DPR’s industry and community partners to see this project in the NoDa neighborhood through.

DPR built a concert stage for program participants to jam out on. Photo courtesy of Kelly Finley

The plan was to build an ADA ramp off the front porch, but as enthusiasm for the project grew, so did the renovation scope. Ultimately, DPR volunteers and local trade partners completed a number of tasks to make the home ADA compliant, and sealed the ceilings to keep occupants safe. DPR also built a concert stage for program participants to jam out on. In sum, efforts encompassed donations like interior paint, furniture, HVAC upgrades, home security, kitchen appliances, concrete and stone. As a result, Girls Rock CLT has a bigger and better place to accommodate all its programs and unique space needs.

“When working with a smaller organization like Girls Rock, you’re helping them get on their feet, and you’re truly changing their world,” said Camille Farkas, who helped coordinate the effort. “Every little bit counts, and it means so much. DPR helped renovate and provide a critical space need that allows Girls Rock to have a safe space to put on music camps and provide for under-resourced youth. Ultimately we were able to get the momentum going within their organization.”

During an Open House event, DPR hosted a “Women in Construction” tent where youth could learn about careers in construction, construction safety, decorate vests and hard hats and finally, design a mural on the side of the house.

In 2019 alone, more than 350 DPR volunteers from across the U.S. completed 21 facility renovation projects for nonprofit partners, providing more than $1 million in pro bono facility construction projects.