February 12, 2018

Celebrating the Start of Foundation Work for UCSF’s Weill Neurosciences Building

DPR recently celebrated full mobilization and the start of foundation work for the new 270,000-sq.-ft. Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building for the University of California, San Francisco.

To honor the milestone, which occurred by drilling the first production auger cast pile, the team celebrated with all project partners in the Big Room, a collaborative space that physically brings together designers, builders, trade partners and facility operators. 

When complete, the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building will make the neuroscience complex at UCSF Mission Bay one of the largest in the world. Photo courtesy of Barry Fleisher

“After a year and four months in preconstruction, we are extremely excited to celebrate the start of construction. We wouldn’t be here today without all our tremendous design and trade partners. Everyone in this room should be very proud to have played a part in this project so far, and I can’t wait to see the project built,” said DPR’s Tim Kueht, during a cake toast to kick off the celebration.

Prior to the ceremony, the entire Big Room team attended a presentation given by UCSF Medical Center’s nurses, doctors and researchers. These monthly presentations inspire and help the project team better understand the greater impact the facility will have on advancing the full spectrum of brain health through research, education and patient care.

The 12 companies co-located in the Big Room celebrated the start of foundation work. Photo courtesy of Barry Fleisher

February 2, 2018

Q&A: A Look Ahead with George Pfeffer

After pivoting from a career in computer programming, George Pfeffer joined DPR in 1992 as a project engineer, growing with the company as he went on to become a regional manager in the Bay Area. Pfeffer now leads DPR’s Management Committee.

The San Francisco Business Times recently interviewed Pfeffer for its ongoing executive profile series, featuring his thoughts on the future of the industry and what it will take to continue to build great things for its customers and employees in an ever-changing environment.

Following are excerpts from the San Francisco Business Times profile. To read the article in full, check out: dpr.com/media/news

What are some of the projects that you’re most excited about?
We pride ourselves on doing buildings that matter. An example of that is all our hospitals. You just feel really special at the end of the day when you’re finishing something that is helping save someone’s life. Hospitals that we’ve done recently include the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco, UCSF Mission Bay, and Kaiser Permanente facilities up in Sacramento. 

Some developers say construction costs are beginning to stifle development. Do you agree?
There is no doubt construction costs are going up. There’s several things. It’s a continued, long-term healthy market. Coming out of the downturn several years ago, several construction companies either reduced their size, consolidated or wrapped up shop altogether. There are fewer players. Also, escalation of material costs is one that just naturally happens.

Is there anything that can temper construction costs?
Here in the Bay Area we have 825 craft union employees. We try to be as in control of our own labor force as much as we can to overcome those peaks and valleys. Separate from that, the industry is ready for disruption. There is a business disruption headed our way at some point for the positive—certainly through prefabrication.

Unions have opposed prefabricated construction on certain projects. Do you feel that’s a problem and how do you reconcile the conflict?
It’s probably an over generalization to qualify all unions as the same. Several unions are embracing prefabrication. The carpenters, for instance, are actually trying to find ways to do more prefabrication. They understand this disruption is coming.

You sound very positive about prefab.
We definitely are very positive about it. We work very hard in this company to try to eliminate waste in the process. We can eliminate some of the waste by improving efficiencies and how products are delivered. Ultimately, it’s a benefit to the project and to the customer and that’s what we want to do.

If there’s one thing you can change about yourself what would that be?
I’d like to be more of a morning person. I get up fairly early in the morning and it probably takes me longer to get going than I would like.

January 31, 2018

Celebrating Women Who Build: Irma Jauregui

Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

It takes courage to go with your gut, muster up the nerve to follow your passion and make a major career change. That’s exactly what Irma Jauregui did in 2005, when she quit her job as a first grade teacher in the underserved neighborhood of Compton, California to pursue a dream she’d had since college to work in design or construction.

After double-majoring in architecture and Spanish at Wellesley College, Jauregui became equally interested in teaching, and went on to earn her master’s from Loyola Marymount University in education. Growing up in an underserved community in East Los Angeles, Jauregui chose to teach in a similar area, where there was a shortage of teachers. Setting the groundwork for students to be successful throughout the rest of their educational and professional careers was her way to give back to the community, and helping talented students create better lives for themselves was her greatest reward.

“Teaching is a selfless career; you give so much of yourself to your students. For me, the design and construction industry was always in the back of my mind as my own personal interest and passion. If I didn’t explore it, I knew I would have regretted it,” she said. 

In 2005, Irma Jauregui quit her job as a first grade teacher in the underserved neighborhood of Compton, California to pursue a dream to work in design or construction. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

The transition between two very different industries was bridged by her first project: a large expansion and renovation of a community college, as Jauregui connects especially with buildings that will become spaces for learning and educating the next generation. She joined DPR in 2015, attracted to the entrepreneurial culture where people with diverse skillsets and expertise could make a difference with their ideas and hard work. The team of smart people with strong values appreciated different backgrounds and experiences–and saw her first career in education as an asset, not a drawback.

As a project manager based out of DPR’s Newport Beach office, Jauregui now manages cost control on a 73-acre corporate campus project in Irvine, California, completing in January 2018. In both fields of education and construction, proper planning and always keeping sight of priorities is crucial to success. Jauregui boils down both of her careers to helping people reach their goals, whether it is a first grader learning to read, or a large technology client building a corporate campus as safely and efficiently as possible. 

When she joined DPR, the team of smart people with strong values appreciated different backgrounds and experiences–and saw her first career in education as an asset, not a drawback. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

This summer, as part of DPR’s pilot Build Up high school internship program, which offers under-resourced yet highly qualified high school students interested in STEM careers real-life professional experience on a jobsite, Jauregui mentored high school graduate Jessica Reynoso. Reynoso, now a freshman at California State University, Fullerton, grew up in the same East LA neighborhood as Jauregui and even graduated from the same high school. 

Seeing Reynoso’s passion, grit and determination to succeed in a civil engineering career despite challenging circumstances, is what motivates Jauregui the most. As Reynoso’s primary mentor, the two frequently talked about career paths, goals and life. The most important advice Jauregui gave her intern was to take care of herself. 

Jauregui feels constantly challenged to grow her expertise in DPR’s culture of continuous learning. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

“If you come from a challenging environment, and you are dealing with a lot of things at home, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself,” Jauregui said. “Self-care is so important to how well you can do your job, take your classes and move yourself forward every day. Even if you have to take care of your family, you can’t take care of them if you can’t take care of yourself first.”

Jauregui’s favorite part of being an educator was constantly teaching, learning and growing, something she finds at DPR as well. She has opportunities to teach, mentor and help others achieve their goals, while feeling constantly challenged to grow her expertise in DPR’s culture of continuous learning.

She looks back on the moment she decided to make the leap from education to construction with no regrets, and wants to help others overcome their fear of change or failure when they find their career calling their attention. It takes courage to pursue a dream–and she has more than enough of that to share.

December 20, 2017

Celebrating Women Who Build: Kali Bonnell

Photo courtesy of Mickey Fender

As an architecture and interior design student at Auburn University, Kali Bonnell always asked, “But can you actually build that?” Seeing her natural practicality and interest in constructability, Bonnell’s professors recommended that she look into construction or engineering. Construction made sense to her. Because her grandfather was an electrician, throughout her childhood, she learned to appreciate all that went into building.

When she fell in love with construction management, she never looked back. Bonnell began her career at DPR in 2008 as an intern in Atlanta. After gaining expertise as a project engineer with DPR’s Special Services Group (SSG), which focuses on small to mid-size projects, Bonnell wanted to experience larger projects and traveled to Clemson, South Carolina to work on Clemson University’s 100,000-sq.-ft. life science facility, designed to support scientific research activities and engage students via training and education. 

Growing both her skills and her confidence in DPR’s flat organizational structure, Bonnell felt like she had a say in what she was able to work on and how she was able to develop her technical expertise. Photo courtesy of Mickey Fender

Early in her career, she found her biggest challenge was advocating for herself and feeling confident in what she was saying, especially when others disagreed with her. Growing both her skills and her confidence in DPR’s flat organizational structure, Bonnell felt like she had a say in what she was able to work on and how she was able to develop her technical expertise.

She raised her hand to move to Tampa, then Orlando, to work on advanced tech projects, telling her leadership teams, “let me take this, let me grow, let me learn.”  Each opportunity helped build her experience to prepare her for the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health and Wellness Institute project, her first job as a full-fledged project manager. The 90 percent female design-build team of architects, designers, builders and owner’s representatives shared a vision for creating the 45,800-sq.-ft. comprehensive women’s center with the patient in mind. With the institute serving five unique women’s health service lines, each discipline’s professional and personal experiences informed the overall design of the project.

“It was the tipping point for me,” said Bonnell. “It was so impactful to see the smart, technical, hard-working women on our team, all working toward the same goal of safely and efficiently building an amazing place–the place we all go to for our checkups. We know how scary and stressful healthcare can be, and every detail was designed and built with the patient in mind.” 

Bonnell constantly balances what other team members are planning and thinking to solve problems proactively, instead of reactively–a tenet that has guided her own career path as well. Photo courtesy of Mickey Fender

As she is now working on an HCA vertical expansion and central energy plant upgrade that will add two floors to an existing hospital in Florida, Bonnell believes that ultimately, her job comes down to understanding others’ perspectives and intentions. She constantly balances what other team members are planning and thinking to solve problems proactively, instead of reactively–a tenet that has guided her own career path as well.

It’s important to Bonnell to foster DPR’s culture even as the organization experiences tremendous growth. In Ft. Lauderdale, DPR has grown from 20 salaried employees in 2014 to 60 salaried employees in 2017, and increased its revenue from $15 million to $150 million in three years.  Helping to spearhead people practices, Bonnell focuses on making sure that people develop and grow, get the correct training and are set up for success. Whether it’s going out to jobsites or talking to teams, she wants each person to know that his or her job is an integral part of building great things.

So today, when anyone asks the question, “can we actually build that?” Her answer is: yes. 

Whether it’s going out to jobsites or talking to teams, Bonnell wants each person to know that his or her job is an integral part of building great things. Photo courtesy of Mickey Fender

November 27, 2017

Celebrating Women Who Build: Whitney Dorn

Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

After 1992’s Hurricane Iniki, the strongest and most destructive hurricane to hit the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history, Whitney Dorn (then a construction management major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) headed across the Pacific Ocean to help rebuild Kauai. The six months she spent pouring concrete, bending rebar, performing demolition, framing and working as a hod carrier confirmed for her that she was going to school for exactly what she wanted to do for the rest of her career. She wanted to be a builder. 

“I could really picture myself being in the construction industry,” she said. “When you’re working in the field, you can see the fruits of your labor. That, combined with the constant problem solving, is what really attracted me to what I do.”  

She joined DPR after graduating, and spent the first 15 years of her career in operations. In 2008, she began leading DPR’s sustainability initiative to help customers develop and implement the best strategies through experienced people, a collaborative methodology, and custom tools to address the triple bottom line: environmental, social and economic.  

The constant problem solving and ability to see the fruits of her labor out in the field is what attracted Whitney Dorn to the construction industry. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

After five years of educating customers and DPR teams about building sustainable structures, Dorn transitioned back to an operations role as a project executive. She has since worked on notable projects, including a wireless phone company’s headquarters, Torrey Pines Science Park and a 73-acre corporate campus project in Irvine, California, which is completing in January 2018. 

“There’s nothing like being on the jobsite. You spend so much time with your team, and you’re not only building great buildings, but building a great team at the same time,” she said.  

Dorn sees trust and respect as the foundation for any highly functioning team. "It’s about respecting what all the different roles on a jobsite bring to the table, abolishing a lack of trust, and figuring out how to move forward in a positive way together." Using a football metaphor, she tells her teams that they can be the running back, and she’ll be the blocker, taking out the obstacles so they can do their best work.  

Dorn tells her teams that they can be the running back, and she’ll be the blocker, taking out the obstacles so they can do their best work. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

She has taken out many of her own obstacles, as well. When she meets her customers for the first time, she often finds that they are expecting a man to run their project. She doesn’t take it personally; she moves forward by never questioning what she brings to the table and uses her own technical expertise to deliver her projects successfully.  

“I know others are looking at me to see how I deal with situations, particularly the younger women. It’s very important to me to set a good example, and give them the confidence that this is a great career, something that they can do and make work for their lives,” she said. 

Giving younger women the confidence that this is a great career, something that they can do and make work for their lives, is very important to Dorn. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Since 2003, Dorn has been mentoring youths through the San Diego ACE Mentor program, and is taking over as chairwoman this upcoming year. She also participated in DPR’s pilot high school internship program, offering under-resourced yet highly qualified high school students interested in STEM careers real-life professional experience on a jobsite. Dorn and other members of her project team mentored Jessica Reynoso, a high schooler from East Los Angeles who wants to become an engineer, exposing her to career paths available in the construction industry.  

Through her work both “on and off the field,” she hopes the next generation of builders will find their moment–like she did while she was laboring in Kauai. She hopes they can see themselves in this industry, picture the career paths ahead of them, and know that building great things is what they want to do for the rest of their lives. 

November 13, 2017

High Schoolers Shine in New DPR Internship Program

Recent high school graduate Jessica Reynoso and DPR project manager Irma Jauregui might be at decidedly different stages in their professional lives–but they still have plenty in common. Both grew up in East Los Angeles. Both graduated from the same high school, albeit 20 years apart. Most importantly, they both share a strong determination to make a better life for themselves.  

This summer, their journeys intersected on a 73-acre corporate campus project in Irvine, California, where Jauregui is DPR’s project manager in charge of cost control and Reynoso recently completed an eight-week internship through the company’s new Build Up high school internship program.

A DPR Community Initiatives program, this year’s pilot internships offered four high schoolers the opportunity to work and learn on DPR jobsites. The goal: provide under-resourced yet highly qualified youth (rising juniors, seniors and May grads) interested in STEM careers with real-life professional experience, while exposing them to career paths in the construction industry–all under the guidance of a DPR mentor or mentor team.

High schooler Jessica Reynoso completed an eight-week internship on a 73-acre corporate campus in Irvine, Calif. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

As Reynoso’s primary mentor, Jauregui was tasked with ensuring the teen worked on meaningful tasks, from helping with daily safety logs to creating a custom spreadsheet to assist with specific cost control issues that the team still uses today. Job shadowing allowed Reynoso to explore the different roles and technical skillsets that make up a team, and be exposed to what career paths were available to her.

Jauregui was happy to take on the role of mentor to Reynoso, as she herself never had anyone to guide her when she was younger. The reward? Seeing Jessica grow personally and professionally from the start of summer to the end, and knowing that she had a part in it.

“It was just a really good feeling to help someone have this opportunity to learn, and help them financially as they’re heading off to college,” Jauregui said. “Being able to impact someone at this level can be life-changing, career-changing.”

Through the Build Up high school internship program, students interested in STEM careers gain real-life professional experience on a DPR jobsite. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Reynoso gained a newfound appreciation for the construction process and the amount of effort that is put into aspects such as precise scheduling and cost control to efficiently deliver reliable outcomes for our customers.

“The personal growth I experienced was learning how to schedule my time, effectively communicate with colleagues, listen to feedback and correct my errors the next time a similar situation occurs,” she said.

Austin Intern Anais Arechiga
A senior at Austin’s Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, Anais Arechiga learned about the internship opportunity through the local ACE Mentor program, where board member and DPR project manager Diego Negrete encouraged students to apply.

While there were plenty of solid applicants, Arechiga stood out. She shares a love of art with project executive Andrea Weisheimer, and even competes in art competitions. She spent the summer immersed on DPR’s Third + Shoal jobsite, a 29-story, 345,000-sq.-ft. Class-AA corporate office space in downtown Austin.

Anais Arechiga spent the summer immersed on DPR’s Third + Shoal jobsite, a 29-story, 345,000-sq.-ft. Class-AA corporate office space in downtown Austin. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Under the guidance of Negrete and Weisheimer, Arechiga exceeded her team’s expectations and became a valuable contributor. Initially quiet and hesitant to ask questions, she developed confidence as she helped with RFIs and submittals to the point where she stopped asking what she should work on, and created her own projects.

“Anais is a super bright individual who really absorbed everything at a phenomenal rate,” said Negrete. “Whether she was walking around with a project engineer or superintendent, she never stopped asking ‘what is that?’ or ‘why are you doing that?’ She had a unique passion to learn as much as she could about everything around here.”

Arechiga said that her experience was highly positive from the outset.

“It was amazing to let it sink in that I would be working on a commercial high-rise, then later find I won the lottery with such an amazing team. I expected to have to try really hard establishing myself, but was greeted with open arms and supported by my team the entire way through.” she said. “With their support, I grew my confidence, responsibility, communication and assertiveness.”

Arechiga learned that construction is the balance between complex, technical skills and relationships, communication and teamwork–all the pieces need to operate in tandem, like a finely tuned machine, to prevent injury, improve efficiency and successfully deliver a project. She loved how every day was different, and her experiences this summer inspired her to consider pursuing civil engineering or geoengineering as a college major and career path–and her mentors Negrete and Weisheimer will be there with her every step of the way.

November 10, 2017

Honoring DPR Veterans: Landry Watson, U.S. Navy

In spring 2006, Landry Watson was in Fallujah, finishing up his last combat deployment as a lieutenant commander and operations officer of a U.S. Navy SEAL squadron. During his five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, his teams suffered no casualties–all his teammates were able to come home safely to their families.   

By the summer of 2006, Watson, who graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in construction science, was in San Diego, sending out resumes and trying to start a new career after over ten years serving in the Navy’s primary special operations force. Although he had led platoons and task units in complex and dangerous combat situations, while managing an ever-changing mix of time, resources and people, he found most companies weren’t willing to take a chance on him. He was an unproven variable in his late 30s, starting a second career from scratch, a humbling experience for the decorated military officer.  

“It’s DPR’s culture to create an entrepreneurial organization where people can make a difference with their ideas and hard work. DPR saw my raw talent and potential, believed I could develop and grow, took a chance on me and empowered me to be a contributor,” he said.  

Landry Watson is presented with a Bronze Star Medal, awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement or service. Photo courtesy of Landry Watson

Now a project manager specializing in sustainable design and construction, Watson helps customers develop and implement the best strategies to build sustainable structures, improving efficiency, employee productivity and marketability. A self-proclaimed conservationist and environmentalist, his passion for sustainability was influenced in part by his time spent in the military. Serving overseas, he saw how other societies lived, deeply contrasted with the freedom, opportunities and social responsibility we often take for granted in the U.S.  

“In these countries where we were fighting, their primary resource is the oil that fuels the economy and the rest of the world. As a country, if we want to continue to be a global leader, we can’t continue to be dependent on traditional sources of energy and resources that we don’t have,” he said.  

On projects including the UCSD Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center and the San Diego Community College District's Miramar Science Building, Watson has educated customers and project teams, helping them use a collaborative methodology and custom tools to address the triple bottom line: environmental, social and economic. 

On projects including the UCSD Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center, Watson has educated customers and teams about sustainability. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

One lesson that Watson learned in the military that translates to his career today is that being a leader is less about having every single answer yourself, and more about taking care of people and empowering their success.  

“It’s trusting the expertise of the teammate that is most likely to have the answer, usually the person who works on the issue in question every day. It isn’t wise to think that you are smarter than your subcontractor or one of your platoonmates; that doesn’t work in construction or the military. They know best how to solve your problems–you just have to trust them,” he said.  

On a jobsite, the most important variables to manage are time, resources and people, just like in the military. Watson’s understanding of how to triage all the tasks that need to be completed, while keeping people safe and overcoming obstacles that come in the way of sequence comes from his first career as a SEAL. Both fields of work have their own inherent dangers that require all the pieces to operate in tandem, like a finely tuned machine, to prevent injury, improve efficiency and successfully complete a project or mission.  

And just like his time in the military, at the end of the day when Watson sends every member of his team back home safely to his or her family, he will also send them back to a world that is a little better than when they left it. 

When Watson sends every member of his team back home safely to his or her family, he will also send them back to a world that is a little better than when they left it. Photo courtesy of Landry Watson

November 8, 2017

Game, Set, Match: USTA Team Wins Excellence in Construction Award for North America's Largest Tennis Facility

It’s been a good year for the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Following the January opening of the USTA’s 65-acre National Campus in Orlando, four players (Sloan Stephens, Madison Keys, CoCo Vandeweghe and Venus Williams) became the first American women in 36 years to sweep all semi-final spots at the U.S. Open in September—guaranteeing a “home turf” win at this year’s final grand slam tournament.

Nearly a month later, the project team, who helped make the “new home for American tennis” a reality, took center stage and won a coveted Eagle Award for the USTA’s National Campus project from the Central Florida Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).

USTA's campus, designed by HKS and built by DPR, is designed to train and prepare the next generation of American tennis stars. Photo courtesy of HKS

Located in Orlando, the campus, designed by HKS and built by DPR, is designed to help train and prepare the next generation of American tennis stars. The facility consists of the following:

  • 260,000 sq. ft. of vertical construction across eight buildings
  • 100 tennis courts, including the only true European red clay courts in the U.S. and 26 courts equipped with smart court technology that can show exactly where the ball lands relative to the in/out lines
  • 55,000-sq.-ft. corporate headquarters that features a pro shop and conference space
  • 47,000-sq.-ft. player development facility with six Rebound Ace indoor courts, a training suite, Hydroworx therapy tubs and viewing platforms
  • UCF Collegiate Center with 12 courts, locker rooms, trainer room and 1,500-seat grand stand   
  • Lodge to house 24 professional athletes providing housing and dining facilities onsite
The campus includes a 55,000-sq.-ft. corporate headquarters that features a pro shop and conference space. Photo courtesy of HKS

According to DPR’s Jay Althouse, the team faced numerous challenges in completing the project, including the fact that the asphalt mixture used on the main courts had rarely been used before. The custom material mix required the team to construct the courts with an exact sequence of timing. Rolling and compacting the asphalt had to be consistent to achieve precise densities and planarity. Laser scanning technology was used to accurately measure the required flatness and achieve the high-quality product where some of the nation’s best play.

Another challenge was the 200 tons of red clay procured and imported from Italy to build the same European clay courts used in the French Open. The clay arrived in five-pound bags, totaling 80,000 bags of red clay that had to be meticulously placed and rolled to complete the courts. 

The USTA campus includes 100 tennis courts. Photo courtesy of HKS

The DPR team met those challenges and then some, to deliver the world's most advanced tennis facility. Using pull planning and short-interval plans to reach project milestones, the team developed a sequencing plan that enabled the office building on the campus to be completed four months ahead of schedule, allowing the USTA to move staff onsite.

Special consideration to the project’s neighboring environment also remained an important element during design and construction. The project team was sensitive to the neighboring wetlands and an active bald eagle nest within the preserve.

Located near wetlands and an active bald eagle's nest, the team created a protected area around the nest and monitored it daily to avoid disruption. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

“We placed a 330-ft. protected area around the nest that we monitored daily during the nesting season,” said Althouse. “No construction could occur within the protected area if any activity near the nest was detected. We re-sequenced construction activities to avoid any disruption.” The team built an access road and worked closely with utility companies to bring power, water and sewer services to the site.

From courts for children, to professional red clay courts designed to train for the French Open, to ADA compliant courts, the USTA National Campus was designed and constructed with every skill set in mind, advancing the sport at all levels. At the highest level, with the highest quality, and the highest amount of collaboration, the DPR and HKS teams were able to deliver a product that will be a game changer for American tennis.

October 16, 2017

Connecting and Inspiring Women Who Build in Austin

DPR’s Andrea Weisheimer once walked into a meeting she was leading, and a subcontractor asked her if she was there to take notes. She replied, “No. Are you?”

Weisheimer and five other professionals, who work across the AEC industry, recently spoke on a Women Who Build panel in Austin, discussing how to connect, inspire, develop and advance women in the industry as they build meaningful careers—whether it’s as a PE, a PX, an architect or an owner.

Melissa Neslund, Armbrust & Brown; Janki DePalma, DCI Engineers; Katie Blair, Charles Schwab; Pollyanna Little, STG Design–along with DPR’s Weisheimer and Bryan Lofton--shared experiences and career advice with more than 60 attendees. The discussion was focused on promoting change in a traditionally male-dominated industry that is only 9.3 percent women (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

A Women Who Build panel in Austin discussed how to connect, inspire, develop and advance women in the industry as they build meaningful careers—whether it’s as a PE, a PX, an architect or an owner. Photo courtesy of Haley Hirai

The issue of the dearth of women in construction, as well as many other STEM fields, is complex, and there is not one simple answer. A confluence of factors ranging from unconscious bias learned at an early age, to a lack of women in the STEM pipeline, to recruiting, retention and development of women in technical and leadership positions will not likely be solved by any one quick fix. 

What the panel provided was a forum for sharing experiences and supporting each other. Weisheimer spoke about how she often feels the need to prove herself for people to accept that she knows what she’s doing, a sentiment echoed by the other women. 

DPR's Bryan Lofton and Andrea Weisheimer discussed promoting change in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Photo courtesy of Russ Rhea

“You’re always trying to be a little ahead of the expectations of your role,” she said. “When you learn the technical details of how to build, it gets to the point where people do respect you, regardless of gender.”

Learning how to advocate for themselves was a common theme among the panelists. DePalma remembered how she moved to Austin from the Bay Area without a job in 2008, the height of the economic recession. She pitched an idea for DCI Engineers to hire her for a two-month trial in a business development role to help its fledgling office make connections in the local market. Nearly nine years later, she has helped DCI triple its office size and secure projects that have changed Austin’s skyline.  

DCI Engineers' Janki DePalma has helped DCI triple its office size and secure projects that have changed Austin’s skyline. Photo courtesy of Russ Rhea

Neslund agreed that advocating for herself has been an essential skill in her success throughout her career in land use and entitlements at Armbrust & Brown, PLLC.

“I have always advocated for the promotion, or the extra resources I need for my team. I have advocated for respect, walking into a room and giving my 150 percent effort,” she said. “Even if you don’t have all the answers, speak with confidence. Believe in yourself, show that you care, and advocate for what you deserve in your career.”

The panelists discussed letting go of the sense of perfection that many of us put on ourselves. No one is perfect all the time, and many of them had to embrace the fact that they are enough in every one of their roles–as builders, designers and family members.

Charles Schwab's Katie Blair discussed embracing the fact that we are enough in every one of our roles–as builders, designers and family members. Photo courtesy of Russ Rhea

“The hardest thing with confidence is that we are always comparing ourselves with everybody else. Be unique, set yourself apart, and go for it,” said Weisheimer. “The biggest mistake is not asking for help if you need it.”

Leaders like Weisheimer and the others on the panel showed the next generation of builders that success in the AEC industry doesn’t necessarily mean looking like everyone else, or fitting into any stereotypes. As Weisheimer likes to say, “be confident, be bold and be brilliant.”

October 12, 2017

First OSHPD-Approved Light-Gauge, Steel-Frame Structure Leverages Digital Fabrication for Rapid Growth

In an industry where it is status quo for skilled nursing to be part of continuing care retirement communities, a new kind of skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility is “growing” in Chino, California—Trellis. The first project of a collaborative statewide development program, the 59-bed, 40,000-sq.-ft. Trellis facility in Chino is also the first light-gauge, cold-form steel-frame structure to ever be approved by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), serving as a template to streamline lengthy aspects of the state agency’s approval process.

“Granite Development approached DPR to be a part of a collaborative team and provide strategic counsel through the entire life cycle of its vision for the Trellis skilled nursing facilities that are planned throughout the state,” said Brian Gracz, who leads DPR’s San Diego business unit. “We are helping them in the earliest stages of development with site assessment and rapid budget feedback for property comparisons, as they focus on creating a new kind of skilled nursing and rehabilitation experience in California.”

The 59-bed, 40,000-sq.-ft. Trellis facility in Chino is the first light-gauge, cold-form steel-frame structure to ever be approved by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

The team, which includes Granite, DPR, Darden Architects, Kitchell and others, wanted to avoid the inherent issues of wood structures (e.g., pest control, water intrusion, fire protection), and improve speed of construction, reliability, and scalability of the program. They incorporated a load-bearing digitally fabricated light-gauge steel framed structure through Digital Building Components, which uses digital fabrication to transform computer models directly into precise-to-spec building assemblies.

Benefits of Light-Gauge Steel Framing and Digital Fabrication

  • Efficiency and Scalability: Off-site digital fabrication enables key components of the light-gauge framing to be produced together in a safe and controlled environment, reducing costs while enhancing safety and construction efficiency. Compared to a traditional wood-frame structure, the team shaved about four weeks off the schedule, and about $100,000 in general conditions cost on the first Trellis project. When multiplied by several facilities across the state, the savings grow exponentially, allowing Trellis to move into the nursing facilities sooner and begin positively impacting the lives of its patients. 
The team incorporated a load-bearing digitally fabricated light-gauge steel framed structure through Digital Building Components. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo
  • Seismic safety: Lighter than concrete, or hot-rolled structural steel buildings of the same height, cold-form, light-gauge panelized structures have proven to be strong and flexible enough to move with seismic activity instead of against it. Last summer, DPR helped assemble the tallest cold-formed, steel-frame structure ever to be tested on a shake table. The six-story building withstood a simulation of 150 percent of 1994’s 6.7-magnitude Northridge, California earthquake, shaking and rocking, but remaining structurally intact and safe. The structure performed so well, the team ended up dismantling it themselves, since it never failed through testing.

Challenges and Design Strategy

  • OSHPD approvals:  Due to the prevalence of wood-frame construction for these types of facilities, the Trellis facility was a first for OSHPD. The regulatory agency’s preference is that structures be built on-site for easy inspector access. To help with the process, the team worked closely with OSHPD to coordinate having an inspector on-site to check and sign off on the first 100 digitally fabricated panels. After that, only 30 percent of the panels needed to be inspected on-site and the first project is expected to be completed in early 2018. 
Off-site digital fabrication enables key components of the light-gauge framing to be produced together in a safe and controlled environment, reducing costs while enhancing safety and construction efficiency. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo
  • Strategic structural design: California has different seismic zones that affect structural design. To account for that, the team is constructing the Chino facility to meet the seismic requirements of one zone higher than necessary so the exact same structure can be replicated in different locations. Because the designs of the facilities are the same, OSHPD approval time is being drastically improved. In addition, different regions have varying pollution requirements. Designs of the facility were created with and without a diesel particulate filter, so both options could be approved by OSHPD simultaneously.

What’s next?

  • Since starting the Chino project, the team has gotten two projects approved through OSHPD, and is now working on the third.  By the end of 2017, the team looks forward to having three facilities across the state approved–with more to come. 
The team has gotten two projects approved through OSHPD, and is now working on the third. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo