DPR Construction’s Dean Reed knows a thing or two about Lean construction and integrated project delivery (IPD). You might even say he wrote the book on the topic! Co-authoring that book and bringing meaningful data to the fore to show the benefits of IPD, though, took years of practical experience in the field applying Lean methods in collaboration with industry organizations such as the Lean Construction Institute (LCI).
Now, LCI has awarded Reed with its Pioneer Award, which recognizes individuals who have moved the design and construction industry forward in embracing and implementing Lean principles and methods. Specifically, Reed was recognized for the award because of his commitment to advancing Lean thinking as a teacher, mentor and colleague.
Reed shared some thoughts about the award and where he sees the industry going next.
Let’s talk about the award. What does it mean to you?
The award means a lot to me because, in my mind, I think of it as the Greg Howell/Glenn Ballard Award, as they were the real pioneers of Lean construction in the U.S. and the world. To be named a “Pioneer” is to be recognized in line with those two trail blazers. It’s even more meaningful as it came as a surprise; I didn’t know I was nominated. I am humbled by it, especially knowing there are other equally deserving people in the industry.
You’ve connected Lean with DPR’s Ever Forward core value. How do they align?
I left a well-established builder after nearly nine years to join DPR, which, at the time I made the change, was much smaller. I made the switch all because of DPR’s core values and particularly Ever Forward. At that time, DPR was the only contractor I knew of talking that way, about the opportunity to be better and how the company, the industry and individuals like me could be as good as we could be.
By that time, I had already discovered Lean Construction and virtual design and construction (VDC). Like the saying goes, you don’t get to choose your parents, but when you get good ones it’s quite an advantage. I was in an environment where I was able to have access to those concepts and just beginning to understand them, and DPR was a place where I could try to integrate them into my work as a project planner and scheduler. I don’t think I could have done that any other place.
My approach has always been to collaborate with others and I have had many terrific partners as I’ve worked throughout DPR. I have learned an immense amount from those people, like (DPR Management Committee member) Atul Khanzode, who co-authored Integrating Project Delivery and (current DPR board member) Eric Lamb who really taught me what delivering value required in such a fragmented industry. DPR was really committed to providing best value to customers from day one and still is. We must do that first and also earn enough in return to prosper and continue to get better. That means a commitment to Ever Forward and that path leads to Lean.
How far has the industry has come with Lean over your career?
It has become part of the language of construction. When that happens, it influences thinking. I see people throughout DPR as a matter of course trying
to create psychologically safe project cultures to identify and solve problems so information and field work can flow. There is such a baked-in focus on providing exactly what is needed at just the right time to avoid rework and wasting time and effort. I see that throughout the industry, too, and LCI has definitely made a big contribution to spreading Lean thinking.
What do you think is coming next?
I do not believe in being Lean for Lean’s sake or doing VDC just to say we did. DPR continues to be focused on being one of the most admired companies by 2030. I know we’re making a tremendous effort now to reach that goal, and I see Lean within that context. It has become part of our thinking and the way we operate. Lean supports our mission and vision. Lean is all about creating an organizational culture to solve problems to improve performance. I think we will see more and more people at DPR and in the industry go from where I was in 1996, barely understanding Lean, to the point where they help others incorporate Lean thinking and methods into everyday work. Once people internalize Lean and VDC to work together effectively as one integrated team, it will shift the entire industry and the way they see their roles within it.
With so many moving parts on and around a construction site – deliveries, work crews, heavy equipment and more – there are opportunities everywhere for one aspect of work to affect every other part of operations. DPR Construction’s teams work closely to make sure it all goes off without a hitch. Even in normal times, delivering on-schedule, on-budget, top-quality work is no small job. With a variety of economic and societal pressures to consider as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, finding ways to increase certainty is a top consideration.
“We’ve done research that shows that the most successful projects are the ones with a highly-engaged owner throughout the project,” said Moawia Abdelkarim, one of DPR’s operations leaders. “We think there are questions customers can ask even as the team mobilizes and throughout the job that can contribute to the outcomes they’re hoping for, increase alignment and best position the construction team for success.”
Who’s Doing the Work and are they Involved in the Plan?
Often, customers want to get competitive bids for nearly every scope of work to ensure they’re getting the best deal.
“One thing we strive for is to show the value our self-perform work crews can bring,” says Angie Weyant, DPR's national craft people practices leader. “We rely on subcontracted trade partners on nearly every project for a variety of things. When it comes to critical path, though, we want our customers to know they have the opportunity to leverage DPR’s skilled workforce to perform the majority of work. Having those resources in-house helps us remove unknowns and potential disruptions.”
In an industry that already has a skilled labor shortage, DPR is able to manage available labor and bring workers into planning discussions earlier.
“On a recent project in a very busy Texas market, our team found ways to cut schedule because we were able to bring self-perform foremen to the table much earlier for a critical path element than if it had been put out to the market,” Weyant said. “Our employees can leverage their expertise on everything from phasing to durations earlier and be aligned with the full plan because they’re part of the master contract. It’s a tremendous efficiency.”
Moreover, for elements that are subcontracted, customers should consider when those partners can be brought to the table and make an effort to ensure that payments can be made for early work in a timely manner.
“When subcontractors, especially smaller or growing MWBE-certified businesses, commit resources to planning, they don’t have the capacity to wait for work to be put in place to receive payment,” Weyant noted. “Some customers might wonder what they’re paying for at earlier planning meetings and it’s important to see the value that is gained from them.”
Are We Aligned on Progress?
One of the great joys of working around construction sites is that, every day, the site looks different. “Progress” seems like something that can be intuitively seen. DPR’s Kevin Britt, who leads the firm’s planning, scheduling and production planning (PSPP) efforts, sees things in terms of a road trip.
“Suppose you want to take a road trip from San Diego to Boston,” he said. “It’s easy enough to say the plan is to drive from start to finish by a certain time, but are you going to stop anywhere? If so, where and when? What does that look like and what does it mean for your trip? The steps along the way are what make the journey, not just the destination.”
As such, Britt recommends getting aligned beyond milestones throughout the project and revisiting plans throughout. The larger focus should be alignment on the priorities, goals, risks, opportunities, and quality expectations that are associated with those milestones.
“Working together, project partners should start their work early, understanding the desired outcomes and letting those determine the right milestones, clearly identifying what they are and what they’re not. That way you can prioritize what needs to happen for all the key milestones, not just the ending ones,” Britt said. “It’s not just about putting together the initial schedule and a plan. Just like a sports team adjusting to how a game is unfolding, it’s important that designers, engineers, trade partners, and customers are proactively involved in ongoing discussions and be ready to collaboratively work together when the conditions that were initially assumed change during the life of the project.”
Britt sees that collaboration as key to creating a system for timely decision making by project teams.
“Making informed decisions quickly with the right people at the table, virtually and in the job site trailer, is as important as making sure quality work is then put in place in a safe and timely manner in the field,” Britt said. “Like the road trip, when you can refer to technology and data on a navigation app, you can quickly pivot and adjust. We have equivalent tools that aggregate data to forecast the plan and monitor progress that can serve a similar role.”
The good news is that, overall, there is starting to be enough quality data available to inform decisions at a variety of project stages and apply it in meaningful ways. DPR’s Colin Thrift recently worked with project partners to analyze schedule risks presented by the pandemic for a pharmaceutical facility in the Southeast.
“We were able to show where specific risks were, when we expected the most exposure to them and how the team could work together to mitigate them using our risk planner tool,” Thrift said. “The original plan was great. The risk planner exercise just helped us refine it and led to action we could take in the field immediately to lower exposure later.”
Are we Really Lean and Efficient?
DPR’s Cory Hackler is one of the firm’s Lean experts. He’s seen how easy it is for well-intentioned customers committed to reducing waste in the construction process to oversimplify the issue.
“There’s always a lot of focus on resource management, which basically means keeping every person fully utilized and busy,” Hackler said. “What has to happen first is flow management.”
Brilliantly illustrated in video, flow management is a perspective change Hackler believes the industry needs to shift to in order to see high performing teams.
“In construction, focusing on keeping every person at full capacity ultimately means people are putting fires out left and right,” Hackler said. “There’s an issue with this type of delivery as workers have no bandwidth to do anything but act as fire fighters every day. It affects other workflows on site and everyone ends up in reactive modes. What we need to do is shift to teams focused on efficiency in the entire workflow from design to completion.”
That means opportunities for every person on site, from project managers to superintendents to work crews. Similar to the cross-country road trip analogy, teams need to understand the details of steps along the way.
“For a road trip, our plan would need to include the tasks before leaving the house, packing and what we may need to bring,” Hackler said. “Then there are food stops, side trips along the way and, finally, an estimated time of arrival so people can plan on the time and day at which you will show up.”
Hackler sees the construction version of those stops as things like design management and preconstruction as preparations. Then, there is construction management that is agile enough to adapt to changes and milestones and, finally, completion. The ability to pivot resources when something doesn’t go as planned can bring collaborative problem solving to mitigate the issue without drastically impacting other areas of work.
“Right now, there are plenty of unforeseen factors that can throw a wrench into even the best plan,” Hackler says. “What if there’s a disruption at the end of the supply chain in terms of delivery or fabrication? The traditional system based on resource management breaks down quickly there. Flow management focuses on keeping work moving; having a team that can pivot to troubleshoot an issue that yields a faster outcome with fewer disruptions to the rest of work.”
Staying Engaged Is the Key
“Construction is never going to be ‘set it and forget it,’” Abdelkarim said. “Leveraging data, managing resources the right way and more aren’t just tools for pre-mobilization. These are things to do throughout the lifecycle of the project.”
By fostering a collaborative team culture, customers can set a tone for the life of the project and play a vital role in sharing project success.
“Everyone has an interest in the best outcome on site,” Abdelkarim said. “As a result, everyone should have an interest in collaborating throughout the project to ensure alignment that will enable the best outcome.”
While “Service September” looks different in 2020, DPR Construction’s Community Initiatives Champions and Task Forces continue to use the month – and the entire year – to embrace the company’s philanthropic vision. That vision, Building possibilities for the under-resourced, moves forward by supporting nonprofit partners’ missions through skills-based volunteering that DPR uniquely provides. Aligning DPR’s core business strengths with the needs of front-line nonprofits helps improve social outcomes and increases volunteer engagement within DPR.
Whitney Dorn, who serves as a project executive, president of the DPR Foundation and as a leader of DPR’s Community Initiatives Leadership Group (CILG), shared, “Like many companies, we have a defined philanthropic vision. It’s smart business: greater focus equals greater impact and outcomes. We’ve worked with organizations who help under-resourced community members expand their possibilities to identify where their needs align with our skills. The expertise we used to build a great company is the same expertise we provide to our nonprofit partners.”
“Providing construction and renovation services are obvious,” Dorn added, "but we also lean on our teams in learning & development, innovation, team building, and other skills to provide much needed youth education modules and operational support for the administrative side of an organization.”
With assistance from nonprofit partners, DPR has identified three areas of skills-based volunteering where the company’s expertise best aligns with the needs of the organizations, referring to them as the Three Pillars.
Dorn dove into the importance of the Three Pillars when identifying which opportunities best represent DPR’s knowledge and various talents to better assist nonprofits achieve their goals.
“These Pillars allow us to zero in on what makes DPR an indispensable partner as we are able to provide volunteer service that is specific to what we are best at, and it is also what our non-profit partners have determined they are most in need of from volunteers. This differentiates us from others who may also be volunteering and donating to similar causes,” she said.
Pillar 1: Facility Construction & Renovation
After over 20 years of supporting community organizations, Dorn sees a great need here. “Organizations rarely have room in their budgets for facility renovations, repairs or upgrades,” she said. “We help our partners thrive by creating increased capacity, greater safety and accessibility, and a strengthened sense of pride of place for participants and staff.”
In 2019, DPR completed more than $2.1 million in construction projects for our partners across the country, ranging from complete interior renovations to security fencing to a fresh new coat of paint.
This past spring, nearly two dozen craft worker volunteers from DPR’s Dallas office completed a new basketball court for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. The deep-rooted community partnership between DPR and the YMCA made it an easy decision when deciding to collaborate with other organizations to honor local basketball star, Andre Emmett, and deliver a state-of-the-art “Dream Court.” Keith Vinson, vice president of operations for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, shared, “This court is huge for our organization; we appreciate DPR and all they’ve done for us.”
“What makes this Pillar a unique aspect of what we do is that DPR is a self-performing general contractor with our own craft workers to support these projects and employees who volunteer because they inherently love to build great things,” shares Dorn.
Last year, DPR transformed a facility over the course of four days for the Second Story Teen Center, a nonprofit in Dunn Loring, Virginia, dedicated to improving the lives of youth and families by providing safe havens. The Second Story staff shared, “Without DPR’s lead and execution on remodeling our Teen Center, our teens would not have a safe place to go after school to get food, homework help and positive mentorship. DPR’s remodel created a much more adequate and dignifying space to serve the youth.”
“By offering specialized services such as planning, scheduling, estimating and VDC, as well as construction, DPR not only demonstrates its core strength as a builder, but allows our core value of ‘enjoyment’ to shine through,” said Dorn.
Pillar 2: Career & Education Guidance for Youth
DPR looks to support nonprofit organizations with education and career programming for under-resourced youth with its Pillar 2 offerings.
“Building the workforce is an acute need in our own industry, and introducing careers of all types can offer an opportunity not previously known,” Dorn said. “We have a unique expertise and people with a passion for sharing it. That can be as important, if not more, as a facility upgrade.”
These efforts range from high school internships to sharing construction industry career paths to learning the technical tools of a trade. DPR’s Build Up High School Internship has grown to more than 20 talented youths nationwide, with graduates moving on to pursue construction related work.
“Harnessing a wide range of skill sets with varied resources at our disposal, DPR has continued facilitating virtual trainings and events during the COVID-19 pandemic,” added Dorn. Two examples of this include DPR’s Seattle office hosting an online educational event for YouthCare’s YouthBuild program, where they held a Q&A and introduced the various career options within the construction industry, and a virtual course led by DPR’s virtual design and construction (VDC) leaders in South Florida for the students of The Milagro Center on how to use 3D modeling software called "SketchUp."
Like many of the partnerships between DPR and its nonprofit partners, organization leaders trust DPR employees to lead various educational events for the same organization. Last summer, The Milagro Center and DPR created an 8-week career-focused program, “Girls Go Build,” designed to encourage girls to expand their math and science-based learning and pique their interests in technical trades. Leaders at the Center shared, “DPR played a major role in structuring this program for us and leading several sessions. In fact, one of our students changed her [high school] major as a result of the Girls Go Build program and DPR’s influence.”
Pillar 3: Operational Support for Nonprofit Partners
Finally, DPR builds lasting relationships with local nonprofits and helps strengthen their operational capacity. In some cases, these efforts deliver the most benefit for an organization.
“Professional development plays a pivotal role at DPR and its Ever Forward company culture,” Dorn said. “Within this Pillar, our employees use their administrative, professional and technical knowledge when extending operational support to their nonprofit partners."
This often takes the form of pro bono leadership and career development courses, strategic guidance, sitting on organization boards or committees, and preconstruction, planning and estimating services. The Future for Kids team in Tempe, Arizona, shared: “Through [DPR’s] board leadership, financial support and sharing of business expertise, we have been able to double our impact, now serving over 1,200 youths who face adversity each year.”
Similarly, Pendleton Place in Greenville, South Carolina, worked with DPR to secure a grant with a large, local philanthropic organization, assisting them with quotes and estimates, grant writing suggestions and letters of support.
“[DPR] remained beside us as a partner during grant finalist interviews and presentations,” said a Pendleton Place director. “As a result, we were awarded this significant grant, which directly impacts our community’s foster care children and improves the quality of their lives thanks to the expansion of our facilities.”
“Focusing on these pillars not only helps us deliver the most tangible results for our partners, it also helps ensure we’re focusing our resources in the right ways at a time when people feel overwhelmed,” said Dorn. “Even with the obstacles to in-person volunteering, our CI champions commitment to the organizations and their constituents allow us to continue to provide meaningful philanthropic support.”
According to CBRE’s North American Data Center Report, United States data center inventory increased by record levels in 2019, up by 22% from 2018. In the rush to build and get new facilities online, owners typically take a speed-to-market approach to construction that leads to incomplete designs, cost overruns and schedule delays. As the old saying goes, “You can have it fast, good or cheap. But not all three.” But an alternative design and delivery model breaks that paradigm, promising to deliver higher quality projects on time and on budget.
Current State of the Industry
The traditional design-bid-build approach to building data centers seems to prove this pessimistic outlook. Despite the focus on speed, most construction projects come in late and over budget. Consider the following statistics:
Nearly three out of four construction projects are delivered late. In 2012, according to the global management consulting firm, Kearney, 75% of projects saw their schedules slip. A 10-month project took 12months on average. In 2016, Lean Construction Institute (LCI) reported that number improved only slightly to 73%.
Cost overruns are common. In 2012, Kearney also reported that 63% of construction projects were over budget—some by nearly 20%. According to LCI, that number increased to 70% by 2016.
What factors lead to these startling deficiencies? Competing market sectors and widespread labor shortages across the U.S. contribute to the shortcomings, along with rising material costs. But these factors only tell part of the story.
Contract terms and hard bidding approaches also play significant roles in projects finishing late and over budget due to significant overtime and/or fees to expedite equipment. The traditional design-bid-build delivery model creates a costly adversarial relationship between the owner and its contractors, and between the vendors.
Traditionally, an owner conceives a project and hires a design firm to plan and design it. When this process is well underway, the owner solicits hard bids from general contractors and, much later, from the major trades. This approach to first costs leads to aggressive fee bidding followed by jobsite tensions and eliminates the owner’s ability to leverage the team’s field expertise, past experience and current best practices.
In the field, trades focus on their own work, rather than respecting and coordinating with the other trades. A lack of cooperation can lead to more Requests for Information (RFIs) which, in turn, can cause delays. Change orders become commonplace as vendors seek to increase profitability. Frequent design changes also lead to project delays and additional change orders. Furthermore, ambiguous scopes and incomplete documents increase the risk for vendors, who are asked to proceed “at risk” to maintain the schedule.
Ultimately, the owners are dissatisfied because they experience schedule and cost overruns. The schedule delays can affect Level 4 / 5 commissioning. A facility's actual Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) compared to expected design performance may suffer. In short, the traditional design model is fraught with problems.
Target Value Design (TVD) provides an ever-forward solution that resolves these issues and promotes innovation to best serve the owner and all the stakeholders.
What is Target Value Design?
TVD is a collaborative, innovative, team-based project management approach—applied throughout a project from the very first step of project planning and conceptual design through final project turnover—that ensures a successful outcome for all parties. It is a lean construction tool that incorporates cost as a factor in design, allows owners to make real time business decisions, minimizes waste and creates greater value. It also alters the construction timeline by bringing all the major parties on board early. TVD enables the project team to design and deliver a high-quality project on time and on budget.
One important difference between the traditional design-bid-build and TVD models is that in TVD, everyone is hired at the beginning of the project. The GC and trades are brought on board from the start, along with the designers. The traditionally separate design team and build team work together collaboratively and transparently, and they design to a cost rather than estimate costs based on a design. Everything else is predicated on this unified team starting together on Day 1.
Project teams and responsibilities
The contract and bidding process differs considerably from the design-bid-build model. In TVD, all parties work together to determine realistic Conditions of Satisfaction. The owner’s responsibility begins with selecting trusted partners who have proven their reliability and commitment to work collaboratively. Next, the owner remains actively engaged, making timely decisions and standing by them, and empowers the teams while encouraging collaboration and innovation.
TVD works by putting together cross-functional teams or clusters comprising designers, builders and owner’s representatives. The teams needed may vary by project. Each team makes systematic decisions based on meaningful information and documents their reasoning before reporting to the management team. The management team, composed of representatives from each team, coordinates details, ensures a unified process and resolves any conflicts.
All stakeholders are accountable to each other and to the project goals. The teams work together to reach agreement and the design cannot move forward without everyone’s input and agreement at each stage. The team frequently revisits previous decisions to identify and resolve any issues before they can show up in the field.
To facilitate cooperation, it’s imperative that the key team leaders assigned to the job are on the job full time, with no responsibilities to other projects. The team members’ time commitment changes throughout the process, as the project moves from design to construction. Traditionally, construction staff works onsite and the designers and owner visit weekly. TVD requires everyone working on the project to be 100% focused on the project at hand, working out of a shared coworking environment called the “Big Room.” The Big Room eliminates the need for productivity-sapping calls and emails and contributes to TVD’s success with delivering projects on time by increasing efficiency.
Success depends on a well-organized team with a defined decision-making procedure. Getting the teams together early and investing time and money upfront enhances organization and helps to form cohesive relationships. Strong relationships built on mutual trust eliminate many of the problems found in the traditional design-bid-build process and lead to successful outcomes.
In the traditional model, the GC receives a design, then gives an estimate of the cost to build it. TVD reverses that by establishing the budget first, then designing to meet that budget. An agreed upon Basis of Design is the first step to a successful project. Without agreement, the team will be less productive during the design process.
TVD is one of the most effective tools for cost control strategy. The owner’s priorities, such as initial cost, total cost of ownership and user experience, inform design decisions, means and methods, project sequencing, and cost priorities. All parties work together to maximize value in a quantifiable way. Once the target project cost is set and the basis of design is locked, the cost cannot be exceeded. Only the owner can choose to increase the project budget and may do so to include a detail that it views as important, or to change the scope.
The Cardinal Rule of TVD is that teams cannot exceed their budget.
Each team has a budget they cannot exceed. Cost estimating and budgeting are continually updated, and every decision made is measured against the cost target. Teams work collaboratively to design to their specific targets, while considering other factors, such as constructability and sustainability. They reduce costs through innovation and smart decisions then take their plan to the management team, who signs off on the overall design, methods, and budget. If one team cannot meet their budget, they must borrow from someone else's budget to keep the overall budget on track.
The mechanical team has a $20 Million budget. They make drawings and run numbers based on satisfying the project conditions. If that number is over $20 Million, they must reduce it. This requires a lot of work, value management ideas and innovation. If they are still over $20 Million, another team must give up the difference from their budget to keep the overall project costs consistent.
TVD changes the cashflow by requiring a greater upfront capital investment. While traditional design-bid-build projects see a higher cashflow later in the project cycle, TVD realizes the following offsetting benefits:
It alleviates potential cost inflation and provides a guaranteed capital outlay by eliminating vendor-originated change orders and other hidden costs.
Upfront labor is cheaper than rework, change orders and loss of productivity in the field.
It eliminates surprises which can create disruptions, increasing costs and delaying the schedule.
TVD strives to create the best possible design and greatest value for an owner’s budget.
Applying TVD to Mission Critical Projects
Mission critical data centers rely on cutting-edge technology. Why then do we build them using an old-fashioned design and delivery system that has had problems since the last century? TVD provides a logical alternative for the mission critical industry as it results in projects done right, on time and on budget.
After selecting its trusted partners, including the architect, GC, engineers and major trades, the data center owner participates in developing team clusters based on current market conditions, past projects, specific project benchmarks and scope. Each team contributes its expertise to determining project costs. Then the management team, including the owner, sets a realistic overall budget based on input from the clusters. Everyone buys into the success of the whole project, not just their portion.
Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) scopes typically account for 80% of a data center’s total construction costs and drive the operating costs during the facility’s life. Unfortunately, they are often the first scopes targeted for reduction in the early project stages, often without the crucial guidance of an MEP professional. Hiring a GC with in-house MEP professionals early in the process can forestall potential issues.
TVD challenges the teams with larger budgets to be innovative and to reduce costs without changing the scope or program. It requires thinking creatively and showing up with a prefabrication mindset.
Prefabrication is a cost-effective means of acquiring standardized or repeatable building components. In a data center, this may include hot aisle/cold aisle containment systems, electrical room skids and HVAC cooling skids. Manufacturers assemble and interconnect the pieces offsite, then deliver the whole assembly to the jobsite for installation as a single piece. This increases efficiency by reducing the engineering required and it can reduce the number of connections made in the field by 80 to 90%.
Other benefits include:
Improved quality. The factory environment eliminates weather and other onsite hazards, providing a clean setting that enhances worker focus.
Decreased labor costs. Labor costs less in a factory setting than on a job site. People can work faster, and work can be done in areas with lower wages.
Increased safety. A safety incident can shut down the entire job, delaying completion. The safer, controlled environment of a factory reduces the risk of injury and the associated schedule slippage.
Faster build times. Prefabricated components are manufactured in parallel with work done in the field, leading to earlier project completion.
Prefabrication speeds up construction. By embracing it as an essential component of TVD, it enables the project team to deliver a high-quality mission critical project on time and on budget.
In conclusion, TVD provides an alternative to the problem-riddled design-bid-build model for data center construction projects. It is a collaborative, innovative, team-based project management approach that relies on transparency, owner engagement and mutual respect to get the job done. By altering the schedule so all stakeholders join the team at the beginning, designing to meet a realistic budget and removing the barrier of a scattered, unfocused team, high quality projects finish on-time and on-budget.
TVD’s real “secret sauce” can be found in the team approach it fosters. Everyone shares the risk and the responsibility. With TVD, you can have fast, good and cheap.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a digital model is worth a thousand pictures. The information and value represented in the model sums up why Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) should be used on every project – especially during the design and preconstruction phases.
VDC services like design coordination are enabled by a data-rich Building Information Model (BIM) and applied design integration processes, which DPR uses to identify and resolve issues before construction begins. In the early design phase, better collaboration and information enables project teams to make more informed decisions about design intent and constructability. When issues are addressed at this stage of the project, it leads to better predictability, productivity and quality.
Breaking Down Silos
“There’s a common misconception that owners receive a coordinated design from the design team as part of the fee, but in reality there’s a significant effort in between early design and construction devoted to coordination or making the design constructible,” said Hannu Lindberg, DPR’s national VDC leader.
This process isn’t done on every project, but the case for it is clear, according to Lindberg.
“Hundreds or even thousands of issues on a project, regardless of scale or complexity, could be solved earlier in the project lifecycle,” he added. “That translates to reduced risk and greater schedule and cost certainty for all project stakeholders, which almost always exceeds the initial upfront investment.”
Another common mistake is assuming that design coordination happens by default on projects set up for a high level of collaboration, like Integrated Project Delivery or design-build. While it happens more often on these types of projects, silos can still exist in execution. Lindberg notes that, too often, preconstruction budgets for design integration and preconstruction services tend to be on the lighter side, whereas the construction budgets can be inflated with design contingency, mainly due to unforeseen issues that could be resolved during the preconstruction phase, without the added cost impact, delays or rework during operations.
Of the nearly 300 projects DPR currently tracks, DPR has identified over 150,000 issues ranging from existing conditions, to design specifications, to maintenance access, to constructability, to traditional trade coordination issues typically found through clash detection. Using the BIM Track platform, DPR can analyze issues by location, system priority, impact and other sets of criteria to calculate the priority in which design issues should be addressed and resolved. Assigning and tracking issue accountability for all project team members translates to more agile issue resolution. It also helps promote “right behaviors” through the ability to track progress and overall project team performance using data points, such as average time to resolve issues and issue accountability.
With this information, along with historical data about the company’s core markets, DPR can inform owners and designers of typical design challenges and equip them with the added knowledge to make better and more informed decisions. For example, on a recent life sciences project in Massachusetts, DPR converted an existing 261,000-sq.-ft. office into a multipurpose facility including labs, clean rooms, clinical spaces and a vivarium over the span of 15 months. The project stipulated liquidated damages, which made coordination even more critical to ensuring successful delivery. During the coordination process, more than 2,000 issues were identified and resolved by the project team, of which 150 were escalated into RFI’s without schedule impact.
After completing coordination, the DPR team reviewed 6 major roadblocks and assessed the averted impact to the project, and the results were eye opening: if not for VDC coordination and early trade engagement, the project would have hit a 14-week delay. In comparing associated costs for the six roadblocks to the cost for coordination services, DPR found a 200 percent ROI. Keeping in mind these metrics do not account for liquidated damages, the benefits of model-based coordination have been fully embraced by the team as a standard moving forward.
Now vs. Later
“Teams should consider what percentage of the total construction cost comes out of contingency versus the upfront cost for design coordination services” said David Stone, DPR's Northeast VDC leader.
When comparing the two numbers, DPR is finding that when VDC services are applied in the preconstruction phase, all that does is re-allocate a portion of money from one slice of the overall budget into another. The contingency might shrink, but rework is significantly reduced and project teams can easily recoup the upfront investment. In most cases the project realizes ROIs that generate more than tangible cost savings, as well a qualitative value due to timely coordination effort.
“There’s an objective and quantifiable return on investment,” said Stone.
The big takeaway: VDC services like design coordination shouldn’t be siloed, operationally and financially. By making slight adjustments to how project teams – owners, designers, contractor and trade partners – integrate early on, it’s possible to influence and mitigate the impact of design changes later down the road during construction.
“We’ve seen how leveraging VDC can avert additional costs to our customers,” said Lindberg. “We know that when the VDC process is implemented successfully on our projects, all project health indicators are a lot higher on those that embrace design integration and VDC strategies from the outset. For us the goal is to incorporate VDC into how we conduct business eventually on every project.”
Nearly two dozen DPR Construction craft worker volunteers recently completed a new outdoor basketball court called the “Dream Court” for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas.
The "Dream Court” (excluding the DPR donated slab foundation) was gifted by the Nancy Lieberman Dream Court Foundation in honor of NBA and local basketball star Andre Emmett, a Dallas-area native who was tragically killed last fall. The project consisted of a 15,000-sq.-ft. concrete slab foundation used for a brand-new multipurpose activities court at the Y’s Oak Cliff, Texas facility.
The deep-rooted community partnership that DPR and the DPR Foundation have forged with the local YMCA made it an obvious decision to lend a hand when the organization reached out for help.
“DPR’s community initiatives mission is founded on building possibilities for the under-resourced,” said Tyler Wilson, DPR’s communications manager for the Central region. “We didn’t think twice when one of our valued partners, the YMCA, needed a hand making this court a reality– not only because we had the opportunity to contribute our expertise in self-performed concrete, but we also got to play a small part in solidifying the legacy of a local hero in Andre.”
Over the course of a single 10-hour day, DPR self-perform concrete crews, led by Alvaro Cruz, handled the formwork and finishing work associated with the slab pour, along with some landscaping and sidewalk repairs and improvements. In collaboration with sports court contractor, NexCourt, Inc., they subsequently laid down the sports court material.
Keith Vinson, vice president of operations for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, said the project represented a unique collaboration of organizations coming together for a common cause. “We had these incredible organizations – DPR, Nancy Lieberman Charities, NexCourt, and the Andre Emmett Foundation, all coming together to provide not just a place where kids can bounce a basketball; it’s really where the community can gather and interact with one another,” Vinson said.
Although the sports court unveiling had originally been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home mandate, the DPR craft workers who had a hand in the project can take pride in knowing they helped bring it to life.
“This court will be used by thousands from the local community for the next 40 to 50 years,” said Cruz. “Thanks to DPR, we were able to impact an entire generation in this neighborhood and I am so proud to have been given the opportunity to take part in it.”
The grand opening of the new “Dream Court” took place in early August and included a dedication ceremony for Andre Emmett, free food from EveryoneEats and free-drive thru COVID-19 testing for community members.
The Oak Cliff basketball court is the only one of its kind within several miles of the community. “This court is huge for our organization; we appreciate DPR and all they’ve done for us,” shared Vinson.
Carlos Moreno is committed to working safely, not because it is a rule imposed on him, but because he believes in his heart it is the right thing to do. For himself, for his coworkers and for the people they love. As an SPW general superintendent in San Diego responsible for drywall and taping; doors, frames and hardware; acoustical ceiling; and firestopping and insulation work, Moreno sees the ability to better control safety as one of the main benefits of being a self-performing general contractor. This ability to guide a project’s direction, along with better control of schedule and quality, make self-perform work an essential part of DPR’s success. Says Moreno, “We’re the builders; I think that’s the heart of the company.”
Q: What is your role at DPR and describe the path you took to get there?
I joined DPR 10 years ago, after working for a drywall subcontracting company for 25 years. I knew DPR was a good company, and coming here was the best decision I have made in my career. The culture here has given me the opportunity to grow. I started as a carpenter journeyman, later began to run work as a foreman, and today I have the privilege of being a part of the SPW superintendent team, a role I’ve been in for five years.
Q: What do you love about your job?
I enjoy building things and using my hands to create great things—that makes me feel proud of what I do. My passion is providing training. Every Wednesday, I bring a group of foremen into the office and we provide any training they need: blueprint classes, preplanning, navigating on Box, Bluebeam, PlanGrid, etc. DPR gives us the opportunity to grow. Why not give that chance to the next generation?
Q: What are the most challenging things you have worked on?
Working for DPR has been a new experience in learning how to build things differently using the latest technology. Every foreman has access to an iPad and/or a laptop, and they use various software platforms to perform their work more efficiently.
At the moment, I’m working on a Life Sciences project. We’re in the beginning stages of the drywall scopes. Our strategic partner, Digital Building Components, will be supplying prefabricated wall and ceiling panels for the lab areas. With having these prefabricated assemblies on this project, coordination and collaboration is a top priority to ensure we set the project up for success. This is a challenge, but an exciting one that I have no doubt we will manage.
Working in this industry can always be very challenging. No matter how much you organize and plan your workday, unpredicted roadblocks come up. Trying to balance the plan and having the ability to effectively address these unplanned changes is a skillset I am continuously improving upon.
Q: Talk about a time in your career where you intervened to make the work on-site safer.
Early on in my career, I realized how important the life of each person is. Every person depends on someone. I recall a time I arrived on-site to one of my projects to find the jobsite was dirty, with potential slip, trip and fall hazards. I called for a stand down, met with my foreman, leadmen, workers and the on-site safety coordinator, and explained my concerns. After the stand down, I also met with the superintendent and project manager so they could share our findings and solutions with our trade partners.
I have a family who depends on me—my wife and three children. Every day they expect me to come back home. Just like me and you, every employee has someone who is waiting for them at the end of the day.
Q: What is one thing you think everyone can do to make the industry as a whole safer for everyone?
Everyone needs to commit first to themselves—not to a rule or imposition, but to themselves; committing to working safely because they believe in its importance. When this happens, they will automatically commit to the company’s safety culture. Not out of obligation, but from the heart because they understand how important their lives and the lives of others are.
Q: What is the most important thing you have learned over the course of your career?
Every day that I wake up is an opportunity to learn something new; you never finish learning. If I stop learning, I will stop growing. I’ve learned that each person is important and contributes valuable ideas that help our team achieve great results. I have learned from people with years of experience, but also from young people who are just starting their careers in construction. Everyone has something to bring to the table, and we are all part of the end results.
Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field?
You must have integrity, have the mindset of contributing, and have a teachable heart. You must embrace the ever forward mindset, stay persistent and have a good attitude, even when the circumstances are difficult. You must embrace innovation. Everyone has a certain level of creativity. Identifying that creativity and putting it to use is key. Here at DPR, you are given the opportunities to be creative, to offer influence, and to grow your career in many ways—not just the traditional paths.
When Labor Day comes around, many of us fire up the grill and pull on our swimsuits for one last grasp of summer before the fall season begins. Behind this merriment is an occasion that was created a century-and-a-quarter ago to honor the work of laborers and their contributions to the development and achievements of America. It is a tribute to all workers whose labor built the strength, prosperity and well-being of the country for over a century.
As we celebrate Labor Day in the U.S., we think about the daily contributions our people make to the success of DPR. An outsider would probably describe us as a construction company. They might say DPR is in the building business. This isn’t wrong; these statements are true—on the surface. But if you dig a little deeper, you realize DPR is a people business.
DPR is guided by a purpose: We exist to build great things.® But how do we achieve this? The answer: Our people, the heart and soul of DPR. Great things are built on the strong foundation of work done safely by our craft team members, who show up every day, tools in hand, and push the company ever forward.
Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our people. We strive to create a culture of discipline that translates into an injury-free workplace. This means zero incidents. We’ve worked hard to create a “checks and balances” system that demands daily involvement and vigilance. It includes everything from pre-task planning and safety walks to audits of jobsite practices.
In reality, it relies heavily on our builders in the field, who not only take care of themselves, but who take care of each other—who take care of us all. In practice, this means intervening if you see unsafe conditions—saying something if you see something. It means planning for safety and thinking about how to do each and every task safely, no matter if it’s brand new or if you’ve done it a hundred times. Our builders know that safety, quality and schedule are not mutually exclusive. They know that having zero incidents is an achievable goal. We all want to return home safely each day, whether it be to hug our kids, feed our pets or make dinner for our families. DPR builders are responsible for keeping our jobsites and everyone on them safe, and for that we are wholly grateful. For that, we say “Thank you.”
While students across the country head back to school this fall, DPR Construction once again offered a unique pre-pandemic internship that showcased an up-close look at the construction industry.
Earlier this year, DPR’s Austin business unit hosted a week-long internship with two students from the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders who were selected from a group of nearly three dozen applicants. The Ann Richards School is a public all-girls school that serves grades 6-12, dedicating itself to preparing young women to attend and graduate from college and commit to a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.
DPR’s Melody Rahbar organized and coordinated the interns’ schedules, carefully curating a program that included career-focused presentations and a variety of jobsite visits throughout the week. The interns visited DPR’s Block 71, Google Randall, Marriott and Block 185 jobsites, giving them a first-hand look at projects in various stages of construction. During these jobsite tours, interns shadowed either a superintendent or project engineer and got the chance to bond with team members over meal breaks.
Committed to pulling out all the stops, DPR ensured that this immersive experience was both informative and enriching for the students. More than 20 people from all facets of the company took time out of their schedules to teach the interns everything from construction safety and contracts to construction technology and marketing. Collectively, the DPR team offered the students an insight into the many career pathways that are available in the construction industry.
Rahbar said she was able to relate to the young interns since she herself interned with DPR at least three different times before coming on board.
“I really liked that they seemed to feel very comfortable with me – I was like their intern mom,” she said. “They came to me with all their questions, and I think they appreciated that I had my own role at DPR but was doing this volunteer work on the side.”
2020 marked the third straight year that DPR has hosted an internship week involving students from the Ann Richards School. The week not only offered the interns the chance to discover if a construction career appealed to them, it also gave DPR employees the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise. “We had a range of people presenting, from new hires to guys who have been with the company for over 20 years,” Rahbar said. “It showed them that DPR really does care about giving back and teaching about what we all like to do.”
According to the Gartner Hype Cycle the digital twin concept is a trending technology that is being adopted by numerous industries, including manufacturing, aviation, automotive, civil infrastructure, and healthcare. However, for the commercial facility operations and management (FM) community, the concept is relatively new - but it should not be.
Building operators and managers are tasked with running safe, sustainable, and efficient buildings through the COVID-19 Pandemic and beyond. They face tight budgets, limited resources, constant regulatory monitoring and for many, are unfamiliar with advanced technologies.
Using a digital twin can be a critical and strategic step in the right direction for these teams but they just do not know where to start.
Definition and Key Benefits
“The benefits of the digital twin depend upon the level of implementation to support the challenges faced by facility operators and engineer’s day in and day out,” said Aaron Peterson, leader of VueOps, a strategic partner of DPR Construction. “One of our recent life science customers is focused on increasing its maintenance productivity. To do that, we are helping to build a solid data foundation that will lead to an understanding of how to improve their processes, increase facility up time and increase their tenant satisfaction, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars over the lifecycle of their build.”
At first, the digital twin concept consisted of capturing information about a physical product digitally and visually. But a digital twin is not just a 3D model; it is a combination of model, product, location, performance data, and the systems they comprise. Connections between the products in a building and their digital twin are created when internet enabled sensors (installed on products) stream operating data to the twin for diagnostic analysis, visualization, and performance simulation.
A recent Arup report describes the digital twin with a five-level framework, spanning from 3D visualization to autonomous operation and control. Building operators and managers who are currently using a digital twin work within Level 1 -3. In the AEC industry, the expanded practices of incorporating data from external sources, autonomous operation, and control (Level 4 –5) is where there is opportunity to deliver even more value.
Level 1: Allows teams to virtually investigate problems quickly, identify building equipment and understand impacts on building occupants. It is a model of the products that comprise building systems and the building spaces they serve.
Level 2: Offers teams the ability to develop insight about equipment that requires frequent repair or performs sub-optimally. This information can inform fix or replace decisions and improve operational reliability and facility up time. Level 2 digital twin incorporates historical data, represented in preventive maintenance and incident response work orders from asset management systems.
Level 3: Improves collection of real time performance data about products via internet enabled sensors. It enables you to detect performance issues and compare real time data with baseline data to make changes to optimize your systems.
Level 4: Enhances your ability to optimize equipment performance by addressing how external factors affect system performance. For example, local weather, external temperatures, and insulation levels.
Level 5: The digital twin at this level can be trained to recognize the cause of issues in building performance and autonomously control and correct equipment operation using machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies.
“A digital twin helps customers improve up time of their facilities and for the people doing critical work within them,” said Andrew Arnold, Product Lead, VueOps. “With a single source of truth for all facility document, data and models, clients can find the right information and the right time, with multiple views of a building through 2D drawings, 3D models and asset registers. This critical data allows FM teams to spend less time looking for information and planning and more time addressing work orders and maintenance tasks.”
Setting Up Your Digital Twin Starts with BIM
Setting up a digital twin starts with a clear need for 3D representation of your mechanical system(s) and the spaces it serves. FM teams need to easily locate and identify products of a system in terms of the building locations, i.e., building levels, zones, and rooms.
Building Information Models (BIM) - already a part of nearly every major construction project - provide an early starting point for collecting and organizing the needed data. In some cases, they provide design information that represents the design function and occupancy requirements for rooms and spaces.
Since BIM exists before the physical building, you can use it for the digital representation of the products that will be installed in the building and associate design and functional requirements. You can also use BIM to understand how the products of a system are connected. In some cases, the BIM authoring system can define and represent building systems; in other cases, owners can collect the system data using other tools to group the members of a system.
Once teams have identified, located, and inventoried the installed products, they can build out the information needed for the digital twin as construction progresses by collecting and organizing data from project submittals and closeout, including test and balance reports, and the manufacturer’s recommended operation and maintenance procedures.
“Building a digital twin is a big endeavor,” said Aaron Peterson, VueOps. “But with managed services and the right enabling technology and platform, you can choose a hosted, custom or integrated approach to empower teams to prevent downtime, save money and take advantage of rich Building Information Modeling.”