May 17, 2018

DPR Celebrates Topping Out of new Serta Simmons Bedding HQ in Atlanta

DPR recently celebrated the placement of the last structural beam for the new Serta Simmons Bedding headquarters in Atlanta, which city leaders hope will jump-start a rebirth of the Doraville area once it’s complete in early 2019.

team photo
DPR's Serta Simmons project team celebrates the milestone placement of the last structural beam for the company's new headquarters. Photo courtesy of Andi King Wieczynski

The project consists of a 145,000-sq.-ft., 5-story office, 70,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing/showroom facility and a 500-space, 3-level precast parking deck. Self-performing work gives DPR the ability to offer greater control and set the tone and pace for projects. This project resulted in the largest self-perform concrete undertaking to date for DPR’s southeast team.

Serta, the nation's largest mattress company, is combining all company locations into the new 5-acre site as part of the redevelopment of the 165-acre Doraville General Motors plant, renamed Assembly. The area has been mostly vacant since the factory closed in 2008.

serta simmons hq topping out
Photo courtesy of Andi King Wieczynski

According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the new campus will house 500 employees for Serta Simmons Bedding and its two leading brands, Serta and Beautyrest, starting in early 2019. About 380 of the jobs at the Serta Simmons HQ are already in the Atlanta area, with another 120 Illinois-based employees being offered positions at the company’s new location.

Holder Properties is the developer for Serta’s new headquarters and Rule Joy Trammell + Rubio LLC is the building’s architect. Coordination has required the project team to collaborate with multiple agencies including the City of Doraville, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Once complete, Assembly Yards will encompass 10 million square feet of multifamily housing, creative office space, restaurants, retail, and entertainment, including the purpose-built film studio Third Rail Studios which was completed in the first phase of redevelopment.

Serta Simmons Headquarters rendering
Photo courtesy of Rule Joy Trammell + Rubio LLC

May 14, 2018

DPR’s Self-Perform Teams in Spotlight at Third+Shoal Project in Austin

The recent topping out of the 30-story Third+Shoal project in Austin, TX marked the first time in company history that DPR self-performed all formwork and concrete work on a vertical high-rise structure.

exterior rendering
Photo courtesy of Gensler

Located in Austin’s booming new downtown business district, the 392,000-sq.-ft. Class-A office building is DPR’s first for Texas-based development partners Cielo Property Group and TIER REIT. Facebook will be the building’s primary tenant after the project completes this fall.

Working on a highly collaborative team with the clients (TIER REIT, Cielo Property Group, and BRDS), Gensler and other key firms, DPR was challenged during preconstruction to seek creative ways to save cost and time while maintaining the highest level of quality in design and construction. Together with structural engineer, Cardno Haynes-Whaley, the team devised a new approach for the tower. They transitioned from the originally designed pan slab and post-tensioned (P/T) girder on all floors to a P/T slab and beam in garage levels, and flat slab and P/T beams in the office level. The revised approach was more efficient to build and offers more aesthetic flexibility for tenants who want open space or exposed ceiling type finishes.

Cost, Time Savings
DPR was awarded the $25 million contract to perform all formwork and concrete work on the project with in-house crews. The resulting savings to the owner were substantial–shaving over $2 million from the budget and approximately two months from the schedule.

“We worked with the structural engineer to redesign the entire structure around the formwork system that was different than what most of the players in the market use,” said DPR’s Andrea Weisheimer. The modified formwork system allowed the concrete work to be installed faster and more efficiently, but proved far more complex to design and construct.

“Literally nothing on the entire 25,000-sq.-ft. floorplate is flat,” said DPR’s Kyle Weisheimer. “Everything is at a varying degree of slope or even cross slope. Building that kind of formwork is extremely complicated. The fact that we self-performed the formwork on one of the more complicated structures you will find, and did it successfully, is kind of a badge of pride if you will and speaks to our core value of innovation and thinking outside the box.”

Photo courtesy of Mario Villeda Photography

Fundamental Delineator
Approximately 55 DPR craftsmen self-performed the concrete formwork and installation of 35,000 cubic yards of concrete on the project, in addition to waterproofing and specialty construction product work. All totaled, DPR has delivered nearly 30 percent of the overall project with in-house forces. “With our in-house services, we can engage from the start and not have to rely on what can be an overwhelmed subcontractor market on some projects,” noted Kyle Weisheimer.

To help successfully deliver the self-perform formwork on the Third+Shoal project, DPR tapped the expertise and knowledge base of vConstruct, which specializes in providing virtual design and construction services, on the latest BIM platforms.

“We used vConstruct heavily on this job to help us coordinate and understand what we were building before we built it,” said Kyle Weisheimer. “We were able to leverage that in-house resource to take on an endeavor that we really hadn’t done before, and to do it successfully.”

Paul Byrne, director of construction at Cielo, said DPR’s ability to undertake the largescale self-perform contract delivered big benefits to the project’s bottom line.

“By having self-perform capabilities, DPR offers the expertise of a true builder on every project,” Byrne commented. “We saw this on the Third+Shoal project with concrete operations; from the onset, the team worked collaboratively through a target value design approach to yield the most effective solution given cost and schedule constraints.”

Collaborative Mindset
In addition to the project team’s strong technical design and construction know-how and their willingness to innovate, the owner, design and construction team share a collaborative mindset that helped drive the project forward since it began in 2015, according to Andrea Weisheimer. “It’s been a collective team effort to constantly look at ways to improve what we’re doing,” she said. “The goal is to have a beautiful building, but to do it a lot faster and a lot leaner. Our collaboration tools on this project really have made that possible.”

Greg Brooke, senior vice president of development with TIER REIT, pointed to that spirit of collaboration and teamwork as key success factors on a project that is now just months from completion this fall. “The DPR team we’re working with has a very strong teamwork and problem-solving mentality, and we could not be happier with the result so far,” he said. “When things come up, the team usually comes back with an appropriate and cost-effective recommendation.”

“The fact of DPR self-performing the work, really it’s seamless,” Brooke added. “I think we all row in the same direction. I think we’re going to finish this on time, on budget. It’s a huge success for us.”

May 11, 2018

Mother's Day Comes Full Circle for DPR's Gretchen Kinsella

In 2016, DPR’s Gretchen Kinsella gave birth to her daughter at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix (BUMCP), in one of the very same rooms that she helped build back in 2004. Gretchen is DPR’s youngest project executive in the Phoenix region, managing the largest project that DPR has ever built in the area—the $318-million BUMCP.

When she started at DPR as an intern in 2002, Kinsella’s first full-time project at DPR was Banner Good Samaritan Hospital (now BUMCP). She was given a lot of responsibility, because she asked for it. She continued to raise her hand for challenging projects as she progressed to becoming a project engineer, project manager and project executive.

And 15 years later, she chose an OB/GYN that delivers at BUMCP because she felt there was no better place for her personally to bring her daughter into this world. She was coming full circle, with the child she gave birth to at the site of the project she helped create.

Today, Gretchen reflects on her special moment, and shares how passion for her work empowers her to be her best self, making her the best mom that she can be.

Read Gretchen’s full story, “How to Ask for What You Want and Find Your Voice in a Male-Dominated Industry,” on ENR.

May 2, 2018

Construction Underway at Inova Loudoun Hospital’s Patient Tower

Construction is underway at Inova Loudoun Hospital’s (ILH) new patient tower in Leesburg, Virginia. Scheduled for completion in 2020, the tower is one phase of ILH’s $300 million master plan for expansion of facilities and services.

The 7-story 385,000-sq.-ft. patient tower was designed by HDR in collaboration with RSG Architects to create a patient-focused experience that elevates the human spirit. The tower will include:

  • Private, patient-centered rooms
  • New obstetrics unit and expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Expanded Progressive Care Unit (PCU) and Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
  • Expanded Inova Heart and Vascular Institute Schaufeld Family Heart Center
  • More tertiary services, including Level III Trauma at the Inova Virts Miller Family Emergency and Trauma Center and throughout the hospital
  • Outpatient services, diagnostic imaging, a café and hospital support
  • Shell space for future expansion
Groundbreaking photo
The team broke ground on Inova Loudoun Hospital’s new patient tower in September 2017. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Shumaker
Aerial photo
Construction on the 7-story, 385,000-sq.ft. patient tower is underway. Photo courtesy of Louay Ghaziri
Scheduled for completion in 2020, the patient tower is a part of Inova Loudoun Hospital’s $300 million master plan for expansion of facilities and services. Photo courtesy of HDR

April 24, 2018

The Benefits of Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality photo
A staff member at VCU uses an Oculus Rift headset to view the design and layout of the renovation. Photo courtesy of Justin Schmidt

Virtual reality (VR) technology is experiencing a resurgence after its initial experiments in the 80’s and 90’s. Since recapturing the public’s attention on a large scale in 2014 when Facebook purchased Oculus VR, virtual reality has evolved into a powerful tool with widespread applications and benefits.

Whether it is during the project pursuit, design development, MEP coordination/installation, safety and site logistics planning, or during the facilities maintenance stage, VR is proving it is far more than a fleeting new technology. DPR recognizes VR as a strategic tool that project teams across the country are increasingly leveraging to:

  • Increase stakeholder engagement
  • Increase communication
  • Resolve project challenges
  • Improve project predictability and outcomes.

To learn more about DPR’s VR initiative, read The Benefits of Virtual Reality authored by Kaushal Diwan, Raymond Huynh and Ocean Van. 

Example of a virtual reality model
A virtual reality mockup that allowed hospital staff to experience the final look and feel of the room prior to completion. Photo courtesy of Justin Schmidt

April 20, 2018

Next Stop on the Road to Sustainability: Carbon Neutral

san diego office
The recent purchase of 16,500 metric tons of Verified Carbon Offsets certifies that DPR's offices in Phoenix, San Diego, Pasadena and Newport Beach are carbon neutral through 2020. Photo courtesy of Hewitt Garrison

At DPR Construction, the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions just shifted into neutral. Through a pilot program in the technical builder’s Southwest region, the recent purchase of 16,500 metric tons of Verified Carbon Offsets certifies that DPR's offices in Phoenix, San Diego, Pasadena and Newport Beach are carbon neutral through 2020.

Through the program, the Verified Carbon Offsets will balance the estimated amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere by employees and jobsites, with an equal amount of CO2 that’s captured through Green-e Climate, a global third-party certification program. DPR’s Southwest region is already home to highly sustainable office locations, with both San Diego and Phoenix achieving net-zero certification in 2016 and 2013, respectively. 

The investment in neutralizing the region’s carbon footprint is the next logical step in environmentally forward thinking, according to Brian Gracz, who leads DPR’s San Diego business unit. He cited the importance of setting and achieving tangible goals as part of the builder’s unwavering commitment to sustainability, particularly in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

“DPR set a companywide goal in 2007 to reduce employee greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by the year 2015, and we exceeded it,” Gracz shared. “Not only did we reduce emissions by more than 30 percent, we received a Climate Leadership Award for Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management from the EPA in 2014.

indoor outdoor space
Environmentally friendly indoor/outdoor work spaces featured throughout DPR's Newport Beach office. Photo courtesy of Victor Muschetto

2020: a sustainable vision   
For the Southwest region, projections to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020 are based on several factors, including a 2013 carbon footprint study of the region’s offices and an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Climate Leadership Award. The 2020 projections also take into account an expected doubling of DPR’s staff in Phoenix and tripling of staff in Southern California.         

Just as Fortune Magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies” for social responsibility—Walt Disney, Starbucks and GE among them—have a sustainability story to tell, so does DPR. In addition to earning International Living Future Institute (ILFI) net-zero energy certification through its net-zero energy offices in Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego and Washington, D.C., DPR has also implemented a number of solutions to reduce its carbon footprint at both the regional and national levels.

The 2007 national initiative began with the documentation of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon footprint survey was conducted to determine individual employee emissions such as travel and commuting, as well as jobsite emissions. As a result, DPR implemented employee education campaigns, along with targeted reduction strategies such as the use of more efficient fleet vehicles.   

solar panels
Solar panels installed on the roof of DPR's Phoenix office. Photo courtesy of Gregg Mastorakos

The value of capturing carbon
While companies and individuals everywhere are embracing various forms of renewable energy, carbon likely will continue to fuel the energy demands of a global market. That’s why carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology can play an important role. According to the Carbon Capture & Storage Association, CCS can capture up to 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions produced by fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, and prevent it from entering the atmosphere.

As a member of the EPA Center for Corporate Climate Leadership, DPR is steadfast in continuing to do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Purchased in bulk, the Southwest region’s 16,500 metric tons of Verified Carbon Offsets are sourced through a landfill gas project capture validated and registered under high-quality project standards through Green-e Climate. 

According to Gracz, the bulk price value of approximately $2 per ton made the investment in Verified Carbon Offsets to balance the region’s carbon emissions all the more worthwhile. Total cost for the Southwest region to remain carbon neutral through 2020: approximately $20,000. 

The investment is another step forward on an environmental path paved with voluntary actions and sustainable results.  

April 18, 2018

Creative Prefab Strategy Drives Efficiency on Hospitality Projects in Austin

Aloft-Element Hotel
Building upon lessons learned at the Aloft Austin Downtown and Element Austin Downtown hotels (pictured above), White Lodging's Marriott Downtown Austin will take creative use of prefabricated skin panels to the next level. Photo courtesy of Starwood Hotels & Resorts

Building upon prefabrication strategies and lessons learned from the nearby dual-branded Aloft Austin Downtown and Element Austin Downtown hotels, White Lodging’s Marriott Downtown Austin, which broke ground in January, will take the creative use of prefabricated exterior skin panels to the next level. At the Marriott Downtown Austin, prefabricated skin panels will be built with gaskets added to the top and side edges of the panels to create the skin’s first layer of waterproofing and a temporary weather seal to protect the building upon installation.

Scheduled to open in summer 2020, the Marriott Downtown Austin will complement the existing JW Marriott Austin to together provide more than 1,600 rooms and nearly 180,000 sq. ft. of meeting space within two blocks of the convention center.

“The Aloft Austin Downtown and Element Austin Downtown hotels represent how the team creatively overcame the challenges of a tight, downtown jobsite to safely and efficiently deliver a first-of-its-kind dual-branded development for a repeat customer,” said Matt Murphy, who leads DPR’s commercial core market nationally. 

Aloft-Element Hotel
The Aloft and Element hotels are located on a crowded block in the heart of downtown Austin, leaving the team with no laydown space. Photo courtesy of Aero Photo

On a crowded block in the heart of downtown Austin and the city’s renowned 6th Street entertainment district, a 34-story tower is home to both the Aloft and Element hotels, which opened in summer 2017. Surrounded by a theater, adjacent historic hotel, restaurants and shops, the LEED-certified hotels are separate, but share amenities including a terrace, fitness center and meeting space. The 278-room Aloft is aimed at travelers in town for short trips, and the 144-suite Element caters to longer stays with kitchenettes and functional workspaces. On the hotel’s exterior skin, the hotels are differentiated by EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) plaster panels for Element, and gray metal panels for Aloft.

At many downtown sites, below-grade parking provides much-needed laydown space for the team, but the Aloft and Element hotels do not have any parking onsite above or below ground, and are valet-only for customers. The team heavily scheduled deliveries, forcing themselves to be precise and not make exceptions, because they didn’t have a place to store materials. 

Prefabricated panels
The team heavily scheduled deliveries, forcing themselves to be precise and not make exceptions, because they didn’t have a place to store materials. Photo courtesy of Turner Kerr

Closely collaborating with architect HKS and a Dallas-based prefabrication subcontractor, the team secured early and final design approval to prefabricate the hotel’s panelized skin offsite. In the safe and controlled environment of a warehouse, the team lost no days to weather conditions at the actual jobsite. The panels, built to very precise tolerances, included windows, which were set and sealed while rigged to a forklift. All water testing was also done offsite, enabling the panels to arrive at the jobsite in Austin ready to be installed, caulked at the perimeter joints and waterproofed by DPR’s self-perform work crews.

In a market where construction is booming and there is a high demand for labor, the prefabricated skin allowed the team to use smaller crews on-site, meaning less people on an already crowded downtown jobsite, and less people exposed to fall hazards by working on the leading edge of the building. Safety risks were also mitigated by the fact that workers needed to go up and down the side of the 34-story tower less frequently than they would have if the panels were not completely prefabricated offsite. To install the skin with minimal impact and disruption to neighbors, work was done at night, with small crews installing an average of one floor a week. A traditional installation of one floor of skin typically takes three to four weeks of onsite work, which the team reduced to three nights of onsite install time. 

Prefabricated panels
A traditional installation of one floor of skin typically takes three to four weeks of onsite work, which the team reduced to three nights of onsite install time. Photo courtesy of Turner Kerr

“Aside from schedule savings and greater safety for the workers, the offsite prefabrication reduced the burden put on shared resources onsite, from the single delivery lane to the personnel hoist, aiding every subcontractor onsite,” said DPR’s Nick Sultenfuss. “The hotels were also built with a smaller environmental impact, as the jobsite reduced waste by 10% compared to traditional systems.”

As it brings these creative prefabrication strategies to the Marriott Downtown Austin, not only will the DPR team continue to reshape Austin’s fast-changing skyline, but it will keep innovating and challenging itself to find ways to do it more efficiently.

DPR team photo
As it brings these creative prefabrication strategies to the Marriott Downtown Austin, not only will the DPR team continue to reshape Austin’s fast-changing skyline, but it will keep innovating and challenging itself to find ways to do it more efficiently. Photo courtesy of Nick Sultenfuss

April 11, 2018

DPR Construction Celebrates the Topping Out of Georgia Bureau of Investigation's New Coastal Regional Crime Lab

Topping out celebration
Photo courtesy of John Alexander

DPR Construction celebrated the placement of the final beams on the highly anticipated Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) Coastal Regional Crime Lab today.

Once complete, the new center will allow investigators to examine projectiles, drugs and biological samples from crime scenes in 23 Georgia counties, and provide forensic biology services for another seven counties in the state. It will replace the current lab facility on Savannah’s Southside that is more than 30 years old.

The new facility will stand three stories tall and will be able to house up to 60 employees. The new crime lab is expected to be complete in the Spring of 2019.

“This is a terrific day for us to commend our partners and everyone involved in bringing this much anticipated facility to life,” said Deborah Anderson-Purcell, chief of facilities and support operations for the GBI. “DPR’s extensive knowledge of the area and the topography of coastal land we are building on has resulted in successful execution of the project to date.”

eye level rendering
Photo courtesy of JMA Architecture, Inc.

DPR has worked with more than 20 local trade partners and collectively put in more than 22,000 man-hours to reach today’s “topping out” milestone.

“At DPR, we exist to build great things. Collaboration is in our DNA; we know that to deliver the best project we need to work with the very best local trade partners. Today is about celebrating their collective effort,” said DPR's Darryl Strunk. Strunk estimates that at project completion, more than 40 local trade partners will have participated in the project.

The new crime lab will include a three-story laboratory and medical examiner’s office. Because of the sensitive nature of the equipment the facility will house, DPR has utilized the latest BIM technology to model all the components of the building while at the same time implementing lean construction practices throughout the entire construction process.

April 5, 2018

PG&E Gas Safety Academy Uses Simulators and Hands-on Scenarios to Field-Train and Educate Employees

Photo of employees outside the PG&E Gas Safety Academy.
The PG&E Gas Safety Academy is the primary training center for employees learning to operate and maintain every aspect of the company’s natural gas infrastructure. Photo courtesy of David Wakely

In the small town of Winters, California, on 40 acres of former tomato fields and apricot orchards, is the PG&E Gas Safety Academy, a training center that will make California a safer place. One of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the U.S., PG&E will use the facility as its primary training center for employees learning to operate and maintain every aspect of the company’s natural gas infrastructure.

After breaking ground in fall 2015 and completing in winter 2017, the Gas Safety Academy becomes the third in a series of gas safety facilities opened by PG&E since 2013. The academy uses simulators, virtual learning resources and hands-on scenarios to field-train and educate employees about gas transmission and distribution pipelines, meter maintenance, heavy equipment operation, welding pressure control and excavation, among other curriculum. The academy is a constant reminder of the importance of education, safety and the critical role PG&E employees play in keeping customers safe while delivering reliable service.

Image of PGE Gas Safety Facility.
The academy uses simulators, virtual learning resources and hands-on scenarios to field-train and educate employees about gas transmission and distribution pipelines, meter maintenance, heavy equipment operation, welding pressure control and excavation, among other curriculum. Photo courtesy of David Wakely

“This one-of-a-kind training facility not only represented a complex, technical project, but also reflected many of DPR’s own values,” said project manager Ian Bolnik. “Safety, integrity, and self-initiated change while striving for continuous improvement in quality and service are tenets that motivated us every day as we built the gas safety academy, which will foster the same principles for its trainees.”

Mirroring its customer’s commitment to safety, the DPR team (including subcontractors) completed more than 140,000 hours of work with no recordable incidents, as it built the $82 million, 96,000-sq.-ft. facility during Northern California’s wettest winter on record (National Weather Service). Bordered on two sides by a Caltrans drainage canal, the site was used as a contingency relief area during years with heavy rain. According to drainage studies completed in the 1970s, if the water levels in nearby Putah Creek were too high for the canals to drain excess water into, the water would back up onto the tomato field. Prior to the start of construction, a civil engineer coordinated with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to create a diversion channel and remap the site. To avoid impacting schedule, DPR found a solution to raise the building pads by 6 inches to get them above the flood plain, allowing construction to begin.

Mirroring its customer’s commitment to safety, the DPR team (including subcontractors) completed more than 140,000 hours of work with no recordable incidents, as it built the $82 million, 96,000-sq.ft. facility during Northern California’s wettest winter on record. Photo courtesy of David Wakely

Because of its various labs and simulators, the academy has a uniquely large amount of both gas and high-pressure compressed air below grade, as well as inside the building, which was installed by PG&E’s own crews. This amount of gas and compressed air is typically installed beneath roads, not under active construction sites. The DPR team engaged with PG&E subject matter experts and coordinated with other utilities to ensure that the infrastructure beneath the facility was installed safely.

PG&E employees will be trained in three distinct buildings on the campus:

  • The Learning Center: In addition to eight classrooms, a simulator room, and electrical workshop, the learning center includes a flow lab for high pressure gas simulation and gas chromatography, where employees gain hands-on experience in regulating and monitoring the pressure and flow of natural gas. A focal point of the facility, the flow lab contains large, 46-ft. long pipes that have nearly every valve that PG&E technicians might encounter in the field on transmission and distribution gas lines. The pipes are pressurized by a large 300-horsepower air compressor, about the size of an SUV, capable of reaching pressure between 700-800 PSI, allowing PG&E to train their technicians under real-world conditions without the hazards of actual gas.
  • Transmission & Distribution Tech Center: This area includes a utility worker covered training area, plastic fusion lab and an industrial safety at heights training area, giving students a simulation experience on trucks and excavation machinery used in the field.
  • Weld Lab: The lab accommodates apprentice welders during three-year apprenticeships.
Labs create real-life scenarios to train gas service representatives about different types of equipment they might encounter at residences. Photo courtesy of David Wakely

Outdoor training areas include the Utility Village, made up of 15 small homes to create near real-life conditions of emergency response and leak detection training for gas service representatives, the people who would come to customers’ homes if someone thought they smelled gas. At the mock neighborhood of single-family residences, duplexes and apartments, technicians practice everything from soft skills such as knocking on the doors of homes, to the technical skills of detecting, stopping and repairing gas leaks.

Designed to achieve LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, the academy has reduced water usage by 35 percent, energy usage by over 20 percent and recycled 75 percent of construction waste. Other sustainable features include the site’s stormwater management, as well as sunshade louvers on exterior windows, deep overhangs and covered outdoor areas on the building’s south side.

Employing 150 people, the academy provides nearly 36,000 hours of training each year as PG&E trains its next generation of energy experts. Through its commitment to continuous improvement, the academy will create ripple effects throughout the state as its graduates create safer gas and electric transmission and distribution lines, making California a better place to live for all.

Employing 150 people, the academy provides nearly 36,000 hours of training each year as PG&E trains its next generation of energy experts. Photo courtesy of David Wakely

April 2, 2018

DPR, Gensler/CCG Design-Build Team Helps Merck Achieve its First ENERGY STAR Certified Data Center

Merck K 22 data center rendering
Photo courtesy of Gensler

Energy efficiency is a challenge for many mission critical, energy-intensive data centers, but top pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck and Company’s new Tier III data center facility in Kenilworth, New Jersey has achieved just that. The facility recently received coveted ENERGY STAR certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Delivered by the integrated design-build team of Merck, DPR, Gensler and CCG, the data center has been commissioned to satisfy Merck’s stringent design criteria and performance-based certification process to earn ENERGY STAR designation. This is the first ENERGY STAR certified data center for Merck.

Designed and built in just eight months, the integrated team delivered the facility a full month ahead of schedule. The project scope included conversion of a one-story, steel-framed manufacturing building into a new state-of-the-art energy efficient data center. The 42,000-sq.-ft. facility includes two data halls and administrative support space. Major components include a chilled water cooling system utilizing prefabricated chiller plants and computer room air handler units in each data hall, and an electrical system comprising two power train systems in an N+1 redundancy configuration. Each of those systems consists of switchgear with dedicated standby generators and four uninterruptable power supply modules.

DPR’s Brett Korn pointed out that the data center’s ENERGY STAR designation translates into real operational savings for Merck, estimated at around 5 percent of the facility’s typical operating budget. Achieving ENERGY STAR status also highlights the responsibility global market leaders like Merck place on reducing carbon footprint and lowering operating costs through environmentally responsible development.

Korn added, “ENERGY STAR certification shows that a company is looking to reduce costs and to operate the facility in the most efficient way possible, even while focused on creating highly reliable infrastructure. In data centers, you’re putting in redundant equipment which can impact energy efficiency. By installing highly energy efficient data processing equipment that allows the facility to operate at higher temperatures, Merck achieved maximum efficiencies and lowered its operating costs. Monitoring and documenting the equipment’s performance for a full year afterwards was key and takes time and patience.”

Photo courtesy of ENERGY STAR

Engaging a design-build team with the level of technical construction expertise and data center experience that Merck, DPR, CCG and Gensler possess was also crucial to the project’s success. The project team focused on achieving energy efficiency goals from the onset. The team meticulously tracked and adhered to performance milestones to help the facility achieve both ENERGY STAR status and LEED Silver certification from the US Green Building Council.

At the end of the day, Korn pointed out that multiple factors contributed to driving the project forward to successful completion and to helping it attain ENERGY STAR status, including:

  • a knowledgeable motivated client committed to achieving specific energy-related savings goals and willing to take a different path in the design, construction, operation and monitoring of their data center facility;
  • a highly experienced project team that pursued targeted energy-related goals from day one, understanding if any system deviated from pre-established guidelines, it could not negatively impact the energy consumption of the facility;
  • the appointment of specific individuals on the project team responsible for actively tracking and monitoring the design criteria, systems, and performance indicators to ensure milestones were met; and
  • the team’s willingness to innovate by employing lean construction and extensive levels of prefabrication (estimated at 25 percent of the facility).

This data center project has allowed Merck to meet its business objectives in the region while building a solid foundation for future work and forging a lasting bond between DPR and Merck. “Merck’s mission is ‘Inventing for Life’ by improving the quality of life for the world,” shared Michael J. Abbatiello, who oversaw creation of Merck’s design criteria document which outlines the required technical specifications used for bidding, detail designing, commissioning and operating the facility. “Not only do energy efficient facilities reduce operating costs, but they also represent the environmental benefits that align with our mission.”

The Merck project was DPR’s first major new customer for its New Jersey office, which initially opened in 2008 and has doubled in size, serving customers throughout the state.

ENERGY STAR certification requires that energy consumption data be continuously tracked and professionally verified using an online reporting tool via EPA, hitting specific benchmarks. Recertification is required annually. For more specifics, go to