DPR Construction values the health, safety and well-being of its employees, families, customers, partners and communities. In light of the COVID-19 public health crisis, DPR created a dedicated task force and business continuity teams to address the situation, taking guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization and other public agencies.
The interests of customers and projects are best served by working together with all stakeholders to prevent or mitigate the impacts. DPR's goals are to listen and respond to customer needs, take care of people and proceed on projects safely.
Following is a key question asked to some employees:
How is your team adjusting and collaborating to continue supporting our people and projects?
“The profound sense of community and seeing everyone pull together across DPR to connect, support and take care of each other is inspiring. The way we stay in touch and meet with each other has shifted across the company. Now, virtual meetings have evolved to more closely resemble the depth of connection experienced from in-person meetings. It has led to more personalized connection, empathy and vulnerability that I am so grateful for. It reminds me of how special our people are.”
Derek Kirkland, People Growth and Development Leader
“As we adjust under COVID-19, client and industry communications have also increased to support our front-line heroes in the medical community. We realize that there is not a one-size fits-all solution to current conditions. Our teams continue to move forward and accommodate requests from the healthcare systems we serve, and seek ways to advance projects, create space and support the medical community.”
For businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is anything but business as usual. Normal routines have been upended, and organizations have responded to the challenges by changing the way they work to protect the safety of employees, customers and communities. From maintaining social distance to donning face masks, the day to day of essential workers looks different than it ever has.
Construction is one such essential industry. While many projects remain operational, some sectors have experienced increased demand in the face of the current global health crisis. Hospitals continue to undertake herculean efforts while internet providers experience increased traffic, all with a view to helping people through the current crisis.
Taking care of people has always been at the heart of DPR. As projects continue to move forward, project teams have adjusted how they work to protect not only employees and their families, but customers and communities as well. Measures have been implemented on every DPR jobsite to keep people safe, the first being assessing personal health and risk factors before stepping onsite.
Prior to entering any jobsite, team members must complete a Pre-Screen Self-Assessment with questions aimed at determining whether COVID-19 related symptoms or risk factors exist. Self-Assessments consist of:
questions delivered via an app on either a team member’s personal phone or on a DPR-supplied tablet.
a temperature check administered by a trained screener with a non-contact infrared thermometer or camera. If no fever is present, the team member is given a daily wristband or sticker indicating they have been cleared to enter that day.
information shared with designated DPR COVID-19 Captains, and if applicable, trade partners, vendors and client leads.
DPR’s Whitney Dorn reflected on her jobsite’s first go at screening. “More than 250 people went through the COVID-19 screen on our jobsite. The first day went swimmingly! The screen itself only took 45 seconds. The DPR Safety and craft team members are our first line of defense, keeping us safe.”
Once on the jobsite, team members practice social distancing, maintaining at least a 6-foot distance from each other. That means pre-task planning that takes social distancing into account. Additionally, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, wearing cloth face masks is required. Extra hand washing stations are available on project sites, with reminders to wash hands often. Common areas and tools are sanitized frequently, and wherever possible team members avoid sharing tools.
These safety measures taken on-site enable DPR to continue to deliver essential projects even during this pandemic. For example, on the East Coast, a longtime DPR healthcare partner issued an urgent request to DPR to modify 100 patient room doors and add glass panels into doors to enable care providers to observe patients while limiting direct exposure. The request came with a target timetable of just over a week. DPR responded immediately and mobilized an experienced self-perform workforce that knew the medical center well. The team formulated and deployed a plan best suited for the work, with the smallest impact to the customer and patients. DPR’s Chris Strock said, “I’m not sure we would be able to respond as quickly and with such confidence if we did not have self-perform work capabilities.
We love the things we build, and we care about how we build them. While the world has changed in recent months, the importance of the built environment and high-performing spaces remains the same.
Since completing its first LEED-certified project twenty years ago, DPR Construction’s approach to sustainability and wellness centers on collaboration and data-driven decision-making. DPR leverages integrated project delivery to reduce waste of all sorts throughout the construction process, and it has proven true triple bottom line benefits for customers, communities and employees.
This Earth Day, DPR is taking stock of its impacts on the planet and communities where it operates and reflecting on the environmental performance of its office operations, especially the observation that high-performance buildings at market rates are realistic.
Lessons from Living Labs
Anyone who has worked on an office renovation knows the importance of setting a vision for the design. But meeting project goals and making informed decisions – while preserving the budget –takes data and experience.
Testing out leading-edge design and construction methods is the primary driver behind DPR’s “Living Labs,” which are new and renovated regional offices that DPR brings online. Each office is an opportunity to think about space differently, and to set goals not only for functionality and effectiveness, but also comfort and enjoyment.
With each Living Lab completion, there’s more evidence that renovations can be done to high performance standards and competitive rates, and that sustainable design and construction works in every climate. These offices endorse multiple green building rating systems, including LEED, WELL, Fitwell and ILFI Zero Energy certification, and DPR intends to scale up certifications across future offices. Each one employs a unique combination of green strategies, but some features standout:
San Diego: The DPR San Diego office used a broad-based natural daylighting strategy which includes Solatubes and south facing roof monitors, which reduce overall lighting requirements. As a result, the building performs 97% better than similarly modeled buildings.
Phoenix: DPR’s Phoenix office was the second office in the U.S. to achieve net-zero energy certification and incorporates several passive heating/cooling solutions. These include including 87 operable windows and a stack ventilation system which draws air up and out through the building.
San Francisco: As the first net-zero energy building in the city, the San Francisco office is a textbook case on adaptive reuse. Unique circumstances included no space between buildings, cast shadows, and the need to “right-size” the roof PV system for foggy weather and structure upgrades.
Washington D.C.: In aiming for net-zero energy status, the team leading the DPR Washington, D.C. office used a combination of passive and active strategies first and then focused on offsetting with a 141kW rooftop PV system, which more than makes up for the building’s minimal insulation loss.
Austin: Living walls are one of the most noticeable elements of DPR’s Austin office, which is the first WELL-certified building in the city. Biophilic design encourages connection to the natural world and can reduce stress while increasing productivity, creativity and wellbeing.
Sacramento: The relocation and renovation of DPR’s Sacramento office included a 6,000-sq.-ft. mass timber addition – the first cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure in the city. CLT panels were prefabbed to reduce onsite waste, and timber requires less energy to produce and has lower embodied carbon.
Look to the Data
Each office employs different techniques to achieve and maintain its green performance status because technology, systems and equipment are constantly evolving. And more than ever before, there are tools available to demonstrate that environmental performance equates to business and financial returns.
DPR partners with Lucid to optimize building performance and metrics tracking. The Lucid BuildingOS system allows for monitoring and sharing building water and power consumption, and photovoltaic energy production in real time. In the last 12 months, five representative DPR offices produced 448,751 kWh from PV installations, and consumed approximately 601, 116 kWh – making up nearly 75 percent of the energy used. As DPR continues to expand its use of the dashboard, keeping track of stats over time will help the organization figure out strategies for further reduction, and continually optimize its offices.
Living Labs may be the first space where DPR tests new approaches to sustainability, but the data on cost and performance provide reference points for all building owners seeking to achieve big results at market rate.
Healthcare providers and staff members are under significant and increasing pressure like never before. Healthcare systems across the country have identified both current and projected needs, including:
repurposing existing spaces
installing triage tents
transitioning entire floors into negative pressure environments
creating modular units outside of healthcare facilities
“Facility needs vary greatly by region to keep up with patient care as capacity surges; there is no one-size-fits all strategy or solution,” said Sean Ashcroft, who serves as a co-leader of DPR's National Healthcare Core Market. “We are actively collaborating with our industry partners such as Digital Building Components, SurePods, other prefabrication and modular partners, architects, and clinicians on an individualized basis to examine and implement appropriate measures, including rapid deployment solutions and renovations of existing spaces.”
Modular and Prefabrication Collaborating with prefabrication and modular partners, Digital Building Components and SurePods, DPR’s team of healthcare construction experts have created several solutions for hospitals looking to add temporary beds and staff support spaces in response to the increase in short to mid-term capacity needs. Together, these teams have developed an extensive range of modular, mobile, partitioned and tented solutions, all of which have been designed with input from healthcare customers and can be delivered within a short timeframe.
“DPR is ready as-needed with both capacity and materials to implement these solutions upon request,” Ashcroft said.
Renovation in Operational Spaces for Increased Capacity Healthcare customers nationwide are also seeking to make fast renovations to existing space.
For example, DPR converted an empty floor into a COVID-19 overflow ward in just three days for a major Houston healthcare system. With active staff in the area and through numerous utilities make-safes, DPR’s self-perform work crews converted the floor to a negative air space, rearranging numerous doors, walls, and offices to eliminate exposure when the unit goes into operation.
Another customer is currently considering reopening decommissioned-but-licensed beds, as well as looking at converting unlicensed beds into intensive care units, and ambulatory surgical centers into spaces for non-COVID-19-affected patients.
In Virginia, DPR modified 100 existing patient room doors for a long-term healthcare customer to add viewing lites, allowing care providers to observe patients while limiting direct exposure to the virus.
“While there are numerous infrastructure challenges to consider in the conversion of spaces such as hotels and dorms into medical facilities, for some healthcare systems preparing for an influx of patients, these options are on the table,” said Ashcroft. “Larger spaces such as convention centers would be a primary preference, because they can be set up quickly with fewer caregiver and logistical impediments. And while many healthcare systems are still first looking at existing medical spaces at this point, all of these are feasible alternatives, and DPR stands ready to work should any of our healthcare customers choose to move forward with these options.”
Remaining Diligent and Prepared “We want to be someone our customers can count on when things are fluid,” reflected Ashcroft, speaking on what the future holds. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop and evolve, DPR will remain a steady, dependable, and highly collaborative partner to create the best possible solutions for their unique and rapidly changing circumstances. We recognize and respect that each and every situation will have its own challenges and solutions, and we are committed to continue working together to respond thoughtfully and diligently to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We are grateful for our dedicated and skilled workforce and trade partners. Our project teams are working in ways to ensure safety, while also knowing the work we’re doing will position doctors and medical staff to make a meaningful difference in their communities. It’s a lot of pressure to handle and the crews are handling it amazingly well.”
At a time when social distancing, health, and safety are top of mind, the DPR WeWork project team continued to push their project forward while adhering to all mandated safety restrictions. When it came time for the building inspection of the 60,000-sq.-ft. co-workspace located in Nashville’s popular neighborhood, The Gulch, the team faced a new challenge. “The fire marshal called us and told us our inspection that week would be canceled as the fire department was suspending all in-person activities indefinitely,” said DPR’s Kyle Wortendyke.
The team moved quickly to develop a viable alternative solution. “This was an issue, as we only had two weeks to hit substantial completion and move the owner in on time,” said Wortendyke. The potential roadblock didn’t slow the project team’s momentum. The team was utilizing a 360-degree camera throughout the building process to enhance the owner’s progress photo experience in lieu of traditional progress photos to review the space and decided to lean in on innovation and use the same camera to conduct a virtual inspection.
To provide a realistic walk-through of the space, the project team shot sample videos using the camera, which ultimately allowed the viewer to spin the video 360 degrees and rotate views up and down. Once the sample videos were provided to the fire marshal, DPR was given the go-ahead to conduct the full site inspection virtually. The team immediately got to work shooting video of the full ring out and emergency lighting systems.
Thanks to the project team’s fast thinking and innovative approach, the building was successfully inspected and turned over to the client on time and ready for use.
The construction industry is developing new methods and improving productivity in response to customer needs, technological advances and labor-related challenges. Prefabrication is at the forefront of this evolution, delivering high-quality projects with lower costs and accelerated schedules.
For some, the term ‘prefabricated’ may spark memories of manufactured housing from the last century. But the prefabricated components used in construction today blend seamlessly into completed buildings and contribute to an efficient workflow.
“Concepts like DfMA—design for manufacture and assembly—and DIMC—designing for industrialized methods of construction—are on the rise,” said DPR’s Ray Boff.
According to Buildoffsite, DfMA, in its simplest terms, is “the application of factory (or factory like) conditions to construction projects” and almost always includes prefabricated components. Parts of the structure are manufactured offsite in a controlled environment. These pieces are then delivered to the jobsite and hoisted into place for assembly.
“DIMC evaluates how available building components can be programmatically arranged and procured in the most efficient ways to provide cost and schedule certainty, along with improved design and construction quality,” said Boff. “Both concepts support concurrent engineering methodology.
But what about creativity? Does building with prefabricated components restrict customization in design? Not at DPR.
“Each project is a blank canvas,” said DPR’s Bryan McCaffrey. “Through the use of virtual design and construction, and the data-rich model produced through the VDC process, we have the ability to digitally fabricate custom components.”
DPR works with Digital Building Components, located in Phoenix, AZ, to digitally fabricate precise-to-spec building assemblies directly from the building information model (BIM), including load-bearing panelized structures, fully finished panelized exterior walls and panelized interior walls with electrical and plumbing already roughed in.
The key to integrating prefabrication is to include it from the beginning of the design process. DPR collaborates with customers, architects and engineers to determine if prefabrication makes sense and how best to include it. This helps ensure that the project will run smoothly. It also avoids the challenges arising from inserting prefab into an existing design.
Incorporating prefab into a project’s design can yield the following advantages:
Higher Quality: Digitally fabricating components in a factory-controlled environment improves quality control. Machines create precision products directly from the model and deliver components that fit as expected in the field.
Cost Certainty: Materials are batched, and waste is reduced or eliminated. Factory-based labor offers greater predictability that results in higher productivity, safer working environments and cost advantages. According to Buildoffsite, site labor costs about 2.2 times as much as factory labor and factory productivity is about double that on jobsites.
Accelerated Schedules: Panels are manufactured in parallel with work done in the field. This leads to earlier project completion. Weather doesn’t affect factory production and thus becomes less of a factor.
Improved Labor Resources: A 2019 survey by AGC found that “80% of contractors report difficulty finding qualified craft workers.” Prefab requires fewer workers, provides a safer work environment, and offers consistency – making jobs in the prefab sector among the most attractive in the construction labor force. Controlled environments also allow for cross-training in specific tasks, which helps in labor balancing, skills enhancement and workforce improvement across the board.
Sustainability: According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), “About 40% of solid waste in the United States derives from construction and demolition.” Prefab batches production and takes place in a controlled environment, substantially reducing or eliminating waste. It also reduces the number of vehicles traveling to and from the jobsite, thereby reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and their associated emissions.
Other job-specific advantages: Jobsite constraints are becoming more common. Prefabrication minimizes the number of workers required on-site. According to Sam Huckaby of Vantage, having fewer people on the jobsite was a significant benefit of using prefab. “We were a constrained site from a parking and access perspective, so the more work we were able to do offsite, the better, especially when something is wrapping the entire building…”
Prefab in Action
The 175,000-sq.-ft. Building 1 on the Vantage McLaren Santa Clara data center site was DPR’s first use of pre-finished EIFS panels from Digital Building Components. The digitally fabricated exterior panels allowed the team to enclose the building nearly 12 weeks earlier than if it had been stick-built.
In a series of higher education projects in California, DPR also provided prefabricated steel panels in place of wood framing, without increasing the owner’s cost. According to the owner, the projects realized the following benefits by including prefab:
Efficiency of construction
A stronger, better product for the same cost.
Ultimately, the power of prefab is in the value to the customer. Prefab methods speed up construction schedules while also providing high quality at a lower cost. As the effects of the COVID-19 crisis continue to unfold, DPR is actively working with design and prefab partners to support the healthcare community with rapidly deployable solutions to help increase capacity and other needs as they arise for individual customers.
Construction costs a lot, but so does keeping a building running for 50 years… or longer! Upgrading systems later is also costly and disruptive to building tenants or owners. There are more tools than ever to address these issues, though.
By bringing experts in mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) construction to the table throughout a project – from design stages to execution in the field – customers can ensure their new facilities operate optimally, ideally supporting a lower total cost of ownership.
In the latest installment of “If These Walls Could Talk…,” DPR Construction MEP professionals describe how they collaborate with project partners and customers to deliver the best possible outcomes on every project.
DPR marked a major milestone on a project underway for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. The Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TIL) Cell Processing Modular Facility, which will be used by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to deliver cutting-edge cancer treatment, is the first large-scale, fully prefabricated and modular multi-module cGMP manufacturing facility of its kind ever built in the United States.
In early December, ten prefabricated modules began arriving on the NIH campus, the final stop on their journey from subcontractor Germfree’s Ormond Beach, Florida manufacturing facility. The modules, which span an average 14 x 40 feet each, include a cell processing suite, cleanroom lab space, a cold storage room, office and work spaces and more.
As the modules arrived on site and over the next couple of weeks, construction crews undertook an extremely complex rigging procedure to move the modules into place. It involved a carefully choreographed sequence of rigging and hoisting the 40,000- to 50,000-pound modules some 35 to 40 feet into the air, over the structural steel exterior building envelope and through the open roof to set them in place on their foundations.
Magnifying the challenge, the entire operation took place a mere 40 feet from two adjacent, fully operational medical and research buildings. Vibration monitoring required close coordination with users in adjacent buildings to ensure that sensitive activities were not affected. “The logistics of planning the rigging was extremely complex,” commented DPR Project Executive Jeff Vertucci. He noted that the decision to construct the building’s exterior structural steel frame prior to installing the modules – essentially building the structure from the outside in – helped the team keep to schedule even as elements of the project changed. It is just one example of the solution-oriented approach adopted by the DPR-led design-build team working in concert with Germfree, architect Perkins & Will, and owner/end user, NIH and NCI.
“We were already well into design and planning when we collaborated with our customer to recalibrate the scope for NIH, while also retaining a schedule that met their needs,” Vertucci said. “By enclosing the building and getting structural steel erected before the modules showed up, then reworking a rigging plan to drop the modules in through the roof, it made the rigging much more challenging but allowed us to save at least three months versus a traditional approach.”
That solution worked so well that NIH has asked DPR to re-sequence another job they are currently building on campus, the six-module CCDTM project, using the same approach, according to Vertucci. This DTM Modular Facility is using the same Germfree components as the TIL Facility.
As DPR’s seventh project either underway or completed on the NIH campus, the TIL facility is a groundbreaking project in the world of cancer treatment. DPR Project Manager Ignacio Diaz said the facility’s lifesaving mission has provided the design and construction team extra motivation to work collaboratively and overcome an array of challenges in order to get the project up and running as quickly as possible.
“This is one of those jobs that did not need much outside influence to motivate people,” Diaz commented. “Cancer is such a common thing; virtually everybody is touched by it. The fact that we are building this facility that really impacts almost everybody is powerful. It gives us more incentive to finish fast so the end users, the researchers, can get to doing what they do – curing cancer, or at least helping to do so.”
Leveraging Expertise to Move Project Forward
With a footprint spanning approximately 6,000 sq. ft., the TIL Cell Processing Modular Facility is supported by an auger pile foundation drilled as deep as 30 feet. The structure has three levels: a bottom floor “crawl space” that follows the existing site slope, containing gas piping that includes the supplies of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) to the facility; a first floor comprising the 10 prefabricated modules; and a mechanical floor above. The mechanical level contains the building’s HVAC system, including two air handling units and two exhaust fans, electrical conduit for building controls and power systems, IT infrastructure and more.
Since being awarded the project in October 2017, DPR has leveraged its design management capabilities, its technical construction skills and its off-site construction management expertise to help keep the project moving forward while contending with underground utility rerouting, logistical challenges and tight site access, among other things. When the owner needed to make extensive programming changes to reconfigure the facility’s planned workflow during the design phase, DPR worked to re-sequence the project’s construction processes in order to make up some of the lost time.
Construction formally kicked off on the TIL Facility jobsite in August 2018, just two months after the off-site module prefabrication work was getting underway at Germfree’s Florida manufacturing plant.
Modular Construction Delivers Quality Benefits
Off-site construction has provided significant quality and quality control benefits, according to Vertucci. Both the modules and the majority of the building systems were prefabricated off-site.
“I think ultimately NIH & NCI will end up with a phenomenally high-quality, state-of-the-art project when this is completed,” Vertucci commented. “Building this in a controlled environment in a warehouse manufacturing facility, by Germfree technicians who do this work all the time, makes the quality of what they are getting excellent.”
Adding to the quality control benefits, DPR is self-performing significant portions of the work with its own crews, including all exterior framing, sheeting, vapor barriers, doors, masonry and various other items.
Push Towards Completion
Following the arrival and installation of the 10 modules in December, the TIL project team will continue to make steady progress on the project during 2020. The project team also has an integrated commissioning plan which allows the owner’s Commissioning Qualification and Validation (CQV) agent to start with commissioning of systems as early as March 2020. This further allows for more time to work through the NIH document reviews that come with the cGMP facility requirements.
DPR is slated to complete all construction in Q2 2020 and have the CQV portion complete by Q3 2020, for turnover of the facility.
DPR is also handling all scientific equipment procurement on the project for the owner, a turnkey approach to project delivery that adds additional value for the client. This integrated approach ensures that DPR’s scientific equipment team will hand over a project with the necessary components needed for the research program the space is being used for.
DPR's Elke O'Neill and Joe Garza sat down with us to discuss the new adjustable fit PPE vest and the role it plays in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at DPR
Name: Elke O’Neill
Role at DPR: Preconstruction Manager for Northwest, Bay Area Women Who Build Steering Committee Member, D&I Task Force
Name: Joe Garza
Role at DPR: Regional Safety Manager for Central, Safety Leadership Team, D&I Task Force
Elke O’Neill began her professional journey with DPR Construction 18 years ago and now serves as a preconstruction manager in the Bay Area. Throughout her career and time spent as a project manager, she has carefully studied various aspects of the industry and sought opportunities to create a more equitable environment for women in construction. Elke utilized her experience to redefine, create and manufacture an adjustable fit PPE Vest to play a key role in furthering the conversation surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion at DPR and within the construction industry at large.
Joe Garza has spent a total of 25 years in the construction industry and has built a 17-year career at DPR. Currently, Joe is the face of regional safety for the Central region as well as a part of the Safety Leadership team and Diversity & Inclusion steering committee at DPR. With the ever-changing nature of construction, Joe wholehearted believes that one day the industry will be looking to DPR for ways to improve within the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion space. He believes we will be industry champions and leaders in the D&I conversation.
Question: What events or experiences inspired you to create a new PPE vest option?
Elke: I was inspired to look into a more customizable vest option for women several years ago when I was working on-site as a project manager. I tried to find a vest that me fit better and wasn’t as baggy than what was available, and it simply didn’t exist. I decided to reach out to different vest manufacturers to see if there were any vests out there that had the same features being offered in a men’s vest, but in a smaller size, and I couldn’t find any.
Question: What does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on a jobsite mean to you? Do Safety and DE&I work hand in hand?
Joe: It means an equal playing field for everybody and nobody having to change themselves because a group or person walked into the room—we want everyone to be authentic to who they are. When a problem arises, we want to solve it with a variety of people and perspectives. Look at any of our jobsite gates and you will see a community; how they interact is the same way DPR should operate with our teams. We also have to consider psychological safety: setting people up to think and feel that they have the freedom to be themselves. Over time, safety has been shown to be a gateway to DE&I and to creating a safe space and culture to speak up, especially when we look for those diverse ideas and different points of view.
Question: Explain the process you took to design and manufacture a new vest.
Elke: This process started in 2018 after talking to a manufacturer to see if there was a smaller vest option available—there wasn’t. I partnered with a former DPR employee – Sandy Grayson – who previously ran the DPR store, and worked with her connections to create a custom adjustable vest for everyone in the field. We incorporated all the safety features, sewed an initial vest type for fit and brought it to where we are now. The overall timing took about a year and a half from concept to creating the first vest prototype, but we wanted to make sure we took the time to produce a quality product. We also utilized feedback from women in the industry. We made changes based on their comments.
Question: Who do you think this adjustable fit PPE vest will affect the most?
Joe: I had the opportunity to try it on and think it’s an amazing product. The ripple effect of this vest is giving the user the ability to feel included. It’s the notion that before I walked into a room, someone thought about me and how I wanted to feel—not just that I would be given what is available, but that what I was given would fit me. I’m a medium size, but most jobsites only have XL or XXL available, and that tends to slouch on my body. You start to feel underappreciated and diminished. Having a vest that fits to your body makes you feel comfortable and allows you to put forth your best self on a jobsite.
Question: What has the reaction been so far after announcing the rollout of this new vest?
Elke: The reactions to the new vest have been overwhelmingly positive - people can't wait to get their hands on one. I recently showed the vest to some of DPR's female field and craft team members in Austin, and they were visibly excited about having their own adjustable vests to wear on site.
Question: Where do you see the future of DE&I going at DPR? How do you think our stance will affect the industry?
Joe: The reality is we are being very intentional about how we are growing for our new employees, how we work with our hiring managers, and the way these changes will impact our teams. When you make DE&I top of mind, it creates unique filters to ensure we are really taking care of our people. I hope we get to the point where the industry looks to us for inspiration because of how well we have embedded DE&I into our culture.
To watch the new adjustable fit PPE vest in action, please visit our Video section on the website or watch here.
These days it’s not out of the ordinary to see women working on construction sites—something that was a rarity when Emily Roebling oversaw the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 31 percent increase in the total number of women in the construction industry over the last decade. They are empowered to undertake roles previously not open to them. The story of one such female builder is shared in this latest edition of Builders at our Core: Nancy Martinez.
Martinez flexes her team integration muscles on a daily basis. As the leader of a self-perform crew in Virginia that works with dozens of superintendents and a slew of craft teams to maintain order and cleanliness on the job site, she helps keep projects on track and works to spread safety awareness along the way. Her excellence and attitude have propelled her to being recognized as both a project foreman and a Black Hat Safety Supervisor in a historically male-dominated industry. She attributes these achievements to an ‘I can do it’ mentality, simply stating, “We work hard, and there is nothing we can’t do.”
Q: What is your role at DPR and describe the path you took to get there.
Martinez: I’m currently in charge of the labor group for Building 3 on this job site. I heard about DPR from another team member, who happens to be my brother-in-law. I came from an outside contractor, cleaning hospitals, and I’ve been here since November of 2018. I started as a laborer, and as we grew and added more people, I became a lead for Building 1. From there, I became a foreman for electrical rooms and then ended up taking responsibility for the whole building.
I was also recently nominated to be a part of the new Black Hat Safety Supervisors program, which was an honor. The black hat signifies being a safety advocate for the people. We look out for everybody on the site, not just our specific craft team, and we work to spread safety awareness. We are vigilant about safety, which includes everything from making sure people have their PPE on to making sure everyone is tied off properly and has four points of contact.
Q: How does your team integrate with other teams? How do you work with each other or make things easier for each other?
Martinez: My team goes wherever we are needed. We coordinate with other craft schedules to clean areas when work is done, and we also prepare areas before work starts so craft team members know they are coming into a clean and safe environment. If there’s water in a pit, we figure out the most efficient way to get it out, whether it be pumps connected to a hose or shop vacs, or even a squeegee machine to squeegee it out. If a bunch of plywood needs to be moved, we walk it down three flights of stairs. We pick up trash, sweep break tents and make sure everything is clean and slip-trip-and-fall hazards are minimized so building can continue as it needs to.
Q: What is your proudest moment at DPR?
Martinez: Honestly, there’s a whole lot. I helped turn over parts of Building 1 on this site, and it was exiting to be a part of that. We watch a site go from dirt to an entire building. There’s a huge sense of accomplishment that goes along with that. At the end of this project, there will be a big reveal, and I will be able to say I was a part of that. But I think my proudest moment was becoming a foreman. It was a recognition of my determination and the contributions I’ve made to the team. It’s a real honor.
Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Martinez: One challenge is managing so many moving parts. We have 23 superintendents running three different buildings, with each of them needing something different. Managing that takes some creativity. Everything else is cake. (Laughing) Before this, I was always a small fry. At first, I was terrified of being put in charge, but the superintendents I work with were able to guide me through how to handle everything, which made it easier. I just take it one room at a time.
Q: What do you love about construction/your job?
Martinez: It’s never the same work over and over again; there’s always something new. You can come onto a construction site doing one thing, and three years down the line be doing something completely different. The really great thing at DPR is there is unlimited potential for growth, and the work you do is recognized and rewarded.
Q: To be successful in your role, what skills does a person need?
Martinez: Honestly, I think it comes down to self-determination. There’s not one single skill I can identify in my role. It comes down to the desire to do the work and to do it well. Anybody can push a broom. What really matters is how you go about doing it. Anybody can pick up a piece of wood, but it’s another thing to pick up a 20-foot two-by-four and walk it down three floors. You have to see the work to its finish and every little bit matters.
Q: What advice would you give other women who want to get into the industry?
Martinez: We are in a predominantly male industry, and we work just as hard as they do. It’s vital that we have an ‘I can do it’ mentality. If guys can do it, we can too. I see other females in our industry—painters, finishers, drywallers, electricians, laborers. A lot of them do duct work. I’ve even seen a female steelworker. There is nothing we can’t do. You get out of it what you put in, and the opportunities are there for us, as well.