April 22, 2020

Earth Day 2020: Data that Counts in the Built Environment

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.

Biophilic design encourages connection to the natural world and can reduce stress while increasing productivity, creativity and wellbeing. Photo courtesy of Peter Molick

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:

Photo courtesy of David Hardman
  • 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.

April 21, 2020

Fast-track Building Solutions aid Healthcare Systems in Battling COVID-19

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.”

 Photo of modular patient room
In response to COVID-19, healthcare systems are relying heavily on prefabrication, modular, and renovation solutions to increase patient care and capacity. Photo courtesy of SurePods

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.

Image depicting Modular, mobile, partitioned, and tented design solutions
Modular, mobile, partitioned, and tented solutions have been developed with input from healthcare customers and can be delivered within a short timeframe.

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.”

April 20, 2020

DPR Construction Activates Tech Innovation to Navigate Inspection

(Note: this photo was taken in March prior to mandated use of masks on site, however social distancing and glove requirements were in place.) Photo courtesy of the DPR Project Team

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.

March 23, 2020

The Power of Prefab

Prefabricated panels manufactured by DBC are installed on a jobsite. Photo courtesy of Chip Allen Photography

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.

Prefabricated components used in construction today blend seamlessly into completed buildings and contribute to an efficient workflow. Photo courtesy of Chip Allen Photography

Custom Prefab

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.

Prefab requires fewer workers, provides a safer work environment, and offers consistency. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Key Benefits

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…”
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. Photo courtesy of Daniel Peak Photography

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
  • Improved schedule
  • 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.

March 19, 2020

If These Walls Could Talk… They'd Say MEP Can Affect OpEx

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.

March 11, 2020

At NIH project, prefabrication delivers quality on schedule

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.

DPR workers finalize installation of a modular unit at the NIH project.
DPR workers finalize installation of a modular unit at the NIH project. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin Photography

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.

The DPR team prepares a modular unit to be hoisted into the NIH structure.
DPR worked with its design-build team to develop a complex rigging plan that helped ensure project schedule. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin Photography

“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.

Groundbreaking Technology

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.”

A worker welds at the NIH project
A worker welds at the NIH project. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin Photography

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.

An aerial view of the NIH project shows a modular unit in place inside the building.
From above, it's easy to see how the modular units piece together inside the structure. Photo courtesy of Ulf Wallin Photography

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.

March 6, 2020

DPR's Vested Interest in the Workforce

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.

For questions or purchase inquiries, please email [email protected]

March 5, 2020

Builders at our Core: Nancy Martinez

Nancy Martinez currently works as a labor foreman and Black Hat Safety Supervisor.
Nancy Martinez's 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. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

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.

Nancy Martinez points to a crew member on a DPR job site.
Martinez leads 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. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

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

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 exciting 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.

Martinez oversees a crew member on a DPR job site.
Martinez helps keep projects on track and works to spread safety awareness along the way as a Black Hat Safety Supervisor. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

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.

Martinez and a coworker lift  a sign together.
Martinez attributes her achievements to an ‘I can do it’ mentality, stating, “We work hard, and there is nothing we can’t do.” Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

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.

March 3, 2020

Breaking Down Barriers: Getting to Know the Pioneering Women in Construction

When Dolly Wisley showed up at a local construction company in the booming town of Overgaard, Arizona, the hiring manager assumed she was looking for her husband. She asked for a job application and was promptly turned down. The fact that Wisley had experience helping to build her family’s cabin, falling in love with carpentry in the process, didn’t matter. The year was 1938, and popular opinion still held that a woman’s place was in the home. We’ve come a long way.

Women have been a part of building since the early days of recorded history. A 13th Century Spanish site records women doing such things as carrying lime for mortar, digging foundation trenches, sculpting and painting. They weren’t paid well for their long days of hard work, earning half as much as their male counterparts, but they made significant contributions nonetheless.

In the late 1800s, Emily Roebling became the first documented “woman field engineer” in the US, overseeing the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge and being the first to cross it when it opened in 1883. She stepped in because her husband had become ill, and as women throughout history have learned, success means jumping in on the opportunities that present themselves. Forty-three years later, in 1926, Lillian Gilbreth graduated as an industrial engineer and became the first honorary member of the Society of Women Engineers.

German window cleaners head to work during World War I. Photo courtesy of Everett Historical

Examples such as these were something of a rarity before World War II, when another huge opportunity came along. The shortage of male workers created by the vast numbers of men fighting overseas allowed women to fill in these labor gaps. Once viewed as incapable of performing mechanical jobs and heavy labor, women routinely began to operate cranes on shipyards and to work as riveters and welders in heavy equipment plants. Then, three decades later, a woman became the first female hard-hat boss to oversee an American skyscraper from start to finish. That woman was Barbara Res, who used the electrical engineering degree she obtained in 1971 to build a successful career in construction and engineering.

Over the decades that followed, more and more women entered the workforce, representing a shift in the traditional view of a “woman’s place” in society. This resulted in more value being placed on the unique perspectives women bring to organizations. Stanford lecturer, Fern Mandelbaum, teaches that women’s differences can be used as significant advantages. “Women are often considered better listeners, intuitive and innovative, who create more collaborative cultures at their companies.” As anyone who has ever visited a construction site can attest, robust collaboration is a critical component to delivering a successful project.

Workers learn to weld in an aircraft construction class during World War II in Florida. Photo courtesy of Everett Historical

Advances in technology and machinery such as cranes, forklifts, jacks and other equipment, have rendered any perceived shortfalls in upper body strength and mechanical ability no longer a bar to entry into the field. These days, construction sites work smarter rather than harder, and teamwork and collaboration are viewed as not only pathways to success, but also to creating and maintaining safe environments.

DPR Construction is proud of its female team members, who work in various roles, from superintendent to project engineer, and from MEP coordinator to craft team member. Women are more empowered now than ever to make significant contributions to the construction industry, a change that was hard won by standing on the shoulders of the pioneering women who came before. The plaque honoring Emily Roebling that hangs on the Brooklyn Bridge is a powerful reminder of this history.

A plaque honoring Emily Warren Roebling sits on the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo courtesy of Luis War

February 25, 2020

Houston's recenter hits VDC, prefab and self-perform trifecta

A rendering of the recenter rehabilitation and housing complex in Houston, Texas. Photo courtesy of Brave Architecture

A Texas project is the latest example of the value and efficiency delivered when Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) is paired with digital prefabrication.

A rehabilitation facility located in Houston, Texas, recenter provides non-medical detox, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and housing services to those recovering from addiction. Through its “Hope, Healing, Home” approach, recenter provides a variety of programs focused on helping individuals find a path toward lifelong, productive sobriety.

recenter is also a hybrid project, employing structural steel for levels one and two, while levels three through five are made up of a structural metal stud wall and floor joist system. Forgoing a traditional approach using conventional steel and concrete, the top floors are comprised of 30,000 sq. ft. of load-bearing, digitally fabricated cold-formed steel structures manufactured by Digital Building Components. This method of layering levels of steel podium with additional floors of prefabricated walls has not been used previously on a DPR Construction site in the region.

As the builder, DPR leveraged its self-perform work (SPW) expertise and partnership with Digital Building Components to recover a month’s worth of weather delays to the project schedule.

Digitally fabricated panel structures were used for levels three through five, forgoing a conventional approach. The structural panels were fabricated by Digital Building Components. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Digital fabrication, powered by VDC

Digital Building Components uses VDC for model coordination. But uniquely, Digital Building Components takes the information gathered from the building’s design model to perform digital fabrication. The recenter project team engaged Digital Building Components early in the design process to help optimize the design for its digital fabrication software. On the production line, the software sends everything to the production machines to do the bulk of the work. There is a roll former that bends, cuts and engraves the “kit instructions” on each piece, robotic welders then connect studs with precision, and screw bridges that attach sheathing.

Leveraging the power of prefabrication and self-perform work

DPR worked with Brave Architecture and The Mathis Group, Inc., to bring recenter to life. The project scope consists of a new five-story 50,573-sq.-ft. mixed-use building complete with a dining room, meeting room, lounge, offices and 62 individual residential units. Outdoor amenities include terraces, porches and a garden roof deck.

DPR’s project superintendent, Brandon Liming, was impressed by the speed of installation. “We were able to dramatically increase production rates to even meet our initial ‘aggressive’ theoretical expectations.”

Liming attributes this success to vigorous preplanning. “Having preparation milestones was the key to success. At every stage, we knew the responsibilities of each crew member—from when the trailer arrived onsite to its departure.”

Working in small groups of two and three, DPR’s eight-person SPW installation team completed the work in 13 days, building on average 2,300 sq. ft. each day—four times faster than conventional building methods and well ahead of DPR’s already rigorous projected schedule of 17 days. A variety of trades were able to put their work in place sooner as the result of the accelerated structural schedule. DPR also self-performed the concrete and drywall scopes of the building.

DPR’s design and owner partners were also impressed with the rapid pace of construction, even though recenter had originally been designed using conventional steel. While the initial decision to pursue prefabrication was driven by scheduling considerations, the project’s overall budget also came in at the same cost as conventional steel.

“By the end of the project they were really surprised and impressed by the total benefits the system provided. They were also now more aware of how the system works so they could design the next one with that approach in mind,” said Dave Kloubec, Texas-based lead for DBC.

Using a digital fabrication and site assembly approach condensed what would have taken up to 60 workers onsite to construct in 3.5 months into mere weeks with only eight workers. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Delivering results

recenter had zero safety incidents, and the project’s reduced schedule helped reduce risk exposure. Not only did the recenter project team top the daily install average from previous projects, it condensed what would have taken up to 60 workers onsite to construct in 3.5 months into mere weeks with only eight workers. Additionally, leveraging SPW and digital prefabrication helped solve local trade resource deficiencies and avoided trade stacking on an already complicated site with tight access.