September 28, 2018

Innovation isn't synonymous with technology. Innovation at DPR Construction can be anything that creates new ways of working more efficiently and delivers value to our customers and projects. Achieving that often takes collaboration with key stakeholders from owners, trade partners, end-users and project team members.

“It seems like for most people innovation has become synonymous with apps and devices, but we believe it’s more about changing how we work,” said DPR’s Tim Gaylord. “We want to focus on how we can do more for customers and be more efficient, whether it’s using technology or simply Lean thinking. Either way, it takes customers and project teams who are willing to try things on their projects and seeing what delivers value.”

That’s exactly what’s underway in Leesburg, VA, where DPR is expanding Inova Loudoun Hospital and using the site as a proving ground for a new way to monitor recent concrete pours with embedded devices.

These devices are embedded into concrete to deliver key measurements.
A DPR team member shows one of the devices that are under pilot.

Traditionally, concrete cylinder samples need to be tested off-site to determine strength. Separate core tests measure moisture content. Doing so involves taking several samples, sending them to a testing facility and waiting for the results. The project team saw an opportunity to see if there’s a more efficient method to measure these aspects in real time.

“We’re embedding sensors into our concrete pours,” explained DPR’s Louay Ghaziri. “The sensors will provide us with strength and moisture content readings that we normally test. We will compare those numbers to what traditional testing returns to see if similar results make this a more efficient solution moving forward.”

DPR’s crews are working in tandem with architecture partner HDR’s research arm. The idea is that, if the readings are reliable, the sensors will cancel out the need to send samples in for testing, therefore saving time, while also helping determine project sequencing and eliminating rework.

A sensor installed prior to concrete pouring.
The sensors are attached to rebar prior to concrete pours.

“On our project, this could make a big difference when it comes to putting in flooring,” Ghaziri said. “At that stage, it’s vital to know exactly how much moisture is in the concrete. Anything that can bring certainty to schedule on a complex project gives the customer more peace of mind.”

A DPR site in Sacramento will also pilot the sensors soon; testing in different climates helps establish the effectiveness of the tool.

It’s the latest example of DPR finding appropriate places to try new methods. Some have taken off; one solution for managing jobsite progress photos has saved hours of time for DPR and its project partners. The solution was first piloted on jobsites in Arizona, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Washington, DC region. Today, it’s used on more than 100 DPR projects because of feedback from architects and owners that showed it was delivering value.

DPR and its design partners use jobsite progress photos for a variety of reports and verification needs. Customers also like current photos for their own purposes including keeping stakeholders or employees/end-users up to speed on progress. Occasionally, they’re needed to help troubleshoot an issue. No matter the stakeholder, finding photos for their specific uses was a cumbersome process, often taking skilled people off their "normal" job for hours.

Visualization showing the digital model compared to progress.
DPR is using software that allows quick ways to compare progress versus a digital model.

“The old methods meant a project team ended up with thousands of pictures in a shared folder with titles like ‘IMG_541’ and no real context,” Gaylord said.

Stakeholders always disliked how a simple report could turn into a day-long process. DPR team members, as well as its trade, design and customer partners all reported a much better, faster experience when DPR implemented a process and software that integrated existing digital site plans with automatic curation of photos.

“Now, we drop a pin in a room, take a 360-degree photo and all the curation legwork is done for us,” Gaylord said.

The result is more time spent building and collaborating with much less time trying to find "that one photo."

DPR looks for things that deliver value in the form of cost savings, schedule certainty or simply better customer service. While technology can be part of the solution, the true innovation usually ends up ticking one of those boxes.

“If it’s just a shiny object, customers aren’t going to be interested,” Gaylord said. “They want to know, with good reason, what’s in it for them. So, we combine being curious about emerging solutions with an environment where we can test things out and see what works, not only for us, but for the customer and project.”