Going Big in North Texas

This article is included in the Great Things: Issue 4 edition of the DPR Newsletter.

Workers installing prefabricated panels
DPR self-perform crews work together to install prefabricated panels. Courtesy of Tyler Wilson

Everything’s bigger in Texas and the ever-expanding footprint of healthcare facilities in North Texas is no different. It also provides an abundance of opportunity for DPR’s technical expertise in building highly complex medical facilities, oftentimes on occupied campuses currently caring for patients around the clock.

One healthcare provider took advantage of a myriad of Ever Forward innovations in DPR’s toolbox, using prefabrication, digital building models, and augmented reality (AR) to coordinate a three-story, 90,000-sq.-ft. vertical expansion above a functioning Emergency Department (ED)—all while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The DPR-client partnership approach and "one team" mindset feeds the hunger to continue to move the needle for continuous improvement.

The four-phase project consists of a third and fourth floor patient room build-out, relocating three departments, all while expanding and improving the operational flow of many other existing spaces. The vertical expansion is currently in its second phase and targeted for overall completion in the summer of 2022. DPR previously completed the hospital’s ED expansion, and provided counsel on how to ensure possible expansion of campus master planning in the future.

“The original drawings specified that the air handling unit be located at a certain point on the roof, but after coordinating with our trade partners, we noticed that if it stayed in that location, the hospital would face challenges if they wanted to further expand vertically,” said DPR’s Amanda Thomas. “They trusted DPR, they saw what we saw, and they supported our plan to revise the location and save their staff conflict later in the future.”

Prefab panels deing lifted into place
Fully finished prefabricated panels are installed during the vertical expansion phase of the project in June 2020. Courtesy of Tyler Wilson

Prefab Making Milestones

The project team leveraged prefabricated panels from DPR’s strategic partner, Digital Building Components, to help circumvent some of the challenges of working on an active healthcare campus. This vertical expansion is Digital Building’s first deployment of fully finished EIFS and ACM panels in Texas.

Building three stories vertically on a one-story building with an ER directly underneath left little room for costly scaffolding without a lot of shoring beneath, as it would substantially affect the function of the ED, so prefab made sense as a solution. The Digital Building system installed is made to accept another future two-story vertical expansion without compromising the waterproofing integrity of the system. However, that wasn’t the only reason that implementing prefab was a significant solution.

“The key benefit to prefabricating exterior panels was that we accomplished in three weeks what we would conventionally do in three months: framing, sheeting, waterproofing, and preparing for window installations,” said Digital Building’s David Kloubec. “The front-facing side was installed in nine days. It was pretty exciting to watch and we’re very proud of the result.”

AR and As-built Verification

Another innovative application came from DPR’s Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) toolbox: a combination of BIM and a mixed-reality platform called Visual Live. The entire project’s virtual model was used to track real-time production progress on existing construction conditions and trade installations using an AR HoloLens wearable and a tablet.

“The advantage of this approach is that no one needs to guess—you are standing at the actual location on-site and looking at the model on your iPad and seeing it through the HoloLens in the building,” said DPR’s Yoganand Mandali.

The platform allows the team to leverage all the upfront efforts spent on model coordination to minimize issues in the field. This “apples to apples” approach to quality assurance gives a leg up to catching issues versus looking at two or three different 2D plans to see what is being installed in each area. It also allows for remote streaming: a superintendent can resolve issues by sharing the field conditions instantly with designers at off-site locations.

Self-Perform Success

DPR’s self-perform concrete, drywall and waterproofing teams played a huge role in project development.

“With VDC, we were able to determine what our priority walls were, where they were located, and what needed to be built first,” said DPR's Jeremy Wiginton. “We established a plan and our self-perform interiors team built it accordingly. We also were able to show the owner what we intended to build and what was actually built in a much easier way.”

“By having several key scopes of work performed by our professionals, we were able to be nimble and quickly adapt to the project's needs and reduce unknown for our client,” said DPR’s Wes Schreiber. With so many DPR teams working through a Takt Plan schedule that included specific zoning for each trade and material, the teams and trade partners were able to work alongside each other and exhibit agility and flexibility when transitioning to other zones to complete their work.