February 25, 2020

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 (DBC). 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 DBC 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

DBC uses VDC for model coordination. But uniquely, DBC takes the information gathered from the building’s design model to perform digital fabrication. The recenter project team engaged DBC early in the design process to help optimize the design for its digital fabrication software. On DBC’s 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. The result is zero waste of material, labor and trucking excess scrap.

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. DPR also self-performed the concrete and drywall scopes of the building. A variety of trades were able to put their work in place sooner as the result of the accelerated structural schedule.

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

Importantly, this approach helped expedite the work while maintaining quality, safety and cost. There were zero safety incidents, and the 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.