When international builder DPR Construction outgrew its existing Washington, D.C., regional office, it was an opportunity to think about the space differently. The DPR team wanted to do so much more than just build a cool-looking office. It desired to incorporate sustainability and wellness while also creating a truly 21st-century workplace.
DPR set some lofty goals for its new office space, all linked together by the idea that a collaborative team really could achieve it all. For example, the team wanted to achieve Net Zero Energy (NZE) certification and a bevy of other items that, if not handled creatively, could conflict with one another. Articulating DPR’s culture and supporting productive, enjoyable work had to balance with cost effectiveness, functionality and other factors. Specific goals and objectives were developed and condensed into a living, 10-page document that summarized vital information about project goals, as well as expectations and performance criteria for owner, design team, construction team, operations and maintenance staff. This document defined the four goals that were established for the new office:
- SUSTAINABILITY: Incorporate strategies that contribute to the health and well-being of the environment and staff.
- WORKPLACE OF THE FUTURE: Create a 21st-century workplace that invigorates and encourages the staff.
- DATA-DRIVEN DECISIONS: Make decisions based on cost-analysis, payback studies and team expertise.
- LIVING LABORATORY: Build a living lab where technologies, products and systems could be showcased for customers, designers and the community.
Serving as owner and builder allowed DPR the opportunity to see things from the customer perspective and take on the complexities involved in making hard decisions to achieve its goals.
Rather than building new, DPR intentionally chose the more sustainable route of reuse. By renovating a 20,000-square-foot space, which had been vacant for more than seven years, literally tons of embodied carbon were conserved when compared to a new build.
DPR utilized materials that minimize VOCs in indoor air and provided a garage door that opens to a patio for outside air when weather permits. Natural daylight from perimeter windows is augmented by 24 tubular daylighting devices that bring daylight to the core of the building. A wellness room, workout room, kitchen featuring healthy snacks, and bicycles made available for nearby errands are some of the features that assist workers to make healthier decisions without the need for formal policies or programs. Additionally, these aspects have helped the building achieve WELL Gold certification.
With a goal of achieving NZE as a crucial element of the project, installation of an appropriate energy-generation system was essential. The team started with passive and active strategies, then installed a 141-kilowatt rooftop photovoltaic system, which was the best choice for the individual building.
Initial costs from the steel fabricator for roof reinforcements for the PV system came in at $950,000 for a $500,000 PV system, which was untenable. “It almost destroyed our NZE goals before we even got started,” recalls Chris Hoffman, project manager with DPR. “Instead of giving up, the team worked hard to find a way. We were relentless and just kept asking questions.” It was discovered initial calculations for the dead load of the panels were higher than necessary. Laser scanning the existing building provided the engineer and fabricator with exact dimensions and armed with that information, the need to design to worst-case scenario was avoided. This type of collaborative effort reduced the reinforcement costs to less than $220,000.
DPR used that same mentality with all the building systems—asking questions, determining what the worst-case scenario was and realizing that scenario would never happen. As the team overcame each of these obstacles, it got even more buy-in to the goals and mission of the project.