DPR Construction’s Team Makes an Abandoned Building an Office Deserving of Emulation

Workplace of the Future

Using DPR’s own needs for substantial collaboration in tandem with guidelines from the New York-based International WELL Building Institute; Leesman+, an international firm that provides tools to benchmark how workplaces support employee and organizational performance; Washington- based U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED; and the Seattle-based International Living Future Institute, DPR created a program that includes a variety of activity zones geared to facilitate interaction, collaboration and connection.

Based on an employee survey conducted using the Leesman Index, employee engagement increased 29 percent from the baseline scores observed in DPR’s previous Washington, D.C., area office.
Based on an employee survey conducted using the Leesman Index, employee engagement increased 29 percent from the baseline scores observed in DPR’s previous Washington, D.C., area office.

Marc Schneiderman, principal with project designer SmithGroup, Washington, encountered a space-planning challenge. “We wanted the space to be warm and inviting but also challenging and thought-provoking as it flows with the way DPR works,” he explains. “It was actually more about the negative space rather than the functional areas. Copious circulation allows the space to work for large-scale events while it still retains a lot of energy for daily use.”

The office creates a sense of community. People have places to spend time together beyond meetings or daily desk activities. The large kitchen, community dining area, lounge and workout room create organic opportunities for employees to interact and from which creative project problem-solving is inevitable. The space is adaptable for a variety of uses and work styles and is perceived by employees as simply being an attractive, enjoyable space. One of the unintended consequences of the super flexible environment is that people can and do act naturally.

These efforts enabled the project to achieve Leesman+ accreditation, placing it among the top 4 percent of workplaces surveyed by Leesman worldwide at the time of the survey. In fact, DPR was able to increase its Leesman Index by 16 points, illustrating that it has created a workplace that consistently measures high levels of employee pride, productivity and a sense of community.

Data-driven Decisions

The DPR team wanted to tie design and construction decisions to actual data. With three recent NZE DPR office renovations already under its belt, the team had an existing bench-marking database at its fingertips. The team did a total cost analysis of rent, construction costs, energy savings, systems, components, finishes and even people’s commutes.

Data is generated and monitored through a controls system and sensors that measure energy usage to provide real-time analysis and monitoring.
Data is generated and monitored through a controls system and sensors that measure energy usage to provide real-time analysis and monitoring.

One item for which data analysis caused a different outcome than expected was the installation of insulation. It’s easy to assume that an early 1980s building would need additional insulation. The first estimate of the cost was $130,000. However, deeper examination and a subsequent comparison of energy models with and without insulation demonstrated only a $460 per year savings with insulation. Instead of a costly upgrade for a negligible return, DPR made a better investment by buying another solar panel for that cost and more than offset the minimal insulation loss.

Another heavily data-driven decision was the selection of the mechanical system. The team wanted an efficient system that was able to maintain thermal comfort consistently throughout the office. Four different systems were analyzed for energy-use intensity, cost, temperature and humidity control, and flexibility. The selected four-pipe system features a high-efficiency heat recovery chiller, cooling tower and a dedicated outdoor air system. Although meant for a larger space, and slightly more expensive, Hoffman says, “The system is an example of what DPR thinks the future of mechanical systems will be: more efficient and yielding healthier air.”

Data is generated and monitored through a controls system and sensors that measure energy usage from the cooling tower, chiller, electric boiler and DOAS (air-handling unit) individually, as well as other energy users in the office, such as lighting and receptacles. The controls system and sensors provide real-time analysis and monitoring.

About the Author

Chris Gorthy
Chris Gorthy, LEED AP BD+C, is a principal of DPR Construction, an international general contractor. Gorthy serves as a project executive in preconstruction, leading projects across multiple market sectors. His expertise in green building, cost benefit and life-cycle analysis has been instrumental in the planning and execution of numerous LEED and Net Zero Energy projects across the U.S.

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