Owners are constantly looking for the newest design element or most efficient construction techniques to help them not only provide spaces that fit industry and workplace trends, but also have less of a negative impact on the environment.

By building out three of its regional offices in San Francisco, San Diego and Phoenix to be net zero energy as certified by the International Living Future Institute, and now pursuing a fourth in the Washington, D.C., area, DPR Construction is ensuring it has the experience to assist clients during the design and construction of their projects.

During DPR’s search for its new D.C. metro office space, the firm knew it would be facing many of the same challenging questions any other client would when seeking to build a net zero energy office. DPR decided this project could be an opportunity to educate other owners in the region and created the following four goals for its new Reston, Va., office:
  • be environmentally responsible;
  • make data-driven decisions;
  • create a 21st century workplace; and
  • build a living laboratory.
DPR wanted to walk the walk when it came to sustainability, and like many owners, the firm needed to make sure the project made financial business sense.

Determining what a 21st century workplace meant to DPR and its employees, and working through the design and constructability challenges of utilizing the latest technologies and finishes, allowed DPR to show clients what it is capable of achieving for them.

Each of the following four design aspects focused on sustainability, had a cost and payback period, improved employee well-being and pushed the envelope of existing building standards.

Mechanical System
The largest energy consumer in most spaces is the mechanical system. More than six systems were analyzed for energy consumption and cost, and then narrowed down to the most energy-efficient systems. Ultimately, DPR chose a four-pipe system that provided 100 percent outdoor air to the space—a healthier option for the occupants despite being slightly more expensive than a similarly efficient variable refrigerant flow system.

Plug Load and Lighting Control

DPR installed a Wattstopper plug load and lighting control system that allowed for complete customization of all light fixtures and plugs—the second-highest energyconsumer. By customizing the system to be tied to a daily time clock, and ensuring lights and plugs are only energized if the rooms’ occupancy sensor is triggered during off hours, consumption can be significantly reduced. The system requires additional labor and programming, but allows DPR to change lighting levels, time clocks and occupancy controls to match DPR’s typical workweek usage.

Office Furniture

DPR focused on how furniture selection could help its employees feel more comfortable in their working environment. DPR worked with Herman Miller to determine what wasn’t working in the current office. The team found that because DPR utilizes an open office environment, more breakout spaces instead of large conference rooms were required for occupants to work effectively. What resulted were 13 conference rooms with a variety of breakout spaces, including rooms for quiet study, phone calls, group collaboration and videoconferencing. More comfortable employees results in better productivity.

Lastly, DPR and its architecture partner SmithGroup wanted to utilize a multitude of finish types—all of which met LEED materials and resources credit requirements—to show clients how they look aesthetically and to tell the story of how finishes such as the reclaimed wood ceilings and walls and cradle-to-cradle certified textiles were sustainably manufactured and installed. DPR even finished the concrete floors in four different ways to showcase the beauty of keeping structural elements exposed.

DPR took a building that had been vacant for more than seven years in Fairfax, Va.—an area plagued with vacant office space—and will be adding a 141 kW photovoltaic array to produce enough energy to exceed the anticipated usage during a 12-month period. The space was transformed into an office that is not only energy-efficient and seeking LEED-CI v4.0 Platinum certification, but also ensures the well-being of employees. DPR believes in the importance of being an example of tested, data-driven results by living in what the firm expects to build for its clients in the years to come.  

Chris Hoffman is a project manager for DPR Construction, Reston, Va. For more information, email christopherh@dpr.com.