Turning Plans into Reality

DPI Construction Management

DPI Construction Management was founded in 1999 by Rick Perin and Elvio DiSimone in Toronto; the acronym stands for Define, Plan, and Implement. The competition in construction is fierce, but DPI has enjoyed success due to its ability to strive for uniqueness and innovation within the industry. We spoke recently with Stewart Smith, V.P. of Business Development, in order to further understand how DPI has maintained its strong leading presence within the construction industry.

One of the most prominent attributes of DPI is its unwavering commitment to safety. The company subcontracts its safety management and quality control to an organization called Smart Safety, an industry leader in safety management, who conducts unannounced third party audits of all DPI’s sites on a regular basis. “Safety needs to be a priority because it in turn creates a more efficient build process,” says Mr. Smith. “If we don’t have the potential risks identified upfront, the impact of a delay would be huge. We do everything we can to plan in advance.” This is where Smart Safety comes in, to conduct a full site review and audit of the facility. That audit is then turned into a project-specific safety management plan, and from there, DPI’s health and safety policy is enacted and coordinated with the client’s policy. It is a very thorough process and clients can see the inherent benefits.

DPI’s philosophy also reflects a non-hierarchical structure to the business. The company adopts an “open-door” policy, with Rick and Elvio both actively involved and engaged. “Rick manages the operations, Elvio manages the administrative side of things, and I manage the business development and sales with support from Elvio,” explains Mr Smith. “It is more of a flat structure which is very family-oriented. A team approach is derived from that family, and everyone is considered to be an important part of the company.”

DPI sees tremendous value in having early involvement in each project. One key element of its business strategy is to be involved in “Pre-Construction,” wherein the meticulous efforts the team puts forth on behalf of clients sets them apart from the competition. The process begins with the designer, ensuring that the budget and schedule are in line with client expectations and aesthetics. “The process is a review of the initial design, documents, preparation of an initial budget, and an initial schedule,” explains Mr. Smith. Then it is up to the client to make decisions based on affordability and their individual preferences. “We prioritize the elements based on the client’s perspective, and then work with the design team and project management team to insure that those are incorporated into the design.”

Another benefit to DPI’s early involvement are its due diligence investigations. Unforeseen conditions and occurrences can take place on every project; a very clearly defined program will address those issues, however not everything can be ascertained in advance. For example, an environmental assessment may not have been conducted and perhaps asbestos is found, which can delay the project. In such a case, DPI would conduct a report on behalf of the client, and then look to find alternative solutions. The team would still make every effort to commence work in unaffected areas while managing the hazardous materials process, explains Mr. Smith.

DPI also aims to add value at every opportunity. By sourcing alternative materials, local suppliers, or energy efficient products, for example, DPI works hard to save clients money in both the short and long term.

In Toronto, DPI is dealing with an overwhelmingly competitive marketplace for personnel. “There are, in my opinion, limited barriers to entry to the marketplace and therefore a number of organizations are recruiting some of the talent that we would like to recruit.” DPI works to engage its employees and immerse them in all aspects of the business’ operations, and rewards their work through safety and quality acknowledgment awards. Monetary rewards are also utilized by DPI. These are effective ways to retain valued employees, but attracting new recruits is just as important. Currently, DPI runs a co-op program that presently sees two students working with the company; through such a program, DPI can provide valuable experience to motivated individuals while simultaneously training them in the DPI way of doing business.

The company has established a strong reputation for itself, based not only on the quality of its work but also on its take-up of leading edge sustainable technologies. DPI is a member of the Canadian Green Building Council and participates in LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design) auditing. “A substantial number of our clients opt to go through and design a build process that leads to a LEED certification, be it silver, gold or even platinum,” explains Mr. Smith. “We recently completed a project of over 56,000 square feet for Altus Group, which is one of the world’s leading real estate advisory service companies. They are finalizing their receipt of LEED gold for the space we have built for them.” DPI leaves it up to the client, however, to make decisions as to what certification they are after.

There are certain sustainability initiatives, of course, that DPI believes are fundamental to any build. These include an effective waste management program that separates waste and distributes it to proper recycling and dump facilities. DPI also includes an indoor air quality program that is key to the health and wellbeing of the individuals in any given building. Additionally, DPI recommends sustainable and environmentally friendly materials, such as low VOC paints, repurposed carpet and recycled lumber content. “It is a balancing act based on cost premium, and that is where the client decision comes in. It can have an impact on the budget, but we implement those practices generally because we see the benefit.”

That being said, to be LEED certified does not necessarily mean a larger cash output. However, to attain a LEED platinum certification would likely entail a fairly substantial cost premium, due to pricier materials such as 100 percent recyclable lumber. The various levels of certification represent varying degrees of expense; thus the client always has options.

Mr. Smith tells us more about the Altus Group project in particular: This project “was built in an incredibly cost effective rate of under 50 dollars per square foot, which is amazing for a LEED gold certification,” he says. “The average cost would be close to 85 to 90 dollars per square foot. It was also completed on time and was a phased move-in. Altus consolidated a number of offices into one office. It was our first major LEED project, completed in April of 2011.” Since then, DPI has been involved in other LEED projects. A project for Siemens will attain a LEED silver certification and is slated to begin construction on September 15th of this year. “As it stands right now, it has been tendered under budget, and we will be building 115,000 square feet in 20 weeks which could end up replacing our flagship example.”

Amongst the many reasons that DPI is so successful in its field is its ability to renovate occupied spaces – truly one of the team’s strengths. The Eli Lilly project started as a $1.25 million renovation program. It has since expanded to an eight phase, $4 million program. During the process the entire building has remained occupied. “We clear out various areas for a week at a time,” explains Mr. Smith. “In total, each phase takes about eight weeks. Our guys come in at night and by the time the employees of Lilly come back in the morning, they would never know that they were there.” There is some work that takes place during the day, but it is not noisy work – the laying of carpet, or the application of low VOC paint that doesn’t emit fumes.

As to the future of DPI Construction Management, Mr. Smith says, “Over the past 12 years DPI has developed a reputation as a leader in corporate interiors construction. Our team’s success is derived from our relentless commitment to a detailed and proactive preconstruction process, a focus on quality assurance and quality control, an extensive safety management program and company-wide guarantee of excellence in customer service. We are passionate about turning plans into reality and look forward to continually building on our proven track record of delivering projects on time and under budget.”

March 20, 2018, 9:55 AM EDT

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