Burns & McDonnell unveils its new world headquarters building

Burns & McDonnell on Thursday celebrated the opening of an expansion of its world headquarters, a building that would make many Kansas City office employees envious.

The four-story, 310,000-square-foot building at 9450 Ward Parkway is the third structure on the architecture, engineering and construction firm’s 37-acre campus in south Kansas City.

And the building was designed with some key amenities in mind, including an expanded health center with nurse practitioners on site, a full-service pharmacy and a coffee bar with barista service.

“Our vision for this building was to create a capstone to the Ward Parkway corridor and to really express the forward-thinking, big, bold move that Burns & Mac makes in the business we do every day for our clients in this building,” said Lori Top, a Burns & McDonnell architect and the project manager. “Hopefully, we have done that.”

The company has 2,700 employees in Kansas City, about half of its 5,400 workers worldwide.

Greg Graves, chairman and chief executive officer, called Thursday a special day for all of the employee owners at Burns & McDonnell.

“The building’s opening is certainly indicative of the years of success that we have had and the growth that we have accomplished for our clients, for employee owners and then for our city,” he said. “I’m not surprised that we needed to expand our world headquarters. … I won’t be surprised if the next generation doesn’t just keep right on expanding.”

It’s only phase one in what will be many more expansions in Kansas City, said Graves, who announced in January that he would retire at the end of this year.

“I’m not really a legacy guy,” Graves said. “But in some ways this is one generation of the firm finishing its story of success and building this new building and turning it over to the next generation of the firm and our next CEO … and saying, ‘OK, now go get ’em. Do for our town and do for our clients and do for our people what the last folks did.’”

Ray Kowalik will succeed Graves as chief executive officer.

The new building features a 20,000-square-foot child care center that has a capacity for 144 preschool-age children. The center focuses on science, technology, engineering and math education.

“Even in this toddler classroom, there’s a miniature microscope for kids to start learning, as well as weights and scales,” Top said as she gave a tour. “STEM starts at an early age here at Burns & McDonnell.”

That was Graves’ big push, Top said. He wanted to make sure the company was providing a different type of education.

“As an engineering and architecture firm, our big focus is finding professionals that have a STEM passion, who want science, technology, engineering and math. So we thought having our employee owners’ kids start with that foundation would allow us basically to help grow the next generation of professionals just like us.”

Workstations include adjustable desks that allow employees to sit or stand, as well as pullout furniture for informal team sessions.

Large windows bring a lot of daylight into the office environment. There are focus booths for heads-down work and stations for brainstorming sessions, which will allow employees to get work done without taking up a conference room.

Other features include a larger credit union, a 2,500-square-foot rooftop terrace event space, a 250-seat auditorium with advanced audiovisual equipment, 60 conference rooms, four large training rooms and a full-service pharmacy.

Top’s favorite is the rooftop terrace.

“It’s really just a great meeting environment and a great space for employees to connect with each other and become more of a community at our workplace,” she said.

Burns & McDonnell broke ground on the site of the former Beth Shalom synagogue in June 2014.

The expansion project took 17 months to complete, which was one month ahead of schedule, and was finished under the budget of $85 million.

“It’s been an interesting process to design a building for the company that you work for and really be able to express a vision for the way they want to express themselves to the community,” Top said.

Top said she never got nervous about her decisions. Rather, it was whether she was pushing the envelope enough to meet the needs of the future.

Apparently she did. When employees saw the completed expansion, the biggest question or complaint raised was why their work group didn’t get to move in.

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb

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