Home Away From Home

What used to be a bare plot of land in the mixed-use development Park Place now sits the new Tortoise headquarters, a leading global investment organization, and recent runner up for Kansas City’s Best Places to Work. The office is situated only a short walk away from its old one, which allowed employees the opportunity to see the new office rise from the ground up — literally. This was just one aspect of the construction process that shines a light on the importance Tortoise placed on including its employees in the building’s design. After all, it’s where they spend most of their week, so why not customize it to their needs?

This design-build project was initially planned to be a multi-tenant building, and when Tortoise was identified as a tenant, the MW Builders team proposed four budgets to accommodate additional tenants. We toured various local A/E/C offices with repeat client VanTrust Real Estate, Finkle + Williams Architecture, and Tortoise to identify the office trends they favored and those they didn’t. As we developed the layout of the building and assessed the investment company’s growth projection over the next five years, they decided to take on the whole building as the sole tenant.

Creating a Custom Space

Tortoise’s people were at the forefront of this venture. Their design and functional aspirations were included in every step of the design process, which was facilitated by a building committee made up of in-house representatives who spoke on behalf of the employees. They worked in tandem with our team and Finkle + Williams to create an up-to-date, unique space. The class-A, three-story, 50,000-square-foot, floor-to-ceiling glass building opened its doors in November 2019, where they were met with a space that better reflected the company’s culture, connected its people, and accommodated plans for future growth.

“Most office buildings are designed for multiple tenants who are not identified at the time of construction,” said Natalya Steinke, Estimator at MW Builders. “If they are identified early, working with the tenant on the design is certainly a good idea and is unique for a project like this.”

The building committee consisted of a representative from each department to ensure a variety of employee needs were addressed — and those in managerial positions weren’t the only ones making up the bulk of the committee; individuals from all levels within the company were included. Working with Tortoise on the building they would soon call their home away from home was a highly collaborative experience that fostered an inclusive and integrated design approach for everyone involved. During each phase of the project, all parties were in contact with a single representative from the building committee who also attended weekly meetings with our team.

“Months before we broke ground, we were meeting as a group to review the design and potential challenges to get an idea of what they did and didn’t like,” said Kolby Menard, Project Manager at MW Builders. “From day one, we understood the expectations of the project inside and out. This project is an example of a great partnership. The relationship and up-front communication saved us time during construction and left little room for confusion and challenges.”

Bringing the Concept to Life

Determining the needs of the employees allowed us to identify new trends in office construction. Tortoise’s employees wanted to promote collaboration and communication through large meeting rooms, break-out spaces, phone-rooms, mothers' rooms, and open-concept break areas that allow for catered events.

With alternate energy being a priority of the business, MW Builders proposed several different energy options and proceeded with the installation of rooftop solar panels and many LEED features, including high-performance solar control glazing, LED lighting, daylight and occupancy controls, shower and changing facilities, and bicycle racks.

The interior building design incorporates an open, three-story, monumental stair that serves as a focal point connecting gathering spaces on each floor and promoting interaction and socialization among co-workers. As you walk or drive down West 115th Place, you can view the building’s ultimate claim to fame: the entire east façade that sits on a curved radius and wraps around the building.

"Working on the design for Tortoise’s new headquarter building was a genuinely collaborative effort from the very start. Not only from a design-build perspective working alongside MW Builders but working with the end-user building committee who were committed to creating a unique experience for their coworkers,” said Ellen Foster, Architect at Finkle + Williams. “The project was delivered by a design-build partnership that fostered an inclusive and integrated design approach from the beginning. The design-build team worked together with the developer and end-user to develop their program, right-size the building, and create a seamless design approach from concept through occupancy.”

The constant communication and collaboration between parties not only created a strong partnership, but also allowed for the creation of a building the tenants could feel at home in and be proud of. In each room there is a design element that was hand-picked by the tenant, which is something that is uncommon to the office market. By adapting to the expectations of the employees, the very people who keep business running, we were able to bring to life an office that meets the needs of the modern office employee.