A branch of Prairie Landworks

PLI recently completed this 19,000-square-foot office and training center with the help of a stellar design team and group of subcontractors.

The Kansas Municipal Utilities Training Center is an impressive 19,000-square-foot facility used to run day-to-day operations, conduct utility workshops and train current and future municipal utility craftsman. The new building sits on the same site as KMU’s field training grounds, allowing for indoor classroom education and outdoor field experience all in one location. Raw materials and finishes utilized within the space, as well as on the building’s exterior, portray the owner’s focus on utilities and infrastructure. While this facility emphasizes training for municipal utility workers across Kansas, it also provides a comfortable atmosphere for each tradesman who enters the doors.

Using an integrated project delivery approach, our design-build team worked diligently to achieve the owner’s primary goals: 1) provide a welcoming atmosphere for blue-collar workers, 2) serve as a formal office and meeting venue, and 3) provide the best environment for utility training in Kansas.

This distinctive project presented many challenges from inception. It required a project team who communicated well and was able to present solutions collaboratively without disrupting the schedule or function of the building. Another standout aspect was the quality teamwork between many talented groups and individuals. Each employee and contractor, qualified in their own right, remained respectful of one another’s work. Their commitment as a team to maintain efficiency facilitated coordination processes that allowed each phase of the project to be completed on time and on budget, all while providing a high level of quality for the owner.

Complexities were first encountered with sequencing the different types of structures, as the building consists of two contrasting components joined together. High-volume spaces including the shop, warehouse, auditorium and job training area were created within a pre-engineered metal building (PEMB). This space also incorporates a CMU (concrete masonry unit) hardened structure housing the men’s and women’s restrooms while creating a mezzanine for storage. The office spaces and main entrance were built within a conventional steel structure.

The construction crew’s expertise and attention to detail were highlighted when enclosing the building’s exterior shell comprised of structural metal stud framing and DensGlass with Corten and Nichiha fiber cement panels. They diligently sequenced the overlap between the two buildings without damaging the products in place. A glass curtain wall system was also installed with precision at both ends of the main corridor, allowing a clear view of the surrounding landscape and field-training grounds.

During the design process, PLI collaborated with the architect to incorporate multiple areas of open structure showing off the core of the building and demonstrating how everyday utilities work. The unique finishes found in this building include:

  • a polished charcoal-colored concrete floor
  • exposed polished steel structure
  • arched Cambia wood clouds
  • board-formed, cast-in-place concrete and polished steel receptionist desk
  • open-to-structure elements throughout the building
  • recessed interchangeable utility poles in the shop for training exercises
  • closed-cell spray insulation on exterior office walls
  • Corten metal siding integrated with fiber cement Nichiha panels on the front half of the building
  • custom millwork workstations for field personnel
  • catering kitchen open to both the shop and assembly room areas
  • back-lit polycarbonate panel accents
  • an operable wall system to divide the large assembly room into three smaller meeting areas.

Operating system components incorporated into the facility consist of:

  • three ground-mounted packaged air handling units (AHU) to serve the auditorium
  • a variable refrigerant flow system controlling the offices and main corridor
  • radiant floor heat in the shop and warehouse
  • LED multilevel scene lighting in the auditorium
  • LED color-changing lighting.

Various elements and finishes throughout the building, as well as multiple access points, make the KMU Training Center extremely versatile for all operations and daily functions. Whether people walk in wearing a suit or muddy boots from the training field, this place gives everyone a sense of belonging.

 Controlling Costs

Setting a defined scope, guaranteed maximum price and contractor’s contingency, PLI’s team was able to stay under the original budget. We were able to use portions of the contractor’s contingency for owner-desired upgrades during project buyout and accomplished milestones. All requests for changes were met with a full review of associated costs and benefits. Continued collaboration from the project team allowed us to provide a quality product with high value on every dollar spent. With highly respected opinions and assistance from the design team and contractors, the owner was able to create this one-of-a-kind space that exceeded their expectations while staying within budget.


As a core value and primary focus for both PLI and KMU, construction safety was at the forefront of the project. In addition, all contractors were committed to the well-being of their employees and assets. Safe work practices for this project were defined and set prior to all construction activities through weekly safety meetings. The dedication of the entire construction team was apparent in the end as there were no recordable accidents or lost time.

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