McPherson Contractors

For 18 years, Edwards Campus in Overland Park, Kan., has been the “evolving campus” of the University of Kansas, Vice Chancellor Bob Clark says. Under his leadership, the campus has strived to emphasize that image. Edwards Campus’ latest initiative is the Business, Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) Building, which is being built by McPherson Contractors Inc. BEST will cover 72,000 square feet and consist of three structures, Assistant Dean and Project Manager Pam Bray says.

The first, she notes, will be a conference center that can hold up to 400 people. The second will be a classroom building with rooms that can hold from 40 to 100 people, and the third will feature 30 facility offices, a suite for its IT department and four computer laboratories.

The third structure will be connected to the Regents Center, the first structure ever constructed at Edwards Campus. These facilities will be connected by a 122-foot, glass-enclosed walkway, according to Bray.

Construction on the BEST Building began in June 2010 and is set to finish this December. This is McPherson’s first project with KU and so far, the university is pleased with its work, Bray says. “They have done a very good job,” she states. “They’re very easy to work with.”

Part of the Community

Clark, who came to KU 14 years ago, says that one of his major goals at the campus has been the improvement of its role within the community, which has its home in Greater Kansas City. “I asked people what they thought of KU and this location,” Clark recalls.  “They thought KU was essentially thumbing its nose at Greater Kansas City. [We want to] create the circumstances where all these people believe KU cares.” 

The classroom building is built in ways that will accommodate new academic programs, technology and seating, Clark says. “The IT building [also will] be an important place for the students working on multiple projects,” Clark says, adding that BEST will feature 30 offices for the faculty. 

He adds that BEST also will allow KU to grow its role in serving workforce development with its conference center, which will be able to host small associations. “We want to bring as many people to this campus as we can,” he says.

Unified and Green

Clark also is proud of the walkway between the buildings. “It unifies the campus,” he says, praising the project’s designer, Gould Evans Architects. “Visually, it’s going to look pretty stunning from the road.”

BEST also will have numerous green features, including a strong use of natural light in the classroom building. In addition, each of its classrooms will have sensors that will recognize when someone enters and engages the heating and cooling when they are detected, he says.

Smooth Sailing

A challenge that McPherson and KU faced on the BEST project was the strong winter snowfall this past January. Due to the heavy snow and conditions, the construction team lost 12 days on the schedule.

Another issue has been the amount of rock located on the project site. “They had a significant amount of rock when they were working on the trenching,” she recalls. “Other than those things, it’s gone very smoothly.”

It has gone so smoothly that both the campus and the contractor have been able to maintain safety during the project. For example, KU installed a metal fence around the outside of the construction site on campus, according to Clark. Additionally, it increased the amount of lighting for people walking around the site at night.

“From the standpoint of the inside of the construction fence, McPherson is in charge of that,” Bray says, noting that the college’s design and construction management associate, John Eye, often goes to the site and checks to see if standards are being met.

Growth Strategies

Clark believes the Edwards Campus will continue growing. “Although we are landlocked,” he says, noting that the campus spans 36 acres, “we still have capacity for a fourth building to be built.”

Clark adds that the campus also hopes to acquire land, as well, but it will need to decide which one it will be doing first. ”We’ve got to think a little more quickly about acquiring more land or what our strategy’s going to be before the fourth building is conceptualized,” Clark explains.

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