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Hutton's New Mass Timber Building In Delano Is Part Office Space, Part Showcase

When Hutton decided to build its new headquarters in the Delano District, it made a conscious decision to make it more than just a place to house its 50 or so Wichita employees.

"We thought if we're going to have a new office building, it should really be a showcase of not only our design skills, but our construction skills and all of the materials that we get to work with all over the place," said Ben Hutton, the company’s CEO.

"And so as you walk around our building here, you're going to see a lot of different design elements that all come together to really showcase the natural materials that we use in construction."

Credit Hugo Phan / KMUW
Hutton's new headquarters in Delano is believed to be the first mass timber structure in Kansas.

One of the materials Hutton is showcasing in its new two-story headquarters is mass timber, which is gaining popularity in the construction field.

The product involves bonding and compressing multiple layers of wood to create large panels, beams and columns.

The first mass timber building was erected in Montana in 2011. The New York Times said there are now nearly 1,000 such buildings either completed or under construction in the U.S.

Walmart plans to build 10 office buildings on its corporate campus in Bentonville, Arkansas, using mass timber.

Hutton’s headquarters is thought to be the first mass timber building in Kansas.

Credit Hugo Phan / KMUW

"We like the mass timber structure for a couple of different reasons," Hutton said. "One, from an environmental standpoint, it's very friendly to our earth. And so as a construction industry, that's something that we have to be aware of and have to get better at.

"Another benefit is it's just beautiful. I mean, every building has a structure. Not all of them are nice to look at, but mass timber really serves both purposes."

Although mass timber is more expensive than other building materials — about 5 to 10% percent more than steel — Hutton said the natural beauty it brings to a building has value.

"If you think about all the rest of the cost in a building and the things you do to make it aesthetically pleasing," Hutton said, "we’re actually doing less of that in some areas of the building because we are showcasing the structure as the architecture."

Not that the building won’t have additional attractive touches: Hutton is incorporating public art inside and outside the building; an outdoor mural is nearly finished.

And Hutton’s father, Mark, who founded the company in 1992 and is now retired, is building a massive wooden desk for the reception area.

Credit Courtesy
Mark Hutton is building a desk for the front reception area in his home workshop.

Hutton broke ground on its new headquarters in 2019, well before the pandemic began. And well before companies started using office space differently, with employees working remotely and meetings conducted on Zoom.

But Ben Hutton says his company already was exploring different ways to work when planning its new building. He said company officials visited businesses across the country that were using forward-thinking office designs.

"What we learned from those trips is what we've built this building around, and those trends were flexibility for employees to work in multiple spaces, flexibility for people to work remotely (and) … technology that supports that," Hutton said.

"As it turns out, those same trends that we designed our building around a year and a half ago when we first started this adventure are the same things that actually are going to make office buildings great post-pandemic."

Credit Hugo Phan / KMUW
Wood, steel and glass come together in Hutton's new building under construction in Delano.

Hutton says the company hopes to leave its current building on South West Street and move into its new home — located just north of the Delano Clock Tower — in December. He said the move will serve two purposes.

"One is building a next-generation office building and bringing some new design concepts and new thought about how offices work to Wichita," he said. "And the other is about making sure we are a fantastic place to work and can recruit future talent to our organization because that's really what will allow us to continue to grow and be successful."

Until the building is finished, though, Hutton remains in the odd position of being a customer of his own company.

"I will tell you, I am a pretty tough client," he said with a laugh. "My teammates around me may have become weary of my changes.

"But we're going to be here a long time, and we want to make sure it's great."

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is a board member of the Public Media Journalists Association, serving as small station representative, a volunteer coach for League 42 and an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.