E/K Building’s old charm masks cutting-edge technology
by Beth Argo
Stepping inside the handsome, brick and wood-wainscoted offices of E/K Automation on Hernando’s historic Square, one immediately feels a sense of history.
The building, which sports rough-hewn beams, a wine cellar and plenty of old stories, including a Civil War sword in the wall and a coffin in the basement which was used for an old fraternal organization’s rituals, is home to the corporate offices of Jerry Edwards, President of E/K Automation. Business associates are Frank Kessler with Ewing/Kessler Mechanical Solutions, Inc. and Chris Ewing with Ewing/Kessler, Inc.
It’s deceiving to the eye, but the 120-year-old building houses designs of some of the most sophisticated climate control and computerized home and office technology in the world.
Edwards says E/K boasts some of the largest clients in the Mid-South, the Landers Center, DeSoto County Schools, the state’s largest school district operation and others in Memphis, DeSoto County and elsewhere across the Mid-South.
“I can pull up the computer right now and tell you what temperature the ice hockey rink is,” Edwards says as he swivels in the desk chair of his upstairs office.
A mechanical engineer by trade, Edwards says he was able to transform the century-old building into a model of energy efficiency with literally the flick of a switch.
The renovation of the building painstakingly took place after months of extensive retrofitting, according to Edwards.
The decision to renovate an older building instead of locating the company’s offices in a brand new building was by design.
“What we wanted to show is that if we could take a 120 year-old building like this and make it more energy efficient, we could do it anywhere,” Edwards says as he gestured toward a non-working fireplace that is now used for aesthetic purposes only.
“What we did was strip it down to what it was 120 years ago, which was nothing, and build it from the inside out,” Edwards says. “Every wire, heating and cooling system in this building are the modern type systems and are now a part of the IP or the Internet Protocol system. What we give our customer is that single access point. The primary thing that we do is the heating and cooling.”
Edwards says the DeSoto County School system is perhaps one of the largest clients in his Rolodex.
“We’ve got 32 of the 40 schools,” Edwards says. “What that allows us to do is control heating and cooling in all of those schools from a single point at the Central Office. For instance, they can shut everything down during Christmas vacation. This single point access allows them to go in and switch all those systems off, which is a tremendous energy savings.”
Gone are the days when heating and cooling temperatures are controlled by the single thermostat on the wall, according to Edwards.
“With the advent of computers and smart phones, technology can allow us to do integration. We really consider ourselves an integrated control designer and manager. It’s not just heating and cooling but alarm systems, sprinklers, elevators, it’s anything as far as the eye can see.”
E/K Automation is a division of Ewing/Kessler, Inc. The privately owned company is a leading building automation systems installer, servicer and a factory-authorized controls dealer for the Siemens Talon system as well as legacy Staefa Smart II controls. The new division covers West Tenn., Eastern Arkansas and the entire state of Mississippi.
The parent company, Ewing/Kessler, was incorporated in 2005 in the State of Tennessee.