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Jones-Zander 'listens instead of telling'

Attention to detail: Grenada firm focuses on client

Grenada — The architectural firm of Jones-Zander, Ltd., is housed in 4,200 square feet of office space that uses solar heat and passive cooling techniques, and natural light throughout to enhance the work environment.

“We built it in 1983, when solar heat was coming on strong,” said Girault W. Jones, AIA, a principal in the firm. “It’s somewhat slowed down over the years, but we still have people come by and say, what’s all that up there? I like to explain to them that it’s an operational system. When the sun’s out, we can turn our gas totally off, which we do, and run on the sun. But it has to be a clear day with no clouds.”

Clients are usually impressed that the firm practices cost-cutting and energy-efficient methods, and believe Jones-Zander associates will treat their project with the same attention to detail.

“We’ve been working for the Batesville school system for 30 years,” said Jones. “When you stay in the harness with somebody that long, you know you’re doing something right.”

The Grenada-based firm was established in 1973 as McRee Dardaman Jones, Ltd., and quickly grew into a stable and experienced architectural and engineering firm covering North Mississippi. When senior partner Rudolph McRee died in 1988, the firm continued as Dardaman Jones, Ltd., until Chris Dardaman retired in 1996. Robert Zander, AIA, who had joined the firm in 1984 after earning an architecture degree from Mississippi State University, was brought into the partnership and the firm name was changed to Jones-Zander, Ltd.

The company, with its staff of seven, adapted early to a computerized workplace. Even though its principles no longer handle engineering work, its architectural portfolio includes institutional, educational, private, industrial, religious, medical and government projects. About half of the firm’s business involves primarily Housing and Urban Development (HUD) modernization projects and some new HUD projects for local housing authorities in Alabama and Mississippi, with some projects as far south as Laurel.

The architectural firm has handled a majority of projects in the Grenada Industrial Park, designing dozens of industrial buildings in the area. Other projects are scattered around North Mississippi. In Oxford, Jones-Zander designed a brand new 5,500-square-foot terminal building at the local airport that is half complete. Located on the south side of the extended taxiway, the building will replace one being torn down.

Especially busy in Batesville, Jones-Zander is completing a 90,000-square-foot exposition center for the city that will seat 6,000 patrons and features conference rooms and stall barns and parking for 1,200 vehicles.

“Right now, we have three projects going with South Panola schools in Batesville, including the restoration of the original two-story Batesville High School,” said Jones. “Several years back, we completed their brand new $15-million high school.”

Jones-Zander is working with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Meridian on a two-story Christian education and fellowship hall, and additions and renovations to the Sharkey Issaquena Hospital in Rolling Fork and the Grenada Lake Medical Center.

“We probably tend to our projects under construction a little more closely than the average firm,” said Jones. “I’m not bragging, just stating a fact. We’ve always had a full-time inspector who stays on the road going from job to job. The fellow we have now worked with a general contractor for 12 years, so he knows how to be diplomatic about solving problems, which is very helpful on job sites. Plus we visit the site and stay in close touch with our clients during construction. I’d like to think that’s why we have lots of repeat business.”

The partners feel strongly that a building’s role is not to primarily be a monument to the architect but to fulfill the needs of the owner as a functional, visually pleasing facility to be completed within budget and on schedule.

“I had a potential client last week — a librarian — and the first thing she said was that she didn’t want a big monstrosity like she sees elsewhere around the state, which she considered a waste of money,” said Jones. “She was interested in the bare essentials for her building and wanted to put as much money as she could into space to house her books.”

Even though some clients want an eye-catching, award-winning building with personality, most clients prefer simple and functional designs. “Over the years, we’ve found our niché to be practical buildings worth the money they’re spending,” said Jones. “When you give the designer free rein, he’ll usually give you something a little different on the leading edge of design fads. When you’re in business as long as I’ve been, you notice things are cyclic. A fad today is not necessarily appreciated tomorrow.”

While Jones handles mostly design work, Zander focuses primarily on project management.

“We like to respond to clients’ needs and not impose our preferences on a particular job,” said Jones. “In other words, when we begin a job, we listen to them, instead of telling them what we think they ought to build.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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