Case Studies

Pickering Firm Inc.

Engineering Sustainable Solutions for Tough Projects

Few companies can pride themselves on “liking the real tough projects,” but Pickering Firm Inc. principal Marc Rubenstein, serving 25 years with the firm, emphasizes that the company differentiates itself from competitors by embracing “large manufacturing and industrial projects that require a high degree of complicated engineering.” Founded in 1946 by O.L. Pickering after the post-WWII boom, and still headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., Pickering began as a civil and survey firm, but through growth and acquisitions has transitioned into a full-service engineering and architectural company with offices in Mississippi and professional registrations in 30 states.

Employing 140 employees – who work in teams specializing in unique niches, such as facility design, civil engineering, surveying, transportation design and construction, plus water and natural resources conservation – Pickering provides in-depth, in-house services. The firm offers civil/site development, surveying, structural, architecture, mechanical and electrical engineering, and sustainable design services, among other services. This range has allowed the company to become an award-winning, and impressively profitable, industry leader working with major private entities, as well as federal government initiatives, municipalities and departments of transportation.

Sustainability is More than a Buzz Word

Though Pickering quickly adopted technological advancements to ensure the most efficient and comprehensive energy and resource conservation options for clients, “Service and good work” still stands as the company’s foundation and its future. For example, sustainability is not a new concept at Pickering, and the company continues to increase its number of LEED Accredited Professionals who allow the firm to integrate sustainable design into the projects of clients. Interestingly, some of the company’s most notable sustainability projects, including partnerships with Kroger stores and Riviana Foods, center on the food industry, which Rubenstein states “helped us weather the economic storm.”

As Kroger has expanded from a grocery store to providing fuel centers, drive-thru pharmacies, coffee shops and one-stop shopping options, Pickering has completed comprehensive design work, including survey, civil, architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, fire protection, energy management and plumbing services for hundreds of stores in eight states.  Pickering has designed new stores, completed major expansions, and facilitated renovations of existing stores. The company has also provided meticulous engineering suggestions to accommodate each store’s configuration and to maximize sustainable design elements within Kroger’s mechanical and electrical systems.

Notably, Pickering has partnered with Riviana – home to top brands such as Minute Rice, Carolina Rice, Mahatma and Success – to design and construct the largest rice processing facility in North America, which is described by Rubenstein as a “way cool project.” This laudable accomplishment posed challenges due to the location’s urban, brownfield site, but Pickering teams responded to site constraints with poise, diligence and creativity. The company managed the $47 million project by demolishing the preexisting 400,000 square feet of outmoded facilities and devising a sustainable design plan that included extensive greenscaping of more than 16 acres, as well as providing civil, architectural, electrical design, structural, plumbing, fire protection and mechanical services for the new 426,000-square foot site.

From the Bayou to the Neighborhood Market

Additionally, a project that was originally authorized over 60 years ago is now coming to fruition under the leadership of Pickering. The company was commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design the primary pumping station for the Bayou Meto Basin. Designed to operate at a capacity of 1,750 cubic feet-per-second, the station will pump water harnessed from the Arkansas River through discharge pipes to the 35-acre reservoir, also designed by Pickering.

The pumping station will help irrigate about 300,000 acres of Arkansas farmland and is also anticipated to positively shape rice agriculture irrigation, waterfowl hunting, baitfish production and fish farming in the state. Leading experts have indicated that if conservation efforts are not implemented in the Bayou Meto Basin by 2015, the alluvial aquifer, which provides the majority of the water used for agricultural irrigation and fish farming in Arkansas, could be completely lost. Pickering’s work on the pumping station has the potential to prevent catastrophic losses for the region, indicating the monumental environmental and economic importance of the project.

Pickering’s ability to devise and implement strategies that take into consideration all of a project’s life cycle facets has allowed it to weather the current economic climate. Rubenstein states that Pickering has only had to make “minor staff corrections, with an emphasis on the minor,” in response to the downturn. He also notes that some teams, including his own buildings group, have been able to grow and hire incredible talent from other firms that have enforced necessary layoffs. “You always get smarter in a downturn. We hope we carry those lessons learned through this recession forward,” he reflects.

Pickering’s proactive leadership has continually strengthened the employee-owned, family-oriented company, allowing Pickering to win industry accolades – including the Energy Star Certification for the firm’s work making Dillions Store in Wichita, Kan., more energy efficient than 75 percent of supermarkets – and to remain profitable throughout the recession. Taking pride in going the extra mile to understand client issues and provide personalized solutions, Pickering Firm Inc. applies a broad expertise with surgical focus, and remains positioned for continued success.

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Spring 2018



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