Firm History

Griff Burr, Sr. came to Memphis from Detroit in 1947 - from being assistant chief mechanical engineer of a large A/E firm, Giffels and Valet, to being half of a two-man engineering department in the Hanker & Heyer Architectural Firm. Within a year he founded Office of Griffith C. Burr, setting up such a small office in the Dermon Building that he had to get up from his drafting bench for his first employee to maneuver through to his drafting table.

In the late 1940s Mr. Burr's engineering firm designed cooling systems for the relocated Second Presbyterian Church and for the old Chisca Hotel downtown on South Main - two of the early large structures in Memphis to boast central air conditioning. Today, as people take air conditioning for granted, it's hard to believe that a little over 50 years ago in Memphis, it was not a necessity, but a luxury. Air conditioning systems being installed at that time were generally only in smaller buildings and were designed by the vendors of air conditioning equipment. But there was a growing need for independent consulting engineers to design the systems for large buildings. This afforded building owners competitive bidding as well as design tailored to owners' needs. The Burr firm soon expanded its business to include all aspects of mechanical and electrical engineering, a focus it maintains today.

Since 1948 the firm has provided mechanical and electrical engineering services for more than 3,400 projects and has worked for clients, both across the country and abroad, as well as in the Mid-South.

Initially, schools and churches were a very significant part of the firm's practice. In the 1950's the State of Mississippi had a large building program to build consolidated secondary schools. A branch office in Corinth was established then to facilitate the firm's effort on design of more than 30 schools, mostly in north Mississippi.

As the rural school building program slowed in 1962, college construction picked up pace. Memphis State University (now The University of Memphis) became a significant client. During this period Griffith Burr, Sr. served and chaired the City of Memphis Board of Adjustment. Also in 1967, the firm incorporated under the name Office of Griffith C. Burr, Inc. Griffith Burr, Jr. became president and Mr. Burr, Sr. became chairman of the board.

In the early 1970's the Burr firm did two high-rise buildings of note which were designed by respected Memphis architects. These were the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston by Walk Jones/Francis Mah and Commerce Square by Roy Harrover. Several University of Memphis buildings as well as the conversion of the old central steam plant to a modern campus heating and cooling plant were Burr projects; as was a campus central plant for U.T. Memphis. Interest in energy efficiency, campus central plant design, and high-rise design led to national service by Griffith Burr, Jr. He chaired ACEC's energy committee and was elected to Fellow member status by ASHRAE.

The 1980's was a decade of varied and interesting projects. Campus central heating and cooling plants were designed for colleges in Florida. FedEx call centers, Holiday Inns, and Hampton Inns were done around the United States. Griffith Burr, Jr. continued local public service as chairman of the Memphis Building Code Appeals Board.

The new Memphis Shelby County Main Library, AutoZone Headquarters, Sam's Town (the first large casino at Tunica, MS), and Autozone Ballpark for the Memphis Redbirds were 1990's projects. Also, new buildings for Rhodes College and The University of the South at Sewanee were projects in this period as well as a campus central cooling plant for Sewanee.

Since 2000, the firm has completed designs for the new Barret Library at Rhodes College; renovations to provide an academic building (Gailor Hall) and a dormitory (St. Luke's) for the University of the South at Sewanee; the FedEx Forum, home of the NBA Memphis Grizzlies; a major expansion (320,000 SF) of the Carrier Plant in Collierville, TN; Trezevant Manor Assisted Living Center (Trezevant Terrace) and Independent Living Center (Trezevant Place); and Crosstown Concourse.

Now the firm is under the management of Richard C. Bursi, President and CEO. Mr. Bursi has served as president of the Consulting Engineers of Memphis, and has been a funded member of the AIA MasterSpec mechanical/electrical review committee. Jim Prillaman is Vice-President. Griffith C. Burr, Jr., who was president and CEO for over 40 years, passed away in 2013. The firm is known as OGCB, Inc.

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Posted October 2, 2006