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District Energy System

Justice A. A. Birch Criminal Justice Building

Justice A. A. Birch Criminal Justice Building

The Justice A.A. Birch criminal justice building was built in 2006 in honor of Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Adolpho A. Birch Jr., the first African-American elected to serve as chief justice in the state. He provided 37 years of judicial service at every level in the court system before retiring in 2006. Birch passed away five years later, but the building still stands in his honor.

The six-story criminal justice building is located on Second Avenue, and it houses general sessions and criminal courts for the 20th Judicial District.This state-of-the-art complex includes a compact entry plaza, main lobby and courtrooms. The courtroom floors were designed with a four-courts-per-floor layout that was intended to facilitate the use of the building by the public, while being equipped with dedicated prisoner access. The basement level of the building provides secure parking for judges, a controlled entryway for prisoners and holding cells.

Glenn Mohan has been involved in the HVAC management at the A.A. Birch Building since 2008, and he shared some insight with us about the building and why its partnership with Metro DES is important.

Q: When the A.A. Birch Building opened in 2006, it was dubbed a “state-of-the-art” criminal justice building. Tell us about the technology in the building that brought Nashville’s criminal justice center into the 21st century. 

A: The building was designed with technological advances that make energy savings easier, like the centrally controlled lighting system with zoned occupancy. We have also converted 90 percent of the indoor and outdoor lighting to LED. The A.A. Birch building is served by DES, which delivers both chilled water and steam centrally to the building. This energy is transformed to heating and cooling for our customers via a state-of-the art JCI building automation system, mechanical plant, and a GovernAir rooftop heating/cooling unit.

Q: How big a concern is security at a criminal justice building? Were some of the technology upgrades to the new building made to ensure a high level of security?

A: Security at the A.A. Birch Building is not an issue because all building controls and controllers are inside areas that are behind both card access and keyed doors. Building thermostats are a sensor-only/non-tamperproof type.

Q: Some buildings, such as theaters and hospitals, maintain a cooler temperature than most homes and businesses. Does your staff keep the building cooler due to frequent large crowds in the courtrooms? 

A: We do try to keep the courtrooms pre-cooled to a lower temperature to compensate for the irregular crowds. Courts and attendees are very unpredictable, and rooms full of people are easier to warm up than cool down, so we run the rooms a little cool.

Q: What benefits do you see with the building’s being on the Metro DES system?

A: A constant delivery of the same temperature and volume of chilled water and steam, no upkeep to mechanical equipment, and no utility bills.

Q: What makes the building unique compared to other criminal justice buildings?

A: This criminal justice building uses a single rooftop unit, the GovernAir unit, that supplies heating and cooling for the entire building, and this makes it unique. This unit is said to be the largest single unit of its type in the Eastern U.S.