When we moved into our new studio last year, we loved that it gave us more room to create. Whether it's full-sized building mockups or a high-stakes maple syrup cook-off, 2015 has been a year of making for all of us at KieranTimberlake. We asked our colleagues to reflect on their most notable creative acts of the past year, and here's what they told us. How will you make the best of 2016?
KieranTimberlake kicked off the year by providing kits containing the latest generation of its sensor platform to user groups in Philadelphia and Copenhagen. Since receiving Architect Magazine’s R+D Award in 2013, the network has been refined and is heading toward commercial roll-out in 2016.
Each kit contains the gear to self-install a high-density sensor network and track temperature and relative humidity measurements in real-time via a custom web interface. The kits have myriad applications across many scales from walls to whole buildings to landscapes, and more.
Testers at Drexel University’s Dragon Hacks 2016 experimented with the network, building special purpose web applications that leverage real-time sensor data using its API.
In a workshop led by Billie Faircloth and Ryan Welch at the Centre for Information Technology and Architecture (CITA), students were challenged to use sensors to measure the changes in temperature within a series of volumes designed to demonstrate types of thermal responsiveness in the outdoor climate of Copenhagen.
KieranTimberlake currently uses the sensors to monitor climate conditions in its Philadelphia studio. Using data captured by the system in conjunction with passive heating and cooling strategies and comfort surveys, the firm has developed a highly nuanced understanding of the factors influencing its internal microclimates.
Look for more on the sensor network developed by KieranTimberlake's affiliate, KT Innovations, in the coming year.
Metropolis magazine selected KieranTimberlake as one of architecture and design's "Game Changers" for 2016. In the January issue, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Inga Saffron describes the firm’s commitment not only to environmentally-friendly construction, but also to research-driven approaches to design that take into account how sustainable buildings will be used. At the cornerstone of this approach is the firm's use of its own office space as a kind of living laboratory.
As an example, Saffron cites the firm’s radical decision to forgo air conditioning in its office and engage its staff in an experiment to achieve comfort through strategies like natural ventilation. Within the studio, technologies such as a Wireless Sensor Network and a night air flushing system are developed, tested, and refined to provide feedback for the experiment and keep the building comfortable during the muggy Philadelphia summers. By acting as a guinea pig, the firm hopes to reduce its own energy use and develop innovative approaches to someday bring to clients.
Ultimately, KieranTimberlake wants to see a culture of building in which architects are invested as much in the long-term performance of a structure as its initial design and construction. In the words of Kieran, "a doctor doesn't just operate on a patient and say, 'Good luck.' Our bodies get checkups. So should our buildings."
Game Changers 2016: KieranTimberlake by Inga Saffron
It's a late November day in Philadelphia, with temperatures in the high 40s, and I'm sitting with architects Stephen Kieran and Billie Faircloth at a conference table in KieranTimberlake's soaring new offices in a former bottling plant. Faircloth wears a black trench coat pulled tight, her collar raised like a funnel to the edge of her short red bob. She's freezing. Kieran wears a light pullover. He's comfortable. I have on a loosely crocheted wool sweater. I'm a bit warm, but it's probably because I just biked over to see them.
It seems appropriate to start with the temperature and our various states of personal comfort, because the architects at KieranTimberlake are obsessed with the weather and the way it affects our design choices. On the roof of their building, a Weather Underground-registered weather station keeps a running tab on external conditions, while, on the floors below, some 400 sensors embedded amid the rows of desks collect data on the office microclimates. The details are routed to Faircloth's research group, which churns out charts, graphs, and other visualizations. Every Friday, the firm sends e-mail blasts to its 100 employees, advising them on clothing options for the next week. As summer set in last year, the staff was polled three times a day: Are you comfortable? Where are you seated? What are you wearing?
In an op-ed published in Fast Company magazine’s Co.Design blog, titled “Should We Save Mid-Century Modern Icons That Hurt The Environment?” partner James Timberlake outlines an ethical approach to the energy efficiency problems that plague mid-century modern architecture.
Nearly thirty million commercial buildings were constructed after World War II in the period often referred to as the golden era of building, long before our modern understanding of carbon emissions and the human impact on global warming. Buildings are responsible for at least 30% of greenhouse gases. What happens when some of those structures are beloved architectural icons, designed by architects like Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, and I.M. Pei?
Timberlake says that creative and unconventional thinking is needed to preserve important works of mid-century architecture while bringing them to energy code compliance or better. A few solutions include rethinking curtain walls, using life-cycle inventory data sets to analyze the environmental impact of building materials, and reusing existing facades while finding additional ways to improve efficiency. "The current tools at our disposal allow us a better way forward," Timberlake writes, concluding that "the impact of historical architecture infrastructure on the energy crisis is an ethical problem that we can no longer afford to ignore."
Last week at the climate talks in Paris, world leaders committed a full day to discussing public policies and financial solutions to reduce carbon emissions within the building sector. It’s widely documented that buildings are the culprit for at least 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile in the building sector, there’s an ongoing discussion about what to do with inefficient buildings from past eras. Debate around historic value versus economics inevitably leads to the big question: Are these buildings worth retrofitting, or do we tear them down and start over?
Architect Magazine, the official journal of the AIA, described KieranTimberlake’s pioneering practices in a recent article entitled "The Life Cycle of Practice". The article, written by Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, highlighted firms that continue to push the boundaries of the role of the architect in the modern building and design process.
Past eras have seen architects slowly phased out of much of the building process as specialized work contracted out to third parties has become the norm. In recent years, however, select firms have been bucking this trend as they seek to be more involved in everything from site input to material selection to the types of technologies integrated into a project. Dickinson praised KieranTimberlake’s role in this movement by highlighting the firm’s emphasis on inquisitiveness and research. At the firm, the article states, "the scope of the architect is elastic and expansive, [beginning] with questioning and researching the very way buildings are conceived, designed, constructed, and delivered, and [continuing] through to material and product development and the ongoing study of management of buildings and places."
One of the ways in which Dickinson sees KieranTimberlake's commitment to questioning manifest itself is in the development of new technologies. Calling invention "the most compelling area of expansion for architects", she references Tally®, KieranTImberlake's custom Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tool for designers, as well as the firm's wireless sensor network. Both of these technologies grew from the architects’ frustration with the limits of existing products, and have become a part of the firm's affiliate business, KT Innovations, which focuses on architecture-specific software and product development. "Inventions such as these open new and appealing business possibilities for firms," Dickinson says. "As a whole, those expanding the life cycle of architecture are exploring every aspect of the profession for possibility, while expanding into new realms."
Last month, the Architect's Newspaper blog highlighted KieranTimberlake's work on The Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI). The two-part project located in Philadelphia's Navy Yard consists of both the retrofit of an existing mid-century building and the new construction of a classroom and laboratory facility, with the goal of creating a welcoming, versatile, and above all, energy-efficient space.
At the 2015 Greenbuild Conference in Washington DC, KieranTimberlake researcher Roderick Bates presented regarding the evolution of Tally®, the firm’s custom Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tool for designers. Speaking to a room of sustainable building practitioners and advocates, Bates explained how this tool has the unique capacity to allow designers to quickly assess the environmental implications of different materials used in their projects. As an example, his presentation articulated KieranTimberlake’s experience using Tally in the selection of materials for Brown University's new School of Engineering building.
One of KieranTimberlake's Community Involvement initiatives was featured in the most recent issue of Context, the AIA Philadelphia chapter's quarterly journal. The article focused specifically on KieranTimberlake's pro bono involvement in the Community Design Collaborative's pursuit to repurpose Philadelphia's vacant school buildings in weaker real estate markets.
The project, known as Reactivating Public Schools, revolved around a design charrette held at the 2014 Design on the Delaware Conference. In this charrette, a team consisting of volunteer design professionals, neighborhood residents, private developers, and nonprofit organizations all collaborated to design both short- and long-term renovations for two different vacant school buildings (the M. Hall Stanton School and the Old Frances Willard School).
A team of more than twenty KieranTimberlake volunteers then assembled the concepts discussed during the conference in order to create a report that was published in Grid magazine in August 2015. The report outlines several different temporary and permanent design options, with each concept taking into account both the needs of the community and the desire for neighborhood revitalization. Additionally, the report highlights the potential of these vacant schools to private and nonprofit developers alike.
KieranTimberlake's design for the soon-to-be-renovated LOVE Park was recently featured on Uwishunu, a popular website that creates buzz about Philadelphia's cultural attractions.
LOVE Park's new design, conceived in partnership with Hargreaves Associates, strikes a balance between preserving the beloved features of the park, such as the famous LOVE Statue by Robert Indiana, and improving on the park's current amenities by adding more green space, a new fountain, and a reorganized layout. The current Welcome Center, referred to affectionately as "The Flying Saucer" by local residents, is also slated for renovation. The mid-century modern building, originally constructed in the 1950s, will keep its iconic shape while receiving some energy-efficient upgrades in the form of frameless glass windows, a green roof, and new lighting technology.
The LOVE Park renovation comes on the heels of the completion of KieranTimberlake's Dilworth Park project, and the design has been heralded by Uwishunu for its use of greenery in the space, as well as its commitment to preserving the well-known aspects of the park. "While we'll miss the park while it's closed for renovation," the blog stated, "we're pretty sure the wait will be worth it."
The Pennsylvania chapter of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) honored KieranTimberlake last month at the 2015 Annual Architectural Excellence Design and Special Awards. Held at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the awards ceremony recognized over 35 Pennsylvania firms and individuals who were selected from a pool of nearly 150 applicants.
Joining a list of honorees that included Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (Government Award winner) and the iconic Vanna Venturi House (50 Year/Timeless Award winner), KieranTimberlake was the recipient of the Firm Award. The award is given annually to the firm that consistently encourages collaboration while contributing innovative designs to the field of architecture. Selected to receive the award by a jury panel from AIA New York City chaired by renowned architect Thomas Phifer, FAIA, KieranTimberlake was heralded by the AIA as a "leader in practice-based architectural research and sustainable environments".