January 29, 2014

Investigating Low-E Coating Technology for Glass

This diagram shows the general structure of a triple silver low-e coating with approximate thicknesses of each layer, as indicated by various patents.

Modern buildings are often clad in multi-layer insulated glass units (IGU) to enhance views and daylight. Since glass facades are often the most prominent part of a building, the optical qualities of the glass and its coatings impart a defining aesthetic. Most glass aesthetics are largely defined by the low-emissivity (or low-e) coatings that are applied to the glass. These coatings prevent solar radiation from passing through the front of the glass and radiant heat from escaping the building by reflecting it on the back side of the glass. Low-e coatings often give glass facades an undesirable mirror-like appearance; however, they are necessary since glass is a poor insulator. Therefore, the need for thermal performance and the desire for a non-reflective aesthetic are in direct conflict with one another.

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January 27, 2014

Model T as Metaphor

Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake inside Cellophane House © Peter Aaron/OTTO

Toronto's The Globe and Mail interviewed Partner Stephen Kieran recently about KieranTimberlake's quest to transform architecture via off-site fabrication. He and Partner James Timberlake envision factory-building complex, custom modules, then shipping them to site for assembly—similar to the process used to manufacture a car. Two prototypes—Loblolly House and Cellophane House—have already been successfully constructed, and an environmentally friendly concept house for India is currently in development.  
Kieran compared the process to the evolution of the early automobile: “Henry Ford transformed the economics of a whole industry...With a $400 car, you were into a whole new model to change the world. But it took him a lot of prototypes. The Model T is called that because it's the 19th letter in the alphabet, and he had 18 failures.” This evening, January 27, Kieran will deliver the keynote lecture for the ar.chi.tect* symposium (titled "Redefining the Profession") at Toronto's Ryerson University. He will also participate in the symposium tomorrow, January 28, at the Design Exchange in Toronto.

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January 21, 2014

Monitoring for Better Design at Tulane

We installed sensors within the walls of Tulane's Richardson Memorial Hall to measure temperature stratification in space. Ambient temperature measurements will provide designers with data to inform systems design.

For a renovation project at Tulane University's School of Architecture, KieranTimberlake recently installed temperature sensors at more than 150 points within the building. This monitoring exercise will allow us to gain a nuanced understanding of the building's thermal performance within the predominantly hot, humid climate of New Orleans. Measurements will be used to analyze how temperatures vary within the building, which will inform the design of new passive and active heating and cooling systems. The goal is to the generate a design that responds to the unique thermal context of the building, creating the most comfortable environment possible while using the least amount of energy.  
The design team devised a package of temperature monitoring equipment for deployment at several locations on the third and fourth floors of Richardson Memorial Hall, home to the architecture school. The third and fourth floors contain studio spaces in the north and south wings of the building. On the fourth floor, the ceilings are double-height, with a pitched roof rising more than 30 feet. Nearly all of the windows in the building are uninsulated. The sensor deployment is focused on creating rich data sets for ambient temperature distribution as well as thermal stratification (change in temperature from one zone to another) within the building. This is coupled with envelope monitoring on both the interior and exterior walls.

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January 13, 2014

Quaker Meeting House Wins AIA Honor Award

The Quaker Meeting House at Sidwell Friends School transforms an aging gymnasium into a carefully tuned space for worship and contemplation. More images are available here.
© Michael Moran/OTTO

We are pleased to announce that the Quaker Meeting House and Arts Center at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, has won an Institute Honor Award for 2014 from the American Institute of Architects. The 26 winning projects were selected from more than 500 submissions. 

Project description from the AIA press release

With a minimum of means, this project transforms a non-descript 1950s gymnasium into a Quaker Meeting House and Arts Center serving the entire middle and upper school community at Sidwell Friends School. The building program includes a worship space, visual art and music rooms, and exhibition areas. The essence of Quaker Meeting, and thus the Meeting House itself, is silence and light. Architecturally this is achieved by filtering light and sound through architecture, landscape, structure, and systems arranged in successive concentric layers around a central source of illumination, both literal and spiritual.

Jury comments

A beautiful project that is very well detailed and imagined. A remarkable transformation. 
The obsolete building is thankfully lost in the new one; the new one is open, bright, and engaging. 
The exterior is masterfully handled with subtle gestures that give it interest and shape. The architect manages to create a landmark building on the site while simultaneously transforming the interior spaces into an effective worship space. 
Fascinating use of light and molding of space. Beautiful reinterpretation with a sensitive vernacular touch. 
Great sustainability strategies and results.