A Living Laboratory
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?