• The Charles David Keeling Apartments employ a variety of tactics to address environmental challenges such as stormwater management, water scarcity, and carbon emissions reductions.

    Credit: Tim Griffith

    The Charles David Keeling Apartments employ a variety of tactics to address environmental challenges such as stormwater management, water scarcity, and carbon emissions reductions.

Location: Philadelphia
Partners: Stephen Kieran, FAIA and James Timberlake, FAIA
Date Founded: 1984
Company Size: 90
Little-known fact: KieranTimberlake is ISO 9001:2008 Certified for the Research, Management and Delivery of Architectural Services. To achieve this certification the firm has mapped over 44 processes and undergoes annual audits to assure the effectiveness of its management system.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from the award-winning Charles David Keeling Apartments project?
This was our first project in Southern California. We truly delved into the climate, site, materials, and local economy to discover how the design could capitalize on San Diego's ideal climate for passive systems, and solve multiple pervasive campus environmental challenges of stormwater management, water scarcity, and carbon emissions.

What insights from this and other sustainable projects would you share with other professionals?
Hardware alone is not going to get us out of our current sustainability predicament. Architects need to narrow the scales at which they operate. A return to good passive principles based on climate is a start, but we also need to bolster our awareness of microclimate and patterns of use and habitation. Most environmental software is analytic rather than synthetic, incapable of influencing form before the parameters of design are fully established. We need software that provides information sooner and makes it visually accessible, so we can mold form around verified performance at the micro-scale of a particular site and distinct program. In our firm we are developing a suite of digital tools that provide increasingly precise data at ever smaller scales, and depict it to be useful to architects at the earliest stages of design.

What is your firm's philosophy on sustainable design?
Buildings are complex networks of diverse systems operating on multiple scales across time. We explore ways to artfully interweave these systems around the programs they support. Therefore, our sustainable design initiatives are not discretionary or additive, but constitute the formative acts around which design solutions are conceived.

What kinds of sustainable solutions are non-negotiable for your firm? What are the baseline standards your firm aims to meet with every project?
We work closely with our clients to establish shared goals and values at the outset of a project, and use them as touchstones throughout. Our designs are heavily data-driven, which helps us remain objective and in turn, helps clients make sound decisions for the project. When we have a shared understanding of the science behind a design, we don't find ourselves position of needing to negotiate - we are working toward a common goal.

What are the top energy-saving features you put in your projects?
More often than adding sustainable systems, we take common sense approach to energy-savings, employing methods like building orientation and massing for optimal thermal performance, using superior insulation, high performance glazing, abundant daylighting, and natural ventilation.

How do you think these types of innovative green solutions, products, and strategies, might become standard?
As more clients seek to reduce energy use, and as increasingly stringent energy codes help reduce building operations energy consumption.