UW News

January 24, 2008

UW launches sustainability program with national leaders in architecture

Carefully tucked into a stand of pines on the Maryland shore, Loblolly House is a study in the pragmatic and the poetic.

Three sides are faced with bark-like strips of red cedar but the fourth opens to the water. Completely. Translucent hangar doors retract and glass walls fold like accordions, opening the 2,200-square-foot house to Chesapeake Bay.

The house was built in six weeks using off-site fabricated parts locked into place by half a dozen workers. It can also be taken apart and the pieces recycled.

Designed for Philadelphia architect Stephen Kieran, the home was also a chance to test new, far more efficient and environmentally sensitive ways to build houses.

Pending approval by the Board of Regents, Kieran and James Timberlake, partners at KieranTimberlake and fellows of the American Institute of Architects, will hold a University of Washington professorship in sustainability – one of the first such professorships in the U.S. As inaugural holders of the Mithun/Russell Family Foundation Professorship in Sustainability, Kieran and Timberlake will teach six related courses exploring designs and methods for reducing environmental impacts of construction.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, building and operating homes and other structures generates 40 to 50 percent of all greenhouse gases in the U.S. Additional studies suggest that more than half of leftover building materials wind up in landfills – and those numbers don’t include gas-fueled cars and trucks shuttling workers and materials.

Sustainability studies have thus become top priority at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning. “Our communities urgently need critical, creative thinking in sustainable building design,” said Daniel S. Friedman, dean of the college and an AIA fellow. “Kieran and Timberlake are among the first to attack the problem systemically, through technology transfer and novel production.”

Funding for the professorship comes from Seattle-based Mithun, a national leader in sustainable design, and The Russell Family Foundation in Gig Harbor, Wash.

“The next opportunity for design innovation is to solve the challenges confronting global systems,” said Bert Gregory, president and CEO of Mithun and an AIA fellow. “This new professorship will help bring science and design together for wholly integrated solutions.”

“We are eager to see the best ideas about sustainable design shared broadly,” said Nancy McKay, environmental sustainability manager for The Russell Family Foundation.

“The professorship clearly presents an opportunity for collaboration, a hybrid design lab that crosses disciplines – architecture, engineering, construction, landscaping – within one educational community,” Timberlake said.

In December, the AIA formally recognized KieranTimberlake for sustainable design, choosing the 55-person group for its annual Firm Award. Also, the Museum of

Modern Art in New York City recently chose KieranTimberlake to design and construct one of five full-scale houses for a 2008 exhibition on prefabricated building.

Kieran and Timberlake based much of their early thinking on ways the automotive, aircraft and shipbuilding industries are radically reinventing themselves. Instead of inefficient, part-by-part construction, they’ve switched to integrated units built on factory floors.

But forget one-design-fits-all. KieranTimberlake buildings include pre-wired mechanical systems plus custom elements appropriate for the client and building site – things like custom-designed sunshades that allow a building to recognize the sun as a primary source of energy.

KieranTimberlake is also recognized for bringing research to its practice. In 2003, the firm developed SmartWrap, a mass-customizable, high-performance building façade. For the University of Pennsylvania, the firm designed and installed the first actively ventilated curtainwall in North America. Other KieranTimberlake buildings have been recognized for their environmentally thoughtful design. The Sidwell Friends Middle School and the Sculpture Building and Gallery at Yale University, for example, have achieved LEED Platinum, the highest rating from the United States Green Building Council.


For additional information, contact: Carin Whitney, (215) 922-6600, Ext. 142 or cwhitney@kierantimberlake.com. High-resolution photos of Kieran and Timberlake are available upon request. For a high-resolution photo of Loblolly House, contact Eli Yerusalim at Halkin Architectural Photography, (215) 236-3922 or eli@barryhalkin.com.