Seven years ago, Payette decided to expand its practice capabilities and make more informed design decisions using in-house research. The Boston-based firm hired Andrea Love, AIA, to fill its newly created position of director of building science, adding itself to the growing legion of architectural practices with strong research bents, such as Perkins+Will, SHoP Architects, and KieranTimberlake.
Newly armed with a post-professional M.S. in architecture studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Love was up for the challenge. “It has been an exploration in how to change a firm’s culture,” says Love, who is also a principal at Payette. “How do you build energy literacy so people talk about the performance of a building in the same way they would consider the fuel economy of their cars?”
While she doesn’t work in a traditional design capacity, Love influences every project within the office. She helps teams understand the impacts of their design decisions by integrating performance modeling tools into their workflow. She also leads the firm’s efforts on meeting the requirements of the AIA 2030 Commitment.
Moreover, Love is cultivating a research environment. Nearly half of the firm’s 150 staff members have participated in internal research initiatives, committing an average of two hours per week over the course of several months. Each investigation pairs junior architectural staff with senior members, presenting a learning and mentorship opportunity. “This model has expanded our capabilities in that we are able to design better buildings that use less energy and are more comfortable,” Love says. “By having the staff participate in research, we are able to distribute knowledge utilizing the same software.”
As a sign of its commitment to experimentation, Payette has allocated resources to purchase new tools and technologies, such as an infrared camera, without trying to commoditize its studies. It has published a white paper on the thermal performance of façades, which was funded by an AIA Upjohn Research Initiative grant, and offers an online glazing and winter comfort tool as well as a plug-in for Rhino that tracks the impact of glazing design on thermal comfort.
“We are trying to disrupt change,” Love says. “By sharing all of our research freely, as in academia, we are not only advancing the industry’s knowledge but also benefiting by becoming known as experts on a particular topic."
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