The partners at KieranTimberlake Associates greeted the news that they'd won The American Institute of Architects' 2008 AIA Architecture Firm Award with a double dose of elation and humility. “Our initial reaction was to think how humbling it was to receive that accolade from our peers,” says Stephen Kieran, FAIA. Then a sense of expectation set in, as the Philadelphia-based firm pondered what to do next. “We have to begin again, in a way,” he says.

He and James Timberlake, FAIA, have already started that process, with a new book coming out this spring. Loblolly House: Elements of a New Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008) will explore the way the firm used Kieran's own vacation house as a test case for its theories on prefabricated buildings. The two partners are teaching at the University of Washington this year, and they're hoping to write their next book based on their seminars and design research there. “We plan to map out a strategy for sustainability that goes beyond the environment and includes affordability, quality, time, and scope as part of the equation,” Kieran explains.

The firm's body of research certainly contributed to its receiving the award.In addition to its long-term investigations into prefab, it has studied materials and products—and developed new ones, such as SmartWrap, a high-tech composite building envelope. The AIA also based its vote on KieranTimberlake's design strength, especially with the institutional buildings that serve as a cornerstone of the practice. At the 2009 International Builders' Show, the firm's research and design skills will both be on display when it, prefab developer LivingHomes, ra's sister magazine BUILDER, and Home magazine team up to produce a prefab show house on the convention floor. And LivingHomes just announced a partnership with KieranTimberlake to build a line of prefab single-family homes and townhouses. Overall, the 55-person firm carries a heavy workload, but Kieran has faith in his and Timberlake's staff. “We try to work hard and we try to work smart,” he says.