Ortlieb's Bottling House

Architect: KieranTimberlake

Owner: KTRE, LLP

Location: Philadelphia

Project site: Historic structure or district

Building program type(s): Office – 10,001 to 100,000sf


2018 COTE Top Ten Plus honoree

Faced with a growing firm and an increasing need for building and meeting space, Philadelphia-based architecture firm KieranTimberlake transformed a former beer bottling plant into a new studio and testing ground featuring a fabrication lab, model making shop, and breakout spaces. The firm took advantage of the mid-century building’s naturally ventilating form to create an energy-efficient retrofit that uses passive strategies such as daylight, thermal mass, and operable windows to reduce the building’s reliance on mechanical systems by 70 percent. By renovating the existing structure, the firm extended the building’s life cycle and preserved the historic character of a rapidly changing neighborhood.

"An exceptional example of passive strategies used in adaptive reuse of an historic urban building." ~ Jury statement

The stair leads to a large daylit studio, designed to support a flexible collaborative culture while incorporating original features and new systems. Image: Michael Moran/OTTO

This project is a retrofit of a historic bottling plant in a dense residential and commercial neighborhood in Philadelphia. Built in 1948, the industrial building was transformed into an open plan office for 100+ people with conference rooms, fabrication shops, and breakout spaces. The goal for the renovation was to achieve a comfortable, energy-efficient, and flexible working environment and retain the building’s original International Style characteristics. After the renovation, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The building is a two-story red brick structure with large bands of windows on the west and north sides. The second floor is an expansive open space with glazed brick walls and exposed roof trusses, illuminated with daylight from the windows and a glazed clerestory on the roof. The architects took advantage of these features to employ environmentally responsible systems for conditioning the space and to minimize lighting and power loads. Natural light and ventilation, together with the thermal mass of the concrete structure, provided an ideal test bed to experiment with various combinations of passive and active ventilation and dehumidification for heating and cooling. The experimentation was scrupulously tracked with 400 data sensors and daily occupant surveys to arrive at a new model for energy-efficient thermal comfort. The renovation highlights and preserves the best attributes of a mid-century building, while incorporating novel approaches to office design to create a flexible, collaborative space that enhances creative pursuits. The vast open space and exposed steel trusses are a treasure rarely experienced in typical office buildings. Furthermore, the project preserves an important part of Philadelphia’s architectural heritage and maintains the character of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, highlighting the great potential of the region’s mid-century building stock to provide innovative, productive, and sustainable work spaces that support a growing creative economy.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2014

Year of substantial project completion: 2015

Gross conditioned floor area: 46,000 sq ft

Gross unconditioned floor area: 20,000 sq ft

Number of stories: 2

Project Climate Zone: ASHRAE 4

Annual hours of operation: 3,120

Site area: 24,800 sq ft

Project site context/setting: urban

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 130

Project Team

Contractor: AJ Lewis

Lighting Consultant: Fisher Marantz Stone

Engineer - MEP/FP: Elliott-Lewis  

Historic Preservation Consultants: Jon Milner, Architectural Research and Cultural History

Photgraphers: Michael Moran, Christopher Leaman

Surveyor: SSM Group


Michelle Addington, Dean, School of Architecture, The University of Texas Austin, Austin, Texas

Jennifer Devlin-Herbert, FAIA, EHDD. San Francisco

Kevin Schorn, AIA, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, New York

Julie V. Snow, FAIA, Snow Kreilich, Minneapolis

M. Susan Ubbelohde, LOISOS + UBBELOHDE, Alameda, California

Jury comments

An exceptional example of passive strategies used in adaptive reuse of an historic urban building. This project exemplifies state-of-the art architectural thinking by emphasizing occupant comfort rather than prescribed metrics. It actively monitors, learns from, and improves the building’s performance over time while contributing to the safety and character of the street and neighborhood.

This project is as frugal as it is intelligent, with restrained use of materials and resources creating a high-quality creative workspace. The building’s measured energy usage and net carbon emissions (EUI of 38 kBtu/sf/yr and 11 lbs/sf/yr) are both excellent. The continued collection of data, occupancy engagement, and implementation of the lessons learned elevated this project to the COTE Top Ten Plus award.

The design is restrained, adding only what is necessary to the historic structure. At the same time, it conveys the creativity and energy of the design investigations undertaken. The design retains the historic character of a changing neighborhood while adding to its vitality.

Image credits

Kieran Timberlake - Ortliebs_02

Michael Moran/OTTO

Kieran Timberlake - Ortliebs_01

Michael Moran/OTTO

Kieran Timberlake - Ortliebs_03

Michael Moran/OTTO

Kieran Timberlake - Ortliebs_04

Michael Moran/OTTO

Kieran Timberlake - Ortliebs_05

Michael Moran/OTTO

Kieran Timberlake - Ortliebs_06

Michael Moran/OTTO

Kieran Timberlake - Ortliebs_07

Michael Moran/OTTO


Michael Moran/OTTO