Vivian Loftness is searching for the source of a buzzing noise. She tilts her ear toward the ceiling. “This doesn’t happen here,” she says. It’s true, the Intelligent Workplace at Carnegie Mellon feels like paradise: a bright, quiet space that’s home to architecture faculty and graduate students as well a variety of plants, CO2 sensors, louvered windows, ergonomic chairs, and myriad other environmental controls. In this living laboratory, Loftness, a professor of architecture, won’t tolerate the kind of noise pollution that’s pervasive in other workplaces.
In fact, she’s spent most of her life building environments that balance comfort and efficiency. As early as high school, she was making art and sketching house plans but also loved math and chemistry. Then as an undergraduate she discovered that architecture provided the perfect confluence of these passions. Loftness earned her Master of Architecture degree from MIT during the 1970s energy crisis and soon became a pioneer in energy-efficient architecture. One of her early projects was a passive and active solar Greek Solar Village of public housing with Greek architect Alexandros Tombazis and the European Community. She was also central to the team designing CMU’s Intelligent Workplace, where faculty and students test everything from lighting to air to acoustic quality in a space that uses a fraction of the energy of most offices. From Athens to Pittsburgh and beyond, Loftness has devoted herself to creating “wonderful places that sit more gently on this earth.”
She continues to research the health and productivity impacts of good environmental quality, for instance, how daylight affects our work, eye health, and sleep patterns. She’s committed to improving the environments of children, setting guidelines so future classrooms will give kids access to the outdoors, which research has shown increases learning ability. In recognition of her innovative spirit, Loftness received several accolades in 2013 alone:
• LEED fellow, for her contributions to the green building community;
• Design Futures Council senior fellow, for her leadership in design; and
2013 Star of Building Science, by Building4Change journal, for her contributions to building science.
The awards are no surprise, given her attention to details like the buzz in her office. No doubt she’ll find the source of the noise and restore tranquility to the workplace.
—Julie Albright (DC’92)