Meet Kimberley Keirstead, LPA’s Materials Resource Librarian

LPA’s new headquarters studio in Irvine, California, features a generously spaced, well-appointed materials library holding samples of hundreds of building products. The library serves as a hub for the office and a showcase for demonstrating the firm’s commitment to using sustainable materials.

Kimberley Keirstead, materials resource librarian, curates the library, stocking physical samples of carpet, tiles, textiles, wall coverings, landscaping hardscape, countertops, lighting, and more. Beyond organizing and storing materials, she is a key resource for LPA’s designers and clients.

“We’ve never had a comprehensive materials and research library, so this is important for the firm,” says LPA Design Director Rick D’Amato. “Having someone like Kim who understands materials and enjoys the organizational and research aspects of it has really helped us expand how we talk about materials.”

The library maintains up-to-date information for all the practices, including architecture, interiors, furniture and landscape. “It allows us to come together differently,” D’Amato says. “You’ve got interiors working with architects in the same library being influenced by each other’s materials.”

Keirstead maintains regular contact with suppliers and evaluates products to ensure they meet LPA’s stringent environmental and health standards. She also advocates with product sales reps for improved sustainability. For a product to be accepted into the library, manufacturers must be transparent about the environmental impact from the materials they use and their manufacturing processes, including carbon footprint and proper waste disposal. She keeps close tabs on manufacturers’ Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Product Declarations (HPDs), which detail the impact of products on the environment and human health.

With more focus on the impact of the built environment on human health, building product manufacturers are continuously innovating. Keeping up with new developments is a challenge.

“It’s a moving target,” Keirstead says. “Things are always changing, constantly evolving and improving.”

Keirstead joined LPA while working on an associate degree at the Interior Designers Institute, where she deepened her interest in green materials for construction projects. At the same time, she worked in administration in her husband’s painting company, where she grew accustomed to pitches from manufacturer’s sales representatives. Before that, she spent more than 10 years in medical equipment sales, which also helped prepare her for her role with LPA.

“I understand the role of account reps and take the time to make sure the products in the library are current,” she says. “The majority of the products have this level of transparency, and if not, the manufacturers are working towards it.”

Keirstead frequently invites suppliers to the library for discussions about environmental impacts and their companies’ plans to boost sustainability. “I am confident that any industry partner that enters the LPA materials library leaves with an understanding of the level of commitment LPA has for the environment and the wellbeing of people who live in it,” she says.

The library operates as an inspiration zone, Keirstead says. Before COVID-19 sent most employees to their home offices, it was a hub of activity for internal gatherings, meetings with clients and vendors, and a research and training nexus.

Keirstead is often the first person in the firm to learn about new products. When she discovers one particularly well-suited to LPA, she passes on the information to the entire firm. Designers frequent the library to examine product samples first-hand, rather than relying on online depictions that do not always accurately convey texture and appearance under varying lighting conditions. Likewise, clients can assess product options in physical form by attending a meeting in one of the library’s meeting spaces or at their own offices when LPA representatives bring samples to them.

The success of the Irvine materials library is affecting the firm, in many ways. Other LPA studios in California and Texas have either launched or expanded their libraries and offerings, recognizing the advantages. “They are becoming a focal point for the studios,” D’Amato says.

The Irvine library has illustrated how the library can improve communication and help break down the barriers between practices. The proactive, research-driven approach has helped extend the firm’s focus on sustainability into new areas and new discussions.

“Now we understand what it takes to actually do this,” D’Amato says. “Kim is helping us how to translate what we’ve learned and scale it for the different studios.”

As a full-time employee, Keirstead is continuing her training to boost her value to LPA and its clients. She is preparing to take the LEED Green Associate certification test. “I’m also looking at WELL and Fitwel certifications down the road,” she says. “The more I know about these programs, the more I can assist the designers and our clients.”