Insulating a Usonian House

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pharding
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Insulating a Usonian House

Post by pharding »

What are good strategies for insulating a Usonian House?
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

Since the walls are solid with no room to blow in insulation the only place left to work with is the roof and the windows. Replacing the single pane glass with thermopane in the original sash would be a good idea. This was done quite successfully at the Lindholm House. Since most flat - roofed usonians usually need extensive roof work removing the deck and foaming the space between the roof joists would be worthwhile. Then adding tapered foam insulation on top of the new plywood before installing a seamless roofing (like Duralast) would complete the job nicely.

Another alternative that require less construction would be to remove the tar and gravel and spray on a rigid polyurethane commercial type roof.

pharding
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Post by pharding »

I thought that the Usonian walls used a stud that was rotated 90 degrees creating a 1 1/2" deep cavity.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

Standard Usonian construction did not use studs but three layers of lumber with a layer of tar paper under the exterior layer and no air space. There may have been exceptions to this rule made by apprentices and owners at a particular site.

Page 110 of John Sergeant's book: Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Houses, Designs for moderate cost one-family homes has a typical wall cross-section drawing of the exterior laminated wall. The walls were three layers of 3/4 inch lumber for a total wall thickness of 2-1/4 inches. "Where possible, they were strenghehened by frequent folding (...hexagonal Usonians) or even by bookcases. the long 48-ft north wall of the Rosenbaum house could be made to bow by hand pressure until the growth of the book collection solved the problem." p.118

The normal course of events were supposed to be this: 1) "building the roof first, on temporary supports, to provide a workshop" 2) "construct the wall sections... to be built on tables" p.112

SDR
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Post by SDR »

That last line alone is all the proof any experienced mechanic would need, to show that Wright was a poet first and a builder second. My love for the man exists because I too am an idealist and a would-be innovator, and because the aesthetic content of his work excuses all manner of ignorance or indifference as to practical matters.

Just as the manifestations of the known universe are all the "divine miracles" I need to be content, so too is the fact that Wright built hundreds of his magical fantasies, for real clients and of real materials, all the proof I need that there is a benevolent muse of architecture, capable of bestowing her favors on a sufficiently energetic man, from time to time. . .

SDR

Richard
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Post by Richard »

There seems to be some question as to the structural integrity of the USONIAN.

Have there been any structural failures? (Leaks etc. excluded)
Homeowner

pharding
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Post by pharding »

I do not believe that the posts implied that structural failures were an issue with Usonians. I am not aware of any significant structural failures.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Richard
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Post by Richard »

I was wondering about potential problems given Mr. Ringstrom's comment about the wall bowing from hand pressure...

I had not heard of any problems either.
Homeowner

pharding
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Post by pharding »

It is difficult to generalize about an issue applying to all Usonians. Skills of each contractor and his/her staff vary considerably. Some projects for whatever reason received better construction documents or were staffed better.
Last edited by pharding on Tue Sep 30, 2008 9:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Do failures during construction count ? I believe one apprentice learned the hard way about not putting some steel into a cantilevered carport roof -- behind the Old Man's back, of course.

SDR

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

The story has to do with the living room of the Schwartz House and Edgar Tafel. It is a very long span and FLW had it detailed with a wood beam and Edgar replaced it with steel (without FLW's knowledge). When the same detail was built at the Rosenbaum House (with a different apprentice)there was a noticeable sway in the beam after all the load was applied. He, of course, called back to Taliesin to discuss and this precipitated FLW finding out about Edgar's substitution.

Michael D
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movie of Edgar Tafel

Post by Michael D »

Here is a movie of Edgar Tafel in the Schwartz House talking about putting in steel.

http://theschwartzhouse.com/Movie.html

DavidC
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Re: movie of Edgar Tafel

Post by DavidC »

Michael D wrote:Here is a movie of Edgar Tafel in the Schwartz House talking about putting in steel.

Thanks for posting that.


David

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