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Usonian Basements?
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Rood



Joined: 30 Oct 2010
Posts: 1093
Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On one particularly cold winter day in the chilly office at Taliesin West, while working with Susan (Lockhart), she suggested we get warm by running up and down, and back and forth in the office ... saying that's what they often did on cold winter days in their first Usonian house in Madison.

Giggling, we both did for a few minutes ... run back and forth, ... and it worked. Of course it wasn't raining that day, so we didn't have to dodge pots and pails catching dripping rainwater, here-and-there.
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 9737

PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SDR, Hanna has forced air. The temperature fluctuations in California are such that heating and cooling a slab of concrete takes too much time, while a cool-enough-for-heating nighttime can turn into a mid-70s daytime in a flash.

Pew has a narrow gap between each floorboard so the heat from the pipes can warm the house without having to transfer through solid wood. The same is true of the living room at Lloyd Lewis.
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 9737

PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

yellowcat, my folks built a slab-on-grade house in Minnesota in 1960 with forced air. It was perfectly quiet and efficient. The same vents doubled for the central air conditioning. (Mother, a Norwegian, kept the house so cold in the summer, you could have hung a side of beef from the living room ceiling!)

I assume new radiators are not like the old ones, which made a LOT of noise. But they are still hot spots you don't want to come into physical contact with. The type with below-grade, in- or near-the-slab pipes has the problem of costing a huge amount of money if it fails. Jacobs I and Zimmerman both had to rip their concrete floors out to fix the failed system. Sol Friedman converted to a standard radiator system with the contraptions contained within wood cabinetry. Their cat, which was used to the warm floors, was not amused.
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yellowcat



Joined: 22 Apr 2016
Posts: 28
Location: Hagerstown, MD

PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is an interesting book published in 2014 entitled "Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything" by Salvatore Basile. It's a fairly quick read that moves right along, as that history is not a very long story to begin with!

I would love to find a good unbiased book that traces the history of residential heating systems. It does seem like a perfectly logical progression from open combustion (wood & coal) to cast iron steam radiators, then turning the entire floor into a radiator, then eliminating the steam part with a hot water pump. Then eliminating any onsite combustion altogether with electricity, etc.

If anyone can direct me to such a reference book I would much appreciate it. It appears that home heating systems are not going to get any simpler to install or maintain in the future!
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 3862
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2019 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sweeton has an 8'x16' basement beneath its kitchen. The kitchen floor slab spans the space and has no radiant pipes in it...the warmth of the basement and the supply and return pipes running through the space keep the floor quite warm.
To keep the house footprint tight, the boiler was always intended to be under the kitchen. Where to put the stairs and how they were to be configured changed with each iteration of the design. Wright originally intended the house to be at the edge of an embankment which would have allowed an on grade door to the basement, but cost issues moved the house back onto flat ground. Interior stairs were shown in two locations/configurations, and later two different configurations of exterior stairs were explored. The final as built version was a straight run with fewer risers (13 total) than initially planned with shallower treads and taller risers (8" riser, 8" tread)..I'll send a pic for SDR to post.

Radiant pipes...from the homeowners I have met and discussed the issue with and the two repairs we have made, I can confidently assert the following:
1. Steel/iron pipes tend to fail as a result of wetting from their outsides (ground water, roof drainage seeping under or through slabs/shallow foundations, leaking fountains or pools)
2. steel/iron pipe systems should NEVER be drained and left empty as corrosion of the inner pipe surface will start immediately...fully charged with old funky black water at all times is GOOD.
3. steam heating in steel/iron pipes as at Jacobs I originally sets up interior corrosion when the system is powered down each summer.
4. Copper pipes are not fail proof either...a Louis Kahn house owner in Cherry Hill and about a thousand Levitt homeowners will attest that copper pipes and the chemical reaction with concrete and its admixtures can cause systemic failure of in slab copper piping.
5. Nothing lasts forever...all systems fail eventually. We just maintain it as best we can, fix it as possible and practical, knock on wood a lot, and enjoy it immensely while it lasts.
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 9737

PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2019 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you build in an earthquake active zone, an advantage of a poured concrete basement is to lessen the damage to the house. Ginny Kazor owns a large craftsman house (1908) with a partial basement under the kitchen and breakfast rooms only. The 1994 Northridge earthquake shook the house violently and almost toppled the chimney, except where the basement was located. That section of the house was completely undamaged. Of course, in California, most houses are just tossed on the ground and made to fend for themselves in times of trouble.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 18530
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2019 8:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dan writes, "A pic of the steep and at times slippery Sweeton basement stair...the pipes are conduit for electric runs to mini splits for humidity control, and power to a septic system pump..all were added after the original build.


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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 18530
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2019 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Radiators are noisy only when misused. A single-pipe steam system relies on the user not trying to employ the valve as a temperature regulator; the heat is
either "on" or "off." If the valve is shut while the radiator is hot (i.e., filled with steam), the condensed water will be trapped. If the valve is then opened during
that or another heating cycle, the cold water draining back down the pipe will react with the incoming steam, resulting in the hammering one associates with
these appliances.

A two-pipe system presumably prevents this misfortune---and delivers heat that can be regulated with the valve, to boot.

S
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peterm



Joined: 13 Mar 2008
Posts: 6152
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2019 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DRN wrote:


Radiant pipes...from the homeowners I have met and discussed the issue with and the two repairs we have made, I can confidently assert the following:
1. Steel/iron pipes tend to fail as a result of wetting from their outsides (ground water, roof drainage seeping under or through slabs/shallow foundations, leaking fountains or pools)
2. steel/iron pipe systems should NEVER be drained and left empty as corrosion of the inner pipe surface will start immediately...fully charged with old funky black water at all times is GOOD.
3. steam heating in steel/iron pipes as at Jacobs I originally sets up interior corrosion when the system is powered down each summer.
4. Copper pipes are not fail proof either...a Louis Kahn house owner in Cherry Hill and about a thousand Levitt homeowners will attest that copper pipes and the chemical reaction with concrete and its admixtures can cause systemic failure of in slab copper piping.
5. Nothing lasts forever...all systems fail eventually. We just maintain it as best we can, fix it as possible and practical, knock on wood a lot, and enjoy it immensely while it lasts.


Great advice, Dan! Thanks
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 18530
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2019 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wonder if anyone has used a pedestal floor in residential construction. Here's a potential solution to heating---pipes, or air---as well as access to utilities, etc ?

https://www.tournesol.com/product/versijack-deck-paver-pedestal-system/

S
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yellowcat



Joined: 22 Apr 2016
Posts: 28
Location: Hagerstown, MD

PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems that both the heating and cooling of an entire structure has always been a distribution problem. I believe that Mr. Wright intuitively understood the role that thermal mass could contribute to organic architecture and applied it with great success, for both heating and cooling.

I have been curious for some time about one sentence in the John Sergeant book "Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Houses". On page 86 under the topic of Organic Houses near the end there is a sentence which reads "One project in Acapulco, Mexico, was to be cooled by chimney downdrafts directed through water sprays".

Does anyone know how far along this project or this concept progressed? Or even in what year that might have been considered?
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Reidy



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
Posts: 1553
Location: Fremont CA

PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The only Acapulco project I know of was a quite lavish one for Raul Bailleres in 1952. He eventually built with Lautner.
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 9737

PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SDR, that pedestal floor is similar to the ancient heating system FLW found in Japan, with tiles that funneled hot air back and forth under the floor ... sort of a wood-burning version of his own system.
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 9737

PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reidy, are you referring to Lautner's house in Acapulco? That spectacular house was designed for Jeronimo Arango, not Raul Bailleres.
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Reidy



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
Posts: 1553
Location: Fremont CA

PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're right.
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