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Can FLW "Block" houses Be Built Today?
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RJH



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 682
Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana

PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 10:08 pm    Post subject: Can FLW "Block" houses Be Built Today? Reply with quote

Clearly 1950's FLW houses can't be built today and meet code due to the 1" of fiberglass insulation between the brick. It simply won't meet code R value.

However, what about building with CMU? I see this product being used today and meets code. Is there an insulating product in the cavity? There is obviously more space versus a FLW 9" wall with 1" insulation. Can it meet today's code of a wall R value of 40?

Good question for DRN.
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Wrightgeek



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
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Location: Westerville, Ohio

PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2008 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I realize that this was not necessarily the intended topic of the thread, but an R-40 insulation value for a sidewall? That seems incredibly high, based on my experience working in the building industry for over 20 years.

I certainly am aware that building codes vary by jurisdiction and climate, but here in Central Ohio the sidewall requirement is for a total wall value of R-19, and the ceiling requirement is only R-35. Our climate here is relatively temperate, with summer highs occassionally reaching 100F, and winter lows reaching 0F and sometimes slightly below.

Granted, if I were to build here again, I would almost certainly exceed those minimums, but probably not by more than 15% or so. At some point you reach the point of diminishing returns, and there so many other cost effective means available with today's technology through which significant energy savings can be achieved, IMHO.

Comments? Agree or disagree?
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RJH



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 682
Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana

PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2008 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Correction. Sidewall is not R-40 but R-19.
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rightwaswright



Joined: 03 Apr 2006
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Location: Portland, OR

PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2008 12:13 pm    Post subject: Wright usonians vs current Energy Code. Reply with quote

Most state energy codes have a "prescriptive path" with designated minimum R/U values for exterior envelope components (roof, wall, floor slab perimeter, windows), and a "systems analysis path" which establishes a total building envelope U value and permits extra insulation in one component to compensate for lesser insulation in another.

Whether Wright's block houses could be made to pass a "systems analysis" path for energy code compliance seems doubtful. I suppose if you used insulation liners in the block cells, substituted double insulating glass for Wright's single glass, used as much R-6/inch roof insulation as you could get away with without altering the roofline proportions, and maxed-out your perimeter slab insulation, you might get there.
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RJH:
You can get a CMU wall to meet the current energy codes if built with the proper detailing and insulation...schools do it all the time. There is a product called Korfil which is a styrofoam insert placed into the open cells of a CMU; however this alone will not get you there because of the thermal bridge created by the continuous webs of the block. To address this, the wall would need to be built with two wythes of block (an outer and inner layer) usually with a rigid foam board insulation between. The combo of the Korfil, the thermal break and 2" or 3" of rigid insulation between the wythes will produce a workable wall. A vapor barrier should be sprayed on the exterior face of the inner wythe. I'd still insulate the heck out of the roof (R35) and if a slab on grade is done, insulate under the entire slab.

On a related note, Sweeton was designed to have 2 wythes of 4" thick CMU with a 1" layer of insulation between at the exterior walls of the conditioned space. To save on construction costs, the walls were built with 1 wythe of 8" thick CMU with cells filled with vermiculite for insulation. It's better than no insulation, but only just.
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RJH



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
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Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dan, the Korfil product looks....well...weak. Here is the site:

http://www.cbisinc.com/korfil.html

http://www.cbisinc.com/codes.html

It really gives a low R-value. Why not just spray the entire cavity with foam? Have no idea what R-value would be but it appears better than this.

Gosh. I have to really doubt FLW wanted 2 wyths of CMU for Sweeton. Isn't 4" CMU impossible? It would be a CMU brick.

Usually there were only 2 wyths for brick and stone. Not CMU. You must remember Wright wanted all walls to be as thin as possible. That is why there are 3/4" plywood with b&b. In Haynes and most 1950's brick Usonians Wright called for a 9" double wyth brick wall with 1" of fiberglass insulation. It you used DOW top styrofoam product in the 1" insulation space it would only give you a R-6.5. Therfore, all these 1950's brick Usonians could not be built with 9" walls but would need an insulation cavity going from Wright 1" to 2.5" - 3" for insulation. So, total wall thickness would be 10.5" - 11.0" in order to meet code. Not too bad....I guess?
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At Sweeton, the sections on the drawings indicate a 9" overall wall thickness and 1" insulation between "if desired". CMU standard widths are 3 5/8" (4"), 7 5/8" (8"), and 11 5/8" (12")...available, though less common, are 6" and 10" nominal widths. To achieve a 9" wall thickness with standard CMU and still have a 1" insulation layer, the wall would have been designed as 2 wythes of 4" nominal block with a space between.
As built, where a clean measurement can be taken, the walls measure 7 5/8". Vermiculite occaisonally weeps out of a crack in the CMU where bedroom #1 meets the kitchen mass and in the corresponding wall in the gallery. A building expansion joint would have avoided this, but probably would have spoiled the horizontal lines of the masonry.
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RJH



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dan, I think that is interesting that Wright kept both brick and CMU walls at max 9” (incl. 1” insulation).

In my research of Thaxton there was no 1” insulation space but just one solid CMU. This makes sense since Houston, TX has a warm climate.

I guess essentially if you built a Sweeton today and you wanted to stay true to Wright’s 9” then you can go two 4” CMU with 1” of the DOW product which gives you R-6.5. Couple this with Korfil (I can’t find R-Value) and the airspace this may give you the R-19 needed.

When living in Haynes in dead of winter I felt the main issues are not wall insulation but others areas. The main area I would say is all the glass. Glass draws out heat. Has nothing to do with weather-stripping but simply the mass quantity of surface. The second issue I would say needs to be a better designed radiant floor heating system that has insulation at edges such at the french doors juncture and wall areas. Otherwise, that’s about all I would say is needed.
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Reidy



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't comment on the code issues in the textile block houses, but one reason they were so impractical is that they needed a lot of (unanticipated) hand-finishing by skilled masons. Since building labor is, in real terms, much more expensive now, the would be impossible for economic reasons.
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RJH



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
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Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I can't comment on the code issues in the textile block houses, but one reason they were so impractical is that they needed a lot of (unanticipated) hand-finishing by skilled masons. Since building labor is, in real terms, much more expensive now, the would be impossible for economic reasons.


I think we are all aware of the economic reasons. However, there are some people in some areas of the U.S. who "want" houses like this. I am more interested in examining if it can be successfully built the way Wright visually designed w/o turning out like a Massaro.
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flwright



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Location: Saint John, New Brunswick

PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't forget that concrete is a permeable product and that any moisture that penetrates the exterior should be drained. Current building theory (rain screen) recommends an air space ahead of the insulation thereby increasing the thickness of the wall. You'll also need a good air / vapour retarder. The exterior wythe is purely cosmetic (secondary weather barrier) whereas the interior wythe is the real workhorse (primary weather barrier), contrary to the theories during FLW's time. This is also the same reason that a single wythe application is no longer recommended.
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RJH



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
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Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Don't forget that concrete is a permeable product and that any moisture that penetrates the exterior should be drained. Current building theory (rain screen) recommends an air space ahead of the insulation thereby increasing the thickness of the wall. You'll also need a good air / vapour retarder. The exterior wythe is purely cosmetic (secondary weather barrier) whereas the interior wythe is the real workhorse (primary weather barrier), contrary to the theories during FLW's time. This is also the same reason that a single wythe application is no longer recommended.



DRN says above:
Quote:
A vapor barrier should be sprayed on the exterior face of the inner wythe.

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flwright



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RJH: Yes, I realize I am reiterating the same point as DRN. There is no need to reinforce this since it was intentional on my part.

You failed, however, to acknowledge my main point, that you may require an air space. In your concern for replicating original FLW proportions, I thought this was an important point to bring to your attention since you had neglected to consider this fact in your postings.

Thank you for pointing out the blatantly obvious.
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rightwaswright



Joined: 03 Apr 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isn't 4" CMU impossible? It would be a CMU "brick".

No. Actually 4" modular CMU veneer block is pretty common.

See the link below.

http://www.mutualmaterials.com/Professional_detail.asp?pt_id=120&p_id=277&subarea=Shapes&detail=67&detail2=268
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RJH



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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doing some research I tried to find if a 1950’s brick Usonian such as Haynes can meet current code R-Value.

Examine the roof structure there are certain rafters generally used in the industry. They are:

2 x 4
2 x 6 Haynes
2 x 8
2 x 10
2 x 12

Today, 2 x 10 and 2 x 12 are generally used. There is a real effort to use 2 x 12 because that gives maximum R-Value.

Haynes was built with thin 2 x 6 rafters. This surprised me because it means it is an extremely thin roof. The insulation cavity for a 2 x 6 is only 5.5”. There is also no roof venting on the Haynes design and no mention of it in the working drawings. So, it is safe to assume the full 5.5” was used for insulation. I also gather Wright used 2 x 6 to make the roof thin as possible which gives it the affect of floating (see photo). For the carport roof and flat roofs he specified 2 x 8’s.

Anyway, here is data on current modern materials gathered off manufacturer’s websites. It assumes full 5.5” cavity enclosed with no airspace. (4.5” insulation w/1” airspace assuming venting):

O-C Fiberglass Insulation – R21 (R15)

Spray Foam Icynene Insulation – R19.8 (R16.2)

Dow Styrofoam Board – R27.5 (R26.5)

Polyisocyanurate Foam Board - R35.8 (R29.3)


Some issues are that Polyisocyanurate Foam Board has to be layered since only 1” thickness are available. At least that was what I found on the DOW website. I assume the manufacturer can specially make 5.5” board for the buyer. Also, spray foam, while it has a lower R value, also seals gaps which all the other products fail to do. So, some of the other products can falsely give abnormally high R values.

Wrightgeek mentioned:

Quote:
I certainly am aware that building codes vary by jurisdiction and climate, but here in Central Ohio the sidewall requirement is for a total wall value of R-19, and the ceiling requirement is only R-35. Our climate here is relatively temperate, with summer highs occasionally reaching 100F, and winter lows reaching 0F and sometimes slightly below.



So, it seems the only option to meet R35 code, and have the house built as Wright designed, is to go with 5.5” of Polyiscoyanurate Foam Board w/no airspace which gives you a R35.8. So a Haynes, as far as roof insulation, can meet code and successfully be built today as Wright drew.

Thoughts? Also, the R19 wall insulation is anothe rissue. 1" cavity filled with Poly. Foam Board yields only R6.5.


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