EQC Projects & Details

Mass and Radiant Heat

The architect met Frank Lloyd Wright when he was 11 and studied at Taliesin West in the early 60’s.  You can see it in the glass and the smooth white curves inside.

He showed me his plan for a 23,000sf poured concrete mass with steel frame, concrete floors, and highly articulated metal stud and plaster interior.

Autoclaved Aerated Concrete block seemed a lot easier and at 14 inches had an R value similar to what most construction was achieving (though not the values we aim for today).  Those concrete floors looked ripe for radiant heating and the whole “mass argument” sounded appealing.

But the most significant event in the whole construction occurred in one site meeting.  The ceilings were highly articulated constructions of metal studs—no top plates, just screwed together, and I had no idea how I was going to get it tight.

When the huge shell of AAC was standing, roof trusses were set and I looked up and saw one flat, clear plane of bottom chords.  I told the architect I wanted an air-tight skin on the bottom of those trusses.

All of the mechanical tradesmen rebelled, “we have to come through there with wires and pipes and ducts,” they said.  “Exactly,” I responded.  The architect paused for a moment and said, “That’s what we’re going to do.”  I was saved.

I really didn’t like the idea of having the return ducts under the central hall slab, so I had them made of smooth fiberglass and graded back to the mechanical room.  They’re big enough to crawl through.

All of the floors have radiant heat with anticipatory controls served by a boiler at each end of the home (there are two elevators, too).