Friday, December 2, 2016

A Usonian style house built with SIPs?

I have written about this before, but I have long considered the viability as well as the desirability of an updated Usonian style home in today's market? I wonder how many people would be willing to do what it would take to build such a home? Arranging for financing, finding a builder, getting code compliance approval could be difficult. And then what kind of compromises would the owner want to or be willing to make as far as materials used inside and out would need to be considered.

I truly love Wright's Usonian houses! They are beautiful and unique. They were built in a time when skilled labor and materials were far less costly than today and allowed the creation of these architectural gems. I would love to live in one, or something very similar to one, But when we built our home, I felt it was simply out of the question considering my budget at the time and our building site.

Wright designed his Usonian homes to utilize a slab foundation with a central masonry core (fireplace) as well as other masonry elements at the perimeters to support the roof structure. Most of the exterior walls were either thin board and batten walls or window walls. While the board and batten walls and window walls supported some of the roof load, the majority of the weight and side load strength of the home was provided by the masonry elements.

A Usonian style home built with SIPs could probably do without the structural masonry elements for support. However, I feel that having some brick or textured concrete elements would add to the appeal of the home and could also be used in place of more expensive natural wood in many vertical areas.

SIP walls would work well with the slab foundation. And they offer the ability to erect the structure very quickly. With the slab and masonry core in place, the SIP walls could arrive on a truck and be erected in a day. The home could also be built with conventional stick framing but utilizing SIPs would add better energy efficiency as well as speed construction time. I believe FLLW would have liked the capabilities and features of SIPs if they have been available in his time.

SIPs could be used to simplify the roof structure also. However, Again, once the walls were in place, the SIP roof panels could be quickly craned into place. You could also utilize conventional flat trusses or some form of TJI for the roof structure. Utilizing SIPs for the roof would be more costly, but it would speed up the construction time.

The last major issue I see with this type of t a home would be the challenge of staying true to the original design intent while substituting exterior and interior finish materials for the copious amounts of wood that Wright used. This is something I need to put some thought and research into. I am just not sure what the answer should be. One example would be the windows and doors. Wright used wooden doors and windows, but then, that was the only option available other than steel frames. Today, I think you could use any number of jamb materials including anodized aluminum. This would look different than a Wright Usonian home, but you would not be trying to replicate it detail for detail.

In my mind I can see the genesis of the design. The structure would look very similar in nature, some materials would look the same yet others would be different. The goal would be to create a home where the materials work together along with the design to create a unique home in the FLLW Usonian style.

In spite of these numerous challenges, I am still intent on recreating a Usonian style design to offer for sale as plans. More to come in the future. My next task is to consult with a SIPs manufacturer regarding such a project.