SALT LAKE CITY, UT — If your moniker includes the two names “Lloyd Wright,” you have a lot to live up to. Considered by many as the greatest architect of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright set an example of design excellence that would be hard for anyone to live up to. But his grandson is doing a pretty good job, thank you.

Eric Lloyd Wright, grandson of the world-famous architect, was the featured keynote speaker at the RPA conference. Before a packed auditorium of interested radiant heating contractors, Wright talked about his passions and how they took root while working with his grandfather.

Wright started out talking about his Welsh background and how both the Welsh culture and Chinese culture influenced his grandfather. Like his grandfather before him, he believes in “organic architecture,” which “works with nature rather than against it.”

Wright has designed many homes that blend into hills or mountains, utilizing berms to provide protection from exposed northern walls while employing an abundance of glass windows on the southern side. When asked why he doesn’t simply build a home on top of a mountain rather than on the side, he responds, “that would break up the mountain.”

Wright is currently building his own home in Malibu, CA, in the side of a hill, high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He and his wife are living in a trailer on the property while construction is ongoing.

But Wright-designed homes don’t always burrow into hillsides or spread out expansively. Eric Wright showed homes designed by his grandfather that were modest in size (1,200 sq ft), which had slab floors poured over 2-in. steel pipe. The pipe carried steam, which was used to heat the floors.

Of course, the elder Wright also designed homes of several thousand square feet as well as memorable commercial buildings throughout the U.S. and the world. However, despite the uniqueness of the features that are visible on the outside, Frank Lloyd Wright felt that what was inside was more important.

The younger Wright quoted his grandfather. “The reality of the building is not the walls of the building but the space within.”

Sidebar: Radiant Contractors Share Nightmares

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — A panel of radiant heating contractors opened up the floor to discussions about “radiant nightmares” — tales of jobs gone awry due to installation errors or unforeseen circumstances.

Ted Lowe, president of the Radiant Panel Association, told of a problem sometimes encountered by homeowners: hungry rodents. He used the example of a homeowner whose vacation home was flooded with 3 ft of water after rodents chewed through a potable water supply line. Since the homeowners rarely used the home, the leak went undetected for weeks and valuable hardwood floors were destroyed.

Lowe said that some rats chew through tough PEX tubing simply because the tubing “is in their way.”

He also talked about a visit to a customer’s home where he was hired to blow out the tubing. He said he found what looked to be sand in the tubes. It turned out that the installing contractor had used automobile anti-freeze in the system instead of the proper, compatible antifreeze. Over time, the wrong antifreeze had formed a silicate in the system that resembled sand.

One contractor in the group talked about a hot water line that was inadvertently hooked into a toilet. The result was 140°F water flowing into the bowl, which melted the wax seal rings at the base of the bowl and destroyed the surrounding teakwood floors.

Another contractor was called to a home to service the radiant system and found that a supply line had been mistakenly hooked up to a refrigerator’s ice maker.

Lowe said that the lesson learned from the mistakes made by installing contractors is this: “It is important that radiant contractors explain and communicate every aspect of the job to the [technicians and] homeowners. You are introducing something new to the heating process, and it is imperative that you cover all bases.”

Publication date: 06/11/2001