Frank Lloyd Wright is unquestionably one of the greatest architects of all times. Experts have said that he was uniquely endowed with supernatural imagination and vision. Wright is known for his organic, architectural flair and avant-garde designs that use aesthetic elements, complete with cantilevered floors that defy gravity. Among his most famous designs are Falling Read more
Frank Lloyd Wright is unquestionably one of the greatest architects of all times. Experts have said that he was uniquely endowed with supernatural imagination and vision.
Wright is known for his organic, architectural flair and avant-garde designs that use aesthetic elements, complete with cantilevered floors that defy gravity. Among his most famous designs are Falling Water, the Dwight D. Martin House and the Price Tower.
Wright’s Bachman Wilson House was originally built in 1954 along the Millstone River in the National Historic District of the Borough of Millstone, NJ. It was one of his “Usonian” style homes – a distinctly “American” style house that was available and affordable to all, yet with an open floor plan, integrated with nature.
Wright designed Usonian homes to be built with only four different tradesmen: a plumber, an electrician, a mason and a carpenter. He brought the Bachman Wilson House to life with only cement block, concrete, glass and mahogany.
An architect/designer team – Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino – purchased the house in 1988. They restored it meticulously. The Hillsborough Township, NJ-based Tarantino Architect has led the restoration of numerous other Frank Lloyd Wright houses.
In August of 2011, Hurricane Irene hit the Northeast like a runaway freight train. The Millstone River flooded the Tarantino property, sending six feet of river water through the building, resulting in extensive damage to the home. In order for the Bachman Wilson House to live on as a historic monument, it had to be moved.
The Tarantinos decided that selling the house to an institution willing and able to relocate it was the best option for its preservation. Following several years of research for a potential buyer, they sold the home, (complete with all furnishings and interior fixtures) to Crystal Bridges Museum in 2013, who would turn it into a year-round, historical exhibit.
In April of 2014, Wright’s masterpiece was carefully disassembled, board-by-board. Each section was laboriously inventoried, labeled and wrapped for transit. J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. charitably donated its services, transporting the house to Arkansas at no cost to Crystal Bridges.
Two giant shipping containers were carefully loaded with the dismantled house. One container made the entire 1,235-mile trek via tractor-trailer (taking over 24 hours), while the other was an intermodal transit, using both rail and road.
The construction team that the museum put together is now in the throes of piecing the house back together on site at Crystal Bridges’ 120-acre property in the Northwestern corner of Arkansas.
Director of Operations, Scott Eccleston, estimated that it would take a year to fully reassemble and finish the house.
The home’s front façade, with concrete block and mahogany trim, has a nearly fortress-like appearance that ensured privacy from the street in its original suburban location. Inside, 14-foot-tall, floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows tower over the open floor plan with red concrete floors, imprinted to show the grid work pattern that Frank Lloyd Wright used to design his homes– another architectural facet Wright loved to incorporate.
Even though Wright designed the home in 1954, it was wildly futuristic at the time. Aside from modern aesthetic characteristics, the Bachman Wilson House is equipped with green building components, such as passive solar through abundant use of natural light, and in-floor hydronic radiant heat.
An exacting rebuild
The museum team is using the same methods Frank Lloyd Wright used in the original design for the reconstruction process – even down to using the same nail and screw holes.
The only exception was not an alteration – it was an addition. A basement area was added to the new design so that a mechanical room could be installed out-of-sight for museumgoers. Metal decking fastened to steel joists was chosen to support the concrete floor.
Wright was one of the very first architects to use hydronic radiant heat as a key to clean, uncluttered design, chiefly because it eliminated visible heating elements such as ducts and a variety of terminal units. And while the original hydronic system used copper piping, the museum knowingly avoided that because of the frailty of copper when embedded in concrete. PEX tubing was chosen to transport heated fluids in the floors.
Using a grid system to build the Bachman Wilson House, Wright cast the grid lines right into the concrete – creating blocks that measure four-foot by four-foot. The grid lines (lettered horizontally and numbered vertically), show where all the homes’ major elements align, so that when it was built (and now being rebuilt) workers knew, for example, that the fireplace would start exactly on grid D13 and end on E13.
“Every element in the home is on the grid or half-grid,” explained Bill Faber, president of Bentonville, AR-based Bill Faber Construction, the general contractor. “Reconstructing a house that’s been built and disassembled once before is like a jigsaw puzzle. We’re using the original boards and material to rebuild it, so everything has to piece together perfectly – including the new concrete floors – down to less than a sixteenth of an inch.”
So that workers could make exact grooves to match the original grid work in the concrete without having to reach too far with the groove-making tool – potentially causing mistakes or damage – the concrete had to be poured in alternating eight-foot wide by 20-foot long strips.
Workers first installed Watts RadiantPEX+ tubing in alternating sections, with terminations in the basement below, leaving other sections untouched so that they could work in the areas without causing damage.
“Another tricky piece to the puzzle was the patio in front, and to the side of the Bachman Wilson House,” said Faber. “Because of year-round visitors from the museum, Crystal Bridges needed to ensure a safe and dry environment in the occasion of snow.”
“The patio was heated with radiant snowmelt. Wright designed the home so that the entire structure – patio and all – would have one big concrete slab foundation,” said Cary Pestel, owner of Tulsa, OK-based Boone & Boone Sales, the manufacturers representative firm for the job.
To accommodate those plans, the 1,400 s.f. patio was included in the sections to be poured. The interior sections of radiant will have a steady 126°F flow of water going through it. The patio is warmed with a 50% glycol/water mix running at a constant 136°F.
“The sectioned radiant installation and concrete pour also ensured that if there was ever damage to one section of the floor throughout the whole rebuilding process, only that section would need to be repaired, instead of having to jackhammer the whole thing and start over again,” explained Pestel.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not Home Decor
The Bachman Wilson House was designed with a second story – which is rare for a Wright home. Adding to the oddity are the home’s original, built-in mahogany beds, which appear to grow out of the mahogany flooring. Conventional forced air heating and cooling is delivered to the two bedrooms and a bathroom up there. The air moves through hidden vents – some visible only by close inspection under abandoned, but still standing radiators (vestiges of the original heating system), or tucked within the bedframes.
A basement mechanical room is now the main area of operations for all things mechanical and hydronic. A modulating 104 to 285 MBH Viessmann Vitodens boiler will provide for all radiant heating and snowmelt.
To conserve space and on-site mechanical fabrication time, Pestel specified the installation of three Watts Radiant Hydronex panels. The preassembled, pre-engineered hydronic control panels include a PM-4-PO primary panel, a DD-2-2 direct panel for distribution to the snow-melted surfaces, and a D-Mix, DM-2-2 for the inside floors.
“We’ll use the tekmar 664 snow-melt control with their outdoor slab sensor to control the snow-melt,” said Pestel. “Also, we’ll use the Tek519 thermostats for the inside zones. These will be mounted in the basement so they won’t be seen on the walls upstairs. They weren’t available in Frank Lloyd Wright’s times, so we are hiding them.
“Additionally, we’ll use in-slab sensors for the concrete floors, with wiring that’s run into sleeves that were installed under the slab prior to pouring the floors,” he said.
Arkansas summers can reach highs in excess of 100°F, with sweltering humidity. Winter temperatures can dip into the negatives, all while holding that same humidity level. To reduce the possibility of sweating, thin vents in the concrete floor below the authentic single-pane glass walls and windows will constantly bathe the windows in dry air
“Because this area is so humid, we also installed a whole-house dehumidifier system in the basement,” said Jeff Handley, owner of Seligman, MO-based Handley Heating. “An open plenum return pulls air from several different locations in the house to the basement, where it is dehumidified before being introduced back into the HVAC system.”
“For everyone involved in the process of rebuilding the Bachman Wilson House, it was a job unlike any before it. Disassembly, relocation and reconstruction of a historical masterpiece – saving it from what otherwise would have been its certain demise – was an amazing feat,” said Eccleston.
The Bachman Wilson House is now open to Frank Lloyd Wright devotees and museumgoers. Crystal Bridges Museum draws more than 500,000 visitors a year. People from all over the country schedule trips to Bentonville just to see the house.
by Jay Peters, principal advisor, Codes and Standards International Everyday across the globe, injuries, deaths and property destruction result from fire related events in structures. Interestingly enough these fires occur even though there were fire safety precautions incorporated into the buildings – from sprinkler systems to firestopping of wall, floor and ceilings penetrations. Just as Read more
by Jay Peters, principal advisor, Codes and Standards International
Everyday across the globe, injuries, deaths and property destruction result from fire related events in structures. Interestingly enough these fires occur even though there were fire safety precautions incorporated into the buildings – from sprinkler systems to firestopping of wall, floor and ceilings penetrations. Just as important to consider is the fact that many of these structural losses, and the associated tragedy, is thwarted every day due to these safety precautions being installed – correctly.
A raging building fire will use any opportunity to circulate deadly gases, toxic smoke, and flames through penetrations into areas that were supposed to be protected – even the smallest opening or seam around a plumbing pipe, conduit or wire can become a direct passage.
Firestopping is a fire defense system that is critical yet often times not given credit for its importance in preventing loss of life by preventing products of combustion from spreading throughout a building. It is not an “active” fire suppression system such as a sprinkler system designed to extinguish a fire once started, but rather a “passive” firestopping system that is intended to contain a fire from spreading flame and smoke.
Just as contractors and installers consider their individual trades (plumbing, HVAC, etc.) to be held sacred, scientific and precise, the act of installing these important life safety products should be considered to be just as important to maintaining the integrity of the structure while reducing risk to occupants and the building. In fact, firestopping crosses all trades and industries on the job site and is as important as any other trade to contributing to the overall durability and reliability of the final structure.
A firestop system consists of materials installed and intended to retain the integrity of fire-resistance rated construction components by maintaining an effective barrier against the spread of flame, smoke and hot gases from breeching the structural member through penetrations or gaps in walls, ceilings and floors caused by other components, such as piping, conduit, cables and wires or building seams.
Just as a trained installer can save a contractor on the job thousands of dollars in the long run, a job that is not manned by a trained installer could cost as much or more in time and money. Many times a special inspector is charged with verifying compliance during and after the installation is complete. A savvy inspector, steeped in the intricacies of firestop materials and penetrations is a caulk-and-walk firestop installer’s worst nightmare. Before grabbing a caulking gun, a tube of red caulk, some mineral wool and heading to the job site to save some money, it is important to understand that it is much more complicated. In fact, there are thousands of different types of systems and installation methods created by many different manufacturers. Typically, there are several diverse and different systems on the same job site and more than a basic understanding is necessary to be a competent installer.
Firestopping materials are specialized systems and consist of materials that differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Manufacturers such as 3M, Hilti and STI, have diverse and differing product lines made of everything from intumescent and endothermic caulks, to solid strips of materials, variations of cement and putty-like material. They have ratings that are imperative to understand and apply accordingly to the types of penetrations and material penetrating the walls ceilings roofs and floors. The appropriate “F” and “T” ratings should be understood and chosen.
If it is an afterthought, it’s too late
Does it matter what type of building material is penetrating the wall when choosing the firestop system? Of course it does. One firestop material does not fit all applications. A polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) drain, waste, or vent (DWV) piping system needs much more intricate and expensive protection than a cast iron pipe penetrating the same wall, due to the fact that they are combustible materials. A contractor or designer should evaluate the true installed cost to protect each of these different penetrations at the beginning of the project and not treat this as an afterthought. In fact, using the plastic and cast iron example, a contractor may evaluate and find it less expensive on the material cost to use a plastic DWV piping system rather than cast iron piping system, only to discover that it would have been less expensive to have chosen the cast iron plumbing system due to the added expense of the complex firestopping systems required for plastic pipe penetrations.
Firestopping is one of the most misunderstood areas in construction. For example, an installation can be the correct firestop, but the wrong application. It’s important to know the proper system for the right application as there are intricacies that require knowledge and skill in their installation and inspection. Do not make firestop an afterthought. It is not just a tube of red caulk and some rock wool.
Above: No firestopping product has an hour rating on its own. The hour rating is determined by the Listed System and must be installed in accordance with the appropriate listing for the correct application. Remember, while a tube of caulk may say it can provide up to 4 hours of protection that is only true when installed as the appropriate listing states.
Safe installations will contain materials that are tested and listed to meet the industry standards created by standards developers, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Factory Mutual (FM) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). They will be installed by contractors and installers that are trained by leading industry trade associations such as the Firestop Contractors International Association (FCIA) and the end product will be inspected by agencies and inspectors that are accredited by the International Accreditation Service and International Firestop Council (IFC).
When completed correctly, the penetrations should be protected and follow the strict code provisions contained within the building, fire, electrical, plumbing and mechanical codes authored by the International Code Council (ICC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO).
Below: A simple firestop caulk to protect annular space with cast iron piping.
Below: A firestop device collar as part of a complex firestop system that is required for protection of polyvinyl chloride piping.
More questions than answers?
If you can’t answer these questions then you either need more training or additional help from a certified firestop company.
- Is the Installing contractor licensed?
- Is the contractor’s installer trained and certified?
- Is the right combination of systems installed? In the correct locations?
- Is it certified or listed for the application and type of penetration?
- Has the system been inspected per the building code?
- Is the inspector certified to inspect the intricate systems and identify the proper certifications? Has a log been made of every firestop penetration system?
- Is there a maintenance inspection plan in place?
If you are not trained, licensed, certified or experienced in the intricacies of inspecting or installing complex firestop systems in a structure, it is simple…either get trained, or just don’t take on the risk! More than just saving money, a properly planned, installed and inspected firestop system saves lives.
About the author Jay Peters
For more than 35 years, Peters has been active in the plumbing and mechanical trades as a journeyman, contractor, instructor, and senior staff for ICC and IAPMO. His firm, Codes and Standards International, represents manufacturers and industry stakeholders at technical codes and standards meet- ings, regulatory, and legislative hearings; and navigation of product testing, listing, and certification processes at ICC, IAPMO, NSF, UL and more. He can be reached directly at jay@b uildingc odesAndStandards.com.
On April 20th, Watts Water Technologies had their grand opening of the Watts Works Learning Center, a state-of-the-art facility where customers, distributors, sales representatives, and others can obtain hands-on experience with the Company’s plumbing, HVAC, and water quality products and technologies. The 12,000-square-foot facility includes configurable classrooms, demonstration labs, and working mechanical rooms that showcase Read more
On April 20th, Watts Water Technologies had their grand opening of the Watts Works Learning Center, a state-of-the-art facility where customers, distributors, sales representatives, and others can obtain hands-on experience with the Company’s plumbing, HVAC, and water quality products and technologies. The 12,000-square-foot facility includes configurable classrooms, demonstration labs, and working mechanical rooms that showcase Watts products in action.
In an interview with Plumbing Perspective, Robert J Pagano, Jr., CEO of Watts Water Technologies, discussed the Watts mission to provide contractors the tools necessary to provide the best value and service to their customers. “Our world-class learning facility is just one component in our ongoing investment in our customers,” said Robert J Pagano, Jr. “Through the Watts Works learning program, we are providing customers the opportunity to enhance their skills and knowledge of a broad range of plumbing, HVAC, and water quality products. In our comprehensive classes led by professional instructors and in hands-on demonstration labs, customer will be able to enrich their professional skills.”
Based at Watts headquarters in North Andover, MA, the Watts Works Learning Center is the Company’s flagship facility in an enhanced learning program that includes venues at other Watts Americas locations. Through the program, courses in four categories will be offered: pressure regulation & control, HVAC (hydronic and electric), cross-connection control, and temperature regulation & control.
Contractors will receive hands-on demonstrations of the entire Watts product portfolio including both residential and commercial products. Contractors will be able to take products apart and put them back together again for improved installation skills and proper diagnostics on service calls. The new Learning Center will include four dedicated industry specialists to help train and educate contractors daily. “Our products have specific specifications to work effectively so this will help give contractors tools to be successful in their installations.” Said Pagano.
The grand opening was celebrated with a tour of the new facility by more than 450 guests, including customers, sales representatives, associates, and invited guests.
Contractors are encouraged to work closely with their local Watts representative for more information or to schedule training at the new Watts Works Learning Center.
Watch video of the Watts Grand Opening ribbon cutting.
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The Watts Water Learning Center officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. From left, Watts Water Technologies executives Tim O’Neil, SVP and Director of Operations; Chris Jamieson, VP Marketing; Peter Parsons, Training Manager; TJ Pearce, VP Finance; Timothy P. Horne, Director Emeritus; Todd Trapp, CFO; Bob Pagano, CEO; Munish Nanda, President, Americas and Europe; Debra Ogston, CHRO; Roberto Vengoechea, Backflow and Valves Platform Leader; Andrew Windsor, VP Sales – Americas; and Per Thanning Johansen, Global Drains Platform Leader.
A March 2011 study by Colloquy showed that 75% of people will let people know they are unhappy with a product or service, compared to 42% who share products and service that they are happy with. The study goes on to say that even those who are happy consumers who recommend companies to others, will Read more
A March 2011 study by Colloquy showed that 75% of people will let people know they are unhappy with a product or service, compared to 42% who share products and service that they are happy with.
The study goes on to say that even those who are happy consumers who recommend companies to others, will share bad news. 31% claimed they are more likely to share an unhappy experience than a positive one.
The study goes on to share that there are three distinct groups we need to be aware of:
Advocates: will recommend favorites, but not a lot of followers.
Connectors: they have lots of followers, but are not vocal about their experiences.
Champions: they are vocal and well-connected, have followers they frequently contact, both family and friends.
So about 1/3 of the population falls into the Champion category, which is good to know. What is not good is to realize that we have a sub-set of the Champion group who are far more likely to spread a bad experience than a good one, a group that can wreak havoc on your brand very quickly.
Here are some statistics to be aware of.
- It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep one you already have.
- Increasing customer retention rates by 5%, increases profits by up to 95%.
- 83% of customers say that a loyalty program makes it more likely to continue doing business with a company.
- A company has a 60-70% probability of converting an existing customer to a sale, on a new prospect, only 5-20%.
- Existing customers spend 67% more than new customers.
They already know you, your products, your services, and you have a relationship in place. So it is easier for them to open their wallets for your products rather than a new customer.
Here are some lessons from this information to apply to your plumbing business. First, make sure you recognize the Champions, they have a voice in the marketplace, and will use it to share experiences. Second, it is the bad experiences that impact our lives and maybe even survival as a human being. We are mesmerized by accidents, floods, earthquakes, sometimes thinking we are glad it is not us, but we just can’t look away. In fact, the brain detects negative information faster than positive.
In a business relationship, it typically takes 5 positive events to match up to 1 negative. The old “Atta-boy” rule. We want to share the bad and wait to share the good. That is why websites like Yelp have such power; even we go to them to see how a painter, roofer, and landscaper does in the real world. Not just how good “they” say they are but what the “customers” say.
The harsh reality is that the customer has a lot of power today. Thus, the phrase “The customer is always right!” This phrase is not always true of course. What is true, however, is that they always “believe” they are right, even when they may be wrong! In some cases, it may even be best to fire a customer, one who is taking up too much time and causing strife in your team. But it must be done politely and gently today to avoid poor publicity and reviews on social media sites and review sites like Yelp and on Google. But you should always have a plan on how to deal with mean or threatening customers.
So if a bad experience occurs, and they will from time to time, handle it fast. Make sure your team has the tools and authority to make decisions necessary to make the customer happy. You want to keep the customer in the family, customers who had a problem that was solved fast bought more and became more loyal than ones who had a problem that was not addressed. Even more important, only 1 in 26 complain, the other 25 take their business somewhere else.
Finally, realize why customers leave:
- 1% die
- 3% move
- 5% buy from a friend in biz
- 9% buy at lower price
- 14% lost to unadjusted complaints…
- 68% leave because of an attitude of indifference an apparent lack of interest by any one employee!
Lesson here: everyone is in sales! Let each employee know how important they are to keeping customers and growing the business. Employees tend to follow the lead of their leaders, which starts at the top.
By Marjorie Adams One of the biggest worries for plumbing contractors, franchise owners and office supervisors is managing their field staff, the technicians who are always remote and on the go. Keeping tabs on your staff’s productivity and customer service skills, as well as their technical abilities, can spell the difference between having a thriving Read more
By Marjorie Adams
One of the biggest worries for plumbing contractors, franchise owners and office supervisors is managing their field staff, the technicians who are always remote and on the go. Keeping tabs on your staff’s productivity and customer service skills, as well as their technical abilities, can spell the difference between having a thriving plumbing practice with lots of referrals versus bad online reviews and less business.
Managing a service staff is easier said than done, but there are a number of recommendations you can put to use right away:
- Improve Your Work Order System. Probably the most powerful way to keep tabs on remote employees is to automate your workflow. Using field service software will allow you to more easily schedule your plumbers, track how long they take to complete a job and get to the next one, and manage your accounting. With field service management software, your main office is always in touch with the your team. This kind of system also manages employees, inventory and invoicing, and integrates with your accounting system. We prefer Intuit Field Service Management, but there are many great options out there like Jobber, Service Titan, FieldAware, Electronic Service Control, Service Pro, Service Max, etc.
- Go Green with Timesheets. Use an online timesheet that employees access from their mobile device or tablet. This streamlines your payroll process because time tracking uploads directly to your accounting software; it also saves time deciphering handwritten timesheets that get lost or crumpled during a plumber’s busy day. Some systems even notify you if an employee doesn’t clock in as scheduled.
- Customer Survey. Nothing replaces direct feedback from your customers. If you haven’t already, implement a customer survey process. As soon as a job is complete, email or text the customer a link to a survey. You can use SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, Typeform or another online tool. While this is a great overall business strategy, also be prepared to contact the customer if you get negative feedback. Either way, it’s better hearing directly from an unhappy client so that you can take steps before they post a negative review online. See more advice on this below.
- Create Processes. Document your processes and train your employees on them. Ensure you share what you expect them to do. Think beyond human resources. Here are a few examples:
- Create Great First Impressions. Just like how you answer the phone is important in establishing long-lasting customer relationships, the way the plumber initiates the house call can make a big impression on a client. Have a consistent approach to introducing yourselves.
- Provide Accurate Estimates. Whether you submit a proposal before a big job or estimate the cost on the spot, providing accurate and detailed estimates can go a long way. Your employee needs to understand the proposal process and how to handle pushback.
- Stay in touch. Staying in touch with clients will encourage repeat business. The app, GetCru, allows customers to request service via text. It also helps you stay connected with customers, and allows all communication between the staff and customer to be located in a central system.
- Manage Complaints. Having a standard response and process for customer complaints can help a plumber get out of a sticky situation more easily.
Managing an on-the-go staff has its challenges, but doing it well can cut down on employee turnover and improve customer satisfaction. These ideas can help you get there.
About Marjorie Adams
Marjorie Adams is president/CEO of Fourlane, a firm that improves the efficiency of client accounting departments through bookkeeping, tax, software consulting and business process training. Marjorie has set up back office processes for plumbing contractors, HVAC service companies, and pool and spa maintenance companies that, among other things, improve their ability to monitor staff. The firm specializes in showing customers that they can continue in higher level QuickBooks products as they grow.