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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West Upgrade, Part 1

Apr 9, 2013 11:21 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

Built in the 30’s and it still looks like the future today, Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, got a complete AV makeover in its famous Cabaret home theater and HomeTech AV Solutions did the job. Jim Beaumont is here to tell us how it came together with an Elan g! control system, coming up right up on the SVC Podcast.

Jim Beaumont, thanks for being with us on the SVC Podcast from HomeTech AV Solutions and this is a very interesting project. I don’t think I’ve talked about one this far off the beaten path before though. Taliesin West, the one-time home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and now the gathering place for architectural students. HomeTech AV Solutions was brought in to make some big changes there. Tell me about HomeTech AV Solutions. What’s been going on there?

Well, we’re a U.S. division of a company that actually started out in Europe, called HomeTech Europe. We started in Seattle originally and then did a lot of work in London and other areas in Europe, and then wound up coming back over to the states mostly through referrals of existing clients and architects and partners. We really seek out installations. We don’t just go after, you know, the standard, typical home that has a cinema and multimedia room. We want to do something that’s out of the ordinary, particularly focusing on historic properties, which is what we’ve specialized in in the London market.

Well certainly not taking the path of least resistance working on historical sites where you’re not always free to do whatever might make a quick and easy AV setup. What is Taliesin West exactly and how did the Energizing Taliesin West Project come about?

So Taliesin West was the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright. He bought the property in the late 30’s and then up until his death in 1957 he just was continually building. He used it basically as an experimental test bed for different building techniques and technologies and he was very much into low-impact building, what we would now call green building. Back in the day he was all about whatever you build should become part of the environment and it should not just be this scar on the earth. One of his most famous projects, Fallingwater, back in Pennsylvania, most people, that’s what they recognize him for. That was the same thing. That house just became part of that hillside and he allowed the river to flow through it. All of that idea and that design and building stuff vetted out in both his houses in Wisconsin and Arizona. He would try new things and see how it worked. It’s on the National Historic Register, and so it’s really particularly hard to do anything there that wasn’t original to the property. [Timestamp: 3:02]

A 1930’s vintage site meets modern AV. Sometimes it’s a shotgun marriage. HomeTech AV didn’t go it alone on this one. It was a big team effort, so who else was working on this project?

The Energizing Taliesin West Project brought about the idea of reducing the energy impact at the facility there, hopefully to come to a green-neutral situation where they’re not using any more power than they’re producing. The first consultant on board was Big Green Zero, and they specialize in energy consulting and reducing your energy usage. They brought in a company by the name of First Solar, who installed the largest private solar botanic generating plant in the United States. It’s huge and it sits down—you can’t see it from the property—that was part of it, that they couldn’t disturb the original feel of the house—so it sits down on the entryway as you come up. That right now is producing 40 percent of the previous power usage at Taliesin West. Now what they needed to do, then, was get the rest of those savings through energy-efficient fixtures; controlling lighting, controlling usage throughout the campus. So that’s where we were brought in along with a lighting design firm by the name of Studio Lux, who is working on re-lamping the entire campus down from incandescent lamps and halogen lamps to LED technology. That, combined with a Lutron dimming system, and then the overlay of the Elan control system, will hopefully help them manage their power consumption down to that point where they’re going to be in the range of between zero and 10 percent of the energy they used to use after this is done. [Timestamp: 4:37]

A very ambitious project.


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