Mon. Mar 27th, 2023

On a current Wednesday afternoon inside a 67,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Reno, Nevada, a big machine was moving a fluffy, off-white material by way of a series of drum rollers. The substance was getting layered into thick panels of insulation produced from a material not frequently located inside walls in properties: wool.

“Hot, cold, warm, dry – wool does it all,” mentioned Andrew Legge, founder and managing companion of Havelock Wool.

Havelock Wool insulation made of sheep wool lines the walls of a house located on Gray’s Crossing Golf Course in Truckee, Calif.

Ryan Salm


Ryan Salm Photography

Havelock Wool insulation produced of sheep wool lines the walls of a property positioned on Gray’s Crossing Golf Course in Truckee, Calif.

The business tends to make insulation goods totally out of sheep wool. Legge began the business in response to the lack of healthful and sustainable options in the insulation sector.

“As an insulator, we’d like to say that evolution has occurred in nature’s R&ampD division – not in some lab making a synthetic fiber that is from the onset just not going to execute as effectively,” mentioned Legge.

According to the Environmental Operating Group, an environmental wellness advocacy nonprofit, usually applied components like fiberglass and spray foam may possibly include toxic chemical substances that can pose wellness dangers to installers. Legge mentioned that is pushing additional home owners to say, “Wait, I do not want that.”

“And if we’re performing our job,” he continued, “then when they go browsing for an option, they uncover us.”

And a lot of persons did throughout the pandemic. Havelock Wool’s sales quadrupled throughout the very first year of COVID-19 and grew one more 25% in 2021. Legge mentioned sales have been flat final year simply because production couldn’t maintain up with demand.

Yet another business attempting to capture these customers is Hempitecture. Primarily based in Ketchum, Idaho, Hempitecture tends to make insulation out of hemp sourced from farmers in neighboring Montana. Mattie Mead, founder and CEO, mentioned sales have doubled year-more than-year because he launched the enterprise in 2018.

“Consumer sentiment towards sustainability is a large aspect,” mentioned Mead. “The pandemic heightened the awareness of how a lot time we invest indoors.”

Mattie Mead, founder and CEO of Hempitecture, installs an insulation panel made out of hemp into the ceiling of a home being built.

Courtesy of Hempitecture


Mattie Mead, founder and CEO of Hempitecture, installs an insulation panel produced out of hemp into the ceiling of a dwelling getting constructed.

Havelock Wool and Hempitecture are just two of the businesses attempting to get a piece of the sustainable constructing components market place estimated to be worth practically $81 billion. Yet another 1 catering to eco-conscious customers is Denver-primarily based RavenWindow. It tends to make “smart windows” that automatically tint when it is hot to lower heat and glare and enable maximum light and warmth when it is cold, assisting home owners consume much less power.

Nonetheless, companies with eco-friendly options attempting to get a foothold in the constructing sector face lots of challenges, mentioned John Freer, director of the Sustainable Building Technologies system at the University of Montana’s Missoula College.

One particular of the most significant hurdles? Quite a few contractors are resistant to transform and can be scared off by a new material or method.

“They know the material they’re functioning with, they know how a lot it fees, they know how extended it requires them to set up it, they know the longevity of it, and they know the warranty of it,” mentioned Freer.

Meanwhile, several clients are deterred by the rates of goods like sustainable insulation, which can expense twice as a lot as other forms. Fiberglass panels, for instance, variety in between 30 cents and $1.50 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor. Havelock Wool’s internet site lists its wool panels for in between $1.50 and $two.25 per square foot.

Insulation is ordinarily much less than two% of a home’s total building expense, with the typical quantity for a standard single-household dwelling is just more than $five,000, according to a 2019 report by the National Association of Household Builders.

Nonetheless, that can add thousands of dollars to a project, mentioned Daniel Fraiman, who builds multimillion-dollar properties about Lake Tahoe and Truckee, Calif.

“The expense becomes an inhibitor for performing some of these goods,” Fraiman mentioned. “They appreciate the thought, and they get attached to it early on, and then when we get into what it fees, it does not make the reduce.”

Fraiman mentioned clientele that make a decision to go with sustainable insulation have researched the positive aspects and studied the wellness dangers of other sorts, particularly for the installers.

Andrew Legge, founder and managing partner of Havelock Wool, stands beside boxes of insulation products inside the company's facility in Reno, Nev.

Kaleb Roedel


Mountain West News Bureau

Andrew Legge, founder and managing companion of Havelock Wool, stands beside boxes of insulation goods inside the company’s facility in Reno, Nev.

“Spray foam insulation is 1 of the gnarliest goods there is,” mentioned Fraiman. “Those guys are wearing spacesuits. I imply, they’re in complete hazmat suits simply because that stuff is gnarly.”

Back at Havelock Wool, flurries of wool could be noticed floating by way of the air as workers in standard face masks bagged and boxed goods. The business does not add any synthetic mixes or bonding agents to the material but does add a modest quantity of non-toxic boric acid to repel insects.

Standing in the center of the factory floor, Legge mentioned the business will raise output later this year. He invested in new machinery so they can triple their processing capacity to additional than 16,000 pounds of wool a day.

“We are effectively aligned with what extended-run demand appears like and this shift in customer demand for far better, healthier, additional sustainable goods,” mentioned Legge.

This story was made by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration in between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with help from affiliate stations across the area. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is offered in aspect by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 KUNR Public Radio. To see additional, stop by KUNR Public Radio.

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