• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

From wool to hemp, sustainable constructing supplies are a creating company enterprise in the Mountain West


Mar 18, 2023

On a existing Wednesday afternoon inside a 67,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Reno, Nevada, a enormous machine was moving a fluffy, off-white material by way of a series of drum rollers. The substance was having layered into thick panels of insulation made from a material not often identified inside walls in residences: wool.

“Hot, cold, warm, dry – wool does it all,” stated 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 made of sheep wool lines the walls of a residence situated on Gray’s Crossing Golf Course in Truckee, Calif.

The enterprise tends to make insulation options completely out of sheep wool. Legge started the enterprise in response to the lack of healthful and sustainable possibilities in the insulation company.

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

According to the Environmental Functioning Group, an environmental wellness advocacy nonprofit, often applied supplies like fiberglass and spray foam may well contain toxic chemical substances that can pose wellness dangers to installers. Legge stated that is pushing far far more house 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 selection, they acquire us.”

And a lot of males and girls did by means of the pandemic. Havelock Wool’s sales quadrupled by means of the initial year of COVID-19 and grew an more 25% in 2021. Legge stated sales have been flat final year for the explanation that production couldn’t hold up with demand.

A diverse enterprise attempting to capture these consumers is Hempitecture. Mainly primarily based in Ketchum, Idaho, Hempitecture tends to make insulation out of hemp sourced from farmers in neighboring Montana. Mattie Mead, founder and CEO, stated sales have doubled year-far more than-year provided that he launched the company enterprise in 2018.

“Consumer sentiment towards sustainability is a huge aspect,” stated Mead. “The pandemic heightened the awareness of how substantially time we devote 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 made out of hemp into the ceiling of a residence having constructed.

Havelock Wool and Hempitecture are just two of the corporations attempting to get a piece of the sustainable constructing supplies sector estimated to be worth virtually $81 billion. A diverse 1 catering to eco-conscious consumers is Denver-mainly primarily based RavenWindow. It tends to make “smart windows” that automatically tint when it is hot to decrease heat and glare and permit maximum light and warmth when it is cold, assisting house owners consume substantially significantly less energy.

Nonetheless, corporations with eco-friendly solutions attempting to get a foothold in the constructing sector face lots of challenges, stated John Freer, director of the Sustainable Creating Technologies method at the University of Montana’s Missoula College.

A single specific of the most considerable hurdles? Lots of contractors are resistant to alter and can be scared off by a new material or technique.

“They know the material they’re functioning with, they know how substantially it charges, they know how extended it needs them to set up it, they know the longevity of it, and they know the warranty of it,” stated Freer.

Meanwhile, quite a few prospects are deterred by the fees of options like sustainable insulation, which can expense twice as substantially as other sorts. Fiberglass panels, for instance, selection amongst 30 cents and $1.50 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor. Havelock Wool’s net-website lists its wool panels for amongst $1.50 and $two.25 per square foot.

Insulation is generally substantially significantly less than two% of a home’s total constructing expense, with the common quantity for a common single-household residence is just far more than $5,000, according to a 2019 report by the National Association of Home Builders.

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

“The expense becomes an inhibitor for performing some of these options,” Fraiman stated. “They appreciate the notion, and they get attached to it early on, and then when we get into what it charges, it does not make the cut down.”

Fraiman stated clientele that make a choice to go with sustainable insulation have researched the rewards and studied the wellness dangers of other sorts, in specific 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 options inside the company’s facility in Reno, Nev.

“Spray foam insulation is 1 of the gnarliest options there is,” stated Fraiman. “Those guys are wearing spacesuits. I imply, they’re in comprehensive hazmat suits for the explanation that that stuff is gnarly.”

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

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

“We are nicely aligned with what extended-run demand seems like and this shift in consumer demand for superior, healthier, far far more sustainable options,” stated Legge.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration amongst 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 location. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is supplied in aspect by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 KUNR Public Radio. To see far far more, verify out KUNR Public Radio.

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