March 29, 2023 9:51 pm

On a current Wednesday afternoon inside a 67,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Reno, Nevada, a substantial 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 created from a material not generally located 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 created of sheep wool lines the walls of a property situated on Gray’s Crossing Golf Course in Truckee, Calif.

The corporation tends to make insulation solutions totally out of sheep wool. Legge began the corporation in response to the lack of wholesome and sustainable alternatives 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 developing a synthetic fiber that is from the onset just not going to carry out as properly,” stated Legge.

According to the Environmental Functioning Group, an environmental wellness advocacy nonprofit, frequently made use of components like fiberglass and spray foam could include toxic chemical compounds that can pose wellness dangers to installers. Legge stated that is pushing extra property owners to say, “Wait, I do not want that.”

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

And a lot of folks did throughout the pandemic. Havelock Wool’s sales quadrupled throughout the very first year of COVID-19 and grew yet another 25% in 2021. Legge stated sales have been flat final year due to the fact production couldn’t preserve up with demand.

Yet another corporation attempting to capture these buyers 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, stated sales have doubled year-more than-year considering that he launched the business enterprise in 2018.

“Consumer sentiment towards sustainability is a big issue,” stated Mead. “The pandemic heightened the awareness of how a great deal 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 created out of hemp into the ceiling of a household getting constructed.

Havelock Wool and Hempitecture are just two of the firms attempting to get a piece of the sustainable developing components industry estimated to be worth almost $81 billion. Yet another 1 catering to eco-conscious buyers is Denver-primarily based RavenWindow. It tends to make “smart windows” that automatically tint when it is hot to cut down heat and glare and permit maximum light and warmth when it is cold, assisting property owners consume significantly less power.

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

A single of the greatest hurdles? A lot of contractors are resistant to transform and can be scared off by a new material or method.

“They know the material they’re operating with, they know how a great deal it fees, they know how lengthy it requires them to set up it, they know the longevity of it, and they know the warranty of it,” stated Freer.

Meanwhile, a lot of shoppers are deterred by the costs of solutions like sustainable insulation, which can price twice as a great deal as other sorts. Fiberglass panels, for instance, variety in between 30 cents and $1.50 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor. Havelock Wool’s web-site lists its wool panels for in between $1.50 and $two.25 per square foot.

Insulation is ordinarily significantly less than two% of a home’s total building price, with the typical quantity for a common single-household household 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, stated Daniel Fraiman, who builds multimillion-dollar residences about Lake Tahoe and Truckee, Calif.

“The price becomes an inhibitor for performing some of these solutions,” Fraiman stated. “They enjoy the notion, and they get attached to it early on, and then when we get into what it fees, it does not make the reduce.”

Fraiman stated consumers that choose to go with sustainable insulation have researched the advantages and studied the wellness dangers of other sorts, specifically 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 solutions inside the company’s facility in Reno, Nev.

“Spray foam insulation is 1 of the gnarliest solutions there is,” stated Fraiman. “Those guys are wearing spacesuits. I imply, they’re in complete hazmat suits due to the fact that stuff is gnarly.”

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

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

“We are properly aligned with what lengthy-run demand appears like and this shift in customer demand for improved, healthier, extra sustainable solutions,” stated Legge.

This story was developed 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 assistance from affiliate stations across the area. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is offered in element by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 KUNR Public Radio. To see extra, pay a visit to KUNR Public Radio.

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