Breaking News

On a current Wednesday afternoon inside a 67,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Reno, Nevada, a massive machine was moving a fluffy, off-white material by means of a series of drum rollers. The substance was becoming layered into thick panels of insulation created from a material not frequently discovered inside walls in residences: 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 created of sheep wool lines the walls of a residence positioned on Gray’s Crossing Golf Course in Truckee, Calif.

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

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

According to the Environmental Operating Group, an environmental overall health advocacy nonprofit, typically applied components like fiberglass and spray foam might include toxic chemical substances that can pose overall health dangers to installers. Legge mentioned that is pushing far more property owners to say, “Wait, I do not want that.”

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

And a lot of people today did in the course of the pandemic. Havelock Wool’s sales quadrupled in the course of the initial year of COVID-19 and grew a different 25% in 2021. Legge mentioned sales have been flat final year since production couldn’t preserve up with demand.

One more organization 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, mentioned sales have doubled year-more than-year considering that he launched the small business in 2018.

“Consumer sentiment towards sustainability is a big aspect,” mentioned Mead. “The pandemic heightened the awareness of how considerably time we commit 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 house becoming constructed.

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

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

A single of the largest hurdles? Lots of contractors are resistant to transform and can be scared off by a new material or approach.

“They know the material they’re functioning with, they know how considerably 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,” mentioned Freer.

Meanwhile, several consumers are deterred by the rates of solutions like sustainable insulation, which can expense twice as considerably as other kinds. Fiberglass panels, for instance, variety amongst 30 cents and $1.50 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor. Havelock Wool’s internet site lists its wool panels for amongst $1.50 and $two.25 per square foot.

Insulation is usually significantly less than two% of a home’s total building expense, with the typical quantity for a standard single-household house 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 residences about Lake Tahoe and Truckee, Calif.

“The expense becomes an inhibitor for carrying out some of these solutions,” Fraiman mentioned. “They appreciate the notion, and they get attached to it early on, and then after 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 rewards and studied the overall health 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 solutions inside the company’s facility in Reno, Nev.

“Spray foam insulation is one particular of the gnarliest solutions there is,” mentioned Fraiman. “Those guys are wearing spacesuits. I imply, they’re in complete hazmat suits since that stuff is gnarly.”

Back at Havelock Wool, flurries of wool could be noticed floating by means of the air as workers in standard face masks bagged and boxed solutions. The organization 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 mentioned the organization will raise output later this year. He invested in new machinery so they can triple their processing capacity to far more than 16,000 pounds of wool a day.

“We are effectively aligned with what lengthy-run demand appears like and this shift in customer demand for greater, healthier, far more sustainable solutions,” mentioned Legge.

This story was made 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 area. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is supplied in component by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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

One thought on “From wool to hemp, sustainable creating components are a developing small business in the Mountain West

Leave a Reply