A Passive Home Architect Spreading His Wings

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I’ve been in awe of the homes designed by GO Logic for a number of years and have included their houses in a number of of my books. They’ve been innovators in designing and constructing prefabricated homes in addition to extraordinarily power environment friendly ones – many Passive House licensed. After I heard that Matthew O’Malia, G O Logic co-founder and principal architect was beginning a brand new insulation firm I used to be excited to listen to about it, since Matthew has all the time been on the chopping fringe of extremely environment friendly residence design. I posed some inquiries to Matthew and listed here are his responses.

How did your coaching in Germany affect your design method as an architect?

My work expertise and postgraduate research in conceptual design in Frankfurt opened my eyes to the true bedrock of sustainable development: considerate techniques working collectively to create constructed environments requiring little operational enter.  Whereas nonetheless in Europe, I started desirous about how, as an architect, I might apply this broader, long-term imaginative and prescient of effectivity to development in the USA.

The beginning of this endeavor actually got here to life in 2008 when Alan Gibson and I based GO Logic on the coast of Maine, the place we started designing and developing buildings utilizing Passive Home requirements to information us.  We discovered nice success incorporating steady insulation, air sealing, high-performance home windows and doorways to create constructing envelopes calling for very small heating and cooling masses.  

We designed and constructed the primary Passive Home in Maine and expanded our attain all through New England and past. 

How does a Passive Home architect grow to be the co-founder of GO Lab, Inc., an organization set to fabricate wooden fiber insulation?

By way of my expertise at GO Logic, I got here to comprehend insulation is a lot extra than simply R-value.  Our builders complained of the itchy particles from mineral wool and fiberglass, they usually voiced considerations about air high quality.  Our jobsites produced non-recyclable scraps of froth that took up super area within the dumpster; foam microbeads and plastic mud from chopping board insulation all the time lined the bottom and the installers’ garments throughout and after utility.  

And I grew extra involved about an ideological contradiction: We had been utilizing insulation merchandise closely derived from or reliant on fossil fuels to scale back the quantity of fossil gasoline required to function the buildings we had been designing.  We had been lowering operational power, however canceling that out by utilizing insulations that had been excessive in embodied carbon.  It appeared like a zero-sum sport, or worse, when it got here to wanting on the environmental influence related to development.  I started in search of different options.  

In 2016, I partnered with Josh Henry, present GO Lab President.  Josh holds a PhD in Bodily Chemistry and Supplies Science and has a deep background in advancing renewable power and power conservation applied sciences.  Collectively, we found that wooden fiber insulation supplied the excessive efficiency we desired, whereas checking all the opposite containers on our listing.  

The most important drawback with wooden fiber insulation was we couldn’t get it with out paying a big premium to cowl freight prices from Europe.  There are 15 manufacturing vegetation throughout Europe supporting $700M in gross sales throughout the EU, however there may be at the moment no producer of wooden fiber unfastened fill, batt, or dry-process board in North America.   

Josh and I started asking, “Why isn’t somebody manufacturing wooden fiber insulation domestically?”  As we looked for the reply, we discovered that your complete product line could possibly be produced extra affordably right here than in Europe attributable to a lot decrease uncooked materials and power prices.  

I keep in mind pondering, “Think about the influence of with the ability to present the mainstream development market an reasonably priced, high-performance insulation product line not derived from or extremely depending on fossil fuels.  Think about the potential for carbon sequestration within the U.S. housing market alone.”  

So we got down to manufacture wooden fiber insulation for the primary time in North America beginning in 2022.

How do you see mainstream development within the U.S. accepting wooden fiber insulation?

Wooden fiber insulation has so many layers of profit, so many tales to inform.  We knew we would have liked to discover a good technique to package deal all of the messages for a broad viewers.  We determined to leverage our model title, TimberHP, to ship the themes that resonate so loudly round wooden fiber insulation.  Timber clearly defines the place our product begins: the huge forestlands of Maine.  HP has three layers: Excessive EfficiencyWholesome IndividualsWholesome Planet.  

Excessive Efficiency—Thankfully for us, European producers, designers, and constructing scientists have perfected wooden fiber insulation techniques by way of 20 years of utility and innovation.  

Wholesome Individuals—With no toxins, dangerous particles, and wooden fiber’s means to handle humidity; now we have fairly a narrative to inform about protected set up and improved indoor air high quality.

Wholesome Planet—The carbon influence is the most important story to inform right here.  

Impression investing continues to be an space drawing loads of consideration.  Can wooden fiber insulation take away carbon from the ambiance on the degree of scale that may entice important influence funding?

There is no such thing as a doubt in my thoughts that we are able to make that case.  Wooden fiber insulation is exclusive.  It’s constituted of bushes and finally ends up storing the unique carbon that was locked away, sequestered if you’ll, in these authentic bushes.  Wooden fiber insulation additionally inhibits warmth loss, which means it saves operational power, each time and wherever it’s put in. 

There’s a large quantity of present housing inventory that’s both solely uninsulated or in want of great renovation.  As a market alternative and a carbon mitigation alternative, it’s completely enormous!  Simply retrofitting 10% of the present housing inventory within the U.S. to code-plus ranges, would sequester half a gigaton of carbon alone.  And that’s simply the embedded carbon, not the operational carbon it’ll save lengthy into the long run as properly.  

There’s no new science right here.  There’s no battery that needs to be vetted.  Everybody is aware of how you can do it.  We have to have the need to do it.  And if now we have the need to put in and exchange insulation, at scale, with wooden fiber; we’ll make rapid progress on as we speak’s drawback.

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