Design Matters: Havelock Wool

Sustainable alternatives are often right in front of our eyes. Andrew Legge, founder of Havelock Wool, is pioneering the use of a wool as a natural building material that will not only insulate, but will improve the quality of the air we breathe.

The farm in New Zealand

1.    How did your exploration of wool as a home insulator begin?

We began with a broad-based interest in small business development in New Zealand.  For many years, they have used wool insulation to line their walls.  After learning more about a wool fiber’s inherent characteristics, Havelock Wool became an undying interest. A brief explanation of wool’s high integrity was continually matched with a plea to introduce such an alternative to the US market. 

 2.    Aside from insulation, what other values can Havelock Wool provide a home?

Aside from our products being entirely renewable and sustainable, a high-performance insulator, long lasting and compostable at the end of their useful life, wool possesses a plethora of wildly compelling characteristics.  First, wool will manage moisture against 65% relative humidity.  This has positive effects on indoor air quality, enabling the insulation to last longer.  Moreover, the amino acids in wool fiber allow for an irreversible bond to occur with formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.  This is science, not conjecture, and provides for passive filtration unlike any alternative. 

Demonstrating how safe Havelock wool is for the family.

 3.    How does Havelock Wool benefit for the environment?

Environmental benefits of using wool as insulation are quite simple to understand.  First, the generation of wool is renewable and sustainable.  Second, our production process uses no glues or bonding agent.  We run 50 year old carding machines on electric motors, which means the net embodied energy of our production process is de minimis.  From the perspective of life cycle we know that wool will last longer than other mediums (save foam which will likely not break down for 1000s of years), and we also know that as a population we are overstuffing landfills.  Our insulation can be composted, if not reused, when a dwelling is repurposed. 

 4.    How are you perfecting the technology?

We are close to optimal levels from the perspective of maximizing thermal conductivity resistance per inch.  However, there is a multitude of opportunity in changing the blend of wool along with our production processes that will allow for expanded product offerings, added efficiency and ideally a broader reach to consumers.

 5.    Any case studies you can share on past or current projects?

Recently a homeowner contacted us when they had a terrible allergic reaction after installing another medium of insulation. They thought the only answer was to sell the property. So we installed immediately and have saved the day.  In fact, we just received a Christmas card thanking us for ‘solving an insulation issue’!  

An install day.

 6. How can our readers help further the mission?

Our mission these days is about awareness and education so readers can start by asking us, your architect, your builder or your installer for more information. www.havelockwool.com

Read the story in our Spring 2016 issue! 

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