An architect, a contractor, and a materials chemist might seem like an unlikely team, but the combo was exactly what was needed to spur the creation of research and development firm Go Lab, Inc.
The partnership between Josh Henry, a chemist, materials engineer, and former professor at Bates College and the University of Maine, and the co-founders of passive house architecture firm GO Logic, Matt O’Malia and Alan Gibson, resulted in the founding of the R&D firm this past spring. Henry, president of GO Lab, is currently working on developing one of its inaugural products, a insulating low-density fiberboard (LDF), in the company’s home state of Maine.
LDF is an insulation option made from wood fibers, like those found in the chips discarded in the process of cutting lumber. It’s renewable, recyclable, and non-toxic, giving it a leg up over other insulation choices, Henry says. It’s also vapor-permeable, protecting against rotting and decay within home structures.
“It’s cost competitive with foam, it’s performance competitive with foam,” Henry says. “I think that’s something that’s going to really surprise people.”
LDF has been manufactured across Europe for years, but it has not crossed the Atlantic to the U.S. in part because of the high costs associated with transporting low-density insulation. Henry and the team at GO Logic saw this uncharted territory as an opportunity to rebuild Maine’s forestry industry.
As demand for paper products decreases overall, Maine has seen a rapid decreases in its paper industry. This has resulted in a surplus of the wood chip byproduct from Maine’s logging sector, which is typically repurposed to make paper. These chips, plus the workers and infrastructure from the paper industry, are the very resources that LDF manufacturing can take advantage of.
“The timing was excellent,” says Henry. “Unfortunately it was excellent because the state was really suffering and looking for places to invest that raw material.”
GO Lab, Inc. is making sure that these new ventures align with GO Logic’s overall commitment to sustainability. Maine is already doing a lot of the work for them—about 50 percent of Maine’s forested land is certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and forest growth exceeded harvest by 55 percent in 2015, according to SFI.
GO Lab Inc. has also patented a foundation system, and after it get its LDF manufacturing facility up and running, Henry is hopeful that the firm will move toward developing other new products.
“The passive house market, it’s been growing exponentially for the last 10 years and we think there’s a lot of opportunity there that is just starting to get noticed,” Henry says. “We think there’s some space there to innovate new products.”