Born from the need for better insulation solutions: The TimberHP Story
TimberHP grew out of a partnership between two entrepreneurs—Matthew O’Malia, an award-winning architect with a reputation for developing high-performance, cost-competitive designs; and Dr. Joshua Henry, a materials chemist with years of experience elevating solutions to conserve energy and produce renewable energy.
In 2016, Henry and O’Malia saw an opportunity to combine their talents to address a major contradiction that faces the construction industry: we insulate to reduce the energy required to heat and cool our buildings, but we do it with materials highly dependent on or directly derived from fossil fuels. Neither Henry nor O’Malia could understand why wood fiber insulation— a performance-competitive, renewable, carbon-negative insulation that has been produced in Europe for two decades—was not being made in North America.
Through grant-funded research and collaborations with European wood fiber insulation producers, the duo found that their home state of Maine, where multiple paper mills have closed in recent years, could benefit from a new, high-value composite like wood fiber insulation that could make use of the same fiber stream that went into papermaking in the past. O’Malia and Henry formed GO Lab, Inc. and purchased the former UPM paper mill in Madison. In later 2021, the GO Lab team successfully raised the financing to renovate the mill and begin making the transition to becoming TimberHP, the first wood fiber insulation manufacturer in North America.
TimberHP co-founder, architect Matt O’Malia, spent the early years of his career in Europe, where high performance wood fiber insulation technology has been perfected for two decades. When he returned to Maine in 2008 to start his own design-build firm focused on Passive House design principles, he found products from insulation companies—even those considered “green”—were not as healthy or high performance as he hoped.
Builders needed protection against itchy particles from traditional options. They voiced concerns about air quality. Jobsite dumpsters filled with nonrecyclable foam remnants. Plastic microbeads and dust from cutting board insulation coated and clung to surfaces.
Matt felt strongly that building a high-performance house with petroleum-based insulation products reduced the positive environmental impact of the buildings he designed. He knew there had to be a better way.
In 2016, Matt began his search for alternatives with TimberHP co-founder Josh Henry, a PhD in Physical Chemistry and Materials Science with a deep background in advancing renewable energy and energy conservation technologies. Together, they discovered that wood fiber insulation, a mature technology from Europe, could exceed their performance requirements while providing a sustainable, environmentally responsible insulation solution that is safe to cut, handle, and install.
Josh and Matt were aware of Maine logging history and the difficulties logging in Maine and sawmills in Maine had experienced since paper mills began to close across the state. Through grant-funded research and collaborations with European producers, they determined wood fiber insulation could be manufactured more affordably in the U.S. due to much lower raw material and energy costs, supporting the heritage wood mills of Maine and sustainable forestry.
Forestry news in Maine had not been good. Since 2016, Maine has seen six paper mills, thousands of jobs, and hundreds of millions of dollars of GDP vanish. With this loss of economic productivity, Maine logging has also lost an outlet for softwood chips once destined for paper mills which has made it more difficult to manage forests and balance the needs of the industry. Maine can reliably produce over 13 million tons of certified sustainable wood each year. The State’s current forest harvest is more than 30% below replacement rate.
Matt and Josh recognized wood fiber insulation, made in America, could be as affordable as all other insulation options. A high-performing, sustainable, insulation product line with a negative carbon footprint priced for more homeowners.
They were ready to begin the TimberHP journey. From a mothballed Madison, Maine paper mill and with a team of likeminded entrepreneurs, TimberHP is the first North American producer of wood fiber insulation.