wool in architecture

Wool is an all-natural substitute for the petrol-based products known to help insulate, redirect acoustics, and is even capable of providing structure to our built environment.

Originally used to create textiles that provide optimal temperature comfort by wicking moisture away from the body while providing thermal relief from the elements, wool has been reinvented and reapplied to our buildings to provide the exact same relief. Generally, wool “keeps a building up to 39F warmer in cool weather and up to 45F cooler in warm weather.”[i] Wool is also known to be hygroscopic (attracts/absorbs moisture from the air) while maintaining thermal performance by releasing heat when absorbing moisture and reversing this by cooling the area around it when releasing the moisture.

Aside from being a sustainable and renewable resource, using less than 10% of the energy from it’s petroleum counterparts in production, it is also capable of reducing indoor air pollutants. As wool grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. During its lifetime, the average sheep absorbs more than 65lbs of CO2 in its wool—“in the UK, about [155 million lbs] of CO2 is absorbed in the wool of the country’s sheep flock every year.”[ii]  As in nature, the wool insulation is known to “absorb and breakdown our indoor air pollutants such as formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide” in our built environment.[iii]

Used primarily in timber frame walls, rafters, lofts, and floor joists, wool insulation can be blown-in or applied using batts. It is able to be used in conjunction with existing insulation and is also able to be fully recycled, remanufactured, reused and is 100% biodegradable.

The inherent qualities of wool make the material an excellent sound absorber. Acoustics play a large part in specific building programs.  The following examples show how wool is used as an exemplary tool to mitigate and absorb sound waves.

These wall coverings as seen above are designed by Kathryn Walter and are located in the Wosk Theater of Los Angeles. The curved wall is covered in layers of wool felt that are articulated with slight variations and shades of gray. The application of the varied size felt is applied to the wall in a way that adds to the architecture, articulates the openings and integrates structural elements into the continuous treatment.[iv]

The acoustic ceiling paneling shown above is more sculptural in representation. The design was created by HplusF through a parametric study and applied to an existing Southern California Institute of Architecture lecture hall building by the students. The application of the acoustic ceiling was intended to help the concrete structure with the acoustics—absorbing and reducing reverberation of sound waves.

Aside from being an all-natural substitute for the petrol-based products known to help insulate, redirect acoustics, wool is also capable of providing structure to our built environment through the use of new bricks.  These bricks are derived from “wool and an alginate conglomerate from the cell walls of seaweed… [and] clay… when dried they don’t need to be fired, which cuts down on energy used in their production…”[v] The bricks are also noted to be less prone to warping and cracking.


[i] “Sheep Wool Insulation – Professional.” Sheep Wool Insulation. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.sheepwoolinsulation.ie/why_wool/professional.asp&gt;.

[ii] “A Room for London Competition proposal / Robin Monotti Architects.” Arch Daily. N.p., 27 Dec. 2010. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <www.archdaily.com/99133/a-room-for-london-competition-proposal-robin-monotti-architects/>.

[iii] “Natural Wool Insulation – Oregon Shepherd, A Sheep Wool Insulation Company Provides Free Lamb’s Wool Insulation Samples to Homeowners Looking for Alternative Insulation.” PRWEB. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <www.prweb.com/releases/NaturalWoolInsulation/SheepWoolInsulation/prweb8952405.htm>.

[iv] “Feeling Felt – Wall coverings by Felt Studio @ Dailytonic.” Dailytonic – Your daily Inspiration in Architecture and Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.dailytonic.com/feeling-felt-architonics-selection/&gt;.

[v] “New Eco Super Bricks Made of Wool | Architecture View.” Showcasing architectural masterpieces of design and technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.architecture-view.com/2010/10/27/new-eco-super-bricks-made-of-wool/&gt;.

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