G.O.-Logic Passive Solar Homes take off and are recognized as a major innovation

A G.O Logic passive home in Belfast. photo by Ramona du Houx.

By Ramona du Houx

Recently Mainebiz named GO Logic co-founders Alan Gibson and Matt O’Malia to its annual 2014 Next List, which showcases innovative, creative thinkers and businesses taking the lead in Maine.“

We want to show people there is an alternative out there,” said O’Malia one of the designers/foundes, “a design and building approach that’s good for the planet. Part of our goal when we formed this company is that, yes, we want to build a business that’s successful. But we also want to effect positive change.”

GO Logic is an architecture and construction firm based in Belfast, Maine, that creates sustainable, well-designed buildings and master plans, including private residences, institutions, and housing developments. GO Logic currently has four Passive House–certified projects, with a fifth pending. 

“We’re just at the beginning of the wave of the future,” said Matthew O’Malia (right) talking to Alan Gibson in the kitchen of their company’s G•O Logic passive house in 2011. photo by Ramona du Houx 

“Passive houses are 90 percent more energy efficient than code-compliant homes,” said O’Malia. “Homeowners will be able to enjoy all the comforts of a super-insulated building shell during the winter months, at 70 degrees.” In a passive house, blow-drying your hair, working on a computer, or cooking a meal can provide enough heat to keep the home warm all winter. In the darkest days of winter, it takes just 2,000 watts of electricity to heat the cohousing units to 70 degrees.

A Passive House is a highly insulated, sealed, airtight building, heated primarily by passive-solar gain and internal gains from electrical equipment and body heat. The G•O Logic home has a two-foot-thick blanket of blown-in insulation and six inches of rigid insulation gird for the foundation. Triple-glazed, south-facing windows lock in heat during the winter and keep out heat in the summer. The windows alone provide roughly half of the heat the house needs to stay above room temperature.
“These houses on the coldest day will need the equivalent amount of energy of a hairdryer to keep warm,” said Gibson. “In 2010 when we completed this building, we had four employees, and now we have 22 employees four years later. From that one building we now have 50 residential units that we've completed and a couple of institutional buildings."

Those achievements include the 36-unit co-housing and eco-village in Belfast, as well an ecology field station for the University of Chicago. Gibson says he's upbeat about the future, as more and more construction firms become accustomed with passive solar building techniques.

GO Logic’s, with Gibson and O’Malia also have a new initiative - building pre-fabricated modular sections for their Passive House designs in a local woodshop in Appleton, Maine.  Recently they received a patent on a foundation system, they developed, to improve efficiency during the construction process.

GO Logic’s passive solar certifications are many. The company has become the first in Maine and 12th in the United States to be certified by the Passive House Institute U.S. to design and build Passive House homes. It built the first Passive House home in Maine, the first certified Passive House student dormitory in the nation, the first Passive House home in Michigan, and the first certified Passive House laboratory in North America.

The living room of a G•O Logic house is heated by massive windows and solar panels. photo by Ramona du Houx.

For a more indepth article about the Go Logic' passive solar community in Belfast please go to: The Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage — a model for future neighborhoods . 

The cohousing community is Maine's first passive solar villiage compleate wih a community center and dining hall. The cohousing movement began in Denmark in the 70s, creating intentional neighborhoods of clustered, low-impact, energy-efficient homes. These communities combine the autonomy of private homes with the advantages of a large common house, shared land, self-governance, and design input by the community. In the U.S. over the past 15 years, about 120 cohousing communities have been built and another 100 are under development.

“Global warming is so large and so vast in scope, there’s a tendency on the part of many individuals to say it’s too big for me to solve. We know it will take the combined efforts of millions — perhaps billions — of people all over the world. Those efforts begin with individuals looking at what they can do to help and taking action. Those efforts here have begun with this community asking what they can do — and doing it,” said Senator George Mitchell, the guest speaker at the community development ground-breaking in 2011.

Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell got to work with Pia Gibson, 8, and Mike Shannon, 76, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage development in 2011. photo by Ramona du Houx

“This project is unique in several respects: In a broader sense, for the commitment to energy efficiency, environmental concern, and being a walkable community, and in the global sense for its contribution to combating the unnecessary releases of carbon into the atmosphere. It’s important for others to understand the environmental and energy conscientiousness that the people here in this community are demonstrating in a very real, practical, living way.”

Mitchell added that just seeing Ecovillage’s plans inspired him more at home to be a part of the global environmental effort, fighting global warming.