When John Cunningham and Andy Lim decided to start their own firm, they’d been working on projects out of the University of Michigan office that sets up business people with new technology from university research.
But it was Cunningham’s drafty Old West Side house and a suggestion from his architect friend that led them to their first business: soybean-based foam polyurethane insulation. The pair found a supplier, Arkansas-based BioBased Systems, and created Arbor Insulation this past summer.
The soy-based insulation sprayed into walls and in attics and basements can reduce heating bills by up to 50 percent, according to the firm. And the soy is hypoallergenic, mold resistant and doesn’t use fossil fuel as other spray insulation does.
“The reason we got into it is we were looking at the trends in terms of energy costs,” Cunningham said. “I have an old house on the west side and it’s cold and drafty and the heating bills are really high, and I really felt the personal pain and need around insulation.”
The insulation costs about 50 percent more than traditional fiberglass, but given the course of energy prices, the difference could be made up in the matter of a few years, the entrepreneurs say.
“We’re talking about $10 a month on a mortgage bill,” Lim said.
Lim, who also has an information technology consulting business, is the primary financier of the venture. He said the insulation business was attractive from a money-making aspect, but also from an environmental stewardship perspective.
“We had this discussion about looking for projects that positively affect the community,” he said. “We’re in business, obviously, but we want to do more than just make money.”
Adam Lacca hired Arbor Insulation to spray their product in a master bedroom and bathroom addition and several other downstairs walls in their remodeled Whitmore Lake home.
“I spoke with a lot of people and a lot of people told me it was a really good way to go because it was a really good sealer,” Lacca said. “I realized it was a little bit more expensive, but in the long run, with the way the heating bills were going, it would be worth it.”
Source: Ann Arbor News Oct. 25, 2005.