When Alan Gibson and Matthew O’Malia founded their design/build firm, G•O Logic, in 2008, they hit the ground running. Their first project, the prototype GO Home, earned Maine’s first Passive House certification, a LEED Platinum rating, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s 2011 Project of the Year award. The appealingly simple barn-red building has graced a succession of magazine and book covers as an icon of elegant, affordable efficiency. Less noticed but equally innovative is the partners’ approach to business. Having launched their firm into the teeth of the Great Recession, in a rural region where the pace of home building is sedate in the best of times, they’ve successfully managed rapid growth in a market sector they’re inventing as they go along.
Gibson, a custom builder, and O’Malia, an architect, first worked together in 2004. Bonding over a common interest in cutting-edge building practices, they began brainstorming on a stylish, super-efficient, relatively affordable house for Maine’s northern climate—and a company to produce it. “Combining great design with high performance at a reasonable cost; that was our mission,” Gibson says. Working on his own, Gibson had already developed the essential elements: a frost-protected shallow foundation, heavily insulated building shell, proper solar orientation, and energy-efficient windows. “I did one [custom home] for $110 a square foot. That was in 2007, and the owners still haven’t turned on the heating system. They have a tiny wood stove. They’re probably at $200 a year for heating and hot water,” he says. “And in this climate, it’s all about heating.”
The GO Home pushed that approach further. Using an insulated stud-frame structure wrapped in factory-precut SIPs, triple-glazed German windows, air-sealing, and reduction of thermal bridging, it grabbed the Passive House gold ring: a level of thermal performance that renders a conventional central heating system superfluous. The building also represents the core of G•O Logic’s business model, which leverages standardization, modular components, and replication to optimize performance and reduce cost. Forgoing opportunities in conventional high-end residential work, “we decided to base our business on that type of house,” Gibson says. “This is what we do; we don’t do anything else.”
The GO Home’s success led to a contract to design and build 36 housing units and a 4,000-square-foot common building for the nearby Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage development. On the momentum of that work, a string of single-family projects, and the country’s first Passive House–certified college residence hall, G•O Logic has defied the construction industry’s doldrums. Since 2010, its payroll has grown from six employees to 24, and its volume has approximately doubled every year. Perhaps more impressive, in a region where there is no such thing as a name-brand builder, G•O Logic has achieved broad public recognition. Midcoast Mainers who want a home that gives a lot while requiring little in return now say, “I’d like one of those G•O Logic houses.”