Shelter Alternatives Recognized at EarthCraft Celebration of Excellence

October 20, 2017

The highest performing EarthCraft-certified home in Virginia has now earned recognition across the Southeast US. Shelter Alternatives of Blacksburg was presented a 2017 Award of Excellence at the EarthCraft Celebration of Excellence held at Southface Energy Institute in Atlanta, Georgia on October 19th. Owner Ed Tuchler accepted this award which recognizes projects that exhibit steadfast commitment to sustainable building practices, and acknowledges builders in 7 states of the southeastern United States whose work continues to shape and improve the green building industry. Asked how his company managed to win this prestigious award over builders serving Atlanta, Charleston, and the rest of the region, Tuchler replied, “We embrace science with creativity and intention to improve the livability of our homes.”

Joe Bassett, a longtime designer for the Shelter Alternatives team, worked closely with the homeowner to design the rural, Craig County home. EarthCraft testing and certification rated this home as net-zero performance, meaning the estimated total energy used by the efficient home annually roughly equals the anticipated annual energy production to be generated on site by solar panels. Homeowner Annie Seago states, “We’re thrilled with the whole process…. [And] feel so lucky to be working with the Shelter team.” Others must agree, because as Ed Tuchler notes, “This year, 25% of Shelter Alternative’s new projects are serving previous clients.”

The award-winning project sits where the owners lost their previous home to fire, and features authentic farmhouse style and function. This home had been previously recognized as Viridiant Single Family New Construction Project of the Year as well as the top performing EarthCraft certified home built in Virginia in 2016. The company was surprised to be
chosen above projects built throughout the seven southeastern states where Southface operates the EarthCraft certification program that was designed
specifically for the mixed-humid climate of this region.

Shelter Alternatives has been building energy efficient homes for most if their 29-year history, with energy testing on its houses dating back to the early 1990’s. The high level of performance that made this home exemplary was achieved with efficiency focused design elements based on current building science, advanced construction techniques and renewable energy generated on the site by photovoltaic panels. Beyond the renewable energy, some of the elements that helped achieve net zero status were state of the art insulation and air sealing of the building envelope and the choice of high performance appliances and lighting. The client also made special effort to minimize the use of volatile chemical products even with all the custom cabinetry featured in the home.

An interactive virtual tour of the property can be found in our gallery, titled Phoenix.

Simmerman Joins Shelter Alternatives Team As Designer

September 28, 2017

We are pleased to announce the addition of Leah Simmerman to our staff. Leah will join senior designers, Chris Hudson and Joe Bassett to round out our in-house design team.

A Blacksburg native and one of our former interns, Leah is returning to the New River Valley after completing her Masters in Sustainable Building Design and Construction from Appalachian State University. Prior to her work at Appalachian State, she completed her Bachelors of Fine Art, Craft and Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Leah possesses a thoughtful and creative mind coupled with a strong work ethic and attention to detail. We know her focus on creative,sustainable and universal design will serve our clients well and we all look forward to working with her again

Energy Check Featured on Local News

September 28, 2017

Click here to check out Chris Nicholson, Director of Operations for our Energy Check division, talk to local NBC affiliate, WSLS’ Britanny Flowers on their “Daytime Blue Ridge” program.

Shelter Alternatives Recipient of Multiple Awards at the 2017 Sustainable Leadership Awards

April 25, 2017

RICHMOND, VA — [April, 2017] — On Thursday, April 20th, just two days before Earth Day, Shelter Alternatives, Inc. of Blacksburg, Virginia was honored at Viridiant’s Sustainable Leadership Awards, receiving four awards for homes built last year in the New River Valley. The awards received were Single Family New Construction Project of the Year as well as honors for having designed and
built the top three High Performance EarthCraft Homes in Virginia.

The annual awards recognize the region’s premiere developers, builders, architects, government officials and other industry professionals for their work in advancing the benefits of sustainable building through the EarthCraft family of green building programs. Shelter Alternatives was honored on Thursday evening at a ceremony in downtown Richmond which
brought together close to 200 individuals representing home builders, non-profit and for-profit housing providers and developers, affordable housing advocates and those interested in creating green housing opportunities in Virginia. Awards were presented in a variety of categories to cover new construction, renovation, single family homes, multifamily housing and more.

“Building effient and practical homes has always been a priority for our team” says owner Ed Tuchler “so learning that we had been recognized by Viridiant as having built the three most energy efficient homes they have certified in Virginia is exciting and inspiring.” Two of the homes are rated as net zero homes, meaning that they produces as much energy as they uses, through design features, building features and the installation of solar panels.

The home that was recognized as Single Family New Construction Project of the Year is located in Craig County. With a modern farmhouse look, it gives up nothing in style and livability to achieve its net zero status. The owners lost their previous home to fire on this site, and they paid close attention to styling, livability, and efficiency throughout the planning and construction of the replacement home. Through strong detailing of the building enclosure and careful selection of mechanical systems, the power loads were reduced to where the photovoltaic system could make up the difference.

“It’s an honor to recognize the dedicated individuals who continue to amaze us with their passion for high performance home building,” said KC Bleile, Executive Director of Viridiant. “This year’s nominees and winners exceed building expectations with their cutting edge projects that are transforming today’s housing market and serve as proof that the science of sustainability can deliver a housing future that is more affordable, more durable and more livable.”

For more information about the 8th Annual Sustainable Leadership Awards, visit

Building to net zero

February 03, 2017

Net zero home image

Building to net zero means creating a home that produces as much energy as it uses. The concept begins by making the building envelope (the outside perimeter of the home) as energy efficient as possible. We work to make the walls and ceilings as air tight as possible with a high level of insulation. As the wall assembly gets more efficient the next weak point is often the windows. Working with an energy engineer we can identify what improvements will make the most impact and be most cost effective.

Once we have the envelope the way we like it we work through the mechanical systems, lighting, appliances and other energy consuming devices to make selections that are appropriate for the home and it’s energy goals. Once we have minimized the energy consumption of the home we can add enough renewable energy to offset the consumption of the home. This is usually solar panels.

This home in Craig County gives up nothing in style and livability to achieve its net zero status. Built on a site where the owners lost their previous home to fire they paid close attention to style and details throughout the planning and construction of the home. The walls are 2x6 with blown cellulose cavity insulation. The exterior of the walls is wrapped with 1 ½” of rigid foam board to bring the R-value of the wall to R-30+. The ceilings are insulated to R-70. Most of the windows are triple paned which increases their efficiency by ~50%.

This 2,917 sf home uses only one 2.5 ton heat pump to condition the space. The system is split into 3 zones to provide maximum comfort. An Energy Recovery Ventilator is a mechanical system bringing fresh air into the home. Running continuously this system pre-conditions the incoming air providing a constant source of fresh air and diluting any pollutants brought into the home. The solar array consists of 33 ground mounted solar panels. Ground mounting a system can maximize efficiency through proper orientation and angles.

A second home completed this year achieved near zero status, being just two points off of net zero. This Blacksburg home uses much of the same construction techniques as the Craig county home. This home, in a subdivision setting uses a roof mount solar array.

The HERS rating chart has been adopted by the DOE for their Energy Star program. Energy raters input a variety of data about the air tightness, insulation, mechanical systems, etc. to establish this rating. The annual average score for Shelter Alternatives homes has dropped from 56 (44% more efficient than a code built home) in 2011 to 23 (77% more efficient) in 2016.