Our Clients Say...

The job you and your crew did in conceptualizing and constructing a house of this level of craftsmanship and quality is especially appreciated by a hard to please type of person like me. Shelter Alternatives is the correct choice if one wants a truly distinctive, well built, quality home constructed by people who have pride in their work.

Ralph E. Erickson, May, 1991

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Going Green - Energy Efficient, Environmental-Friendly Home Building

Over the last fourteen years Shelter Alternatives Inc. has used energy efficient materials and systems such as:

  • Blown cellulose wall insulation
  • Draft stopping caulk and foam
  • Housewrap air infiltration systems
  • High density fiberglass insulation batts
  • Duct mastic for forced air delivery systems
  • Energy saving window/door/skylight glazing and coatings
  • Passive solar oriented window arrangements and overhangs
  • Solar pre-heat system
  • Hydronic heat system
  • Instantaneous water heater
  • Blower door testing and evaluation
  • Duct testing and evaluation
  • Forced air delivery system design and placement
  • Active ventilation system
  • Suspended slab solar storage
  • Earth-Sheltered design elements
  • Site Design and planning for solar efficiency
  • High efficiency HVAC equipment
  • Low VOC paints and finish materials
  • Termite baiting systems
  • Engineered wood sheathing and structural elements
  • Water based polyurethane
  • Stained Concrete Floors
  • Pre engineered roof and floor truss

Strategies to consider:

  1. Keep materials and methods simple.
  2. Passive solar orientation wherever possible.
  3. Solar energy storage.
  4. Tight building shells with active ventilation as part of the plan (but only installed as needed)
  5. Structural design that allows for more insulation in walls and less wood.
  6. Structures/Designs should be easily adapted to changing life styles and life stages. Incorporate 'Reconstruction' techniques that allow for the movement/removal of interior elements - partitions and cabinet components for instance.
  7. Encourage simple house shapes that by design provide ready access to the entire envelope, minimize exposed surface area, reduce opportunities for air or water infiltration.
  8. Stack plumbing to reduce plumbing material cost and waste.
  9. Wrap hot water lines with insulation.
  10. Install heat traps on hot water line where it exits water heater
  11. Provide stand ups at roof/wall intersection to maintain maximum insulated envelope to outside edge of wall framing.
  12. Keep heating system components within the heated envelope.
  13. Use pedestal sinks instead of sinks with counters and cabinets below.
  14. Use low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints.
  15. Use energy efficient and reliable appliances.
  16. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs in high use light fixtures.
  17. Use day-lighting design strategies.
  18. Use natural ventilation design strategies.
  19. Incorporate Universal design strategies for doorway/hall way/bathroom layout.
  20. Design for easy recycling of household goods.
  21. Use low maintenance materials inside and out.
  22. Recycling as part of the 'construction phase'
  23. Reduce the number of overlapping systems – where possible use low cost long lasting materials which perform double duty such as:
    1. Use stained or pigmented concrete as the finished floor for slab-on-grade homes.
    2. Apply thin coat plaster finish to walls and let the plaster color be the final wall color (no painting required).
    3. Expose structural elements and use as a feature.

Appropriate consideration of new, innovative and green oriented materials needs to be part of the green strategy but these materials need to be screened in terms of embedded energy, life cycle cost, adaptability, affordability, and certainty. Unfortunately, No battery of tests is available which can completely and adequately model how a building material will perform in the natural local environment other than the actual use of that material in that environment. We need to be very certain that the materials we use will perform. If they should fail, the impact of that failure can exceed the benefit the material might initially promise to provide.

We believe the best approach to green building is:

  • Keep materials and methods simple.
  • Plan for the long, long term. The most profound long-term environmental impact resulting from buildings is from the building's long term energy consumption.
  • Focus on innovative uses or combinations of time-tested locally available materials and methods.
  • Utilize 'payback' time as a measure of value.
  • Consider life cycle cost and embedded energy as important green measures in a material choice or design option.
  • Stay mindful of the golden rule for environmental sustainability – Reduce-Reuse-Recycle – and work in that order, by trying to reduce resource use first, reuse that which has been used, and recycle what is left.
  • Certainty is critical. We need a high degree of certainty that products can be delivered where needed - when needed - at the expected cost - and perform as envisioned.
Shelter Alternatives, © 2004; Page modified May 02, 2017