Approach

Everyone deserves to live in a healthy home.

A home should be a place that protects and contributes to your health – not the opposite. A healthy house is a house that supports your well-being: conventional, modern house building doesn’t.

At Shelter, we believe in building a beautiful, well-designed, long-lasting house - one that is a safe, healthy environment for people to live in. We also believe that the health of a building – and thus, the people who live inside of it – is one of the most overlooked areas in modern homebuilding.

Healthy building is more than solar panels and water catchment systems – while these ‘green’ ideas are ones we fully believe in, building green doesn’t mean building healthy. Whether you have kids, grandkids, or family pets, we want your family to live in an environment that is free of the building material toxins that almost every house built today is filled with. We want your water to be clean, your air to be fresh and free of pollutants, and your building envelope to be energy efficient yet breathable.

Healthy building means building houses that are good for us. Not just in ways that make us happy, like warm lighting, natural landscaping, and beautiful design, but in ways that actually make living indoors something that doesn’t harm ours kids and families. It's funny to think about, but living inside a tightly enclosed, highly insulated box is an extraordinarily unnatural thing for our bodies. We've lived outside for thousands of millennia, and inside of buildings like mud huts for centuries. Walls filled with insulation chemicals, made from construction chemicals, off-gassing glue chemicals, painted with volatile paint chemicals...well, not much about that is normal for our bodies. And yet, ask around - most builders don't focus on the health of occupants in designing, building, or remodeling a house. You would think that would be a very important – if not the MOST important – consideration in construction. And yet, even in the city that founded Whole Foods Market, it’s not.

What makes most conventional houses unhealthy:

An overly tight, un-breathable building envelope

Houses built and wrapped with layers of plastic (with energy efficiency in mind) that traps moisture and prevent the building envelope from letting it escape.

Toxins emitted from the building materials that most builders use every day

Including those found in treated wood, insulation, paint, glues, sheetrock, particle board, and many others Home Depot materials. Most of these are at best serious allergens, almost all are serious irritants, and at worst some are serious carcinogens. None of them are materials that you would intentionally choose to be around.

Formaldehyde

Which is found in particleboard, carpet, plywood, laminated furniture, cabinets, and some permanent-press fabrics, emits harmful gases (and emits more in hot, humid climates like ours in Central Texas).

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Found in paints, varnishes, carpets, and furniture, emit potentially harmful gases (High humidity and temperatures increase these emissions).

Pesticides, cleansers, solvents, preservatives, repellents, fresheners, and fuels

are all products that can cause health problems if used improperly, and yet are casually a part of modern American homes.

Dust mites, molds and mildews, animal dander (scales from hair, feathers, and skin), and cockroach droppings and body parts.

Older and poorly kept homes are prime residences for some of these allergens. Mold and mildew are particularly common in humid areas, and leaky roofs, windows, walls, foundations, and plumbing fixtures welcome opportunistic molds. Microscopic dust mites, which thrive on dead human skin cells and live in household textiles, are another group of troublemakers. When these textiles are disturbed, dust particles become airborne. Dust mites are especially prevalent in homes with dirty air conditioning, dehumidifiers, or ventilation systems, or with no air-circulation system at all.

Our Approach to Building

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We work with your architect or designer to create a structure with health, quality, cost and beauty in mind.

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We only build with natural, safe and healthy materials inside and out.

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Our houses are built in harmony with the natural surroundings, and designed for long-term, family oriented human habitation.

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The walls, floors and ceilings should be diffusible (water can escape them) and hygroscopic (a wall that can absorb and diffuse water without damage to the wall), resulting in a home with a low moisture content that dries out quickly.

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Indoor air humidity shall be regulated effectively and healthfully.

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Air pollutants need to be filtered and neutralized.

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We use the right materials to create an appropriate balance of thermal insulation and heat retention.

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The air and surface temperatures of each room of the home will be optimized.

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A heating system shall feature radiant heat using as much (passive) solar heat as possible.

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Your home will have a pleasant or neutral smell. You will never smell the outgassing of toxic paints, carpets, or building materials.

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Light, lighting and color will be in accord with nature-conscious, peaceful design.