I have the opportunity on occasion to share my experiences with students from all levels – Kindergarten to Graduate Students. Yesterday I was invited to the Department of Energy to talk building science with graduate student interns spending their summer at the DOE. The room was full of determined and intelligent future leaders. Only one of them had a background in architecture / building science / sustainability. So how do I offer a presentation that is relevant to a group with no knowledge of my industry? I honestly was not sure. I started looking at how the industry has changed in the 20 years I have been in it. In January of 1999 there was almost no home technology being used outside of surround sound in the home theater. Now google assistant can call to make you a hair appointment and the salon does not know they are not talking to a human.
Alexa can adjust my thermostat, turn off lights, and turn on white noise in the background when I am going to bed.
These are huge jumps in technology and impact how we want our homes to operate. More important in an energy-efficiency discussion – we keep adding electric demand in our homes that we need to be able to supply. So in this technology driven age what does it mean to be sustainable? In a technology age where clients have access to touch screens to see their home performance, how do you provide solutions that meet their HGTV expectations? What is the balance between energy-efficient, indoor air quality, durability, and affordability? How do you define sustainability – green rating certification or energy usage or healthy?
I used specific projects that I have designed to talk about this idea of “green.” Is a home designed to be carbon neutral “green?”
It has green elements certainly, lots of them, but is it affordable? Does it need to be affordable to be sustainable?
What about a Dairy Queen that is more energy-efficient than other fast food restaurants?
It has solar pv on the roof, reduces water usage, includes day-lighting strategies, and has 100% LED lighting. It checks many of the boxes for a “green” building. Reducing operating costs adds to profit and success. So is it “green.”
We then moved the conversation to things I find in building that are common issues in building science. For instance, a garage inside the envelope of your living space – meaning not detached has a huge impact on indoor air quality. A vapor barrier in a wall system in our mixed humid climate can destroy a building in under 30 years.
It is interesting to present to a young group that grew up with all this technology around them. They are no impressed with the newness of it all – they just want to know how it works and how to use it to future benefit. If you can now 3D print your Christmas toys for the kids, will Target survive? If you can use virtual reality to tour a historic home – will you still see it in person? If you want to live in a luxury home, can that be 3D printed by a robot and you use virtual reality to transform your home into the style you want at any given moment? Maybe that is jumping too far ahead, but the options exist. We are now today seeing homes printed. We are seeing robots replace jobs that people used to perform in construction with higher levels of accuracy. The world is changing quickly. However, building science remains a constant. We have to understand how all this technology being used in homes will impact our energy demand, our building operations, and quality of life. Building science is so often left out of residential design. We allow our homes to waste energy that we have to pay for monthly. We are ok with poor indoor air quality because we have medicine to make us well again. We don’t mind using too much water because we have plenty. This is not sustainable. There are little things that make your home better – please do them. I hope that message resonated with the students and with my readers.
Here are some Little things to make your home better:
I have been with Gaines Group Architects since January of 1999, almost 20 years with a brief break to attend grad school from late 01 – o3. I understand that is rare today as many designers like to jump around from firm to firm. However, that does not always happen here at our firm and I think it is because of our focus on our firm as a family. We have over 100 years of combined experience, maybe we are hitting an even higher mark these days, but as I get older I want to think about that less. We have built a team that focuses on serving our community through design, but also through community service. This tradition runs deep, well before my 20 years started. This approach is Ray’s vision for the firm – to design buildings that benefit the community, last a long time, and function well. However, Ray learned this approach from someone as well. His Grandfather, Elmer Burruss, was also an architect in Charlottesville. While I never had the pleasure of meeting him, just looking at a list of his projects will tell you, he also valued community.
Elmer Burruss practiced architecture in Charlottesville from the mid-1930s until the mid-1970s after declining an opportunity to play professional baseball. In addition to many custom residences, his work included the Albemarle County Clerk’s Office, the Monticello Dairy, Hill & Wood Funeral Home, and the Frank Ix, Inc. Complex.
During that time, he also founded and operated numerous construction related businesses in the Charlottesville area.
Whether is was Mr. Burruss or Mr. Gaines that got us here, I am so proud of the legacy our firm is leaving. Thanks to Ray for his leadership and passion for building a better community. To learn more about our efforts go to: https://www.thegainesgroup.com/communitysupport/
Natural Chimney Stage at Red Wing Roots Music Festival
The Natural Chimney Stage construction is done. I went to see the finished project this past weekend and took some amazing pictures (not my skills, but the site is amazing). Venture Builders and Herr & Co. and many of their friends did were able to make this project happen with an unrealistic build schedule. They all proved to be the right team for the right project. Blue Ridge Timberwrights came through to execute our vision for the stage’s aesthetic and the fresh new wood smells so good. It could not have been done without them. I am so looking forward to seeing bands use this structure at Red Wing Roots Music Festival this year.
Red Wing Academy – Wings, Roots, and Old Time Music
We are so proud to support Red Wing Academy each year. The fiddle camp hosted by Eric Brubaker of the Steel Wheels takes place at Eastern Mennonite University. It is open to non-beginner violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, mandolin, and banjo students. The 4 day workshop teaches the students several tunes with a culmination performance at Red Wing Roots Music Festival on Friday July 13th, 2018 with the Steel Wheels. Participating in the camp and performing with a world class band like the Steel Wheels gives these students a memory for a lifetime. It has also been shown that learning to play an instrument increases your capacity for memory, refines time management and organization skills, boosts team skills, teaches perseverance, coordination, reading, and comprehension. This camp is special and you can see it in the results at the performance, on the instructors faces, and most of all in the students.
Last night, Sophie and I attended a performance of some of the instructors from Red Wing Academy. The talent there was amazing. I am looking forward to the performance at Red Wing Roots Music Festival as well this Friday. It is a highlight of the festival for me. Aligning our firm to support events like this is exactly how we can build better community. I encourage you to find places to plug in to help the next generation find their passion. We need love and positivity more than anything in this world. I hear that in the music from these campers.
The Charlottesville team sent me some photographs from their site visits yesterday. They have projects coming out of the ground in both Christiansburg and Winchester. It was a hot day for checking out progress, but they were pumped to share the projects when they came through our Harrisonburg office. The Contractor for both projects is KBS based in Richmond.
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m participating in the Real Men Wear Pink Campaign and I need your help. Every day, until the end of October I’ll be wearing pink to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society’s mission to save lives from breast cancer.
I joined Real Men Wear Pink of the Valley this week to support friends and family impacted by this terrible disease. Breast cancer affects everyone both women and men. Every dollar raised helps the American Cancer Society save lives from breast cancer through early detection and prevention, innovative breast cancer research, and patient support.
About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
About 2,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2018. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
About 40,920 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2018 from breast cancer.
For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
Help bring us closer to a world free from the pain and suffering of breast cancer. Click on the link at the bottom of this article to learn more and make a donation.
Thank you so much for your support!
Click the link below and share it with your friends to help me meet my goal!
Duct work is a key to a healthy building. While there is not any one single thing that can be done in a building to achieve healthy indoor air quality, duct work is a critical element in the system. We are in the construction process now to mitigate indoor air quality and water intrusion issues at a local church. Facilities of this scale are difficult to manage without a full-time building maintenance team. In this case, further complicating things, decisions were made during construction 25+ years ago to cut construction costs that have ended up causing indoor air quality challenges. The elimination of a fresh air distribution system as a cost cutting factor increased the potential for indoor air quality challenges for instance.
At the time it was acceptable to use fiberglass insulation inside of duct work to control noise from the mechanical system in the sanctuary. This fiberglass insulation captured dust and dirt that flowed through the duct work. Dust and dirt provides food for mold growth. Multiple water leaks throughout the structure have added to the complications in this building. The lack of fresh air ventilation, technology available for HVAC at the time, lack of regular preventive maintenance, no dehumidification systems, and high humidity levels have led to this need for a major renovation.
Duct work storage and protection
During the renovation process it is critical to protect the HVAC duct work that is being installed. A construction site is messy and dusty on a good day. This one already had indoor air quality issues prior to construction. The mechanical contractor, Excel HVAC is sealing all the duct work that is being installed until it is sealed in place. They are also storing duct work that is not currently needed off site to keep it away from the dust and dirt on site. These simple steps protect the ducts to keep them clean and free of damage.
Installation of Duct Work
Once the duct work is installed all the joints need to be sealed. The vents should be covered until the system is activated, which only happens after all the dirt and dust of construction has ended. Sealing joints in duct work is done with mastic glue and mastic tape. These strategies are geared towards keeping dust and dirt out of the duct work during construction and operation of the system. This coupled with proper sizing of the mechanical systems that allows for modulation of capacity when the building is not in full use is a key component for healthy indoor air quality.
These key elements focused on duct work are only one part of the solution. We are also addressing roofing, flashing, and gutter issues. Materials that are impacted by mold are being removed and replaced. This is a complicated project with many moving parts. Working with an integrated team approach using Suter Engineering to design the appropriate HVAC system and a qualified general contractor, Herr and Company, to manage all the team members is the best strategy overall to achieve the best final solution for this project. Stay tuned for more information as the project continues.
Each month we host a new artist in our building’s 2nd floor gallery at the Chesapeake Western Depot at 141 W. Bruce St. (second floor entrance is on Chesapeake). Artwork will remain on exhibit through the month. Come view the show and get a tour the Depot! We will have food and drink available!
Bryce Natural Bridge
Greg Versen was born and reared in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He received a BA in Sociology from Mississippi College, Clinton and an MSSW from the University of Tennessee School of Social Work. After serving four years as a Captain in the Army Medical Services Corps, with tours of duty at Fort Riley, Kansas, and 97th General Hospital, Frankfurt, Germany, he taught in the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program at Mississippi University for Women, Columbus for five and a half years before moving to the BSW program, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia. He retired from JMU as Professor Emeritus after 25 years and continues to live in Harrisonburg. He also developed and hosted Blues Valley on public radio WMRA for 32 years.
Versen is an award-winning photographer and has been an active photographer for more than 50 years. He has attended workshops at the Maine Photographic Workshop, Rockport, and the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, Missoula, Montana. In 2003 he switched from film to digital photography and uses Nikon cameras and uses a Canon printer with archival inks.
Among Versen’s photographic interests are architecture, travel and landscapes. He enjoys putting together programs that provide education and information with complementary imagery.
Dr. Weiler gave us a call with a challenge. He wanted to update his clinic, Weiler Orthodontics in Harrisonburg, to reflect his personality and better represent his current patients. The existing aesthetics of the space were handed down by the previous business in the space and it was showing the impacts of time. The space was not functional to the modern and innovative practice Dr. Weiler had built and the space had some comfort challenges. Here are some photos showing the existing conditions when we started.
The colors, materials, and textures were dated and needed to be changed. There was wear showing on the materials, but the styles were also from another era and did not reflect Dr. Weiler’s style or that of his current clients. We developed a plan to align with his current goals. The other opportunity that this renovation provided was to upgrade the comfort systems in the building. The insulation and heating and cooling systems were not adequate to keep the energy bills low and the people comfortable in the space.
These are easy problems to solve during construction so the experts at Elite Insulation and Excel HVAC came in solved the problems.
The most important challenge we needed to overcome was the need to keep Dr. Weiler in business during construction. He was able to use an adjacent space for limited service and was able to work the schedule of his clients to offer a few weeks for complete access to the space by Herr & Co. Yes, that is right, a highly successful business that serves clients 5 days a week wanted to keep serving their clients while the contractor did a major renovation that touched every part of the space.
Herr & Co. expertly coordinated schedules with all the subcontractors, planned out the schedules, mapped out the process, and I am sure crossed their fingers that there would be no surprises. This kind of team work does not often happen on construction projects and requires flexibility and expert knowledge by everyone on the team.
We are thrilled with the finish product and I think it is exactly the space needed for this successful and innovative Orthodontist.