Gaines Group Architects
speech and language center construction

Speech and Language Center Construction nearing the finish line

Speech and Language Center

Here is an update on the Speech and Language Center. For past posts, check these our HERE, HERE, and HERE.  The exterior finishes are looking sharp and have been a drastic change from the original.

speech and language center (2)speech and language center (3)

There is a small storage area on the second floor including a loft space.

speech and language center (4)

The vibrant colors add life to the building.

speech and language center (5)speech and language center (6)

The large windows bring in lots of natural light.

speech and language center (7)speech and language center (1)

This project had a very tight site line for the addition. We expanded the existing structure as much as parking and site set backs would allow.


Harrisonburg Construction at the SVBA Home and Living Expo

Harrisonburg Construction at the SVBA Home and Living Expo

Harrisonburg Canstruction is scheduled for April 8th at the annual SVBA Home and Living Expo at the Rockingham County Fair Grounds in Harrisonburg. This food fundraiser benefits the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. This year there will be teams from Blue Ridge Architects and the JMU Engineering school.  Last year this event produced over 6,000 pounds of food for the food bank.

Here are creations from the Lynchburg Canstruction event.



Canstruction is an international charity competition where architects, engineers, contractors, and students they mentor, compete to design and build giant structures made entirely from full cans of food. At the close of the competition all of the food is donated to local food banks where the competitions are held.

For a preview of what you will find at the SVBA Home and Living Expo, Blue Ridge Architects have created their structure in advance at the Harrisonburg Municipal building. Stop by and see the chick emerging from an egg.


Plan to stop by both the municipal building and the Home and Living Expo to see these creations and don’t foget to bring your own food donation. There is a huge need in our community where there are families that are going hungry. This local food bank serves an average of 114,400 people per month. Last year they distributed 24.6 million pounds or 20.5 million meals.

Custom Home contemporary cottage

Check Out This Contemporary Cottage – Project Update

Custom Home contemporary cottageThis contemporary cottage, designed by Ray Gaines in the Charlottesville office, features bold colors, careful details, beautiful tile, classic hardwoods, large screen porch, and lots of natural light. The clerestory windows and vaulted ceiling provide beautiful gathering spaces inside with connection to the outside. The large basement offers plenty of storage and expansion for the future. The railing detail creates interesting shadow lines while maintaining an open view.

Read about another cottage by the Gaines Group here.

net zero farm house

Custom Designed Homes – could it cost less than existing homes?

Custom Designed Homes – could it cost less than existing homes?

front porch

Scott Rogers and I have been having a virtual discussion about the cost savings of an existing home vs a custom-built house. Read HERE and HERE to catch up.

I would like to expand on his last analysis quoted here:

“House 1 – a 4000 SF home for $550K.  Some rooms that you might not end up using much or using well.  Some rooms that are too large.  Some rooms that are too large.  You paid $137.50 / square foot.

House 2 – a 3400 SF home for $550K.  Every room and space in the home is one that you need and will use well.  No rooms are too small.  No rooms are too large.  You paid $161.76 / square foot.

So, yes, with House #2, you are getting less “value” in the conventional sense of the price that you paid per square foot of home that you purchased.  But many would quickly understand that House #2 might actually have much more value in that it would (nearly?) perfectly fit your life, lifestyle and needs.”

If the custom 3,400 sf house is designed to a higher energy performance standard, lets say 30% more energy-efficient than existing code and the 4,000 sf house was built to code standards, lets say 5 years ago. The current code minimum standards are 30% more efficient than the same standards from 5 years ago. The newer custom home will have lower monthly utility costs. To keep it conservative, I will say 40% more efficient. Since the national average monthly home electrical bill in Va according to the EIA is $118 per month, this generic custom designed home would have a monthly savings on utilities of $36.

The footprint of the custom home is 15% smaller, so there is additional savings on utility and maintenance of unneeded space. This is another $12+ savings monthly.

I would also say that a newer home should have lower maintenance costs as the equipment and systems are newer. Lets say in the older home it is more likely that your refrigerator needs to be replaced, or the siding needs painting, or the wood trim needs repaired, or the sink has a leak or the carpet needs to be replaced or you want to do a minor change to the existing design because it is just not right. This could easily save $40+ monthly over the older home.

So the newer home that is custom designed is saving you around $88 per month over the older home. The mortgage payments are the same so you are cash ahead with a custom home that is designed to be energy-efficient and just right for your family.

net zero farm house



construction speech and language center

Speech and Language Center Construction update

Speech and Language Center Construction update

Read past posts about this project HERE and HERE.

The new building is taking shape at the Speech and Language Center in Harrisonburg. I have heard from many in the community that they like the new aesthetic. What do you think?


As with many of our projects, we selected Marvin Integrity windows for their performance, but also for being a local window manufactured just outside of Roanoke, Va.

The siding materials and colors were selected to offer a modern, clean, and welcoming finish. The tower on the corner marks the entrance while also offering a well-lit interior space.


Gone but not forgotten

Mom, I will see you soon, but not soon enough.

Mom, I will see you soon, but not soon enough.

My Mom

October 7, 1950 – February 15, 2017

According to her facebook profile:

I am an artist! I draw with DMC threads, do mixed media art, working with papers and findings, make beaded jewelry working with beautiful colorful beads. I have created a mixed media dollhouse and lots of painted and decorated birdhouses. I love books – all types of books! The most important and loved the absolutely best is my Ray, our sons, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. All this is, of course, is given to me by my God.

Patricia Ann Hendricks





A coal miner’s daughter, from a holler in West Virginia. She was the first-born of maybe the strongest woman to ever live, Mamaw. Patsy, Mom played next to coal trains and dump trucks surrounded by dirt roads and black dust. She grew up quick in a tough environment from birth. Finding her teddy bear to save her, she married Ray, Dad at 16 years old.


Where do you start when talking about someone who is such a part of you that it is hard to separate what is her and what is me?


From my earliest memories, I was momma’s boy. We looked alike. Acted alike. Both loved to shop. Both expressed our emotions loudly or passive aggressively depending on how happy or mad you made us. We could talk about anything and I mean anything – she knew all my secrets. For hours on end we could debate anything – we loved to debate with each other – on any topic.


I remember one time I convinced her that the chickens we noticed behind Hardees were there because Hardees had fresh chicken and that is why it was so fresh. It took a long time of debating, but I won in the end and she believed me – at least that is what she told me to end the debate.


Most often Daddy would leave the room if we started debating because he did not like to hear us argue, but to us it was fun (most of the time).

She was fierce about the people and things she loved. Family always came first. Ray, daddy, Papa, was the center of her life. Her husband of 49 years. They both taught me that no matter what, you take care of family first. They have never let anything stay in their way even when times were tough, they were always there for one another in the end. Married before either of them had experienced the world, they overcame all obstacles and lived out the vow of to death do us part.


She gave me a note not long ago. It said “tell him I truly love him. He is the best husband any woman could have.”

She was so proud of her boys. Chris and Charles were her angels – if you ever talked to her you know there was little we could do wrong in her eyes. If you dared say something about us, you were on the “LIST.” And yes, she kept a list and if you got put on the list you probably did not get taken off the LIST. She was very proud of both of us for all that we have done and all that we will do in the future. She was the ultimate cheerleader / supporter / mom. I could ask her any question on any topic and she would give me a boost in the right direction – sometimes literally “so go do it” sometimes with a question like “so why are you not doing it yet” and sometime with encouragement like “you can do anything you put your mind to.” She had faith that if Chris or Charles wanted something they could and probably would achieve it.




There was nothing more important to her than her grandbabies. They will always be her grandbabies no matter how big they get. Jared was the first and made her Granny. She loved him so much. Just a few days ago, she told me how proud she was of how he was doing in college and at work. She always wanted to tell me how amazing Zachary was doing at school, sports, and of course how he is sooooo good-looking. Hannah was her first granddaughter, my how she wanted daughters and she finally got one. She tried to take her home every time we got together. She always gushed over Hannah being beautiful and smart. Then came Sophia. A grand-daughter that loved makeup, jewelry, shopping, clothes, dressing up, and I am not sure how this happened, but they even shared the same packing skills – in other words if you own it pack it. She loved that all her grandbabies enjoyed reading like her. She loved making art for you and with you. She wanted you to be with her all the time. She was very proud of all of you for what you have done and she had high expectations of what you will do with your lives. I can tell you, just like Granny Moore has always been with me, Granny will always be with you, watching over you, protecting you, and guiding you. Listen and you will hear her love all the way from heaven.


Outside of her immediate family few others were as close to her heart. However, there are a few that I know deserve mention.  Mamaw, Tonya, Janie, Debbie, Martha, Bill, Blake, Karol, Kelly, Jon, Carter, Henry, Kayla, Elly, and Randy. She loved her family.

Other than family she loved to travel – mainly to the beach. She loved her crafts – all of them – no really, if you could make it she was probably working on it. She loved Elvis, country music, electronics – although they never worked for her, reading, playing games, flowers, and of course her dogs. She faced life with a fierce love that is rare to see. From driving down sidewalks to burning dinner to decorating for Christmas, Halloween, valentine’s day, and any other holiday where she could make or buy decorations, to painting walls, to dreaming of the future she lived life as fully as her body would allow. She tolerated pain like I hope none of us can imagine or must face ourselves. She was and is my hero.


Granny, Patsy, Mom you will be missed. You were the glue that held us all together and somehow always knew where that thing was in your system of organization. You will live on through all of us here and all those that you touched with your kind heart. I hope you found the heaven we talked about. I hope Debbie and Granny Moore were both there waiting on you as you arrived. I know you found Gunner, Yogi, and Mickey as soon as you arrived. I will see you soon, but not soon enough.

insulate attic access

Air Leaks in Your Home on a Windy Day – Seal Them Up and Save Money

Air leaksIt is supposed to be windy later today. The wind blowing on one side of your home will create a positive pressure on that side. The other side of the house will form a negative pressure. This causes your home to expand and contract – hopefully and not likely enough to see it, but you will be able to feel air moving. Use the wind today to find the air leaks in your thermal envelope (wall system) and seal them up. If the leaks are around doors and windows, you can add weather-stripping to stop the leaks. Also check around the electrical outlets and light switches in the walls. The attic access is another place I often find air leaks. You can use a candle or just put your hand next to the suspect place. Caulking the gaps around penetrations – medicine cabinets, recessed can lights, electric outlets (behind the covers) will reduce your energy usage and make your home more comfortable. If you want me to help find the leaks, call us for an energy-audit.

The Lofts

The LOFTS at 83 South Main are ready for move in

The LOFTS at 83 South Main are ready for move in

To read previous blogs about this project, click here.

The LOFTS at 83 South Main are ready for move in after months of work.





It takes a special person to see potential in a building that has been neglected for so long. Fortunately our client was such a person. The LOFTS located in the heart of historic downtown Harrisonburg are now available for rent. Built in the 1880’s this South Main Street building has seen a massive revitalization. The exterior retains the historic character, but the interior of this building has been completely reconstructed and updated.




The exposed brick walls, large windows, and modern amenities will make these units some of the most desirable for local professionals. Located less than a block from court square and right across the street from Jack Brown’s these units will not stay available for long.





When we started the project there were considerable challenges. The floors sloped, there was fire damage, the windows were falling apart, and the plumbing / electrical / heating / cooling systems were a wreck. The previous building owner had not maintained the structure for many years. Once construction started we found even more structural issues that were hidden inside the floor systems and behind the plaster. This building needed a LOT of care to bring it back to a safe and comfortable dwelling. 





Once Bryan Nesselrodt Construction completed their work you can see the beauty has been restored. The units are simple, but offer all the amenities you could want in a downtown LOFT. For more information on leasing, visit For questions about your next renovation project, just give me a call – we love saving old buildings and showing them love again.







The Lofts Harrisonburg

Listening is important, but telling your story comes first for good design

Listening is important, but telling your story comes first for good design

The process of design is emotional. It takes a lot of vulnerability, patience, and openness to get it right. I have spent the last 17 years working on being able to hear my clients. I hope each day and each project I get better at this skill.


I think the most important skill for a designer is to be able to HEAR a client. I listen for clues in what you say and how you say it. I watch your expressions and actions as you talk. I listen as you lay out your goals, frustrations, joys, pains, and aspirations. This is how I can design for you. It takes time to really hear you. This is done through pictures, words, sketches – but all require conversation.

harrisonburg farmhouse

When I design I am not imposing my likes on your design solution, I am trying to translate what you have told me into the design you really want. It may not look like the picture we both had in mind before the conversation. It may look completely different from what you expected, but if I am able to really hear you, it will be what you love. I will bring my experience and understanding of design to the solution. I will push you to decide what you like and don’t like in the design options. I will challenge you to make sure we have the design just right before we settle on a solution. This is what we do.


The only way I can HEAR however is for you to be able to tell your story openly and as vulnerable as possible. You have to share open and honestly with me what you want. You have to be able to say yes and no to various options. Your job as the client is to tell your story and my job is to translate that into design. This is how custom design is different from purchasing an existing home. This is what sets apart your business interior from others. This is how you create a sense of place that is just right for you.


recessed light problems

Recessed can lights could waste energy and make your home uncomfortable

Recessed can lights could waste energy and make your home uncomfortable

Recessed lighting, also called can lights, are light fixtures mounted in the ceiling so that it is flush with the ceiling. These lights can be huge energy waster that provide a path for air movement outside the thermal envelope. This impacts energy usage to heat or cool your home and could potentially even cause a breeze in the room.

In this thermal image you can see air leaking into the house around the can light and even around the bulb. These leaks add up around the house and impact your home comfort.

Finding leaks like this are easy to do during an energy audit, but the fix is not as simple as you might think. Most can lights do not allow you to put insulation on top of them due to heat build up. They are also most often not air tight cans allowing air infiltration. So the fix could be replacement. You could also build a box above the fixture in the attic and then insulate around the box. You could condition your attic so that air leaking into your space is conditioned air. You could also caulk the housing tight to the drywall and accept the leaks around the bulb and the thermal bridge.

There are many places to make improvements to the thermal envelope of your home. If you improve each a little, you will make a big difference overall.