Massanutten Technical Center Summer Camp – Architecture

Massanutten Technical Center Summer Camp – Architecture

This summer I taught a class for Massanutten Technical Center Summer Camp in Architecture. This was my third time teaching the course and it was as rewarding as ever.

Massanutten Technical Center


One of the greatest gifts I have ever been given in life was finding my passion. I love serving others and it feeds my soul. One of the ways I am able to do this is by sharing my knowledge about architecture with others. I do this in blogs, on social media, lectures, and recently through a week long summer camp at Massanutten Technical Center. I had a class of 11 middle school students that signed up (most of them) or were signed up for my course because architecture sounded interesting. This week was a chance to explore a future career option, flex some design muscles, stretch their comfort zone, and get exposed to the built environment in a new way.

Massanutten Technical Center

The main project I used for this week long course was designing a floorplan. In just 20 hours it is hard to do more than conceptualize a familiar kind of space. We talk about styles of architecture, scale, famous works of architecture, famous architects, color, light, and more. It’s a fun week for me to share something I love – the process of creating design.

The students take on the challenges along the way with a tower building challenge using marshmallows and toothpicks and a bridge challenge using one sheet of paper. We watch a variety of videos on sketching to learn different techniques and talk about how to sculpt space. We investigate room sizes and learn about architectural scales as a way to convey information to others.

Massanutten Technical Center
Massanutten Technical Center

Each day has a new challenge and by the end, each student has a floorplan designed for a family they have imagined. Some of the students get to the point of building a 3D version of their floorplan so they can better see the spaces. This allows them to think about a roof and vertical form of their creation.

Massanutten Technical Center
Massanutten Technical Center
Massanutten Technical Center

Taking on this summer camp while keeping up at work is a challenge each time I have done it. However, it is so worth it to see these students grow. Over just a week, I could see them becoming more confident in their abilities to design and think through spatial design problems. If you have the opportunity to share your passion with others, in a summer camp or just a conversation, I encourage you to take the chance to share.

Harrisonburg headquarters

Harrisonburg headquarters

We have been so busy over the last month we failed to post photos from our big party! Here is the press release and some photos from the event.

Gaines Group Architects moves firm headquarters to renovated historic Harrisonburg train station.

The Gaines Group, PLC, Architects is pleased to announce the relocation of its firm headquarters to the historic Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot in the heart of Harrisonburg, Virginia. This milestone marks multiple points of celebration for the firm. Over the last 37 years this business has grown from a one-person operation to a thriving two-location small architectural firm serving communities across four states including Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. In the last 15 years it has experienced a substantial increase in the number and average size of projects and has doubled the size of the firm. This year Raymond Gaines and Charles Hendricks were joined by Paul Tassell, Adrienne Stronge, Deborah Smith, and James Halstead as principals, thus increasing the businesses’ resilience. The firm is celebrating six new hires who bring a diverse set of talents to the organization. Providing architectural services for a project base that includes custom residential, multi-family residential, industrial, educational, commercial, renovation, child care, and more has allowed the firm to continue to grow in spite of the COVID pandemic.

Charles attributes the firm’s growth to its focus on design that creates a better future for all. He says, “Our focus is to find ways to build a stronger community for everyone. We do this through our projects, designing sustainable solutions into every project. We use design strategies that are durable, energy-efficient, and healthy that not only benefit our client, but the community as a whole. We also seek out organizations in our communities that we can partner with and support through volunteer efforts to further this goal. From our work on boards and commissions, to giving our time and skills, we want our legacy to be one of caring for others, the environment, and our collective future.“

Aging-In-Place Part 2: Misconceptions About Aesthetics

Aging-In-Place Part 2: Misconceptions About Aesthetics

It’s been awhile since we’ve written about Aging-In-Place, but as promised, we bring Part 2 to this series focusing on aesthetic misconceptions about this type of design. (Read Part 1 here). As a reminder, you can hear more about Aging-In-Place Design on the on the WSVA Early Mornings podcast where Charles recently joined Beth Bland of Valley Program for Aging Services (VPAS) to talk about Aging in Place.

In the podcast, Beth addresses the common belief that Aging-In-Place modifications/aging friendly design can’t be beautiful or aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception that prevents people from adding these modifications to their homes. We want to break that stereotype. You can make a beautiful house that is also accessible to people with a wide variety of abilities.

This misconception stems both from misinformation and often, a confusion of the terms “ADA compliant design” and Aging-In-Place design.” Here’s a recap from Part 1 in case you missed it.
ADA compliant design vs. Aging-In-Place modifications Recap:

Often ADA design and Aging in Place modifications overlap, but Aging in Place is centered around customizing spaces for you and your abilities. It expands beyond simply meeting the bare minimum requirements of basic building codes to creating something unique and beautiful for your day to day life. This sort of design can be added to your existing home or built into a new one.

Not only is Aging in Place customized around each individual’s physical design needs, but the entire process can be customized around your needs and might include financial, location, and relational considerations.

Beth asks, What things can you do to make aging-in-place modifications in a home look pretty?

Many designs are becoming popular that also happen to be aging friendly. In showers, you can take a tub out and put in a roll-in shower. In the interview, Charles says that he now puts no-step showers into most new houses because “they’re just gorgeous… people love them.” Example pictures below.

Hilltop house roll-in shower

A roll-in shower from #HilltopHouse.

Hilltop house bath and roll-in shower



Bathrooms are particularly important for modifications because water and soap can lead to slip and fall related accidents. For those with balance and mobility challenges, a towel bar that functions also as a grab bar can be installed. (One example here). Sinks can have open space beneath them to allow wheelchairs to slide underneath and give more access to the faucet. A curved front of a sink not only makes a sink more accessible for wheelchairs but gives easier reach for everyone because the sink follows the natural curve of our bodies.

This Modern Home has a beautiful sitting area in their restroom at the vanity (right).

View this custom home portfolio here.

sitting area in the bathroom by the vanity

Detached Garages

Detached garage at Penn Laird
Another example is to have a detached garage (left) that’s connected to the house by a breezeway. This distance from your house keeps chemicals and fumes out that come from your car and things that are often stored in a garage. Air quality is important to everyone, and you can be even more sensitive to poor air quality as you age. A breezeway creates visual interest to a house design and gives space for creative landscaping options. (See left for a beautiful example).


In the kitchen, you can also have a roll-under cabinets, islands, or bars. The space underneath functions dually for stationary chairs and wheelchairs. Counter tops of varying heights make it more accessible for kids, wheelchairs, and any height! Examples of a roll-under island design below. 
roll-under kitchen island
Aging-In-Place modifications can be an expression of your creative style. For example, this home has a unique pull-out spice drawer that’s hidden in it’s design and allows for easy access without overhead reach (pictured left).
Roll-under kitchen island

Grand Doorways and Beyond


These modifications are often a common part of design that you may not even notice unless you were paying attention or it was helping with your specific need. One such example is bigger doorways that allow wheelchairs and every size person to easily get through. Imagine too that you’re carrying a large platter of food for dinner or moving a couch into your home. A wider doorway like the one pictured below accommodates these kinds of common activities too. Aging-In-Place is for everyone.

sliding barn door interior
front doorway

For more information on making a home aging friendly, see these links to a few professionals and experts that are right here in the Valley:

You can listen to the full episode mentioned in the post here: Issues in Aging with Beth Bland of VPAS and Charles Hendricks of The Gaines Group talk about Aging in Place. It’s a short 25 minutes that is definitely worth a listen. #DesignMatters
Celebrations and a Site Visit

Celebrations and a Site Visit

We’ve had a lot to celebrate recently, from a ribbon cutting to graduations to many new people joining our team to a new arrival soon joining the family of one of our team members. This has given our offices chances to celebrate and get to know each other in this transition time of our company. Thank you to everyone who has celebrated these milestones and changes with us.

Below is a glimpse into some of these celebrations.

On Friday, June 2nd, we had a large party at the Chesapeake Western Depot that combined our ribbon cutting ceremony with our monthly First Friday celebration, this time featuring three artists (Veronica, Asha, and the Clymer & Kurtz band)!

Photos of speeches and the Clymer & Kurtz band by Tony DiStefano

At the ceremony, Deborah Smith, Mayor Deanna Reed, Charles Hendricks, Raymond Gaines, and Rockingham County Circuit Court Clerk Chaz Haywood spoke about the importance of community. It really was a community event, and we felt the love and support. Thank you to everyone who came out to join us in this celebration!


Yesterday we celebrated our team members and their accomplishments: new family additions, graduation from three universities (UVA, JMU, and Liberty), and welcoming the hiring of six new staff members in the past year!

Team Lunch

Myles takes a selfie with the staff at the Timberville Taphouse.

Site visit to 5|Row Apartments, a project that Paul, Ray, and Adrienne are working on, to see up-close what the process looks like.

We are so excited for all of the additions to the team and perspectives and skills that they bring. There’s surely a lot to celebrate.

Charles Named Fixr’s Top 100 Architects 2023

Charles Named Fixr’s Top 100 Architects 2023

Charles Hendricks Named as a Top Architect of 2023 has just unveiled its annual list of 100 Top Architects Influencing the Industry in 2023, celebrating the most influential professionals of the industry today. This exclusive list highlights the architects who have made significant contributions to the industry’s growth as a whole.’s selection process evaluated these experts on their expertise, experience, and the ability to inspire through innovation and growth. These 100 Top Architects have established themselves on both local and national levels with exceptional projects and esteemed reputations. 

Being acknowledged as a top Architect is a validation of each expert’s prestige. According to Cristina Miguelez, home remodeling specialist at, “These experts are creating a collaborative and innovative homebuilding process through their knowledge and dedication. Their work is what’s driving the industry forward today.”

Being featured on’s list affirms Charles’ leadership and expertise in the home building industry. This recognition establishes the fact that Charles is a leading force for innovation, which is vital to the continuous growth of construction practices and trends in 2023.


Headshot of Charles Hendricks


About Charles:


  Charles Hendricks and is an architect, Rotarian, and father living in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. He serves the firm as Principal Architect also focused on business development, marketing, sustainability, and building science. He serves the community through a wide range of organizations including the Rotary Club of Rockingham County, Shenandoah Valley Partnership, Explore More Museum, Park View Mennonite Church, Massanutten Technical Center Foundation, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance Design Committee, and through many other volunteer opportunities. His core believe is that through design we can build a stronger and more vibrant future for all.

Read more about Charles and his work here.


About Gaines Group Architects:


Gaines Group Architects is a small firm with a big idea – design can build a better community, enhance livability, reduce construction and operation costs, and protect our environment.

Design matters.

We work hard to understand the best practices in the industry so we can provide our clients with functional, affordable, and beautiful design solutions. We do this through a focus on quality, value, building science, and timeless beauty. Gaines Group Architects is located in Harrisonburg and Charlottesville, Virginia. We serve a wide range of clients from custom homes, renovations, additions, commercial, retail, industrial, ecclesiastical, and non-profits.

Mission statement: Through design we want to build a stronger more vibrant community. We want to design solutions that make positive changes for everyone in our community.

Why we do it: Because we want a better future for our clients, community, and world.


About is a home improvement resource specialist with the mission of helping homeowners make better home remodeling decisions. is unrivaled when it comes to providing unbiased, thorough and updated cost guides, price comparisons, and cheat sheets for hundreds of remodeling, installation, and repair projects. When the homeowner is equipped with the necessary knowledge, connects homeowners with the best matched contractors in their area to begin their home improvement projects.

For the complete list of the 100 Top Architects of 2023, visit:

Aging In Place – Part 1: Where to begin?

Aging In Place – Part 1: Where to begin?

Charles recently joined Beth Bland of Valley Program for Aging Services (VPAS) on the WSVA Early Mornings podcast to talk about Aging in Place. As a certified Aging in Place Specialist since May 2012, Charles has had many years of experience making these considerations, both professionally and through personal experience with family. In the episode, he addresses questions regarding everything from the basics of what Aging in Place is to specifics of what you can do to implement these modifications.

We begin this Aging in Place blog series with definitions and ways to begin, summarized from the episode, and will expand on the process of design implementation in further blog posts.


What is Aging In Place ?

Aging in Place is all about making a home adaptable as we all inevitably age and have abilities that change. Not only is this design approach about aging but it’s designing for a wide range of abilities. This sort of design can be added to your existing home or built into a new one. It doesn’t have to be a large-scale renovation and can be as simple as adding a towel bar to your bathroom that functions dually as a grab bar.

How does this differ from ADA compliant design?

Often ADA design and Aging in Place modifications overlap, but Aging in Place is centered around customizing for you and your experience. It expands beyond simply meeting the bare minimum requirements of basic building codes to creating something unique and beautiful for your day to day life (In another blog, we will discuss the misconception that Aging in Place design can’t be aesthetically pleasing).

Not only is Aging in Place customized around each individual’s physical design needs, but the entire process can be customized around your needs and might include financial, location, and relational considerations.

Why might I need an Aging in Place designed home?

All of us experience changes as we age and simply through life’s ups and downs. When possible, it’s better to plan ahead for life’s variability and unexpected times. Some things you might consider adaptations for are:

  • balance issues
  • reduced vision
  • reduced hearing
  • decreased mobility
  • reduced mental capabilities
  • loss of strength or endurance

The Planning Phase:

What questions should I consider for where to begin?

  1. What are the needs for your specific situation and what might you need in the in the future?
  2. Can your current house be adapted to what your needs will be?
  3. What are you able to do financially?
    1. Do you want to renovate or move to a new house?
    2. Do you have a budget?
  4. Do you live in a location that can support transportation needs changing, such as being near a bus station?
  5. Could a family or nurse live with you in this place?

Who can I talk to in advance to answer these questions and help start the process?

Because Aging in Place is so customizable, not all of these people will be pertinent to you, but these are some options to begin.

  • Architect: to assess how adaptable your house is
  • Contractor: for pricing
  • Professionals for more specific needs:
    • Occupational Therapist: for specific/personal adaptations
    • Financial Advisor: to discuss budget
    • Realtor: if moving location


Making things even easier, we have a wealth of knowledge right here in the Valley with many professionals that are experts on Aging in Place! Here are some places to go for more information on making a home aging friendly

You can listen to the full episode here: Issues in Aging with Beth Bland of VPAS and Charles Hendricks of The Gaines Group talk about Aging in Place. It’s a short 25 minutes that is definitely worth a listen. #DesignMatters