2016: What Did We Get Done And What Is Next?

I have heard from some of you and I know you agree, 2016 was not the best of years…. There seemed to be a cloud of negative over much of the year. Certainly this happens each Presidential election cycle, but this year seemed somehow more sticky. In addition, I faced some of the most challenging times of my adult life this year resulting in some burn-out through the year.  There seemed to be more death this year or perhaps I am just coming to an age where more people who have had influence over my life are passing. In any case, it was sad to see so many go including my Aunt Debbie and my favorite musician of all time, Prince. Violence around the world somehow seemed louder and closer to home this year more than I ever remember – especially through the hate filled comments on social media. Let’s face it, 2016 had a lot of wrong going on.

However, there was good that came out of all the rubble over the last 12 months. There is a silver lining. In face, so much was GOOD that happened in 2016, here are some of our stories.

Right at the tail end of 2015 I ran in the Harrisonburg Glow Run with these folks and had a great time.

Harrisonburg Glow Run

I started my year off right with these beautiful souls and a trip to see my mom, dad, brother, and nephews – our New Year Day tradition. Each day I get to spend with them is truly a treasure. I need to make sure I focus on that as I do love to give my time to all sorts of efforts around the community – this is the one that is most important.

Our Rotary Club continues to change the world by putting service above self. We have so much in this community and together as a group of Rotarians, we can share our gifts with the world. This year we raised money for many good local organizations, packed food for the hungry around the world, hosted a Soapbox Derby, and so much more.


We moved into our new office at the DEPOT!!!! also HERE. I have literally fallen in love with this building. I am so thankful to Jim Monger for allowing us to be part of the project and to have our office here. It is such a joy to work in a building like this one.

Harrisonburg architectural office

Harmony Square Dairy Queen opened their doors this past January. Talk about wonderful clients – it has been such a gift to have Jane and Mike as clients. Not only are they wonderful people, they have soft serve ice cream!

Dairy Queen Harmony Square

We helped to organize the first ever Harrisonburg Homesteading Festival. I hope this becomes an annual tradition and grows this year (at the SVBA Home and Living Expo).

homesteading festival

I got to bowl for Kid’s Sake on the SVBA team! I do love events that help kids, this one especially benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County. Want to be part of my team this year?

Bowl for kids sake

I was able to go on a field trip with Sophia to Washington D.C. Each day I get to spend with my girls is such a treat. 

2016 in review

We helped to coordinate Canstruction Harrisonburg for the second year. This year we were able to raise 6,098 pounds of food for those in need in our community.

Canstruction Harrisonburg

Several on our Charlottesville team are now Construction Document Technologists (CDT)! Congratulations on passing this difficult exam Adrienne and Paul!

CSI construction specifications

James continues to serve the Charlottesville community as a Sherrif’s Deputy. Deborah gives her time to HDR to help grow our downtown. Ray continues to volunteer in the Albemarle County School district.  Our firm continues to have a strong emphasis on the importance of volunteering in your community. We can change our future for the better if we all work together doing it.

albemarle sheriff's deputy

Construction was completed on another design project we did for Innisfree Village. This organization does some great work in the community. We are so proud to be part of their team.

villageInnisfree Village Meadow II model

Deborah and I were able to teach 5th and 6th graders at Skyline Middle School sketch-up and several finished the design of “dream homes.” On the Road Collaborative is an organization making a difference in our community. Want to support someone doing good – check out these folks.

on the road collaborative

I was able to assist 6th graders at North Fork Middle School in taking their next step to building a zero-energy science lab.

North Fork Middle School

Progress continues on the townhouses we designed for Preston Lake Community in Harrisonburg. 

Preston Lake

Deborah finished her Master of Business Administration degree from EMU! She was able to do this while working full-time.

Deborah Smith

I had a great trip to D.C. including lunch with a wonderful friend (since 5th grade). Thanks for inviting me up to speak at the Department of Energy Mary!

Day Trip Washington DCDay Trip Washington DC

Construction finished on this beautiful farmhouse we designed in Rockingham County. This was another project we did with Beck Builders.


Nephew Jared graduated from high school and started college at PVCC.

2016 in review

We are once again able to host First Friday art openings in our new space and have had some incredible artists in our space this year. I love supporting our art community and it gives us a chance to show off our building each month. Mark your calendar, these openings happen every month on the first Friday.

Stronge DesignsDepot Tee Green

Gaines Group Christmas

W A Berkshire

First Friday Downtown

Open House

I helped to organize Valley Business Keynote and it was another amazing event! This year Dan Pallotta joined us. I absolutely love working with this bunch of leaders.

vbk 2016

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance is helping the downtown thrive and grow under the leadership of Andrea Dono. We have now done three jobs downtown and are in our long-term downtown office space – this is my professional home. We have seen such huge growth downtown since arriving in 2004. Eddie Bumbaugh did a great job in building the framework for success. We look forward to seeing where Andrea takes our town.

michael sheeler depot harrisonburg

Michael Sheeler photography

We got to see Jamal Millner play a Prince Tribute Concert. I have known Jamal since before I can remember – literally. He was often at our house when I was very young. This concert that he organized was AMAZING.

2016 in review

Our family took a much-needed vacation to Williamsburg over the summer. It was hot, but I think we all had fun.

Williamsburg VA

2016 in review

2016 in review

I was once again a speaker at Construct, a national building industry conference that gathers people from all aspects of the construction industry to advance construction knowledge. This annual conference continues to be the best I attend each year. I have been an invited speaker at multiple events over the years. This one was in Austin, TX.

2016 in review

2016 in review

2016 in review

I got to see George Clinton lay down the funk in Roanoke. This was the third time I have seen him play live and probably the last time. He remains a great performer, but has lost some his gusto.

2016 in review

We broke ground on our Net-Zero house. This one is being built by Mark Bergman. Our clients make everything else we do possible, I am very thankful for those allowing us to design “green” homes in the community.

Net Zero Build

I attended City Works Expo and got to hang out with some cool people, learn some new stuff, and see this incredible art. Thanks to Brad for getting me to attend. This conference was inspirational. The oddest part was at this particular conference, I was one of the old guys. I guess it is a sign of the times, but also uplifting to see so many younger than me looking for innovative ways to build community.

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I was able to host several school groups at my office and me in their classrooms this year. I am honored to have so many opportunities to share my passion for building science, architecture, and design with the next generation.


I ran a few races, each time improving my time a little over the previous. One of the biggest lessons I have learned this year, I need to take care of me so I can better take care of others. The time has come to stop putting it off.

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We marched in Harrisonburg to raise awareness of climate change. Really, anytime I get to hang out with Charlie is a great time, but walking in this parade and showing my girls how much our future depends on them was powerful. We have a problem. We can, I hope, solve the problem. We just need to adjust our priorities.


We broke ground on our Carbon Neutral House. This is another Beck Builders project and another client I am thankful for giving me a chance. I look forward to sharing more with you about this project.


I had a chance to do a BUNCH of energy audit to help folks in the community reduce their energy bills. There is so much work that can be done to reduce your monthly energy bills and our community impact on the environment. I have knowledge about the solutions and I am happy to share it with you. Just call for an energy audit.


I got to spend some special time with this beautiful lady. I need to do this more – I love my family and I need to spend more time with them!


We added staff in both office locations, Ivan, Maggie, and Rebecca in Harrisonburg and Trevor in Charlottesville. Welcome to the team, the biggest our team has ever been. Wait until you see what we are able to accomplish now.


We attended Red Wing Roots! The Steel Wheels have quickly become my favorite musical group. We were in a position this year to be able to sponsor this event that it turns out a LOT of our clients attend. What a fun-filled three days of music and community!

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The girls and I went to see this bush cut out in my likeness and to ride some rides .


I had a chance to hang out with Hannah looking at cool art in Charlottesville. It is rare that I get invited to school functions at the middle school – glad I got the invite for this one.

Eastern mennonite School Eastern mennonite School

We attended a Tennessee Women’s Basketball game. I do enjoy seeing Tennessee play!

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We started the Chesapeake Western Railroad history collection in our building. If you have not been by our space yet, please come and visit. If you are interested in the history of the building stay a while and check out the display.

depot-train Chesapeake Western Depot

I got to see this guy wearing this shirt on facebook! I think he may be a UVA Fan now!


This project in downtown Harrisonburg is almost done. We love saving old buildings through design. This new apartment building on South Main street is being renovated by Nesselrodt Construction.

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I ended the year with a run – the second annual New Year’s Eve Glow Run and improved my 5K time. Thanks to the guys at VA Momentum for a well-organized and fun event!

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I hope you have a chance to remember all the GOOD that happened for you in 2016. Going through this list certainly lifted my spirits. I think I am ready for 2017.


Construction Documents Technology Exam for Architects

Take the Construction Documents Technology (CDT) exam to better serve your clients.

I have written about the importance of the Construction Documents Technology exam many times in the past. I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing how a project should happen if the project goes perfect. I say this because I have never had a perfect project, something always happens, but knowing how to get it back to where it should be is critical for success (happy clients). The Construction Documents Technology  (CDT) exam study process teaches you how the construction process should happen and helps you avoid problems.

Meg Carpenter

When asked why she wanted to sit for the Construction Documents Technology (CDT) exam, Meg Carpenter in our Charlottesville office said “I want to become a Construction Document Technologist (CDT) because it will not only strengthen my knowledge and abilities as a career professional in my own field, but it will also help strengthen my relationship amongst all other parties involved in the project delivery process. I will be a more efficient architect for my clients and a clearer communicative partner for contractors and engineers, which will result in smoother project delivery and better professional relationships. I believe that becoming a CDT certificate holder will not only benefit me personally, but positively impact my field, related parties and all future facilities. “

In the construction industry it is easy to put your head down and try to avoid problems by showing up on time, doing what is expected, and performing to the best of your ability. The problem is, as I have heard it so many times – “CONSTRUCTION HAPPENS!” What do you do when just doing what you ‘thought’ was expected is not what was actually expected? What do you do when your interpretation of the documents is not the owner’s interpretation? How do you show potential clients that you understand how the process works and that you are a leader in the industry that deserves the opportunity? One good way is earning a CDT Certificate through the Construction Specifications Institute.

I am a “Construction Document Technologist.” This is the first step in the CSI certification ladder. In the competitive economy that we face, I find that you have to prove yourself time and again that you understand the construction process. CSI’s professional qualifications do just that for you. CDT is the “foundation you need to gain the competitive advantage” you need in today’s economy.

I encourage you to take the step and register for the CDT exam today. I can tell you it has benefited my career growth, allowed me to solve problems before they became big problems, and has saved my clients money repeatedly.

Learn more at http://csinet.org/certification

Just another boring industry conference #Construct #STLCSI

I am at just another boring industry conference this week. You get up early to go to class. You stay out late networking. People email and call from your office wondering why you have not responded faster. You meet the industry leading experts in everything from building science, specifications, concrete, historic preservation… You probably don’t want to attend – nothing to do really.

Except for:


Construct Show

Site Tours

Construct Show

Site Tours

Construct Show

Site Tours

Construct Show

Site Tours

Construct Show

Site Tours

Construct Show


Construct Show


Construct Show


Construct Show


Construct Show


Construct Show


Construct Show

Frozen Custard

Construct Show


Construct Show

ball pits

And that was just the first two days.

Green Term Defined: Specifications


Construction Specifications are the cornerstone of the project design. In most cases they override the project drawings in the event of conflicting information. The purpose of the construction specifications is to define the requirements regarding materials, products, installation and quality aspects pertaining to the execution of the work and contract. There are multiple types of specifications – performance, prescriptive, and proprietary. None of these are a simple list of product selections as many in the industry claim as their specifications.


A performance specification is a document that tells the contractor what the final installed product must be capable of doing. The concept behind this type of specification is for the architect to tell the contractor what they need and the contractor to determine the best way to get there.

A prescriptive specification explains the project through detailed materials that the contractor must use and the means to installing those materials. This approach gives the architect more control over the execution of the project.

A proprietary specification is used when you want a specific product type for a particular installation. This approach should be used when there is a specific piece of equipment or material needed to meet a particular requirement.


When you are building in commercial construction, specifications are very common. However, in green residential it should also be a mandatory part of the design process!


The most valuable resource in the construction industry are those in the industry helping others

As I wrote last week, the biggest challenge we face in our industry is “no design.” Buildings that do not address climate, culture, or context will tear apart of community if allowed to proliferate a geographic region. Your community could become a nondescript wasteland with no identity.


We need the built environment to reflect our values and beliefs. So how do we take on this huge burden of designing a future with which our society will be shaped? We can only do it if we know the best practices and information available. We can only do it acting as a cohesive community of designers, builders, engineers, and product suppliers. We can only do it together as a profession.

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One of my biggest sources of professional resources is the Construction Specifications Institute. Through this one organization I have met many of the best in the industry. A short list of those that give me support and inspiration are Kait Solomon, Joy Davis, Hagerco, Paul Gerber, Marvin Kemp, Cherise Schacter, Ray Gaines, Thad Goodman, Ginny Powell, Lori Greene, Mitch Miller, David Stutzman, Ellen Onstad, Eric Lussier, Sheldon Wolfe, Liz Sullivan, DuWayne Baird, Rietta McCain, Vivian Volz, Gary Beimers, Andy McIntyre, Sheryl Dodd-Hansen, Brian Trimble, LeeAnn Slattery, and Randy Nichimura.


Green Terms Defined: The 4 C’s

Since I entered the construction profession I have known CSI (Construction Specifications Institute).  I was fortunate to start my career in a firm deeply involved with CSI. I give credit to this involvement to my learning the importance of the 4 C’s to a successful construction project. However, this may in fact be the most difficult part of creating a green project. You have to be able to effectively convey the information from design to construction in a Clear, Concise, Correct, and Complete method.

Changing a simple word in a project manual can change the intent of the design. Placing a note that does not effectively convey the design intent on the drawings may cause the performance of the building to suffer upon completion. Missing a note that should have been on the drawings could cause the contractor to install in inferior product that does not meet the goals for the project. It sounds simple, but making sure you follow the 4 C’s in construction document creation may be the most critical aspect of creating a green project.

The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI)is a national professional association that provides format standards to meet the construction industry’s need for a common system of organizing and presenting documents. CSI also provides technical information and publications, continuing education, professional conferences, and product shows to assist the professions involved in creating and sustaining the built environment. Founded in 1948, CSI is the only organization that serves all the major disciplines involved in facility design and construction.