Leadership Harrisonburg-Rockingham (LHR)

Leadership Harrisonburg-Rockingham (LHR)

Our very own Deborah Smith has begun her leadership training through LHR here in Harrisonburg Virginia! Founded in 1979 this program strives to encourage aspiring leaders to grow in communication skills and encourage community involvement through monthly sessions. We are incredibly proud that our introverted architect survived a full day of team-building activities, and learned and retained more names than ever before thanks to the help of those games!

The first session of the program was held at Horizon’s Edge and focused on team building within the cohort and identifying qualities of good leaders and teams.  The day was filled with group activities that helped everyone get to know each other and also taught lessons on communication, working in large and small groups and leadership.  The activities ranged from rock, paper, scissors tournaments where everyone that lost had to cheer on the winners (Deborah won a round!), to building towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows (she also won!). 

Throughout the duration of these activities, it was important to listen and understand the leadership style of every single person involved. While some were more naturally inclined to step forward to lead the group, others held back while still offering helpful advice on how to improve strategy. Overall these exercises proved just how important it is to make your entire team feel heard and appreciated, especially through group challenges. Afterwards, the teams sat down and reflected on their core values and discussed how vital small and large decisions can be to the end goal at hand.

Rocktown Energy Fest: Gaines Group Panel

Rocktown Energy Fest: Gaines Group Panel

We are beyond excited for our very own Charles Hendricks to attend the first annual Rocktown Energy Fest to present his panel on, Building Science: Save Energy and Money. You can RSVP and find further details of this event here.

A home is the most complicated machine you will ever own. Humidity, water, insects, energy use, air quality, VOCs: there are so many factors that impact your health and comfort in a home, but we rarely think about them. Join Charles for a short session to talk about things you can do in your home that can reduce your monthly energy bills, saving you money while reducing your chances of getting sick.

We hope to see you there this weekend, Saturday, October 2nd at 10:00 AM. Our panel begins at 10:20 AM, and if you would like more information on saving money by going green check out our ‘At Home Energy Series’ Including Solar, Hydro, and Around the House!

Tinky Bryan’s Bench at The Depot

Tinky Bryan’s Bench at The Depot

With First Friday fast approaching, we are taking time to highlight the rich history of our gallery space. Before The Depot was “The Depot” it was The Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot and was constructed in 1913 to rival other railroad companies in a location that blocked off possible expansions. It’s no surprise that a building constructed out of spite would house some of the hardest working railwaymen in Virginia. This summer we had the privilege of hosting a bench dedication for Walter P. “Tinky” Bryan and took time to honor his legacy with his family.

We invited several members of the community to come and speak about the history of the building and the similarity between the strength of the building itself and the railway workers that made it what it is. Our very own Charles Hendricks discussed the power of the Depot in the Harrisonburg community and how it functions as a symbol of resilience, history, and restoration.

Walter P. “Tinky” Bryan, was a man dedicated to his work, and his family, making sure to reserve Sunday mornings for taking his family to church. His goal in life was to go out with his boots on and sure enough, his wish was granted. We are incredibly honored to share The Depot with Tinky’s family and share the historic relics that live here. We are even more thrilled that Tinky has his very own bench at his favorite place for friends and family to enjoy and remember his strength, resiliency, and passion for his work.

GiveSolar and the Green Energy Movement

GiveSolar and the Green Energy Movement

Our first Net-Zero design came back in 2005. At the time Solar PV was expensive and rare for most of our projects. We focused on building energy-efficient to reduce energy usage, but Solar PV almost never got added. Then the price of solar thermal dropped and we starting seeing more interest in that technology. Today, things have switched drastically in the favor of Solar PV as panels are very affordable. As energy costs continue to rise renewable, “Green energy”, is rising in popularity. The switch to renewable energy seems like a no-brainer, there are several benefits to taking the plunge into a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, more specifically – solar power

Net zero house

GiveSolar is a non-profit that not only understands the benefits of solar power but is working towards installing panels for 20 Central Valley Habitat for Humanity households with twelve solar panels through their Solar Seed Fund. This project will not only make solar power more accessible but also promote green energy and the economic benefits of going solar. GiveSolar has been an active member of their communities since 2016, beginning with a solar barn-raising, since then they have been striving to eliminate poverty through green energy.

Solar power pulls energy from the sun that would otherwise show up on your utility bill, this form of energy reduces electricity bills, cuts down on carbon emissions, and can even increase property value! These panels save homeowners roughly $14,000.00 in a span of thirty years, panels not only work for you but work towards keeping our environment healthier. You might be asking yourself why doesn’t everyone switch to solar? There are common misconceptions that sway homeowners from going green, one of those being unpredictable weather, when in fact cloud coverage doesn’t significantly affect the power the panels absorb. Solar panels also don’t require warm weather in order to work, what’s stopping you from going green?

Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center

Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center

Our mission is to not just be a leader in the future of design but to also be a leader in making a difference in our communities. Part of the way we do that is by using our skills to support local nonprofits, such as the Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center. One of the first projects we assisted on was the structural care and climate control of the Burkholder Myers House. This historic home lacked the climate control needed to withstand the varying temperatures and humidity the environment provided, and with quick action and the expertise of our team, we were able to provide a plan to preserve the structure with minimal damage. 

As our involvement grew deeper with the center as sponsors of the Sing Me High Festival and Charles’ daughters frequently volunteering there, we learned of the value of this place in Harrisonburg. We were asked to volunteer our time to help develop a master plan for the long-term sustainability of the center and jumped at the opportunity. This planning phase for any sized organization is crucial to put a plan in place for future generations. While the main focus of the center is to look back at the history of Brethren and Mennonite, it is also looking to preserve heritage in the future. The center has resources that need a home – Hildebrand Church and heavy timber. It owns wagons with no wagon shed. The visitor’s center is not adequate for the needs long-term. So with our ability to visualize what can be in a place that is still growing, we set to work. Joining a committee with deep knowledge of the history of this center and also of Brethren and Mennonite stories we set forth to plan the right solutions while navigating zoning and code compliance. The process took many meetings and we learned a lot about the flow of tours, history, and needs. From those discussions, we were able to draft a master plan for the future.

This long-range plan will guide decisions for future additions to campus that will assist in providing more educational opportunities such as a Poultry House, Wagon Shed, and Carpentry shop. These resources not only allow volunteers to share information with visiting patrons but also host hands-on activities for local field trips. There are plans for a bank-barn, visitor’s center, moving Hildebrand Church, and expanding the 20th-century display along with functional solutions like parking, trees, and a new visitor’s center. The planning document allows for discussions about priority, budget, and schedules for even the most basic decisions – like when to hire a civil engineer to design storm-water solutions and verify compliance with local regulations.

Our work at the center not only benefits our communities but also gives us insight into the history of this place and the heritage that shapes it. As we began designing a simple (brooder) poultry house we learned a lot about the process from 100 years ago to not only care for the poultry but how buildings took shape in a practical and functional way. This new structure expands the offerings of the heritage center and allowed us to learn. A special thanks to JZ Engineering for helping us design a historically accurate 100-year-old structure.

Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center has and continues to be a crucial part of our communities as a resource for education and volunteer opportunities. As we strive to build a better community through design, we are proud to partner with such a beautiful and meaningful organization.

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.