Gaines Group Architects

Welcome our newest team member – Hannah Jackson, Allied ASID, CSI

 Welcome our newest team member – Hannah Jackson, Allied ASID, CSI
Hannah Jackson
Hannah studied at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and received a Bachelors of Science degree in Interior Design. While at UTC, she was involved as a student member in the Interior Design Alliance (IDA), American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and Construction Specifications Institute (CSI).  She was active in her sorority, the UTC campus, and the Chattanooga community through philanthropic events.  She was drawn to The Gaines Group by their variety of residential and commercial projects, as well as, the small firm atmosphere.  She has always had an interest in interior design and architecture, and is excited to start her career at The Gaines Group.  
university of tennessee chattanooga
Hannah enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and camping, and she likes to read, paint, and refinish/re-purpose furniture in her spare time.  She is glad to finally be in the same city as her family again after being 500 miles away at school for the last four years.  She is looking forward to volunteering in the community and getting involved in a church.
Want to touch base with her, give a call or email:
office: 540-437-0012
email: hannah (at)
American Society of Interior Designersconstruction specifications institute

About The Gaines Group, PLC

The Gaines Group, PLC is a Virginia based architecture firm with offices in Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. Established in 1987, the firm has a dedication to strong ideas, ecological stewardship, and client satisfaction. As an award-winning residential and commercial building design firm, The Gaines Group, PLC has established a strong reputation of sophisticated design through addressing the specific needs and place for which a project is to be built.

The firm’s mission statement: through design we can have a better future. We want to see that our work made a difference and the community is a better place for it.

Why we do it: because we want our clients to have comfortable beautiful healthy spaces to live, play, and work.

The firm offers a comprehensive range of integrated design services including architecture, LEED Consulting, Specification Consulting, Interior Design, Landscape planning, Master Planning, Site Planning, Graphic Design, and Marketing Design.


16. William McDonough is a visionary story-teller that happens to be an #architect #105architecturalinspiration

William McDonough is a visionary story-teller that happens to be an architect. When he moved to Charlottesville and took the post as Dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture in 1994, I had also just arrived. His ability to take this complicated process (relatively new to the industry) called sustainability and make it accessible to college students was a tremendous gift to my education. His approach to design was one of asking new questions. He challenges status quo in order find better solutions in ways that have not been asked or thought about in the past.

“A building should be like a tree, it should thrive on the Sun’s energy while embracing its surroundings.” ~ McDonough

This new way of thinking about design shaped my approach to architecture. It gave me permission to ask questions of tried and true answers of those more experienced in the construction industry. His guidance shaped the future of my career showing me a new normal that did not yet exist in the industry. He posed questions to students such as why did it take so many years to add wheels to our luggage? Why do we use something with an explosive tube and hundreds of chemicals to entertain our children (a television)? How can we deliver solutions for buildings that create habitat rather than destroying habitat (vegetated roofs / living system water filtration)? These were new questions to me and a new way of approaching design.

I can’t imagine something being beautiful at this point in history if it’s destroying the planet or causing children to get sick. ~ McDonough

He is not without controversy. However, the successes that he has had outweigh any negatives that blazing new trails might have caused along the way. Teaching me to ask new kinds of questions, not to accept “because that is the way we always do it” as an answer, and showing innovation as an expected outcome changed my view of the profession. He brought in leaders from around the world that were making smarter choices in their own communities. I was introduced to concepts that at the time were done only in the most innovative areas of the design industry. As a student, getting exposure to innovation as if it were standard, gave me a new understanding of the industry.

“How do we love all the children of all the species for all time?” ~ McDonough

William McDonough gave me a goal to strive for through my design career – stop looking for solutions that are “less bad, and start looking for solutions that are good.”

#105architecturalinspirations is a collection of architectural details, buildings, and spaces that inspire me. I am taking on the challenge of finding two projects to spotlight each week in 2015. Hopefully I will be able to keep up and this process of discovery will push me to create better design solutions for my clients as I research and learn more about those projects I enjoy most. I challenge you to add your comments below about this project and to post your own inspirations for all to enjoy. 

Full List of previous #105architecturalinspiration posts

1. Jefferson’s Academical Village

2. Charleston, South Carolina

3. Solar Decathlon

4. National Museum of the American Indian

5. Lighthouses

6. Hatch Show Prints

7. The Aqua Tower in Chicago

8. Chicago Theatre Marquee

9. Samuel Mockbee

10. Richard Meier

11. Notre Dame du Haut

12. Philip Merrill Environmental Center

13. Church of the Light

14. Magney House

15. Monticello

The Gaines Group, PLC adds depth and experience with James Halstead, Jr.

 For Immediate Release:  The Gaines Group, PLC adds depth and experience with James Halstead, Jr.

Press Inquiries: Charles Hendricks, AIA, CSI, CDT, CAPS, LEED AP


Charlottesville, VA – The Gaines Group, PLC is pleased to announce the addition of James Halstead, Jr. to our Charlottesville, VA design team. James brings 16 years of experience in Structural Engineering, along with extensive experience in project management and quality control. His work approach is known throughout the industry as being efficient, effective, responsive, and thoughtful.

photo (1)James grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia and graduated from Piedmont College. His family, wife Lynn and daughter Kendall, live in Fluvanna County.  James served on the Fluvanna County Planning Commission from 2008-2012, acting as Chairman in 2012. Before joining The Gaines Group, PLC, he worked for Moler and Associates, Consulting Structural Engineers, and The Earth Technology Group (EarthTech). Founding member of The Gaines Group, PLC, Raymond E. Gaines, FCSI, AIA, CCS says “adding James to our team brings even more depth and understanding to our already talented team. He has extensive knowledge of how we approach a project through our many team projects over the past 16 years. We believe he is going to add tremendously to the value we can deliver to our clients for many years to come.”IMG_0647

With a combined design experience of over 100 years, The Gaines Group, PLC is pleased to add James Halstead, Jr. to our team. The firm’s continued growth during difficult economic conditions can be attributed to a focus on sound design strategies that offer healthy, energy-efficient, and durable solutions for our clients. James’ brings a deep knowledge and understanding of fundamental structural design solutions and technologies that will further our ability to better serve our community.

About The Gaines Group, PLC

The Gaines Group, PLC is a Virginia based architecture firm with offices in Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. Established in 1987, the firm has a dedication to strong ideas, ecological stewardship, and client satisfaction. As an award winning residential and commercial building design firm, The Gaines Group, PLC has established a strong reputation of sophisticated design through addressing the specific needs and place for which a project is to be built. The firm’s work does not espouse any singular architectural style, but strives to find that which is unique and important within a given project and to express it architecturally. The firm offers a comprehensive range of integrated design services including architecture, LEED Consulting, Specification Consulting, Interior Design, Landscape planning, Master Planning, Site Planning, Graphic Design, and Marketing Design.


architectural design

Design of a Home: A Process of Discovery

Every client makes decisions differently and every project evolves in a unique fashion. However for the design of a home, the big steps are always the same. The initial meeting is a conversation to establish the goals, scope, and budget. The completion of this meeting usually leaves the architect with a really good idea of the direction the project is going. In the case of this particular project, these initial bubble diagrams and resulting sketch is very similar to the end project almost a year later.

Design of a home

The next phase is where time is spent figuring out the details. For instance, how does one room relate to another, what furniture goes where, who will use that room and for what purpose? The process of design is as much figuring out the right questions as it is providing aesthetic solutions.

Design of a home

Once you have a good idea of the details, then you can focus on the aesthetics of the design. Of course this is not a singular action, as a good designer is thinking about all aspects throughout the design process. This is just the time where you really dive in and find the best solution to achieve the goals.

Design of a home

Then back to the details – making the small parts compliment the large decision.

Design of a home

I always advocate to have the contractor involved early on so that decisions can all be made with budget in mind. As an architect, we have a general understanding of installed costs of materials, but only a contractor can provide detailed costs that are accurate.

Design of a home

The design process will include many conversations about materials, costs, aesthetics, and durability.

Design of a home

Once the decisions are made for design and a construction contract can be executed, let the dirt fly.

Design of a home

Here the footings are being poured.

Design of a home

Now the walls are being constructed.

Design of a home

I cannot wait to show you more as this project progresses. If you have more questions about the design of a home and what your process may look like, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Does Going Green cost more?

I get asked all the time “how much more does it cost to do all that extra green stuff“? So many people think of going green as an added burden or an option that you add to a design for a home or business. Is this really the case? We are seeing real impacts of climate change (no this is not going to be a post about climate change being a man-made issue). We are seeing energy costs going up and quick. We have an incredible population growth rate worldwide that shows no signs of slowing down. We know that there are limited resources available to all of us including some essentials like water, air, food, and energy. So how could a decision that allows you to use less, be a better steward of what you do have, and save money be an option – this, green design, is needed now and should be seen as a requirement for all of us ethically. So my first answer is no, it does not cost more to go green (or as I like to point out, do it right).

HOWEVER, I know many people don’t share my views on our ethical obligations. So once again, does it cost more to ‘go green’?I still have to say no, it does not add a penny to your budget day one of moving into the home, but it may save you money if done right. Here is a real example. I designed a modest home locally for a young couple that wanted energy efficiency to be part of their project. They had their home priced by a few contractors with a variety of levels of understanding of energy-efficient design. One suggested that they get rid of all that ‘extra stuff’ the architect added to their design to save some money. They did the calculations and the savings on a 30 year mortgage for taking out those extras would cost them an extra $15 per month in energy costs (being very conservative about expected monthly electric bills compared to their current fees in a non-energy efficient home).

The added costs of an energy-efficient home are primarily in the cost of the insulation and the HVAC system. These are both areas that pay back monthly in savings from reduced energy usage. There are other things that you can add to a home to call it ‘green’ which are in fact more expensive than other options, but those decisions should be based on your beliefs in what is important. For instance, it is hard to justify using FSC wood financially here in Central Virginia, but if you think about the rain forests being cut down and the reduced capacity of those forests to offset carbon emissions, then you might make it a priority for your project. A FSC forest is required to meet certain standards and clear cutting is not allowed. The use of low VOC products can sometimes add some costs to a project, but if you think of the reduced risk of cancer for your family (VOC’s are known to off-gas for up to six years after installation and are known carcinogens) then perhaps the reduced stress and hospital bills will be valid motivation to spend a little more. We all have our belief systems that we make decisions and financial is just one of them. I can tell you it does not cost more to build a ‘green’ home that is energy-efficient, you just have to decide what factors you are adding to the equation to determine how much you spend.

insulation done right

Is your house custom or just new construction?

For those looking to build a new home, what is your motivation? Do you want a house that is new or do you want a new home that is specific for your needs? A custom home should be designed around the way you live, work, and play. It should work with your site and not simply sit on your site. It should reflect your values, your history, and your future. A house that is built for you should not be a compromise found in a magazine. It should be the idea thought through and developed based on your goals and passions. I am always competing against the $600 plan that we found – we just need to change this, this, and that to make it right. Oh by the way, the structural design is efficient and building this will cost a premium to get it to work. Why not skip this step and simply have someone trained to think through these issues, take your goals, and make a custom house for you that is not just new construction?

prarie style

For more thoughts on saving money, protecting the environment, and on architectural design visit my websites:

Top 10 Things to do this Spring for your Home and Health

The trees are blooming, the grass is growing, and my allergies are going crazy, Spring has certainly sprung! With our mild winter here in Virginia, Spring has come at least three weeks earlier than normal. This is great news for those looking to get a head start on those annual maintenance items around the house. So where do you get started? Here are the top 10 things to get you off on the right foot!

  1. Toss out your air fresheners and open up the windows. All winter you have had the house sealed up tight and you were forced to breathe in all those household items that off gas chemicals into the air. Worse yet, 75% of all U.S. Homes add chemical air fresheners to make their homes smell nice. Those chemicals have been linked to some nasty stuff if you breathe it often enough. So air out your home and get that fresh grass scent from the real thing. Replace your chemical air fresheners with baking soda or essential oils. Trade in the flowery scented plug-ins for fresh-cut flowers from your garden.
  2. Install a clothes line in your back yard or basement. Consider this, every time you run a load of laundry in the dryer it sucks up five kilowatts of electricity per hour. Think of all the money you can save by letting a newly installed solar-powered air-cooled clothesline do the work for you!
  3. Do a vampire (load) search in your home and free yourself of wasted energy. Most appliances stay plugged in all the time. Cell phone chargers, TV and computers are all in wait for you to need them. They stay in standby mode even when turned off leaking electricity, known as vampire loads. Kill this wastefulness for once and for all, unplug the devices when not in use or put them on a power strip and turn them off.
  4. Need to brighten up a room or touch up a wall. Look for paints that contain No-VOCs. Be careful with the tint though, most add those Cancer causing agents right back into the mix. Household paint contains thousands of chemicals, 300 of which are known to be toxic. The most dangerous are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and release toxins into the air for as many as six years after you paint.
  5. Cut your energy and improve your lighting. I know you don’t want to be forced into buying an expensive bulb for one that is working perfectly well right now. So start with that one that is burnt out and replace it with a LED bulb (don’t buy the cheapest option, do a little research and find one that gets high consumer ratings) to try it out. The long lasting nice color spectrum light option might surprise you. You will not see the energy savings from one bulb on your bill, but over time if you carry on the tradition your electric load from lights will go way down.
  6. Get a jump on your vegetable garden now while the weather is getting warm. Bring in the fresh layer of compost, mix in the manure, pull up the tender young weeds! This is a great chance to get ready for a productive season with lots of fresh vegetables. Spend a little time now getting things ready and in place and you will reduce your maintenance through the hot summer.
  7. Vacuum your clothes dryer vent exhaust duct to make sure it is working effectively after a hard winter work. While you are at it, look in your HVAC ducts and see if they are in need of some loving attention. Change your HVAC filter (should be done every 3 months if you have a thin filter and every 6 months if you have a 2″ filter). If your ducts and dryer vent are more than you can tackle, find a duct cleaning service that can get the job done right. While they are there, get them to check for birds nests in the bathroom vents – tis the time of year for nests popping up everywhere there is a flat surface away from predators.
  8. Do a walk through of the interior of your home. Have you changed your smoke detector batteries? Are there plumbing fixtures that are leaking? Any pipes under cabinets leaking? Is the toilet running all day? Are all the light bulbs working in your home? Do you need to caulk any gaps around electric outlets, plumbing pipes, or light fixtures to reduce air leakage? Is it time to replace that worn out carpet (air filter) with a nice hardwood floor? Are your windows still in good working order or do they need a little attention?
  9. Walk around the exterior of your home and look for signs of future problems. Are the downspouts clear and pushing water away from the foundation of your home? Does the gutter need to be cleaned out? Are there signs of termites working to make your home their home? Do your fences and gates work properly or do they need a little loving attention? Are your vents and exhausts clear of debris? Are your outdoor HVAC units clear of debris? Does the landscaping around your home need a trim to keep the water off the house and enough light coming into the plant to keep it healthy? Did the roof get any damage from storms, wind, or maybe even ice (I don’t remember much of that this year)? Does the foundation have any new cracks? Are the foundation vents solid and free of gaps? Look for wasp nests in play structures.
  10. Last, take a look in your attic and basement at the insulation and air sealing. Now is a great time to get your home running efficient before the heat of summer is upon us. While adding insulation in the right places will save you money, perhaps the more important element is that it will make your home more comfortable. If there is a room in your home that gets too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter – you can fix it!
Garden Prep

For more thoughts on saving money, protecting the environment, and on architectural design visit my websites:



Citizen Architect – Design Matters

I believe that as an architect I have an ethical duty to design solutions that are energy efficient, durable, and healthy. It is my job to understand the materials that are available in the market today, know how to use the materials effectively, and to know the impacts on indoor air quality, durability, and the environment. The added value that an architect brings to a project is based a practical understanding of material science, building science, and spatial relationships. The process of design is like translating musical notes into a symphony of parts to create a masterpiece. The results will not always be an icon of building mastery, sometimes it will simply be a well crafted space that brings function and form together into a harmonious marriage.

charlottesville architect

You know you are an architect if _____________________

It takes a unique personality to be an architect. Many people tell me that they were going to be an architect, but…. So what does it take to be an architect? Here is a list of thoughts, please add your own.

You know you are an architect if ______________________.

  • Everyone thinks you make a lot of money
  • All your classmates from school who were not architecture majors make twice your salary
  • You truly believe that you have never actually finished a set of working drawings
  • You wear a sports coat with jeans
  • and they are both black
  • you built a new house for yourself and started remodeling before you moved in
  • you devote countless hours to a successful project where the reward is lack of punishment
  • you offer design solutions to homeowners at every dinner party, even when you are not asked
  • If you are out for dinner with your family and instead of talking you wonder why the wood stains don’t match
  • you wear black most days
  •  You are more excited to start the next project than you are to finish the current project
  • You own a T Square and drawing board
  • You watched the Brady’s to figure out the floorplans
  • Your 6-year-old can name the parts of a wall section
What would you add to the list?

Owners, Contractors, Architects, and Lawyers- Teammates in Green Building

Christopher G. HillChristopher G. Hill is lawyer and owner of the Richmond, VA firm, The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill, PC, a LEED AP.  Mr. Hill has been nominated and elected by his peers to Virginia’s Legal Elite in the Construction Law category on multiple occasions as well as to Virginia Super Lawyers Rising Stars for 2011. He specializes in mechanic’s liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.  Mr. Hill authors the Construction Law Musings blog where he discusses legal and policy issues relevant to construction professionals.  Additionally, Mr. Hill is active in the Associated General Contractors of Virginia and a member of the Board of Governors for the Construction Law and Public Contracts Section of the Virginia State Bar.

First of all, thanks to Charles for inviting me to guest post at his blog.  (aside:  This request came long ago and I have been remiss in not getting to this sooner, but life as a solo construction attorney sometimes gets a bit busy).

Now, for the topic of the day:  cooperation from the beginning of a project.  As the title of this post suggests, a team approach at the beginning of a project will go a long way toward heading off potential issues on any project, but in particular a “green” one.  Not only does the LEED System (a leading sustainable building rating system) give a point and almost require a team approach, but it just makes sense.  While I have posted relating to the purely contractual reasons for assuring expectations are set correctly at the beginning of a project,  a team approach also assures that the practical aspects of the project are ironed out and those expectations are properly set.

As a construction attorney I spend a lot of my time dealing with situations where expectations were not met for various reasons (from poor documentation of change orders to unforeseen issues with routing of HVAC equipment).  On a “regular” project these types of issues can be a major burden to a project, financially and otherwise; on a “green” project failing to set expectations can lead to total disaster.  Tax credits, LEED Certification, and even basic contractual damages can be enormous and result in long term litigation and possibly unsafe buildings.  As an advocate for sustainable building, I sincerely want the great trend toward green building and a more sustainable building stock to continue.  However for this to work out, the usual semi-adversarial stance among building professionals and the top down structure needs to be revised.

In my opinion, many issues that have arisen in sustainable building could have and should have been avoided.  With new computer modeling tools (BIM and the like) and a commitment to get together at the beginning of the construction job to discuss the owner’s expectations and how they can be met (or not) in the real world scenario, we can create an environment where fewer surprises (and thus fewer claims) will occur.  While “Murphy was an optimist” and bumps will inevitably arise in the road, these will be more easily dealt with should they not reach the core of the parties’ expectations for the finished product.  And yes, this may cause less litigation related work for we attorneys, but in my mind the best work by attorneys is done on the counseling side keeping these issues at bay while working with clients.

In short (if it isn’t too late for that), a team approach early in the construction process will make a project run more smoothly and keep us headed in a sustainable direction.