Gaines Group Architects

Labor Day 2013 – Architecture: An industry in recovery

To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.” – Sr. Thomas Watson

Becoming an architect takes a huge commitment, unrelenting passion, and of course lots of time and money. It can be a rewarding career if you are able to sustain your energy long enough to get through all the hurdles. I did, made it through all the obstacles, achieved licensure, and then became a partner in a firm. My career goal of owning my own architectural practice had been achieved. Then the bottom fell out of the economy. A complete and total melt down, the likes of which has never been experienced in my lifetime.

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ~ Confucious

Like most small architectural firms, we (The Gaines Group) are more of a family than a traditional business. We have three partners of which I am the youngest. We decided at the start of the financial melt down not to let anyone go – once again, we are more like a family than a business. So lets say, the past five years have been extremely difficult financially for us. We expanded our staff to better serve our clients, opened a second office (Harrisonburg) to serve a wider demographic, and moved into a new office space in Charlottesville that is better reflective of our current design values. We survived! We are ready!


The economy is coming back and we have a deep and talented staff ready for the work. The ABI (architectural billing index) is showing signs of sustained growth. The worst of the economic collapse is over. So as you celebrate labor day, we join you. On this day dedicated to the social and economic achievements of the American worker, we salute those that have stood by us in tough economic times. We thank our team, friends, and family for sticking together over the last five years so that we can build a successful future. It has not been easy and probably will not be easy for years to come. Today is a day to celebrate what we have been able to achieve by working together and trusting in each other.

Happy Labor Day!


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

charlottesville architect

Architectural Coloring pages

Architectural Coloring pages

Our new Architectural Coloring pages were a big hit at the Snow’s Garden Center Go Green Fest. We had plenty of kids and some parents color some pages even with the high humidity and moist paper. We are always looking for creative activities that encourage people to think about design. These coloring pages feature our logo and some houses we have designed. The idea was to pick colors you think work and well blow off some stress while having fun. It is a simple way to keep the kids busy while talking with parents about their design projects.

If you have an idea that we could add to our table top please let us know. We have a variety of activities from painting rocks, coloring pages, to tape measures. However, we are always looking for something that kids can take with them.

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