Gaines Group Architects
albemarle sheriff's deputy

Service to others is the core reason to be an Architect

Service to others is (should be) the core reason to be an Architect. 

“Architecture has to be greater than just architecture. It has to address social values, as well as technical and aesthetic values. On top of that, the one true gift that an architect has is his or her imagination. We take something ordinary and elevate it to something extraordinary.” ~ Samuel Mockbee

As an architect we have been trained to use our imagination to solve problems. This of course works when designing buildings. We create structures that are healthy, energy-efficient, and durable to benefit future generations as well as current occupants. We design buildings that enhance a site and offers aesthetic beauty. However, as an architect, our work does not stop at just buildings, we have an obligation to our community to design solutions to benefit everyone.

As architects we have the training to see solutions on a larger scale and offer holistic solutions. As architects it is our duty to be in service to others in every aspect of life using this training. There are many ways to serve the community – teaching, design, public service, mentoring, and volunteering with community organizations. I am proud to see the tradition of volunteerism that Ray embraces has resulted in our entire team working outside of the office to better our community.

James is a reserve Sheriff’s Deputy.

albemarle sheriff's deputy

Deborah volunteers with Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance on two committees.

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance

Hannah volunteers at her church.

Hannah Jackson

Ray volunteers with CSI and still does set design for the drama department at a local high school.

Ray Gaines

Meg is a volleyball coach and now a JV soccer coach at a local high school and is spending her summer advocating for affordable housing.

Meg Carpenter



Green Building Tour

Citizen Architect – Green Building Tours

Citizen Architect – Green Building Tours

I get involved in a lot of different ways of promoting green building. Last month I had the pleasure of meeting with an environmental ethics course at JMU. I have a variety of building projects that are pushing for the most sustainable design solutions possible. I performed multiple FREE energy-audits around the Valley. I even had a chance to travel to a national conference to discuss building science with construction industry leaders from all over the country. However, giving green building tours remains my favorite way to share my knowledge about how to build right (green, sustainable). 

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This past week I had the honor of giving tours to a group of 15 French students – high school and post-graduate – of three green buildings. We started with a day with a discussion of becoming an architect in the United States. Our language barrier was overcome by some wonderful translators (thank goodness for them – otherwise it would have been a very LONG day for all of us). We then went to The Gaines Group Charlottesville office to check out work in progress and our vegetative roof. The students had a chance to discuss multi-family projects with Adrienne and life as an architect with Ray.


After a quick stop at Burger King (apparently this is a destination when visiting Cville from France that is worthy of a loud cheer?) we continued our tours going to Martin Horn. This Charlottesville based General Contractor has been a leader of the green movement for many years. They renovated their office building to LEED standards in 2009. They very generously opened their office and had a discussion about sourcing local materials and reuse of existing materials with the students.


Our last stop of the day was to see a project under construction. The Building Goodness Foundation building was a great example of precast insulated wall systems – a totally new concept to the students, lightweight floor framing (seems trusses are not common in France), and an in-depth discussion on wall system permeability. Discussing ZIP wall compared to the advanced rainwater management systems used in France was beneficial to all of us. Having to explain why we use thin trusses to support a floor above was difficult.

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I learned a lot about how they build in France. It seems they use the house wrap layer as the air barrier. Their small travel footprint encourages panelized framing, but they don’t have a common use for trusses, which is interesting. I was very happy to learn that they have teachers specifically for wall systems focused on permeability and water management. As an architect, it is critical to help educate everyone about building science, but most critical to help the next generation understand the importance of sustainability.

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Citizen Architect – Giving back to the community.

As I sit here planning my day I am making a mental checklist to be sure I am not overlooking anything. You see, I have a hard time saying “no”and tend to get involved in many activities, organizations, and events….

I believe that every Citizen has a duty to serve their local community. You should give back if you expect to take from the services being offered (sidewalks, roads, electricity, non-profits, landscaping, parks, food….). This should not be seen as optional, this should be done by everyone. Sometimes your service will simply be taking care of your neighbor’s yard while they are on vacation, feeding their dogs, and watering their plants. Sometimes it is service on a board or volunteering to help with a non-profit. Sometimes it is giving money to help support a good cause or voting for a local school in an online fundraiser. Working hard for your community helps you and your neighbors. Serving others is good for the soul, it builds community fabric, it strengthens local resolve.

As an Architect I have certain skills that benefit the community in ways different from a doctor, school teacher, or banker. I see solutions, identify problems, I am organized. These are not traits that serve you well at dinner parties where conversations with me almost always go to what needs to be fixed in your home. They do serve well in organizing events, delegating tasks, and seeing needs and offering solutions. Here is a list of some of the activities I have been involved with this year. I encourage you to find places where you can be engaged in the community and give your time, energy, and money to support them. It will make us all stronger to have you involved!

Presented “Common problems in your home” to the Spotswood Garden Club

Promote and attend Harrisonburg Tweet Ups

Founded the HR Chamber of Commerce Aging in Place Round Table – Serve as Vice Chairman, maintain the Facebook page and blog

Organized and Hosted the Central Virginia CSI Education Sessions at the Annual Product Expo

Serve on the SVBA Green Expo Committee in charge of children’s activities

Serve as the EMES PTF President

Help organize monthly Harrisonburg Green Drinks Events

Presented “Building Green” to the Darden Business School at UVA

Serve as Secretary of the SVBA

Serve on the SVBA Home and Garden Committee assisting with “special activities”

Founded and Organize the SVBA Builder Smarts Education Series

Presented “Sustainable Design Elements” at UVA Architecture School

Serve on the Parkview Mennonite Church Creation Care Council

Presented “Solar Innovations in Commercial Design” for CAAV

Worked the JMU Basketball Concessions Stand for a EMES Fundraiser

Helped to Charter the HR Green Network and serve as the Vice Chair

Presented “Innovation in the Construction Industry” for the Shenandoah Valley Tech Council

Served on the EMS Soup and Arts Committee

Volunteered time to Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity‘s second LEED for Homes Project

Presented “LEED Industrial Case Study” for the Construction Specifications Institute

Worked a booth and volunteered time for the SVBA Home and Garden Show

Volunteered at a booth at the Black’s Run Cleanup Day

Spoke with EMES Kindergarten students about Earth Day and celebrated a 1/2 birthday

Chaperoned a EMES Second Grade Field Trip

Attended the Ground Breaking for an affordable housing project in Charlottesville that we have donated time to support

Attended the CATEC Foundation Lunch (I work with students each year to design a house they build)

Led a Sunday School Class looking at Caring for Creation

Volunteered time to Greene County Habitat for Humanity‘s first LEED for Homes Project

Assisted with several Social Media Presentations around the country for the Construction Specifications Institute

Met with Cub Scouts to talk about Architecture

Presented “Design Matters” at a Virginia Tech Innovations Summit

Hosted three-day training for the SVBA for CAPS certification

Served on the EMS Planning Committee organized and led by Blue Ridge Architects

organized and hosted an Energy Star training session for local builders

Helped organize the Harrisonburg Parklet Project

Serve on the Harrisonburg Downtown Design Committee

Presented at the Virginia Sustainable Building Network Annual Meeting

Served on a panel discussion about careers in Engineering at JMU Engineering School

Serve on the CSI Green Format Task Team

Organized the Central Virginia CSI Summer Social

Organizing and hosting a tour of Charlottesville for the Energy Industry Study Program

Organizing and hosting a tour of Harrisonburg for AIA-CV

Serve on the Harrisonburg Downtown Landscape Committee

Seems like there should be more on the list, wonder what I am forgetting. Guess I better get more organized!