Gaines Group Architects

CSI is the organization that shapes communication within the industry

I joined CSI in 2003 and became very active in my local chapter – Central Virginia CSI. My second year as a member I was elected as a Chapter Director and also served as the Academic Liaison, Electronic Communications Chair, and on the education and hospitality committees. That year I also started a student CSI Chapter at the University of Virginia with Meghan McLoone, our first student chapter President. In other words, I became VERY active with CSI.

construction specifications institute


So why is this the organization that I decided to put in volunteer hours – lots of volunteer hours? First there was Ray setting the example and talking about the power of the organization that encouraged me to get involved. However, once I got involved it was the willingness of the local chapter to give me an equal footing with the other more seasoned professionals involved in the organization. I was the youngest active member at the time, probably by more than 15 years. Yet, they elected me to the board of directors and gave me full license to start a student chapter of the organization. This willingness to let me run with an idea and support me in my efforts showed me the true power of CSI. This is an organization that brings everyone in the construction industry together at the same table as equals and the local chapter proved it.


This willingness to allow all voices be heard was not just a local level anomaly within CSI. In 2004 I attended my first Leadership Orientation Seminar with CSI – a regional leadership training. There I met Mitch Miller who encouraged me to speak up at the meeting – a meeting filled with people who had way more experience than me. They wanted to hear my ideas. They allowed me to be an equal at their table. Mitch set the stage for me to get even more involved with CSI.

Construct Show


I am no longer one of the young members of CSI. I have been active for  12 years, attended 8 regional events, 9 national conferences, served on two national committees, and served as almost every position at the local chapter level. I have presented topics at 6 national conferences and 3 regional events. I am a frequent contributor to the CSI weekly newsletter (Thanks Kaitlin). I have many many friends in every part of the country and some in Canada through CSI. The President of the organization and many of the board members know me – a  member from one of the smaller chapters in the organization. I am still just one of the people at the table.


This year at the Construct Show (CSI’s national conference) I was reminded of the importance of just being one of the people at the table for the betterment of the industry. We need to stay relevant, on the cutting edge, and a leading organization in the construction industry. There is no room in the industry for pushing down other members just to try to stop change for the sake of keeping things “the way we always do it.” This is the organization that shapes communication within the industry. Clear, complete, concise, and correct communication is the only way we are going to be able to keep up with the pace of change we are experiencing and going to experience in the coming years. The only way that we are going to be successful as an industry and as an organization is to continue to invite everyone to the same table as an equal no matter age, gender, or industry.

CSI Night Out

CSI Night Out



It is #Construct Show time again, so I am heading to St. Louis

It is #Construct Show time again, so I am heading to St. Louis to learn the latest from the best in the construction industry. I look forward to this conference each year as our firm tries to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. The Construct Show is a gathering of CSI professionals from around the country. It is the only national trade show and educational conference for the commercial building teams that spec and source building products.

CSI Swag

CSI Swag

This year I am participating in the panel discussion on blogging, serving as a mentor for a young professional, and giving a presentation on execution. The exhibit hall will feature hundreds of the latest innovations in the commercial building industry. There are mini seminars on the show floor, experts in every construction industry sector, and plenty of networking opportunities. I will attend sessions on sustainability in historic renovation, Robotics used in construction, specification development, moisture management, energy efficiency, and business leadership. It will be an amazing week!

Tweet Up

Tweet Up

Democracy in Action

Democracy in Action

Tweet Up

Tweet Up

The CSI Show

The CSI Show


6. Hatch Show Prints #105architecturalinspiration

When you see good design you know it immediately, Hatch Show Prints are good design. I have always loved old playbills but never spent time thinking about how they were created. That is until I visited Nashville and discovered for myself what you probably already knew before me. The Hatch family started printing handbills in 1875. The golden age of Hatch was from the mid-1920’s – 1952 and after several ownership changes now is considered a icon of letterpress printing. Letterpress printing is simply pressing paper onto wood and metal letters and hand-carved images, with ink in between. It is a process that revolutionized printing and made possible mass communication in the western hemisphere beginning in the middle 1400’s.


From Bill Monroe and Elvis to the NCAA Women’s Final Four posters have been created with style and class. The unique subtleties of texture and color add power to the design. The classic form gives substance. One can certainly find power and inspiration in these lessons for the built environment.


(My favorite Hatch Print has to be the one I got for attending the CSI Conference in 2013 in Nashville.)


#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

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.

Timberlake 9.4.13 005

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.

Charlottesville Office

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.

Invest in your future, your profession, and your community, Join CSI.

imagesI strongly believe in investing in education in order to better my future, my profession, and my community. In order to be able to solve the complicated buildings in our future we have to continue to learn new and innovative solutions. From building energy-efficient structures to healthy buildings we are learning new lessons everyday. There are constantly new buildings materials being introduced with huge claims – some that can be proven, some that fall short. So how do we address these new challenges? How will we be prepared for buildings of the future?

It is incumbent for all of us in the construction industry to continue to learn new methods, understand past successes and failures, and build relationships with other experts in the industry. This cross-pollination happens in the only organization in the construction industry that invites builders, architects, engineers, specifiers, product representatives, interns, and designers to the same table as an equal, CSI.The local chapter of CSI is based in Charlottesville. There are also chapters in Northern Virginia, Roanoke, Tidewater, and DC that are in our area. DSC_0143

I have found huge value in being involved in CSI. Read more here, here, and here. I encourage you to invest in the future of our industry by coming to a meeting, joining a chapter, and getting involved. Before you join – remember, you get out of an organization what you put into it. Joining and not attending meetings will not give you a return on your investment.

Join CSI by August 31 and pay only $192 for national dues — a 20% savings.

  1. Log onto
  2. Select “Join Now”, and then click “Sign Up as a New Member”
  3. Enter Promotion Code CSISummer13 when prompted
  4. Click the “Add Discount” button

Is it worth it to belong to AIA, CSI, USGBC, NAHB? Does it add value for you or your clients?

The same conversation seems to happen in every organization in the construction industry. How do we get more people involved and active in the organization? How do we get emerging professionals to join? The same ideas are discussed – start a blog, social media, fun events at a local bar, or maybe try a lunch meeting instead of dinner. So what is the answer, why are you involved in professional organizations? What value do you see in giving your time to the industry?images

My favorite industry organization is CSI. I will always renew my dues with this organization and know that investing my time in it delivers huge benefits back to me. CSI brings me the most value of any of my other organizations through professional contacts, technical articles, and most important, they make me feel included, valuable, and accepted. To me this is the key to getting more people involved – make them feel needed, wanted, and equal. I look forward to CSI events because I know they are going to be interesting, but also because I know the other people attending want me there and will treat me as an equal. At one of the first CSI meetings I attended out-of-town years ago, I was asked by Mitch Miller to express my opinion to the entire group about the organization – me, one of the youngest people in the room. They wanted to know my thoughts and wanted to include me. That is added value for anyone in any organization.DSC04992

At a meeting last night of the local AIA chapter, the discussion centered around the future of the chapter and the organization. AIA brings a huge value to the industry for architects and I believe to our clients. However, not all architects join and those that do join, many don’t get involved. The dues are high, the meetings are not held in my town, and I have been reminded that I am not equal many times. So why pay the dues (highest of all the other organizations I belong)? Last night one experienced architect in the room said the most important thing is having the initials behind your name – it helped her advance a career through the public sector. Another idea was you get to participate in the design awards (these awards seem to go to the same firms every year so they have little value to me). Another architect said it is your duty to belong to your industry association: “As a member of this profession you must join, get involved, and advance the profession.” I think these are all great reasons to belong to the AIA. However, that is not a reason to join and be active when there are many other ways to give to your community, advance your career, and be recognized for your work as an equal.

The reason I join a professional organization is to advance my skills. Yes, it is that simple and selfish.

So why did I join AIA (not paid for by my firm, I paid my own membership until I became a partner): it provides me with connections to peers who want to compare notes, teach best practices, and discuss the future. I miss having monthly meetings where I could meet the best and brightest in the industry now that I don’t have local meetings to attend. Getting to know Patricia Jessee, Jim Boyd, Mark Humbertson, Jeff Sties, Kurt Keesecker, Jimmy Grigg, Bill Daggett, Steve Davis, and Candy Smith has allowed me to grow as an architect and better serve my clients. Even if I have not had deep conversations with all of these architects, I know their work, personality, and styles and learn from observation and even emulation. I joined AIA to be a better architect.

What I want more of from AIA is help with being a better architect. I should not have to do all the work to find the experts to learn from, that information should be shared to every member and every member should feel included, valuable, and equal. AIA staff on the national and state level should know my name, know what I do, and know what I need from the organization. They should reach out in a personal way, not in a blind email sent to all members. In our profession, it is very easy to focus on the flashy, expensive design solutions, and the firms with project photography budgets bigger than most of my total design budgets. I need an AIA that promotes the value of all scale of firms and projects and treats me and my small firm as an equal. 

The best and brightest in the construction industry are all located in one place: CSI!

I had a conversation yesterday with an architect from Oregon who was visiting the Harrisonburg Green Expo with a friend. He and I were lamenting over the state of our profession and how so many architects focus on aesthetics alone. We both agreed that holistic design including building science, function, aesthetics, and durability is the key to a brighter future for our industry and our world. Architects have the power to change the future of a community through design. Architects have the ability to change the conversation in a community through design. Architects have the ability to lead through design. It is up to our profession to take on the challenges ahead and to make the positive decisions we need to make a brighter future. It was a good conversation. It was a challenge that I believe both of us have accepted. It was a glimpse into the future of our profession.

We spoke about resources that we each use to meet this challenge in front of us. I mentioned my connections around the country to the leading experts in the construction industry, otherwise known as CSI. These friends are people I can ask a question about door hardware when I run into a dead-end that allows a project to get back on track. They are people who I share a common bond with of wanting to deliver the highest value project possible to my clients. These are my friends that want to help and support my career growth. Of course this does not come with membership in an organization alone. It comes from being involved at all levels of this organization. It comes from attending meetings, local, regional, and national and building those friendships. It comes from having trust that we all want to find success through excellence. CSI is the place, out of all the industry organizations that I belong to, that not just the local members, but the regional and national members want me to be successful and will support me through mentoring, guidance, and expertise.

We are all looking for a place to belong in this industry. I have found mine in the CSI community. If you want to be a leader of the industry, this may also be the right organization for you.

If you have thought about joining in the past, there is a special offer right now, see below.

Join CSI at by Friday, November 16th and pay only $192 for national dues — a 20% savings.

  1. Log onto
  2. Select “Join Now”, and then click “Sign Up as a New Member”
  3. Enter Promotion Code CSI1220 when prompted
  4. Click the “Add Discount” button

We recommend you also join a chapter, where you can attend local education sessions and networking opportunities (chapter dues are not included in this promotional offer).

How to be successful in the construction industry #JoinCSI

“In the architectural world there are two types of Architects, frustrated Artists and frustrated Engineers” ~ Raymond E. Gaines, FCSI

As anyone that knows Ray will understand, this is one of his favorite sayings. While I think there is more diversity in the industry that he lets on, there is truth to this statement. There are many architects that are known for their aesthetic design ability and others that are known for their technical knowledge. I believe I fall somewhere in between the two. I do love to measure and quantify design decisions and I am always looking back to find the successful moves, details, and proportions of various projects. This does not stop at design alone. I try to measure everything and analyze it based on some criteria that seems appropriate for the particular goal.

CSI Show in Vegas

My strategy to achieve my professional career goals has been a focus on education, mentorship, and relationships. Upon graduating from the University of Tennessee I joined multiple organizations and started volunteering. Looking back to measure my success so far the most beneficial organization in my career growth to date is the Construction Specifications Institute. I have built friendships with the leaders of the construction industry across the country. I know who to call to get the right answer for almost any issue that might come up on a construction site. I read the Project Resource Manual to learn the roles and responsibilities of those on a job site and how a project should be executed (so when they get off track you can get them back to where they should be as fast as possible). I learned about public speaking and gained confidence to stand in a room (this is almost always the case even today) of people who know way more than me and discuss intelligently many topics concerning the construction industry. CSI has allowed me to gain respect in my local community, have a network of supporters across the country, learn best practices to manage my active projects, and achieve many of my career goals before the age of 40.

While joining any organization is just a first step in the process to career growth and you can gain parts of any of these attributes from other organizations, CSI is the only one that brings all members of the construction industry to one table to have discussions, education, and networking. CSI members are the only ones that have supported my career goals without asking for anything in return. I hold many of my CSI relationships very highly and look to many CSI leaders as my mentors. While I have experienced this organization and the growth of my career from the standpoint of just starting out in the industry, there is no right starting point to get involved in CSI. No matter your level of experience, joining CSI, getting involved, and building relationships will help you do better work, create better projects, and have a more successful career.

Join CSI online between Wednesday, June 13, and Wednesday, June 20, and pay only $192 — a 20% savings — for your membership. Use promo code “12spring20” when you join at promotion is only available to new members joining at the professional level. Chapter dues are not included in this promotion. To join:

  1. Visit
  2. Select “Join Now”, and then click “Sign Up as a New Member”
  3. Enter Promotion Code 12spring20 when prompted
  4. Click the “Add Discount” button

Questions? Ask me.

Construction Specifications Institute

The Backbone of the Construction Industry

The Backbone of the Construction Industry

I was struck the other day at a Central Virginia CSI meeting when our current President, Tracie Skipper, clearly at the end of her rope, needed help. For every task she listed, there was a member ready to step in to give their time, efforts, and talents. For every need, she found a willing person to step in to work towards the goal with no pay. Her spirits were lifted, her mood shifted, and it was clear that she found energy from the willingness of others to lift her up and give. It was clear that CVCSI is the backbone of the construction industry in Charlottesville.

Construction Specifications Institute

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” Elizabeth Andrew

While I have been involved in many organizations over the years, I have never seen one so close to the edge, bounce back so quickly only by the simple request for support. In an industry that has seen some of the worst economic conditions since the great depression, this organization is thriving. While the membership has slipped this organization is rebounding. There is new energy, new ideas, there is hope that the future is bright for those in the organization and for the industry as a whole.

“It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” ~ Tom Brokaw

It is interesting that this organization, Central Virginia Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute is not about any one person. The goals are not about building business, although I have seen that happen. The motivation is not for personal benefit, although those involved will tell you there is some gained. This organization, the members that serve, the effort that is given, is directly to benefit all the members of the construction industry, to provide education, connections, and best practices. This organization is focused on creating a greater good for all those in the industry, not just those at the meetings. This organization, working together, brings the latest knowledge, trends, and ideas to the table for all members to equally discuss, learn, and broaden their base. This organization strengthens the construction industry as a whole and the CSI members doing the work deserve our gratitude.

No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another.  Thank you.  ~Author Unknown

I am in awe of the work that is done by Tracie Skipper of Pella Windows to benefit everyone in our industry. She could be at home simply relaxing, but instead, she is working towards helping all of us have better opportunities. I am struck by the energy and passion that Duncan Macfarlane, Laura Fiori, Sarah Heid, Meghan Johnston, and David Groff have in their work with CVCSI, with no desire for personal gain, simply doing it to make our industry stronger. I am blown away by the years of service that Mitch Miller, Raymond Gaines, Sal Verrastro, Ron Keeney, Henry Zirkle, Mike Davis, Gilman Hu, Dennis Hall (west and east coast), Margaret Chewning, Joy Davis, Josh Spiler, Kathy Proctor, Brent Williams, and Charlie Beauduy have given to CSI in their respective geographic areas, giving up weekends, week nights, and family time to help this industry grow and prosper through the sharing of knowledge. I am inspired by the emerging leaders, Kris Benton, Nida DeBusk, Brok Howard, Blake Wagner, Robert Huserik, Leslie Schlesinger, and Sarah Caldwell that have shown this organization will carry forward and grow in this recovering economy and continue to be the one organization that brings all members of the construction industry to the same table as equals to discuss best practices, lessons learned, and mistakes to avoid.