7 Spring Energy Saving Tips

7 Spring Energy Saving Tips

As Spring sweeps in, temperatures change and your house has different needs. Here are 7 Spring Energy Saving Tips that will help to lower your bills.


  1. Utilize Sunlight from Windows: On chillier spring days, save money on heating and lighting. Open the blinds and let that sunlight in in the middle of the day! Be sure to close your insulating curtains before sunset to trap the warmth inside so you don’t lose your gains as the sun sets.
  2. Utilize Window Blinds: Spring in Virginia has temperature ups and downs, so conversely, on hot days, save money on your AC bills by closing the blinds to the windows to block out the heat. Honeycomb blinds work best to stop heat gain into spaces.
  3. Program the Thermostat: On warmer days, set the thermostat higher when you’re gone to save energy. Remember if you have a traditional heat pump, more than a 2 degree change may cause your system to call for emergency heat which is very costly. If you have a newer system that uses a variable speed compressor this is not an issue.
  4. Hang Clothes to Dry: As the temperature warms up, string up a clothesline outdoors to use the sun’s heat instead of the dryer.
  5. Stop hand washing your dishes: Say no more! For larger loads, most modern dishwashers actually use less water. Letting dishes air dry can save more money and electricity.
  6. Replace your HVAC Filters on a regular basis: bonus points for having a performance contract with your HVAC company to make sure your system is running in perfect order.
  7. Assess your home: Check on air leaks, windows, insulation, water, etc. Read more about 5 things you can do for a spring house assessment here.

Architecture Design verses Drafting

Discussing the differences in architecture design verses drafting allow us to share the value an architect brings.

A common question we receive from potential clients is why someone should hire an architect versus a drafting service. We love this question because it gives us the opportunity to share about our training and experience and highlight the value we add to construction projects.

To understand the difference between drafting and architectural design, it is helpful to think about a project as a 3-dimensional complex building system to be approached with a level of expertise that delivers healthy, functional, and sustainable results. Beyond providing construction documents, architects approach a project through a holistic lens that considers building science, budget, flow of space, and aesthetics. As visionaries, architects guide the design process by considering the life clients want to live in a space. We are experts on the entire scope of a construction project and are often involved in all stages from envisioning and planning, design development, construction budgeting, and even observation over construction. 

Charles and Deborah are licensed architect. Caitlin is in the process of gaining her 5 years of experience to be eligible for licensure.

Drafting is the translation of a design to technical drawings. Drafters focus on documentation and the delivery of construction plans. Unlike an architect, drafters are not required to have a specific education background and do not hold a license. All architects are drafters; all drafters are not architects.

Architects lean on their education and years of training to serve as visionaries and provide expert oversight on projects. The journey to becoming a Licensed Architect involves 5-7+ years of higher education, an internship process under a licensed professional, and the successful passing of rigorous licensure examinations. Training covers art, science, math, psychology, sociology, and we infuse this blend of knowledge into each design. Additionally, architects hold a license once they successfully pass a series of exams and therefore hold liability for each of their projects. 

So, should you hire an architect or a drafter for your project? If you want a fully custom design that is uniquely tailored to your vision and is healthy, functional, and efficient, an architect is the best option. If you want to know more about the process and how an architect can support your project, visit our previous posts here, here, and here.

If you already have a design and need to make a few simple changes, a drafter might be an appropriate option. Either way, feel free to reach out and discuss your project. We are happy to answer questions and help you understand the value we bring to a project.

Design Lives in the Details

Design lives in the details.

As architects and designers, we find ourselves oscillating between a larger, holistic view of design one minute, and then headfirst into the details a moment later. We must be adaptable and open to looking at each project through both lenses individually and simultaneously. I recently sat down with Charles to talk through this concept of how we approach design and asked him a few questions. Follow along below to learn from our conversation.

Charles, what does it mean to you to approach a design holistically?

We get calls all the time with the same question: “how much for you to design a 3 bedroom house in the county?” I see this question as an opportunity to talk about custom design vs new construction. Many homes and even businesses are not designed holistically, they are just drawn to look like a certain style. When we take on a project we want to approach it with more than just the facts (3 bedrooms, 2 bath, kitchen with window above the sink – check). We want to think about how the building sits on the site, frames views, how it performs over time, and how it impacts the environment. A holistic approach to design asks questions about the life the inhabitants want to live in that place and not just the budget, square footage, and the number of bedrooms. We want to not only hit the budget with our designs, but we also want to enhance livability with our custom solutions that are environmentally sensitive, durable, and healthy.

While it is important to think holistically, we know details are what can really set a design apart. How have you trained yourself to approach a design through both lenses?

We are always looking for those special opportunities and challenges to make a project, detail, or design solution unique. As an architect, you are constantly zooming into a small detail and stepping back to see the whole picture. If you don’t you will not be able to think through all the elements that make up a good design solution. It is important to keep the overall goals in mind even when working on the very small details so that everything is coordinated in the end.

Do you prefer to spend your time on the details of a design, or are you a larger-picture/holistic thinker?

I have done both over my career, but where I am at now, I deal with the holistic a lot more. I have an amazing team of talented architects and designers that work into the details and then we discuss them. So I still get to enjoy the detail, but I don’t get to spend a lot of time on them.

What are some of your most memorable design details to date?

I have so many amazing clients that have allowed us to design for them over my 23+ years doing architecture. The rooftop deck on East Grattan Street and all the small special spaces and elements in that house are very cool. The painted address on Duke Garden apartments came out better than I expected. The sign in front of the Depot that pays tribute to the railroad is one of my favorites. The views we framed on top of Afton mountain are amazing. The playhouse I designed for my girls is one that holds so many special memories. The first LEED-certified project I completed way back in 2005 that has the look of a much older home will always be one of my top projects. There are simply too many options to pick just one. From the half-wall shadow detail we have used to the lambs fence for deck rail to the glass walls into a mechanical room at the elementary school so kids understand the building systems we have used many opportunities to create details I am proud of over my career.

Designing for the Trees at Meadow Branch

These photos are from our Meadow Branch project in Winchester, Virginia where “green design” meant focusing on tree-saving measures. At first glance, these aerial photos capture the beginning phases of construction, but the real story is these beautiful oak trees and the surrounding trees around the property boundary. Preserving these trees and incorporating the centuries-old landmarks into the center of the site was critical to this design.

The above photo shows the trees remaining at the center of the site.

These photos show Phase II of the Meadow Branch project progress and you can catch a glimpse of our design for Phase I completed in the background. If you look closely, you can see the orange fence line outside the boundaries of the drip line. This extra care to preserve the historic trees along with the technical expertise of the arborist involved will give the trees the best chance of survival. We always enjoy seeing aerial photos of our projects taking shape, thank you KBS Builders for these photographs!

Phase II of Meadow Branch Apartments with Phase I completed in the background.

As this project continues to take shape, we are looking forward to seeing these trees become a central part of the design!


No project is too small, no dream is too big when it comes to the projects we design. One of our strengths as a firm is our diversified portfolio and eagerness to take on a range of projects. From custom residential to commercial, industrial, multi-family, church, school, and even a backyard playhouse, we enjoy the creative challenges these projects allow us. We value serving as a resource to our greater communities in designing a variety of projects and solutions.

We love sharing our work and will be highlighting the diversity of our designs under #WeDesignThatToo to help inspire your next project!

A backyard greenhouse in Albemarle County, Virginia.
Modern home in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
A 108,000 square foot award-winning warehouse in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Multifamily Community in Charlottesville, Virginia.

As a small architecture firm, we love being a dynamic team that is ready for the next creative challenge. Our portfolio and upcoming posts under #WeDesignThatToo on our social media pages are a great source of inspiration and demonstrate our ability to take on many different types, sizes, and styles of projects. Think you might have a design idea and want to explore it further? Reach out and we will gladly talk through your vision!