Decision Overload: How to avoid decision-fatigue in your project.

If there is one thing we can all count on, it’s the inevitability of the numerous decisions we will navigate daily. From the moment we decide when to get out of bed, the average person will make thousands of decisions throughout the span of their day. Most of us love having options, but we commonly make our best decisions earlier in the day when we haven’t been inundated with countless, weighted choices. The same logic is applied to a custom home or renovation project and avoiding decision-making fatigue is achievable. Our team has collectively designed over 1,500 projects and we are here to offer guidance on how to avoid the inevitable creep of anxiety caused by making too many decisions. 

First, it’s important to create a plan with a solid vision and commit to it (this might be a collective commitment if you are designing with a spouse or partner). This process of working out the plan to fit your vision for your dream house is the foundation of why you hire an architect. Our team has a process of asking questions to figure out the solutions to bring your dreams to reality.

One of the most important components in creating a plan is to develop a realistic budget. Often in the planning stage, the average homeowner doesn’t always know the cost of their design selections. This is where our experienced team brings huge value to your process. We can help guide you towards your budget and help you pick out the special elements in just the right places and elements to conserve on budget in others.

Your ability to make decisions can directly influence the length of time it takes to complete your project and therefore, the budget! During the design process testing options early on is relatively inexpensive, but simple changes made late take a lot of coordination and budget. In the same line, testing out design options on paper is way less expensive that doing it during the construction process. 

Time is valuable; therefore, we recommend trusting an expert who has already put in the time and has up-to-date knowledge on the best and most efficient selections. Professional designers and architects are trained to focus on the details and guide you in the decision-making process. Experts will also often utilize industry-specific software that will allow you to see renderings of your space with your design selections. The ability to visualize a space can greatly help you make decisions and ease worries over how a project will turn out.  

There are thousands of decisions involved in creating a dream design. Planning ahead, prioritizing decisions that emphasize function, and seeking guidance from a professional are critical in avoiding decision burn-out and completing a successful project.

Partnering with Habitat for Humanity of the New River Valley

The Gaines Group is proud to once again partner with Habitat for Humanity of the New River Valley on the construction of new townhomes in Floyd, Virginia. Our firm has a strong history supporting projects in partnership with Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the Commonwealth and has made significant contributions to projects in Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Green, and Rockingham Counties.

The Floyd County Project is Gaines Group’s third effort partnering with Habitat for Humanity of the New River Valley. This project will be a 7-unit block similar in scope and size to the Blacksburg Project we completed in 2020. Our special partnership grows out of the time the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford towns played host to firm founder Ray Gaines while studying at Virginia Tech School of Architecture. To date, our firm has helped provide shelter for nine families in the area who will own their dwellings. Additionally, our firm’s work in the New River Valley includes the Adams at Peppers Ferry, a multi-family project of 168 units located in Christiansburg.

Beyond designing for comfortable living spaces, these completed projects are EarthCraft Certified and the Floyd County townhomes are slated to be as well. We are passionate about using design to positively impact our communities while upholding our commitment to designing for the future. Our partnership with Habitat for Humanity is a testament to these values.

Blue Ridge Mountain Home

The Blue Ridge Mountain Home, which backs up to the parkway, is now framed, and the roof trusses were being installed when we last visited. This single-level home has a detached garage, bonus room over the garage, and an open floor plan, making sure there is plenty of space for our clients to stretch out. Aside from the Blue Ridge Mountain home we have, we have a few other projects in the works, check out our blogs or Facebook to keep an eye out for updates!

The crawl space in this home features a concrete slab to keep the space easy to maintain, dry, and clean. This space will be conditioned and sealed to keep the HVAC systems working efficiently. Sealing a crawl space is an effective way to manage your thermal envelope, keep the critters out, and to control your indoor environmental quality.

The bonus room over the garage adds to the flexibility of the floorplan and captures the additional space needed to make the house just right. As you can see from the photos, the views are breathtaking on top of Afton mountain, and the house is situated perfectly to take advantage of the breathtaking views.

Job Shadowing with Gaines Group

Meredith Charlton is a student at Blue Ridge Community College. She is the latest student to job shadow in our Harrisonburg office. This experience is a chance to see the profession to get a better sense of daily life in an architectural firm. We have hosted more than a dozen students in the office over the last 10 years, some have continued on into architecture and some have taken other paths. It is a wonderful experience for us to see these young people explore career options.

Guest post by Meredith Charlton:

As a college student, you are given many opportunities to explore career options if you take the risk to do so. Attending Blue Ridge Community College I was able to meet the College President, Dr. John Downey, and talk with him about my career. He was kind to listen to my struggle with finding the right career path and when I mentioned architecture he immediately thought to connect me with Gaines Group Architects. That is one of the great things about going to a community college, you get to make real connections with your professors and even the President of the College. I reached out to Charles with Gaines Group Architects to ask about job shadow opportunities at his firm. I was a little nervous meeting with Charles the first time but was welcomed into the office to talk about my goals. Charles and I set a job shadow schedule that would allow me to balance my school work, job, and spending time in his office to see what really happens in architecture. Shadowing at the firm has allowed me to see different areas of the profession and it helped me find my calling. I am grateful for the opportunity to shadow and very grateful to Dr. Downey for taking the time to help me find the right connections. I encourage others to take the time to explore career options, talk to professionals that are doing what you think you will love, and find the right path for yourself. If you are interested in architecture, I suggest you job shadow with Gaines Group Architects to see the design process in action, learn a 3D modeling software, and hear from a variety of people how their path led them to their current positions.

Other Job Shadow blog posts here:

Learn how job shadowing informs career path

High School students should job shadow

A story of job shadowing during a pandemic

Why you should job shadow while still in high school

Architectural Mentoring during a pandemic

A story of mentoring in Architecture

A story of career development by BRCC Student

New Home vs. Custom Home

The value of adding someone that has years of training to think through design options to provide the optimized solution for facilitating the life you want to live in that particular place is the obvious answer. (and a really long sentence)

However, there is more to the design choice when thinking about a new home vs a custom home. The results of this early choice will have compounding impacts through the process of design and construction. An architect goes through extensive education and training to learn to think design, a skill that most have not developed. A home of business that is designed by an architect has taken into consideration so much more than just how it will be built or simple aesthetics, the design process thinks through daily life, challenges that might come up, energy usage, movements, habits, views, and the particular site. Architects are doing more than just providing what you will need to get permits, they are working on a holistic solution for a home or business that is just right for you. Architects stay in touch with the latest building science thinking and trends in the industry to be able to provide clients with the options available to achieve the best value solutions. Maybe most important, the architect acts as the client’s advocate through the process to reduce stress and make the process fun.

This home perched on a mountain top with views for miles is a good example of a custom design. The homeowner found an online plan as their starting point and then we set out to manipulate the design to create the space just right for this building site. We don’t usually start with an existing design and this one changed a lot to make it work for this site, but every project we do is truly custom. We start where our client needs us to start to realize the right solution for their lifestyle goals.

As you can see from the photos, this project is all about the views. We worked with the client to develop a comprehensive design where all the details come together into a beautiful, comfortable oasis. Framing the views from as many points as possible inside and outside the home was critical for the success of the design. The building science that informed the design decisions also loomed large as this home will be impacted by strong winds and lots of snow with the high altitude. As the parts of the assembly come together we are thrilled to see the care and attention to detail the builder is taking to provide the best product possible (see the lumber sitting up off the ground, a good indication that the builder cares about his work). 

Design matters is a recurring mantra in our daily work. We take pride in listening to the goals of our clients and developing the best possible solutions to meet those goals from aesthetics, budget, to framing views. We are thrilled to see this one take shape and would love to talk to you about your dream home to come.