Gaines Group Architects

Green Term Defined: Indoor Environmental Quality

The average American spends a large amount of their time indoors in our current society (according to an EPA survey, 90% of our time is inside). This makes the Indoor Environmental Quality of your built environment critical. This is the air that you breathe, the type of light, the sounds, and the comfort you feel.


Indoor air quality is impacted by carbon monoxide, radon, VOC’s, particulates, mold, bacteria, and smoke. I just had a meeting in my office this week where those visiting came in just as the lawyer upstairs went out with his pipe lit and no respect for others. If your HVAC system is not designed to provide ventilation all the products and their associated chemicals you bring into your space off-gas and have nowhere to go. In turn your lungs become the filter for these chemicals.

The type of lighting you use for a space is critical for your comfort. It does not matter is you use LED or incandescent, using it in the correct way is more important for comfort. Of course, bringing in natural daylight into a space has been shown in many studies to be the best for your health. This may not apply depending on the task you are performing – ever try to see a computer screen that faces a window? Of course you can create appropriate lighting in spaces through design.LED_Bulb

In our office it seems that headphones are the way to go, but I remember back when I started we simply played a radio in the background. The level and type of noise in a space can have a huge impact on your environmental quality. Living near a heavily used road, airport, or nightclub impacts how your able to rest and recharge. I know I rarely go to the restaurant across the street from my office because the music is always so loud – yes I realize that this makes me old. You can control the noise in a space through design.

Low-cost Strategies for Green Building

water senseYou hear it all the time, but I am here to tell you:: Green does not cost more, quality costs more. Here are 17 tips that will not add to your building costs, but will save you money and protect the earth.

  1. Orient building to maximize natural lighting and solar heat gain.
  2. Place windows to provide good natural ventilation.
  3. Select a light-colored “cool roof”
  4. Provide overhangs on south-facing windows.17
  5. install LED lights.
  6. Install high R-value insulation
  7. select energy star appliances.
  8. Design Water-efficient landscapes.
  9. Install water-efficient toilets and fixtures.
  10. Use permeable paving materials.
  11. Use concrete with flyash.
  12. Use engineered wood for headers, joists, and sheathing.
  13. Use recycled content insulation, drywall, and carpet.
  14. Use Low or No VOC paint.
  15. Use formaldehyde-free or fully sealed materials for cabinets and counters.
  16. Vent rangehood to the outside.
  17. install carbon monoxide detector.

Stormwater Fee coming to a town near you SOON.

Storm water has always been an issue on the construction site. Your contractor had to manage run off, clean truck tires before leaving the site, and install bio-ponds. All of these strategies have become common place in the industry.


Now stormwater is becoming an issue for a wider audience. In order to protect the Chesapeake Bay, new regulations are coming for localities. This will most likely impact you and your home. Staunton and Charlottesville have already instituted a “storm water management fee” that is calculated by the percentage of impervious service on your property. In other words, the larger your home, the longer your traditional driveway, and the bigger your patio, the more you will pay.


There are many strategies you can implement into your property design to reduce your fee. Vegetated walls, pervious pavement and vegetative roofs are just a few of the things you can do to your home. Protecting the Chesapeake Bay will benefit all of us for future generations, stiffer stormwater regulations will help with that goal. However, reducing your stormwater fee is something that will pay dividends to both protecting the bay and your wallet.


Thinking of Renovating your Bathroom – Go Green to Save Green

Here are some simple ways to cut energy and water use in your bathroom remodel. 

  1. When replacing water faucets, shower heads, or even toilets look for water efficient options. Be careful, there are still a few solutions on the market that don’t work, but with a little research you can find solutions that cut your annual water bill. Look for options with the EPA WaterSense label.
  2. TOTO_tcm14-119676Turn off the lights. Natural light will make you feel better and allows you to cut off the lights. Install a window if the bathroom is located on an outside wall or a solar tube if a window is not possible.
  3. Replace your outdated water heater by a Heat Pump Water Heater or an on-demand unit. These units are very efficient and will reduce the amount of energy used to heat your water. Even more efficient – install a solar thermal heating system utilizing an on-demand unit for supplemental heat in times of high demand.
  4. Replace your incandescent and Compact flourescent lights with LED’s. These lights use a fraction of the energy of traditional lights or even CFL’s and last longer. led
  5. Skip gadgets like heated floors and heated towel racks – a properly insulated home with a well designed heating and cooling system will be comfortable year round.