Gaines Group Architects
smiling baby

Little things matter, a lot!

Little things matter, a lot!

Have you ever been standing in line where a mom is holding a baby in front of you. When the baby smiled at you did it bring you joy? That little action by that little person could be the thing that changed your entire day. Perhaps you then were more likely to pass a smile on to the cashier as your items were processed and he / she then passed on a smile to the person behind you in line. That little smile could create a ripple effect of happiness. What if the action taken was rude or mean? What if someone stepped in front of you in line and that put you in a foul mood? Would you have passed that on as well? Little things matter, a lot!

smiling baby

Little things matter, a lot, when trying to make a difference.

I have been thinking a lot about the little things in life these past months. How can we make our community and world a better place with so much negativity sitting on top everyday? There is so much evil and so many dishonest selfish people around it is sometimes hard to see good. It is a heavy burden to have to deal with these people and even see them lead our national conversation. It can seem overwhelming. I often feel overwhelmed. So what can I do about it? Where can I make a difference?


Little things matter, a lot, design matters, a lot.

I work hard to be the best father I can be first. I try to be a supportive friend to those around me – even those I don’t agree with all the time. I am terrible at remembering to smile, but that is something simple I can do each day. As an architect I try to remember all the little things in our designs. Those little actions that can help reduce resource consumption and energy usage. Those little design things that save our clients money. Those things that will make their lives easier when using the spaces we designed. I focus on bringing beauty to our clients through built forms. Have you ever counted the number of steps you take when cooking? Architects have a formula for what works best. Have you ever felt out-of-breath after walking up a steep flight of stairs – I mean in a building other than our office? There is a formula for a comfortable stair that many homes do not meet. There are standards for room sizes, window heights, door widths, and space between cabinets in kitchens that all impact comfort and costs. As architects and interior designers we have spent years learning how to create spaces that are comfortable, efficient, and healthy. Design is one of the little things that matter, a lot. Design is one place where I can help bring a ripple effect in our community.

Natural Chimney Stage

Weiler Orthodontics

Caitlin Funkhouser Photography

speech and language center





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There is something about design – we even collect it

Good design is a common theme in my posts. How do you construct a house that is healthy, energy-efficient, and durable for instance? This is achieved through good design. However, design matters in every aspect of life. If you watch carefully you will see design making a difference in everything from the stores you shop in to the roads you drive on. There is careful attention paid in some cases and a lack of attention in others. Good design is sometimes not noticed, which was how it was designed. Think of a building that you have never entered before, you are looking for a particular department, through design the path is intuitive and you find your way. Or think of a kitchen in a home that is designed for the way you cook, it minimizes steps, offers the right amount of storage for cooling your baked goods, while still allowing you to prepare dinner. As a culture we often do not celebrate good design in the built world, but it makes our lives easier. In the automobile world however, we celebrate good design, even to the point of building a building to store good design to show it off to anyone that cares to visit.

On my recent trip to Warroad Minnesota to learn more about the production of Marvin windows, I toured The Shed. I am honored to get the opportunity to tour both the factory building windows, but also the private collection of classic cars owned by the Marvin family. Here are some of my favorite:


N2A – a classic look custom built modern car


1936 Auburn 852 – 1 of 500 ever produced, each car was tested before it left the factory for top speed – this one went 101 miles per hour


1957 Suburban GMC = 1 of 500 made and only 100 made in 1957, automatic transmission, power steering, and Air Ride Seat


1957 Chevy Bel Air in Iconic robins egg blue


1969 GTO The Judge Ram Air III with eight track tape player


1932 Ford Roadster – the only car ever to lay claim to the Triple Crown of Hot Rodding


1960 Chevy Corvette with serial number 000001


1970 Plymouth Road Runner Super Bird



What improvements do you see in daily life that could make life easier for everyone?

I was out shopping with my mom this weekend. She has difficulty walking and uses handicap parking spaces to make it easier to get into stores. We drove to two different stores and parked in a handicap space each time. Both stores had design issues with the placement of the handicap spaces and landscape beds. Good design would have prevented this scenario and made life easier for all those using the parking space. What design issues have you seen that could improve life for everyone?


Want a Healthy, Energy Efficient, Durable Home – Get your plan right first!

Over the past few weeks I have been reminded multiple times: the most important element in building is having a good plan in place before starting construction. 


It is hard for many to justify the expense of developing a good plan before starting construction. After all, budgets are tight for everyone these days! There are many website dedicated to providing home plans for you that will save you thousands of dollars on design fees. There are ‘drafters’ in the area that can modify them to make them what you want. Perhaps even your builder is willing to “mark up” the plans to make the modifications you need.


Unfortunately, this approach to construction leaves out a very important step – DESIGN. Design matters and you get what you pay for almost without exception. A good planning process up front that includes the builder and architect will result in the most efficient, functional, and comfortable home for you. A balanced team understands how to use your resources (money and materials) efficiently to produce a design the fits your goals. Design Matters.

Design Matters – why it matters to me and I want it to matter to you.

Design – Why it matters to me.

I blog a lot about building science, the importance of holistic design, and occasionally local business leaders. I have told stories about a typical day in the life of an architect, the value of memberships in industry organizations, and my daughter’s view of the world – “you just have to stop being lazy and fix things.” It takes about two hours to put together a meaningful blog post (1 hour if I keep it short). I have posted 379 entries to my blog and responded to 256 comments over a span of three years. This is the equivalent of almost 19 full weeks of work. So why do I spend my time writing stories, posting ideas, and celebrating local business? Why do I repeat stories about design and spend energy pushing for better solutions?

CAPS Harrisonburg

Design – Why it matters to me.

My blog is an outlet for me to help the community understand the value of design. Most people, myself included at times, are willing to accept something that is convenient even if it is not exactly right. Design often not the first criteria as we often don’t know how to evaluate good design vs bad design. A loaf of bread could look terrible and taste incredible, it is not just about aesthetics. A car could be beat up on the outside and still get good gas mileage, it is not just performance. A store could be an energy hog and still carry the brands we love, it is not just function.When design is done right, a loaf of bread look as good as it tastes and is nutrient filled using local healthy ingredients. Design matters because it makes the world, our community, our lives better. Holistic questions are required to understand the full impact of design on the buildings, tools, cars, and clothes we encounter everyday. A comfortable shirt that did not use toxic chemicals in the manufacturing will not be more comfortable (well maybe it will you should test that theory) – however, the community will be better off for you selecting that shirt. Design is holistic, it should not be limited to one aspect of the solution but should cover all aspects.










Design – Why it matters to me.

Buildings are huge energy, resource, and water hogs. Your home, your business, your shopping destinations have a huge impact on your health, comfort, and vitality. Living and working in a healthy building will contribute to you living a more full healthy life. Knowing that you have minimized your impact on your neighborhood, community, and world resources will give you peace of mind. Holistic design that focuses on aesthetics, building science, function, durability, and resources is the only way to achieve this peace of mind. These are things I understand and want to share with readers.

Home Show









Design – Why it matters to me.

Design that Matters is my goal for every project. My blog is simply a place where I can share ideas. I hope you enjoy my rantings, benefit from my experience. If nothing else, the next time you are making a decision for a building (home or office) I hope my posts have given you enough information to look beyond aesthetics.

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).

Design in the Valley – starting a conversation.

Design matters. Taking time out to develop the idea is an activity that should NOT be considered a luxury,but should be seen as a required planning tool that cannot be overlooked. In our fast paced society we look for solutions that are fast and simple. We don’t want things to be overly complicated. We simply don’t have time or energy for it.

So where does that leave design. Is it a luxury that only those with extra time and money can implement for their projects? Is it something that can be purchased in a magazine? Is it something the builder / creator can figure out as he goes along?

As a society we have allowed design to be put on the back burner . The “spec” market for housing is a booming industry with players that build the way they built last time no matter the lot conditions, the solar orientation, or the needs of the future home owner. Those purchasing these homes adapt their lives to the inefficiencies rather than having a home designed around their specific needs. Design solves these problems in the planning stage before you ever try to get dinner ready while watching the kids do their homework in the next room. Design creates healthy indoor air quality rather than homes that need to be cleaned on a weekly basis. Design creates solutions for problems you know need attention and problems you have not yet encountered. Design acknowledges the place, climate, community, and users abilities.

Our community has a “pull on your boots and get it done” kind of attitude. That attitude is why this valley was settled and survived. It was a rough area with lots of potential, dangerous, bountiful, and beautiful. The immigrants that survived in this area knew there was a need for hard work and quick solutions to life’s problems. There is nothing wrong with that heritage that has been handed down through the generations. However, we need to also infuse design into the conversation so that we can be efficient with our resources, make daily life a little easier, and continue to thrive in our valley.

On October 5th and 6th, a conversation about design in downtown will take the form of small parks, the size of parking spaces. Artists, community groups, students, and local residents will build these parking spaces into areas that promote conversation, engage community, and celebrate the act of design. These parks will be short-lived expressions of what our downtown could be in the future. Join us for the conversation, without you we will not have community, which is essential for successful design to matter.

Design Matters – finding solutions.


Architects design a variety of building types. Some are big, some are small, and they all have great meaning to the client and to the architect. Architecture is an interesting profession. You wear your heart on your sleeve and your work is often reviewed, and analyzed. Sometimes you specialize in a certain type of design – like residential:

Sometimes within that specialty you might only do renovations

or  energy-efficient:

or commercial:

or agricultural:

or multi-family:

or Historic Renovation:

some try to push the envelope of what is accepted and expected:

sometimes form is given to you (garden apartment)

sometimes size is the rule (1000 sf)

sometimes you are the first (EarthCraft Light Commercial)

sometimes you give your time to high school students:

sometimes you design big open spaces:

sometimes you design big interior spaces:

sometimes you design high density:


But no matter what the project, as an architect, the one thing that remains constant is you design solutions!

10 Things Every Designer Should Know

1. You need to work harder than anyone else, it will always benefit you in the long run.

2. Volunteer – you have to get away from your computer and build connections, learn from others, and experience life.

3. Be Original, stand up for what you believe, hold true to your beliefs.

4. Be authentic. The most important asset you bring to design is your individuality, perspective, and experience.

5. Learn. Constantly look for opportunities to advance your craft, learn from others, and grow your abilities.

6. Observe. As you travel through life look at other solutions to other problems. You will be inspired and humbled when you see good design and blown away when you see bad design. This will be your motivation for every future assignment.

7. Trust your instinct.

8. Keep an open mind, sometimes the idea presented by others is the best solution.

9. Think holistic with your solutions. Sometimes the idea you are focused on will work better only if you make three other changes first.

10. If all else fails, go back to No. 1, working harder than everyone else.

The Gaines Group, because design matters!

Reblog from

Design Matters

When you think about architecture your mind often goes to signature works that stand up and mark a moment in history. You think about those forms that appear to be a symphony captured in place and time.  You remember those famous buildings that grace the cover of magazines, mansions on the hill, modern sculptures that people inhabit.  Architecture is often thought to be lofty, prestigious, and elite.

Habitat for Humanity volunteer

The Gaines Group, plc, an architectural firm in Virginia, is trying to break that stereotype. Architect Charles Hendricks, AIA, CSI, CDT, LEED AP reminds us of the firm’s mantra: Everyone Deserves Good Design. In a profession that often does not place high value on durability, energy efficiency, or functional solutions, The Gaines Group is changing the questions being asked, the solutions being provided, and the definition of what an architect delivers.

Canstruction food drive

The firm was founded in 1987 when Raymond E. Gaines, AIA, FCSI, CCS was ‘kicked’ out of the door of the design build firm where he began his career fresh out of Virginia Tech’s Architecture Program. He decided at that point (picking up his former employer as one of his main clients) that the goal for his career was to be a unique kind of architectural firm. He wanted to deliver functional solutions that were easy to build, practical, and affordable. He states “I want to see that our work made a difference and the community is a better place for it.” His attitude towards design has led to multiple affordable housing solutions, senior housing projects, and many happy clients over the last 25 years.

Ray taking a break from volunteering with Albemarle High School drama students

Adding Charles Hendricks to the firm in 1999 their reputation grew to include the term: green designers. Charles is a thought leader in the industry for sustainable design and the firm quickly became known for their LEED, Earthcraft, and Energy Star projects under his direction. Building on Ray’s knowledge of practical construction details and working with a full understanding of building science the firm won the “best green designers” award in 2008, the Virginia Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in 2008 and 2009, and the “best green residential renovation” award in 2011 for their dedication to sustainable design. This practical approach to design that delivers energy efficient, healthy and durable solutions is the foundation of their current success.

Ribbon cutting

The firm’s dedication to the community does not stop at the design phase, they are known community leaders that volunteer their time, skills, and knowledge to many non-profit organizations. This dedication to community health has allowed them to grow their firm to include a second office (Charlottesville and Harrisonburg, Virginia) during the worst economy in the history of the business. As partner Roger Bryant states: “our clients deserve us to make balanced well thought out decisions to be able to serve them to the best of our abilities.” Adding the Harrisonburg office in a time of recession was a risky move for the firm, but it has paid off with many new clients and tremendous opportunities to make a difference in another community. Charles now runs the Harrisonburg office  and he quickly got involved with numerous community organizations as well as providing professional services to several non-profits in the area that were in need of design assistance.

Governor’s Excellence in Environmental Design Award