All posts by Heydon Hatcher

Lee Winnige: Birmingham Beer Pioneer

Birmingham, Ala. (July 25, 2014) – Lee Winnige knows his ales from his lagers and his pilsners from his stouts. His passion for craft beers inspired him to help cofound “Free the Hops” (FTH) a highly successful nonprofit organization whose mission is to “help bring the highest quality beers in the world to Alabama.” Since its incorporation nearly ten years ago, Free the Hops has played a critical role in creating the conditions that have led to Alabama becoming the fastest-growing producer of craft beers in the United States. Lee and his group identified state regulations that prevented or discouraged microbreweries from distributing beer in Alabama and worked with lawmakers and other interested parties to pass the “Gourmet Beer Bill” in 2007, which raised the legal alcohol limit for beer from 6% to 13.9%. In 2011 they worked to pass the “Gourmet Bottle Bill,” which raised the container size limit from 16oz to 25.4oz. The “Brewery Modernization Act” repealed many Prohibition-era restrictions and greatly improved the economic viability of microbreweries. The efforts of Free the Hops—and similar organizations, businesses, and individuals— can be seen in increased employment, neighborhood revitalization, and economic growth in Birmingham and throughout the state of Alabama.

Lee’s ability to bring together groups of people with different perspectives as he did with FTH, has served him well with CMH, where he focuses on retail and institutional projects. Lee deals daily with complicated budgetary and regulatory issues, giving him an opportunity to practice his creative problem-solving skills and attention to detail.

Lee encourages beer lovers to keep an eye out for the FTH-sponsored Fall FestivAle, a Birmingham beer-tasting event that will take place sometime in November.

CMH Helps Cordova Recover from April 2011 Tornadoes

Birmingham, Ala. (June 27, 2014) — In the aftermath of the April tornadoes of 2011, CMH Architects teamed with Cordova Mayor Drew Gilbert and City Planner Steve Ostaseski to pursue a grant to fund the redevelopment of the city. Their efforts paid off as they were awarded a HUD grant for tornado recovery from the State of Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The project will not only rebuild City Hall and provide a Police Department facility, but the grant also calls for the reconfiguration of the main street road infrastructure downtown.

The two functions will be integrated into a single, interconnected, energy-efficient structure. The jail and law enforcement offices will include the latest technology, such as touch-screen security system and CCTV, as well as card access for jail and administrative employees. City Hall will feature administrative offices as well as a combined council chamber, courtroom, and community meeting room to accommodate 85 people.

“CMH has the City’s trust and confidence that we will have a project completed on time and within budget,” said Ostaseski. “They believe in our vision for the future and we are confident that our City Hall will be an addition to the city that is admired for decades into the future.” The project was bid May 6, 2014 and was awarded to the low bidder at a below budget contract amount of $3,447,352.00.  Construction for this project will start in early July 2014 and be complete in June 2015.

CMH Transforms Abandoned Grocery Store into a Modern Day Library and Public Facility

Birmingham, Ala. (June 23, 2014) — After extensive planning, the Athens-Limestone Public Library renovation project has begun construction. This project involves the conversion of an abandoned Kroger grocery store building into a versatile community facility. The building incorporates a public library, rentable large meeting room, rentable small meeting room, computer lab, coffee and snack area, used bookstore, and modern features like access to public computers and wireless internet.

MLIS Director of the Athens-Limestone Public Library, Paula Laurita, is enthusiastic, stating that “working with CMH is a pleasure. They listen to our vision, designing for our strengths and our unique needs, not just following trends. Together we are creating a community gathering place.” In addition to this collaborative and innovative design, the preliminary cost estimates for the project have come in under budget, a longtime hallmark of CMH projects.

The revitalized structure utilizes sustainable design principles through energy-efficient light fixtures and conditioning equipment, low-flow toilet fixtures, shaded glazing on the southern and western exposures, and complete building reuse, among other features. Construction of the phase-two interior portion of the project is currently underway with a building completion date estimated for fall of 2014.

Then & Now: Mike Tillman

Birmingham, Ala. (Jan. 30, 2014) – Mike Tillman joined CMH Architects April 5, 1995, beginning as a project manager handling the design of Parisian Department Stores. In his 19 years with the firm, his incredible work ethic is the driving force behind his success at CMH. “He lives a project 24 hours a day and makes it his own,” says firm President Everett Hatcher. “And he is always sketching,” Hatcher says, recalling the hardbound sketchbooks that Mike carries with him, for when inspiration strikes. “By the end of two years, you could look back through one of his beat- up books and see a neat evolution of each project through notes and really nice sketches.”

“In addition to his off-the-charts hard work at the office, Mike has also worked tirelessly on his house over the years and has created one of the most extensive rear decks you will see in Birmingham,” says firm Senior Vice President Michael O’Kelley. “Some of us have joked that it is just a little smaller than something from Swiss Family Robinson.” Mike is currently working on Saks Fifth Avenue in San Juan and serves as the firm’s Executive Vice President.

Retail Development Is Main Focus of Renowned Architectural Technology Summit

Birmingham, Ala. (Jan. 28, 2014) – At the recent Autodesk University—an annual summit held by the technology giant responsible for the groundbreaking software programs AutoCAD and Revit—an entire day of the conference was devoted to retail development, with prominent developers in attendance. Revit is a Building Information Modeling (BIM) software program that creates dynamic 3D models that provide smart information in real time, such as energy analysis, land geometry, light analysis, design components, parking, and leasing, along with the coordinating cost and scheduling estimates. This time-saving and cost-efficient tool breaks down the communication barriers and enhances collaboration between the designer, architects, contractors, building owners, and other stakeholders in the construction project.

“We are pleased to see Autodesk featuring retail development in this way,” said CMH President Everett Hatcher. “The Revit technology is perfect for the complex institutional and retail projects that we work on.” CMH has used Revit in multifaceted projects, such as the recent award-winning NAVFAC, a department store on a Naval Base in Bethesda, Maryland; Fresh Food Dining, an interactive open-kitchen food court at The University of Alabama; and the DeCA Commissary, a grocery store on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. CMH BIM Studio Head Ken Helms explains, “Revit allows the design team and the contractors immediate project visualization so we can troubleshoot all ‘what-if’ scenarios and detect potential conflicts before any cost estimates, scheduling, or construction begins.”

CMH Uses Innovative Fabric Design in Galleria Renovation

Birmingham, Ala. (Sept. 6, 2013) – When the owners of the Galleria explained that they wanted something “to add color and interest” throughout the interior of the cavernous skylighted structure— something of significant size that would not interfere with access to the sprinkler, HVAC, electrical, security, or lighting systems—the design challenge was set. The CMH team began brainstorming and troubleshooting, from aluminum-framed fabric panels of varying size, to the application of colored films onto the existing skylight glass. However, these initial solutions not only created additional issues with fire protection, dust collection, and skylight access, but they simply lacked the ‘wow’ factor that CMH was looking for.

Brainstorming sessions about tensile fabric structures gained momentum, and the team found themselves in the studio, stretching various fabrics across the space and lighting them with color-changing LED fixtures. The next phase consisted of full-size mock-ups suspended between lifts above the Galleria’s food court. The team decided upon the 100% recyclable textile sails, custom-made from the English company Fabric Architecture that claims the Galleria fabrics are “the largest interior sails in the world.”

CMH team members have spent long hours after the Galleria closes each night, perfecting everything from the panel size and lighting methods to the hanging and attachment methods. The installation that fills the Galleria’s vast ceiling is now complete. The largest panel is suspended above the center court and is almost 40 feet tall and over 60 feet long, providing shade for the food court patrons below. “We knew that on sunny days, the white panels would be visually striking, filling the space with a soft natural light,” said Firm Executive Vice President Mike Tillman, “but it was the possibilities provided by the programmable LED fixtures that made the structures such an exciting improvement.”

CMH Completes Justin Sollohub Justice Center in Anniston, Alabama

Birmingham, Ala. (Aug. 19, 2013) – CMH recently completed the new Justin Sollohub Justice Center for the City of Anniston, a complex facility which combines the police department, municipal court, and jail into one 57,500-square-foot building. Chief Denham stated that “CMH’s knowledge of public safety facilities is clearly apparent in the design of our New Justin Sollohub Justice Center. Their design–build layout together with state of the art security electronics and their project management not only delivered a well-constructed, secure facility, but increased our efficiency both in manpower and the operations and maintenance of the building itself.”

The police facility includes customized spaces for each division: Administrative Department, Special Response Team, including enclosed storage for all their specialized equipment, weapons, and vehicles; a full crime lab and secure evidence storage area; Investigative Department; Patrol Unit; and Animal Control. Each of these spaces includes cutting-edge technology and is specifically designed to enhance the functionality and efficiency of each division.

The courtroom, which accommodates 200 and includes custom-designed equipment, and be converted to a community meeting room, a police training facility, or a public safety shelter during emergency weather events.

The jail was designed to accommodate 110 inmates in precast concrete modular cells that were delivered on-site complete with all furnishings, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC ducts, which also expedited the construction schedule. The jail also includes a full-service kitchen and laundry, an enclosed sally port for secure inmate drop-off, the latest electronic security system, and video visitation that allows family members to electronically visit without the inmate having to leave their cell block.

This project had a pre-construction total budget including design fees of $15 million but was designed, constructed, and furnished for a final project cost of $14.4 million.

CMH Designs Innovative Third Expansion of Successful Retail Center

Birmingham, Ala. (Aug. 15, 2013) – The Phase III expansion of the Bridge Street Town Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, is underway and includes a new flagship two-level Belk department store, a new parking garage, and approximately 50,000 square feet of additional retail and restaurant buildings. The western portion of the existing lake has been drained and filled in to create the expansion site and a new waterfall feature will be added to define and accentuate the remainder of the lake. Belk and the adjacent new retail buildings will open onto a new “center court” featuring a large green space that can accommodate featured events, displays, and other activities already enjoyed by the Bridge Street patrons.

The new construction will complement the diverse mix of tenants and building types already at Bridge Street, which currently includes nearly 350,000 square feet of retail and restaurant tenants, the Westin Huntsville, the Monaco Pictures theater, and a low-rise office building, as well as 2nd-floor offices in one of the buildings. Dating back to its grand opening in 2007, the centre has undergone continued growth and success, including a 105,000-square-foot power center addition that was also designed by CMH and completed in early 2012. The anxiously awaited completion of this newest phase is expected in fall 2014.

Xuemei Yuan: CMH Summer Intern

Birmingham, Ala. (August 1, 2013) – Bejing native and CMH summer intern Xuemei Yuan recently completed the Butler Plaza water fountain design, featuring stone-carved stallions. She admits to initially feeling timid about the project, but she explains that CMH President Everett Hatcher “taught me how to analyze the user’s problems from the perspective of an architect and how to draw elevations and site plans properly. I gradually became relaxed, and [could identify the design challenges] and know how to deal with them,” she says. “I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for an American to step into her shoes—speak a foreign language, navigate new software, and learn an architectural firm’s design approach,” says Hatcher, “She’s a hard worker and she’s made great progress.”

Xuemei is currently pursuing her Masters in Industrial Design from Auburn University, and says that the “architecture aesthetics and architecture knowledge” she has gained at CMH will definitely inform and improve her master thesis. She embraces not only the innovation and creativity in American design, but also the freedom in American culture, relishing her newfound free reign over the internet, including her very own Facebook page. It’s this newfound aspect of freedom she finds the most exciting. She recalls reviewing the fountain design, “Mr. Hatcher told me that this is America; you need free your thoughts and do something really cool. I really benefit a lot from his words. And I am trying to do that.”

CMH Naval Building Wins 2013 Design-Build Merit Award

Birmingham, Ala. (July 26, 2013) —CMH is pleased to announce that its recently completed project, the Main Exchange Replacement at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, has won a prestigious Design-Build Merit Award. Designbuild is an integrated project delivery approach wherein architects and contractors collaborate in all phases of a project in order to achieve budget, schedule, design, and construction goals. The 2013 National Design-Build Awards program was the most competitive to date, and submissions were rigorously judged by a panel of industry experts, looking for projects that demonstrate advanced and innovative application of design-build best practices.

The 150,000-square-foot, two-story full line department store includes a bank, pharmacy, food court, and parking deck. CMH not only fulfilled the green standards of excellence, winning LEED Gold certification for this complex project, but also did so while working within the constraints of an extremely tight site at the National Naval Medical Center. Alabama-based Brasfield & Gorrie joined forces with Michigan-based Walbridge Construction to serve as the contractor for the project. The design-build team will attend the annual Design-Build Conference & Expo in Las Vegas in November to accept their award.

“This important recognition validates not only our firm’s collaborative strengths,” said CMH Senior Vice President Michael O’Kelley, “but also our ability to create new and efficient-design solutions while adhering to strict timeline and working within a specific budget.”