Meet the Team: Gene Crager

August 13, 2013

Each week we’ll introduce a member of the CDFL team, or as we like to think of ourselves, the “us” in the Power of Plus.

In this week’s edition of Meet the Team we are pleased to introduce Principal Gene Crager. Gene is a husband and father of two daughters, which means he is often “stuck” watching Dance Moms.

What do you do at CDFL?
As an Architectural Principal of CDFL, I am responsible for the oversight of all design, technical/construction documentation and design quality control on Department of Defense projects. I am also an integral part of the Alternative Delivery Process project team management. In addition to production, document management and specification writing, I manage the Construction Administration aspects of all DoD projects – implementing the processes and providing demand resource management throughout the design and construction phases of the project.

What unique attributes do you bring to the CDFL team?
One attribute I bring to the team is a thorough attention to the design and detailing of exterior building envelopes; integrating thermal, air, and vapor control systems with all the visible exterior building materials to maximize energy efficiency and building performance for our clients.

How long have you worked for CDFL?
I began working at CDFL in the summer of 1995, so I recently completed my 18th year here and have been in the profession for 27 years.

What new thing is happening in your field?
Advances in building technology, materials, and systems related to energy efficiency and high performing buildings are increasing at a very quick pace. It is exciting to play a role and be involved in moving sustainability, energy efficiency, and building performance to a higher level with each new project.

What do you spend the most time doing outside of work?
Most of my time away from work is spent with family. My interests are numerous and varied and as such it is difficult to find adequate time to regularly participate in all of them. One of the positive aspects of having so many activities that I enjoy, is I’m never bored and I always have something to do!

What’s the last movie you saw?
I can hardly remember the last time that I watched a movie in the theatre. Most of the movies I watch are either on DVD or Netflix. Recently, I have completed watching the Mission Impossible series – Mission Impossible, MI-2, MI-3 and MI-Ghost Protocol.

What’s your favorite TV show?
My TV watching is as varied and as numerous as my interests outside of work. There are very few TV shows that I watch on a consistent basis. Predominately, I watch sports broadcast from Atlanta Braves baseball to New Orleans Saints football and LSU Football and Baseball. I have kept up with all the episodes of Duck Dynasty recently and beyond that, it is a mixture of everything else including a number of classics like Cheers and the Andy Griffith Show on Netflix.



Trends and Takeaways from AIA Mississippi Convention

August 7, 2013


Several CDFL architects attended last month’s AIA Mississippi Convention in Destin, Florida. Below are their takeaways.

From Jody Coleman
Like us, the AIA has been working to promote their brand through the redevelopment of the AIA website and an increased presence on Facebook and Twitter. They are reaching out to all members of the institute and profession to keep them informed as to what is going on within architecture and the AIA. Once the transition and website redevelopment are complete, members will have new ways to access the AIA and promote the profession.

Additionally, AIA leadership has been exploring different ways to involve all its members such as including them in the decision-making processes of the institute. In the past, voting and awards have all happened at the Convention; those events have now been moved to coincide with Mississippi Celebrates Architecture here in Jackson this fall. This event will attract members who may not normally attend Convention as well as allow for more participation in the awards selection process and in selecting the future leadership of our state chapter.

From Greg Narlock
I found the session by Andrew Wells, one of the principals of Dake/Wells Architecture in Springfield, Missouri, very interesting. He spoke on tying their design solutions to their surroundings and how that provided more meaning to the design – and how those factors coincided with working on a very challenging budget.

Michael Lingerfelt of Lingerfelt International, Orlando, gave a session on how a large team was able to coordinate the construction of Expedition Everest, a project at Disney. As Lead Architect on the project, he and his team were tasked with wrapping a roller coaster around a mountain – certainly no easy feat, especially when also charged with other complexities, including working with different structural systems and the coordination of components from suppliers worldwide.

David Lake’s session featured an interesting array of projects that integrated nature into living spaces. He also spoke about rehabbing formerly deserted large developments and how those projects were to able to bring life back to his community. David Lake is the principal owner of Lake/Flato Architects in San Antonio, TX

From Varuni Kern
The most inspiring seminar for me was “Nature, Place, Craft, and Restraint” by David Lake. I was reminded how important it is that the built environment be designed to communicate, interact, and coexist with the natural environment.

From Matthew Buchanan
The 2013 AIA Mississippi Convention was one of the best in recent memory. Not only did the convention provide needed CEUs and face time with manufacturers, it provided a great social atmosphere for the architecture community of Mississippi aided in part by the picture perfect setting of the San Destin Hilton Resort.

From Jackie Smithers
One of the prevailing trends I noticed at Convention was the coordination and collaboration between all disciplines using BIM* to help solve problems in the design phase rather than later on in the field.

Many speakers touched on designing sustainably while integrating design into the built environment with inspiration and meaning that was created from the site and culture of the project.

*architect-speak translation
BIM stands for Building Information Modeling and is designing with a model that incorporates information that can be used in various ways (quantities, material takeoffs, etc.). Designing with a model helps to solve many issues that would otherwise be dealt with later on in the project. Using BIM can help save money and time early in the project. We use Revit and Microstation here at CDFL as our modeling programs.

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Interior Design Trends

July 31, 2013


This blog post was written by Katie Jo Collins, one of our talented interior designers.

Gone are the days of closed-in, dark perimeter offices and cavernously high workstation panels.

One of the most refreshing changes in workplace design in the last ten years is the concept of perimeter open office layout; a tried and true concept we are finally seeing make its way to the Deep South.

This concept takes support areas that don’t need natural light – workrooms, restrooms, file rooms, and storage spots – and combines them into a centrally located core. Private offices are moved to the interior and given a glass front to allow for better vision and natural light. What we’re left with is a glorious, light-filled perimeter space! Areas that are normally blocked in by the looming walls of lined up perimeter offices can be repurposed as break rooms with a view or a glass front conference rooms – areas where collaboration comes freely and naturally. This, coupled with the workplace trend of lowering workstation walls to desk height (one of my favorite trends), cultivates and awakens a work environment where idea pinging, quick information exchange, and creativity flow amongst employees is the norm. I can just hear the bustling of everyday business now!

Open Office.18

The perimeter open office movement has many other advantages – not only to employees, but to owners and employers as well.

Open Office Picture

This survey by Ethisphere Institute, a leading international think tank dedicated to the advancement of best practices in business, says companies that adopt the open office concept increase space utilization, employee engagement, productivity, and retention. Additionally, this layout plays a role in LEED accreditation – the more people with an outdoor view, the more points gained toward accreditation.

So open those blinds, take down those walls, and stay in the sunshine! It’s good for you, your colleagues, and your business.



Meet the Team: Jesse Browning

July 30, 2013

Each week we’ll introduce a member of the CDFL team, or as we like to think of ourselves, the “us” in the Power of Plus.

This week, as we continue to Meet the Team, we are proud to introduce Jesse Browning, Principal. Jesse, in addition to his regular responsibilities that you’ll read about below, is our resident IT installer / configurator and dispenser of all technologically sophisticated information.

How long have you been at CDFL?
I’ve been at CDFL for 18 years, a partner for 12 years, and I’ve been in the field for 25 years.

What do you do at CDFL?
I’m a senior electrical engineer. I am responsible for all electrical, communications and special systems design. I manage a team of two engineers and a senior designer. In addition, I work closely with our mechanical department on energy conservation solutions.

What’s the best part about working at CDFL?
Having an entire team in one room – architects and all disciplines of engineering – is invaluable to the success of a project. I’ve learned so much from working with architects and I think everyone feels the effects of the mutually beneficial relationship we have cultivated here. I think the secret to our success at CDFL is the diverse group of people we have working together, and that applies from the top down. Engineers learning from the architects and the architects learning from the engineers. I like to think that our engineers and architects know more about the other systems by working together than separately.

What new thing is happening in your field?
We’re looking at new, alternative energy systems like micro turbines, bloom boxes and more non-traditional energy sources.

What would your dream project be?
Every project I work on is unique, every project has positives and negatives and those factors make it difficult to determine exactly what my dream project would be. I would have to say that a project involving the more non-traditional energy sources would be exciting.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to keep moving and I like to use my hands so I have lots of projects that keep me busy outside the office. I tinker with microcontrollers, I have a old sports car I like to work on, I recently built a deck – I guess I just can’t sit still!

What’s the last movie you saw?
World War Z – it was a good movie!

What’s your favorite lunch spot in the neighborhood?
My house – I live right around the corner.



NeoCon 2013

July 24, 2013


This post was written by CDFL’s Colby Dearman, attendee of NeoCon 2013.

As employers face new design challenges such as reductions in square foot allocation, a shift to using collaborative workspace, and the demand for a more efficient use of space, it is becoming increasingly difficult for employees to maintain personal boundaries.

This year at NeoCon in Chicago, many leading manufacturers presented efficient and collaborative solutions that allow workers the ability to define their personal space within the shrinking open office.


It has been clear for quite some time that the days of high workstation panels are gone, and a more open space environment is becoming the new norm of the workplace. A recent CoreNet survey shows that since 1975, the average allocation of workspace per person has diminished from 500 square foot per person to around 175, with projections of 100 square feet per person by the year 2017. This dramatic reduction has forced us to think differently in the way we design.

We all enjoy our personal space. In the same way we seek out a space in our homes that is truly our own, we look to carve out our own personal space within our offices. When the norm was tall walls surrounding each person, everyone had a sense of yours and mine; once you strip that away and layer in collaborative work modes, employees sense a loss of personal identity – “where will I put my framed photos of my children? Did anyone just see that Internet shopping break?!”

It was clear that furniture manufacturers took these trends into account when designing their NeoCon vignettes. To create a sense of boundaries, furniture manufacturers displayed highly flexible pieces that create personal space without sacrificing a collaborative office environment.

Functional pieces that can group together to form a “wall” such as storage, cubbies, files, or marker boards serve to define space and meet a needed component of the office.


Screens between individuals along workstations establish separation between employees but remain flexible for more future growth.


Shared dividers create space for impromptu work conversations, paper stacking, and shared document storage with space for files below.


Efficient and compact zones in between workstations create a neutral zone that still encourages interaction among employees.


All of these solutions can easily be incorporated into nearly any existing offices space to meet today’s needs while providing flexibility for the future.



CDFL Celebrates 20 Years of Tracy Hall!

July 17, 2013

“Part of what makes CDFL the incredibly special place that it is are the people who walk our halls every day, and for twenty years we’ve been lucky enough to have one of those people be our beloved office coordinator Tracy Hall. Tracy is instrumental in keeping the office humming along and she does it all with a smile on her face,” said principal Rob Farr.

That was the consensus last week at CDFL as we celebrated Tracy’s 20th anniversary with sundaes, watermelon, and other summertime goodies.

We asked Tracy about her time here at CDFL and her favorite parts of the job: “The 20 years have flown by!” she smiled. “During that time I’ve gotten to work with a lot of great people. I always enjoy meeting our clients and seeing the projects progress from ideas to reality.”

“Words couldn’t possibly express how grateful we are for Tracy’s service to CDFL and look forward to at least another twenty years with her!” continued Farr.

From all of us at CDFL: Congratulations, Tracy! Here’s to another 20 years!



CDFL + Community

July 10, 2013

This blog post was written by Ann Somers, CDFL principal and animal lover.

I have been a pet person my entire life and recently had the opportunity to combine my affection for animals with my experience in architecture and design. Through serving on the board of our local no-kill shelter, CARA, I’ve been reminded of the work yet to be done to ensure adoptable pets find homes, met others with a passion for animal protection and care, and shaped initiatives that will help make Jackson a better place to be a pet. Among the shelter’s many initiatives is the creation of a public dog park. As the only architect on the board I, along with my landscape architect husband, were charged with bringing the dog park dream to fruition. While on trips my husband and I visited dog parks in Houston, Chicago, New York, New Orleans and Atlanta to get ideas and see what other communities were doing to better serve their four-legged citizens. From a pocket park in New York to seven acres in Houston, it became apparent that a dog park can fit in any city environment. We learned having a place for owners to gather while their dogs played was key, as was having enough space for the dogs to chase each other around. Water features, as you might expect, were also a big hit. The parks we visited typically had a small and large dog area as well. After extensive research, we felt like we had some great ideas and a true vision for Jackson’s first dog park!

The 1.68 acres, located at CARA in northwest Jackson, features a shady, wooded walking trail along the rear of the space and an open, grassy area surrounded by a concrete sidewalk. Within the lawn space is an area for large dogs and an area for small dogs. The large dog area contains a 26’ diameter splash pool surrounded by artificial grass and built-in benches in addition to an area with agility training equipment. Adjacent to the agility training area is a 30’ diameter, half circular raised deck with built-in benches. A brick paver walkway will connect the park’s entrance to the deck. The small dog area has plastic ramps, tunnels, and steps suited to the size of the park’s more petite patrons.

Our hope is that the dog park will attract people and pets from throughout Jackson and surrounding cities. In addition to providing the area’s first dog park, one of our primary goals is to show the public the significant role CARA plays in the lives of pets and people in our community.



CDFL and the Millsaps Business Advantage Program

July 3, 2013


With the exception of MBA graduates, many professional degree recipients typically lack even the most basic business knowledge. Architects, engineers, doctors and lawyers, among others, can attest to this. These programs typically focus on the fundamentals of their craft (and rightfully so), often at the expense of teaching their future graduates the skills needed to navigate their industry’s business environment.

Colleges and universities around the country have picked up on this trend and have begun to offer condensed programs for those seeking to further their knowledge of business. The Else School of Management at Millsaps College here in Jackson, Mississippi, has developed the Business Advantage Program (BAP). Two of CDFL’s own, Katie Lightsey and Chris Myers, completed the certificate program in 2010.

From the college’s promotional materials:

Geared toward professionals with no formal business training, the Millsaps Business Advantage Program for Professionals is a certificate program that provides a fundamental understanding of the basics of business. The course covers content in accounting, economics, finance, marketing, management, supply chain and strategy.

The program is offered during the fall semester of every year. This fall, the program begins on August 10th and ends on December 5th. Classes meet on Monday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m.

Individuals interested in the program, can contact the director of the program, Blakely Fender, at [email protected] They may also visit our website at The website provides video testimonials of previous participants as well as more information about the course. An application to the program can also be found on the website.

The sticker price of the program is $4,500. There are many generous scholarships available.

Those insightful and fortunate enough to move on to a business program following their graduate studies emerge with a wealth of knowledge that puts them at an advantage in their respective fields. Both Katie and Chris have expressed their appreciation for the knowledge they gained through their participation in BAP as well as the profound impact it’s had on their career.



Meet the Team: Jody Coleman

July 2, 2013

Each week we’ll introduce a member of the CDFL team, or as we like to think of ourselves, the “us” in the Power of Plus.

Last week, we debuted the “Meet the Team” feature by beginning to introduce our CDFL leadership team. We started by introducing Rob Farr, and this week we continue with another member of the CDFL leadership, Jody Coleman. We think that, even though this is only our second “Meet the Team” entry, you will already be able to see that we are lucky to be guided by a group of people who bring vastly different perspectives and approaches to our business. Over the course of the next few weeks you’ll see how our leadership team’s outlooks run the gamut from artistic to practical, and everything in between. These complementary personalities and varying viewpoints exemplify the Power of Plus.

This week we’re proud to introduce Jody Coleman, Principal. Jody is a married father of two and a man with eclectic taste in television programs.

What do you do at CDFL?
I deal primarily with the federal market. We work mainly for the Army, Navy, and Air Force and work with multiple Corps of Engineer districts as well as NAVFAC (Naval Facilities Engineering Command) Southeast. Our main focus has been at Keesler Air Force Base Biloxi, Fort Campbell and Fort Knox Kentucky, Fort Benning Georgia, Fort Jackson South Carolina, and Fort Bragg North Carolina.

What exciting things are you working on right now?
We’re currently working on a five-year master plan for Raytheon in Forest, Mississippi in addition to two proposals for Fort Bragg’s 3rd Special Forces Group – one is a Battalion Operations Complex and the other is a Civil Affairs Complex.

What is the best thing about working at CDFL?
The people I get to work with.

What do you spend the most time doing outside of work?
Hunting and fishing, both of which are enjoyable; and yard work, which isn’t very enjoyable.

What’s the last movie you saw?
Identity Theft – I do not recommend it.

How long have you worked for CDFL?
21 years

How long have you been in the profession?
33 years

What is your favorite lunch spot in the neighborhood?
Walker’s. No, Nick’s or Brent’s or Babalu or Sal & Mookie’s – who knows, they’re all good. With so many good restaurants close by it’s hard to choose.

What new thing is happening in your field?
There has been no federal work available in our area during the first two quarters of this fiscal year because of the sequestration. Projects have been delayed while Congress determined the amount of money that would be available for new construction with the catch being that those dollars had to be under contract by the end of the fiscal year. As a result, projects are now being announced and we’ve been very busy with military-related proposal requests.

What’s your favorite TV show?
Duck Dynasty (everyone in the South knows people like this) and Game of Thrones.



Cardiovascular Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center

June 27, 2013

We’re excited to see progress on the new Cardiovascular Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Awarded the project in 2010, CDFL designed a new heart facility that includes three catheter procedure labs, two electrophysiology procedure labs, seventeen private patient recovery rooms, a non-invasive cardiovascular department, staff offices, and conference room.

Demolition of an existing building was the first step in getting the project underway. Following the demolition, site work prepared the ground for new work to begin. Currently, steel structure is being erected and will be followed by the glass and brick “skin” of the building.

Patients and visitors will be greeted by a fully covered drop-off area and two-story reception and lobby area. Thanks to generous expanses of glass throughout, the space will be bathed in natural light. CDFL worked closely with the UMMC staff to design a building that will blend seamlessly into the existing campus while adding a fresh, contemporary addition that is reflective of the Heart Center’s new identity.
Project completion is set for 2014.



Meet The Team: Rob Farr

June 25, 2013

Each week we’ll introduce a member of the CDFL Team, or as we like to think of ourselves, the “us” in the Power of Plus.

There are infinite ways to describe the “ideal leader.” Just search the web for “leadership quotes” and you’ll see the staggering number of people trying to sum up the best way to lead in an insightful and pithy sound bite. It’s a testament to both the limitless nature of the Internet and, more importantly, the effectiveness of differing leadership styles.

Here at CDFL our leadership team is reflective of the notion that there is no such thing as the ideal leader. Rather, it is the right kind of leadership that matters. It’s finding a leader or a team of leaders that fit an organization’s needs.

The “Meet the Team” feature on our blog is an opportunity to give a little insight into the personalities behind the projects and the people behind the plans. We’ll begin by introducing the CDFL leadership. Through their answers we hope you’re able to see we’re lucky to have achieved the elusive feat of finding the right kind of leaders – the kind of collaborative, complementary leadership that exemplifies our belief in the Power of Plus.

Hopefully, you’ll also get some decent Netflix recommendations.

This week we’re proud to introduce Rob Farr, second-generation principal and corporate president. Rob is a graduate of the University of Arizona and lover of blackberries (the fruit, not the phone).

 What unique attributes do you bring to the CDFL team?

My role is one of strategy. Understanding clients’ goals is key in assisting them in achieving the maximum value of their investment. The collective wisdom of 40 years of practice allows me to provide the touchstones of timeless design combined with cutting edge concepts for our clients.

What would your dream project be?

My dream project is a creative project that provides human habitation while lifting the spirit and inspiring the soul. Wait, that’s every project! Every project we are entrusted with changes peoples lives and makes a difference in the experience of living.

What would surprise us most about your job?

The power of creation: how it can and does make a difference in peoples daily lives.

What do you do at CDFL?

I lead the strategy activity – defining how and what is to be accomplished. Visioning a new experience to meet client goals with enhanced value.

What exciting thing are you working on right now?

I am developing a strategy that will enable our team to achieve preeminence in experience design. I am also assisting to develop a vision for the transformation of education in the university area. Additionally, I’m building a concept to allow for the effective procurement of construction services in a value-based concept for our clients’ goals.

What is the best thing about working at CDFL?

The best thing about working here are the wonderful, creative, and talented people who work together for the betterment of the built environment.

What do you spend the most time doing outside of work?

I am privileged to be able to build and create with my hands. The continuation of design into my personal space builds my appreciation for the effort of everyone engaged in the built environments process.

What was the last movie you saw?

Sky Fall – James Bond is the man. This film was a little darker but no less dramatic.

How long have you worked for CDFL?

I started my career at CDFL almost forty years ago. I worked in the firm before that as the jack-of-all-trades. I’ve had forty years of wonder and growth in this profession – affecting true and sustained betterment.

What is your favorite lunch spot in the neighborhood?

Walkers, Roosters, Basils, Nicks – how could you choose?!

What new thing is happening in your field?

Project delivery and integrated teams. We are learning how to work as a combined group with the project at the center of the effort. New materials and new processes allow for the expansion of buildings intelligence.

What’s your favorite TV show?

Cubs baseball broadcasts during the summer and the old Dr. Who on BBC





It’s a big day at CDFL! This morning we unveiled our new and improved website as well as our recently launched social media presence to the entire team. Featuring past and current project case studies, an introduction to the CDFL team, and a frequently updated news section, the revamped site provides a more informative and interactive visitor experience.

To guarantee you don’t miss out during this exciting time at CDFL, be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and like us on Facebook. We’ll be posting lots of great stuff – updates on projects, links to case studies, a weekly Meet the Team feature (or, as we like to say, the “us” in the Power of Plus), and much more.



Focus on Engineering: JSU College of Science, Engineering and Technology

January 17, 2013

Increasingly, some of the most sought-after professionals have degrees in engineering. From labs to design firms, engineers are playing key roles in organizations and, more broadly, in our national economy. That’s why it’s critical that our colleges and universities invest in the training and education of the next generation of engineers.

CDFL has had the opportunity to design five engineering facilities over the past 25 years – most recently designing the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS.

In every education facility CDFL designs, we plan carefully to maximize the student experience. The College of Science, Engineering and Technology incorporates transparent finishes to expose various construction levels, and also includes two-story laboratories to allow for viewing of testing and teaching processes from above.

To read more about this project, click here.

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Project Update: Alexander Field’s first game set for March 19th

January 13, 2013

We’re excited about the imminent completion of Purdue University’s new baseball stadium, Alexander Field. CDFL was awarded the project in 2008, and designed a 2,542-seat stadium that includes an indoor hitting facility, TV facilities and a pedestrian plaza linking the stadium to a new soccer venue.

We have worked carefully to design a stadium that blends seamlessly into the existing campus style – something we did with the University of Mississippi’s baseball stadium as well. In our initial planning, we worked closely with coaches, the athletic department, stadium personnel and university administration to ensure that all needs were met.

Already, fans have purchased over 400 season tickets to watch the defending Big Ten conference champions.

We may not be from Indiana, but come March 19, CDFL will be pulling for the Boilermakers!

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