What to expect when building a custom home: Part 1 – Architectural Design

By Dion Lamb, in Echelon Home Plans

what-to-expect-headerThis is the first in a series of blogs that will follow the client experience on a fully custom home from start to finish. The goal is to provide a hopefully easy to read, and sometimes entertaining look at the Echelon Custom Home experience.
Stay tuned for another group of blogs on our Echelon Series Homes.

This is often the scariest part of the process. The first meeting is essentially a blind date with what you are hoping is your future spouse… Ok maybe not that scary but it is the first time you sit down with Tim Tice and discuss the overarching goals for your house.

The first meeting is a get to know each other meeting and an opportunity to identify critical components. Things that are critical include: lot dimensions, property location, exterior style, are we capturing views, how do you plan to live in the space, and your budget goals. There are also a lot of special considerations that are different for every project: I want to use my kitchen for big family gatherings, I really want the owner’s bedroom separated from the rest of the house, I would like an open floor plan, we have an elderly relative we need to accommodate, a rooftop deck is a must, I have always wanted a rock star bathroom! This list is pretty endless and open ended. It is critical to the success of the project and your long term happiness to get every idea on the table, so they can be discussed and integrated, modified, or discarded as necessary.
Once the initial meeting is complete our team does some heavy research on all of the regulating bodies that may affect what you are allowed to build. These could include: town, city, county, DNREC, and HOA to make sure we understand our limitations. Once we have this information, the team will put together concepts that do their best to maximize the usage of the property and meet all of the needs you discussed at the original meeting.

At the second meeting, which can be handled remotely through computer conferencing or in person, the design concepts are reviewed. As our lead designer says, this is where the true start of the design begins. Floor plans are reviewed and tweaked, sometimes heavily revised, prior to taking a look at exterior elevations.

Starting Elevation Finished ElevationSo as you can see in the examples above, it really is a blank canvas painted to your specifications. The only limits we have are the rules of the regulation bodies, and of course physics. ☺

Check back soon for the part two in the series, interior design and selections.

Junior Nationals

By Dion Lamb, in health

I spent my July 4th vacation in a convention center in Columbus, Ohio filled with whistles, the sound of volleyballs hitting skin and floor, and thousands of young girls between the ages of 13 and 17. Not exactly one’s idea of a peaceful and relaxing vacation let alone a place to reflect. But I found myself asking a lot of questions about what I really felt while I was there and as a result had a rather unexpected “vacation”.

First let me provide some background. My brother runs the Kaulukoa Volleyball Institute in Honolulu, HI. The Institute has 9 girls teams and 5 boys teams ranging in age from 12-17. My brother, Lee, coaches the girls 16 and under team. They earned the right to play in the USA Volleyball Junior Nationals. The Junior Nationals are essentially the Olympics or the NCAA championships for high school athletes. College coaches from around the country are there scouting and recruiting players. Each age group is broken into divisions depending upon the qualifying status of each team. There is an American, a National, and an Open Division each with 32 teams. The level of play increases as you move from American to Open. My brother’s team was playing in the Open Division against 31 of the best teams in the country and I had the opportunity to be on the bench as an assistant coach.
(Yes, if you are paying attention my brother lives in Hawaii and I went to Ohio to see him…I really need to plan better….)
As you can imagine the level of talent at this type of event is off the charts, the best of the best. Kids put in countless hours of training and travel to earn the right to play here. It is the fact that they are kids that really had me reflecting at the end of each day. First let me say that I am a fan of competition, I have never understood people who say “you are a very competitive person” with a tone that implies it is a negative personality trait! It has helped me accomplish many more good things in my life than bad. But man, the father in me struggled to watch girls on my team and other teams drown in the pressure of the moment and crack emotionally after losing. I wanted to hug them all, tell them in the big scheme of things it’s not that bad, but the competitor and the realist in me knows that in some ways this isn’t little in the scheme of things for these kids. Some of these kids may never have an opportunity to participate in something of this magnitude again. What college coaches see and hear during this tournament could impact the rest of their lives by directing them to one school or another or even whether they get any scholarship money at all.

So I get it. In the end this is a big moment, a necessary moment in the path these kids have chosen. If I had the chance to talk to all of them individually I think I would tell them the same thing I have been telling myself – focus on the good things that happened. So for my girls which, after five days I began to think of them as, I am proud of you and all you accomplished. I know a 14th place finish wasn’t what you hoped for and losing seven sets by a combined total of 23 points is a double heartbreaker, but find the positives. Each of you in my eyes had multiple moments of character and strength, places where you shined. Remember those, build on them, use them to be better going forward.
For me personally it was a privilege to see so much talent in one place and know the effort that was required to get there. It’s too early to be sure, but I think being a part of this will have changed my outlook on life slightly. Any time you are forced to examine your perspective and ask yourself tough questions about what you really believe is a tremendous opportunity to learn. This was a great trip for reasons I would have never guessed beforehand. I am glad to have been a part of it.

To see the girls click here
To see the results of the tournament click here and go to pool 4.

2012 CrossFit Games Open Challenge; The aftermath

By Dion Lamb, in health

So, if you have managed to read to here God bless you, you are a trooper. Here is how it ended, but be warned the hero of the story does not prevail…
The final workout of the Crossfit Open is listed below:

Complete as many reps as possible in 7 minutes following the rep scheme below:
100 pound Thruster, 3 reps
3 Chest to bar Pull-ups
100 pound Thruster, 6 reps
6 Chest to bar Pull-ups
100 pound Thruster, 9 reps
9 Chest to bar Pull-ups
100 pound Thruster, 12 reps
12 Chest to bar Pull-ups
100 pound Thruster, 15 reps
15 Chest to bar Pull-ups
100 pound Thruster, 18 reps
18 Chest to bar Pull-ups
100 pound Thruster, 21 reps
21 Chest to bar Pull-ups…
This is a timed workout. If you complete the round of 21, go on to 24. If you complete 24, go on to 27, etc.

A thruster is a front squat (Barbell high on your chest, full squat) then as you are returning to vertical pushing the weight directly over your head in a shoulder press. This exercise is an oxygen destroyer, it forces your body to use every big muscle group and as a result the oxygen gets depleted very quickly.

Normally this wouldn’t have been a terrible workout for me, but the culmination of the previous four weeks had definitely taken their toll. And I only managed to complete 68 reps, or in English I got through the round of 12 thrusters and pullups and then completed 8 more thrusters in seven minutes. This left me about middle of the pack for this workout.

I finished in 434th place out of 1,424 original entrants overall, my last workout did not make up any ground for me. That put me just outside the top 30% overall in the world. My goal was to be inside the top 25%, so I did not accomplish my goal, but at least I have established a new target to beat next year. I learned a lot and one of the things I really need to do is find a way to help speed my recovery between workouts. By the end of the five weeks I was very beat up.

In the end I am glad that I made myself do it, at my age (46) I find it to be altogether too easy to not push myself to the limit, to not try new things, and it is something I have grown to fear greatly. So beyond the physical benefits of Crossfit, for me there is also the mental benefit of having a great community of friends and athletes who help push me outside of my comfort zone on a regular basis. I plan to test myself yearly and hopefully I can blog about it again next year. If you have any questions about Crossfit or our companies please feel free to e-mail me at Dion@RENEWvation.com.

Thanks for reading and thanks to the Schell Brothers Family of Companies who promote physical fitness as an integral part of a healthy work life balance. And remember – Get outside of your comfort zone!

2012 CrossFit Games Open Challenge; week 4 Update

By Dion Lamb, in health

The week 4 workout is: 12 minutes as many rounds as possible of

  • 150 Wall Balls at 20lbs
  • 90 Double Unders
  • 30 Muscle Ups

This workout is listed with as many rounds as possible but in reality very, very few will complete one round. The wall ball exercise is as follows – take a 20lb medicine ball starting in a full squat, explode up and throw the ball to a ten foot target on the wall. The ball must hit at or above the target to count and must hit the wall, you then have to catch the 20lb med ball and return to a full squat for 1 rep. Easy, now just do it 150 times, after about 90 reps your shoulders are completely cooked and you are jumping out of your squat to try to get the ball to the target, now you only have 60 to go. Fun times.

Once you complete the 150 wall balls and you’re wondering who stole all of the oxygen, pick up a jump rope and do 90 double unders. A double under is simply jumping rope, you know except for the part where the rope has to pass under your feet twice on each jump. So the rope has to blur around and you have to jump higher, a very serious energy and oxygen destroyer. Especially if like me, you are not very strong at these. If you can get both of those done you get on the gymnastic rings and perform a muscle up. A muscle up is the Everest of CrossFit moves for any non-gymnasts. Essentially from a dead hang position on the rings you have to pull yourself up and over the rings into a dip position, than fully extend from there. Here is a link showing the progression http://breakingmuscle.com/video/breaking-muscle-video-muscle. I have been working on these for a year and haven’t gotten one yet, let alone 30.

My results were pretty average. I had hoped to get through the double unders in the 12 min period, but was only able to complete the 150 wall balls and 32 double unders. For a score of 182. This score didn’t drop me any further in the standings but it didn’t move me up either. I am 3 full days after the workout when writing this and my legs are still very sore, 150 wall balls definitely took their toll. Hoping for anything but dead lifts in the last workout, maybe I can get overhead squats and pull-ups, two exercises I am better at and make up some ground in the last week to get back to the top 25%. I’ll post the workout and my thoughts as soon as it is announced.

2012 CrossFit Games Open Challenge; week 3 RESULTS

By Dion Lamb, in health

Ah the drama continues…so much for my goal of 7 rounds. Life definitely does not always cooperate with my Crossfit plans. This week was also my wife’s 40th birthday and I had a big weekend event planned, which included renting a house for the weekend in Rehoboth and surprising her with flying a friend in from Chicago. My first plan was to do the workout Friday night, but after getting back from the airport I was coerced into having a few beers with the girls who were celebrating with my wife on Friday night. Then the plan moved to Saturday day, I was on Dad duty but my son was supposed to get picked up for a birthday party at 10:30 so I had planned for an 11:00 workout. I had a client meeting at 12:30 and then organizing the rest of the nights activities for day 2 of my wife’s celebration. Perfect. Yeah, not so much, the person picking up my son who is usually super punctual if not early did not show up until 11:25, grrrrr. So Saturday was out and that only left Sunday. Sunday after my wife’s 40th birthday party with 20 friends, so of course I didn’t drink at all and stayed sober so I’d be fresh for Sunday. Haha, no chance.

This was not a workout to do hungover, not that any are, but man did this one hurt. Felt ill from the second minute in and had to grind through for 16 more minutes. As you might imagine not my best showing. I managed 5 rounds plus 37 reps for a total of 207 reps. I have now dropped to 424th place overall, which has me outside my goal of the top 25%. I need to pick it up on the last two…

2012 CrossFit Games Open Challenge; week 3

By Dion Lamb, in health

Ok if you have been following along we are in week 3 of the 5 week Crossfit open challenge. To recap, my goal is to finish in the top 25% in the world in my age group. Last week an aggravation of an old injury caused me to be 8 repetitions short of an easily achievable goal for the week 2 workout. Those 8 reps cost me 324 places in the week 2 scoring, and 137 places in the overall rankings. The good news is I’m still currently in 311th place overall out of 1476, which is still in the top 25%.

The week 3 workout has been announced and is as follows:

In 18 minutes perform as many rounds as possible of 15 box jumps to a 24″ box, 12 push press at 115 lbs, 9 toes to bar. Quick explanation of each:

  • Box jumps – from a standing position jump on top of a 24″ box come to a full standing position, repeat 15 times
  • Push press – bar starts on the ground, get the weight to your chest/shoulders then perform 12 reps from chest to locked out overhead in whatever manner is most efficient for you
  • Toes to bar – hanging from a pull up bar bring your toes up to touch the pull up bar, heels must go behind the vertical bar plane at the bottom, repeat 9 times.

This is a very nicely thought out workout both in terms of muscle groups used and quantity of reps and time. The reps are all just outside of the comfort zone of a normal workout, i.e. you would normally do 10 push press at 95 lbs. This ought to be fun, and by fun I mean awful :). Score update to follow on Sunday, I am hoping to get 7 rounds or 252 total reps, we’ll see…

2012 CrossFit Games Open Challenge; week 2

By Dion Lamb, in health

Ok so in my last post we talked about our company promoting fitness for employees and my participation in the 2012 Crossfit games open. Sunday March 4th was the last day to post scores for round 2 of the competition. Round 2 was the snatch tree 30 reps at the following weights 75, 135, 165, 210 or as many as you can get in 10 minutes. I knew going in this was not to my strengths, what I wasn’t planning on was disturbing an old injury. GRRR! The workout was hard but more frustrating than anything else, I would do this one again anytime compared to the first workout. However, I didn’t get a second chance, (workouts are posted on Wed you have until Sunday to complete and post your best score), due to my injury.

In a previous life I played college volleyball and beach volleyball at a highly competitive level. Over the course of the years and one dislocated shoulder, I ended up with a SLAP lesion/tear in my shoulder. This was repaired via surgery almost ten years ago. And despite being a painful surgery and recovery I would do it again in a heartbeat because it gave me 95% of my original use back. However, every once in a while it gets aggravated (technical term J) and my range of motion disappears and my overhead strength essentially is wiped out. This occurred about 2/3 of the way through my workout and as a result I finished with 52 reps. I am pretty sure 60 was easily achievable and not being able to redo and get those eight extra reps may hurt my overall goal to finish in the top 25% of the Men’s 45-49 Masters division. Frustrating. As of right now I am still holding steady in the top 25% but a lot of scores still need to be posted. You can follow me at Crossfit Leaderboard; up in the top right is a search box where you can also search by name or affiliate. (My name is Dion Lamb my affiliate is Crossfit Lewes)

So overall a very disappointing round 2. And on top of that I am essentially not able to workout at all until I recover which makes me a little bit nutty. I need to burn off the stress and I’m not sure how to put it in words that don’t make me sound like a nut job, but I suppose if the shoe fits… When you invest so much time and mental energy into something and it changes your life for the better it becomes a part of your identity, and how you feel about yourself. When it is eliminated via injury (this is not my first) I tend to take it harder, it affects my mood, my self-esteem, my overall outlook.

Wow, that does sound crazy, seeing it on paper.

Ok blog followers, I am officially trying to focus on the positive while I heal, my life is very good and I am incredibly blessed. No more whiny pants.

Hopefully I’ll be ready by Thursday. I’ll update on Thursday with the week 3 workout and my health status.

2012 CrossFit Games Open Challenge; week 1

By Dion Lamb, in health

One of the many awesome things about working for a Schell Brothers company is that our leader feels strongly that people who are healthier and more fit, make happier and more productive employees. As a result we have incentives and yearly contests for people to improve their overall health and fitness. This year CrossFit was selected as one of the avenues for company employees to pursue improved fitness. Employees get a small stipend for each time they attend a workout. As both a Schell Brothers employee and a trainer at CrossFit, it probably goes without saying that I was pretty excited to share something I’m passionate about with my fellow employees. We have had a great turnout so far and I am hopeful that many of my friends and co-workers will fall in love with it as much as I have.

In an effort to share more about CrossFit with our team I am putting myself in the public domain, (a bit scary), by competing in the open portion of the 2012 CrossFit Games. The CrossFit Games Open is a worldwide event that anyone can participate in. They have men’s, women’s, team, and masters levels of competition. I am in the 45-49 year old men’s masters division. Currently there are 1,621 competitors in my age group from around the world, and over 55,000 in the competition as a whole. There are 5 weeks of competition with a new work out each week, the top 25 masters competitors in each age group at the end of the 5 weeks will earn a ticket to the Games final event in California in July, which will be broadcast on ESPN. For the non-old people, they have to finish in the top 60 in their region and then finish in the top 3 at their regional event to earn a ticket to the final event. A seriously grueling process.

We are currently at the start of week 2 in the open. The week 1 exercise was 7 minutes of Burpees to a 6” target above standing reach. A burpee is basically going from a standing position to a push up position flat on the floor back to standing then jump up to touch a target 6” above your standing reach with both hands. This may not sound all that terrible but feel free to try it at home, it’s about as close to self induced water boarding as I can imagine. At about 3 minutes breathing is a distant memory, at 5 minutes your legs turn to cement, at 6:30 your coach/judge is yelling 30 seconds GO, GO, GO!, after about 3 hours 20 seconds has gone by and you try to grind out 2-3 more in the last ten seconds. After which you desperately look for any position that might help get air into your system. Fun, huh? Fortunately you can do it more than once, because the workout is announced Wednesday nights at 8 PM and you have until Sunday at 8 PM to post your score. So I did it twice, because I wasn’t happy with my first effort. Thankfully I did improve, I would have been seriously unhappy to have done it again only to get the same or a lower number.

The Week 2 workout was announced last night, a snatch tree. (Insert joke here). Snatch is an Olympic weight lifting move in which you take the weight from the ground to locked out overhead without resetting at your chest and pressing the weight overhead. Fairly technical, ultra difficult, not one of my strengths. The tree portion means that you start with a weight and complete a set number of reps, then the weight increases after each set of completed reps. You have ten minutes to get as far up the tree as possible. Your score is total reps. The workout is listed below.

Proceed through the sequence below completing as many reps as possible in 10 minutes of:

30 Snatch (M 75 / F 45 lbs)
30 Snatch (M 135 / F 75 lbs)
30 Snatch (M 165 / F 100 lbs)
Max Rep Snatch (M 210 / F 120 lbs)

So how am I putting myself out in the public domain??? You can follow the weekly competition here online. My name is Dion Lamb and I am competing in the Men’s Masters Division 45-49. I do not have even a remote chance of making the top 25 in the world, however my goal is to finish the 5 week competition in the top 25% in the world in my age group. My score after week 1 placed me in a tie for 359th place, which has me in the top 23% in the world so far. So there it is out there for everyone to see, my strengths, my weaknesses, my goal, whether I fail or succeed. Somebody tell me again why I’m doing this. Oh yeah, because when you stop pushing your boundaries, when you stop learning new things, when you stop trying to be better. You might as well just stop. Wherever I finish this year, my goal next year will be to beat it.

My e-mail is Dion@RENEWvation.com feel free to follow along, send encouragement, tell me I’m lame, ask questions about the workouts, whatever you think. I’d love to hear from you. I’ll update this blog throughout the next five weeks including my reaction as each workout gets posted on Wednesday night and when my score is posted on Sunday, or if anything interesting happens in between.

P.S. In case you’re wondering what my initial reaction was to last night’s announcement of the week 2 workout, it was Holy S&*!! Those two words being laced with terror, nervousness, and hope…

The Safe Cracker Party

By Dion Lamb, in Events

hat if you were renovating a house and found a safe that had obviously been there for years? It’s been there so long, no one in the house knows who it belongs to. The safe is old, 30 years, 50 years, more? It’s hard to say, but the tumbler is broken and it hasn’t been opened in a long time…
Now suppose it was found inside of a house worth about $2,000,000, and that house had previously belonged to a wealthy family for multiple generations. Even the most innocent of folks find their minds wandering to the land of what if…. Wondering…. What Could Be In It? Diamonds, jewelry, stock certificates, wads of cash, a treasure map, an undamaged copy of the declaration of independence, a lost artifact???

Now imagine you could buy one of a limited number of boxes, and one of those boxes is guaranteed to hold the key to opening that safe. How much would it be worth for the chance, $200, $500, $1000 a box?
What if I told you for $50 you could buy one box that will have the key to opening the safe. You can buy as many boxes as you want and all of the proceeds will go to a wonderful Meals on Wheels & Read Aloud Delaware event right before the holidays!
Oh, and did I mention you will also get a fantastic RENEW/Echelon party at the design center with cocktails and hors d’oeurves, and a unique setting for all of our clients to get together and catch up?

Welcome to the safe cracker party!
You are invited to a party, where someone will be opening that safe and will become the proud owner of whatever is inside. Will it be you?

When: Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Where: Echelon Design Center (20184 Phillips Street, Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971)

Time: 6:30PM – 9PM


What is this RENEW anyway???

By Dion Lamb, in News

You may have seen the sign at the Echelon Design Center, or the job site signs in downtown Rehoboth, or maybe one of the Renew trucks driving down route 1 in a safe and courteous manner, and wondered what the company is all about. Well it is your lucky day, our marketing coordinator has pestered me relentlessly to write a blog about Renew so I am taking this opportunity to introduce the company.

A little over a year ago the team at Echelon decided it was time to take action on an idea they had been working on for many months. The idea was to create a company using the Echelon model of service, quality, and customer satisfaction ECSTATIC CUSTOMERS and have it focus on renovations, remodeling, and energy retrofits. With Renew you get the same great team of designers (Tim, Matty, Rebecca, Ivana, and Joni) and an experienced renovation team in John Coyle, Dion Lamb, and Chris Tull.

What’s interesting is that the Echelon approach to building a house – putting our customer’s happiness first, making all design decisions and selection upfront, and building a friendship with our clients as opposed to just a business relationship is even more important in the world of renovations. When your home is being torn apart and put back together you need people you trust to take care of you and your home, while moving with as much speed as possible. That is why our team is completely dedicated to renovations/additions/remodeling, because it is a very different animal than building a house from scratch. It requires expertise, experience, and major attention to detail.  This isn’t side work for us, this is our profession and we love what we do.

So if you have a basement that needs finishing, a neighbor who is looking to build an addition, or a friend who is finally ready to completely redo their beach house, you want Renew on your team. We would love to share our passion and experience to make the magic that is before and after pictures.

You can see our work, meet our team, and find out more about our process at www.RENEWvation.com, or you can give me, Dion Lamb, a call directly at 302-841-5660.