Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving from BPA!

As always we’re thankful for our amazing clients, consultants, staff and their families.

What are you thankful for this year?



BPA Welcomes back Cassandra Hopkins

BPA is excited to welcome designer, Cassandra Hopkins, back to our firm.  Cassandra worked with us for several years before deciding to take some time off to care for her two boys.  Now that her boys are back in school, she's decided to join us again, and we couldn't be more thrilled.  


GET TO KNOW Cassandra! 

What's one of your favorite things about Birmingham?: All of the local stores and opportunities for shopping

What do you like to do in your free time/ what hobbies to you have?:  As a mother of two boys, I don't really have a lot of free time.  However, when I do find a spare minute, I love crafting, antique shopping, decorating for the holidays, and finding new uses for old things.  

What led you to pursue a career in design?: I love drawing, bringing new life to things, and space planning. 

Fun facts:     Mother to two boys (Judson, 8 and Carter, 6) and married 11 years to husband, Jeremy.  I'm a Champion Scarecrow Builder and I love to listen to Christmas music year round.



AIA & IIDA Board Members

Birchfield Penuel and Associates wholeheartedly supports the efforts of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). Both the AIA and the IIDA advocate on behalf of their respective professions to the general public and work diligently to support their members throughout their careers. The majority of the design professionals at BPA are active participants in AIA and IIDA. We proudly recognize the standout members of the BPA family who currently hold board positions in these organizations.


Alicia Pughsley, AIA, LEED AP, one of our senior associates, has served on AIA Birmingham's Executive Committee (EXCOM) for 8 years in several capacities: Councilor, Secretary, and currently as the First Year Director. In this role, she leads the chapter's effort on sponsorship and assists with the promotion of chapter events.  In addition to her position on EXCOM, Alicia serves with AIA's non-profit extension, the Alabama Center for Architecture (ACFA) as the chair of their DreamArchitecture Birmingham committee. DreamArchitecture is an outreach program that inspires elementary school students to explore their curiosity about the design of the built environment.


Charlie Abram, Assoc. AIA, one of our graduate architects, is serving his first term with EXCOM as the Emerging Professionals (EP) Director. As the EP Director, Charlie serves as an ambassador and liaison between the young professionals of the AIA and the broader organization. His responsibilities include facilitating the development of the EPs in their pursuit of licensure and encouraging their participation in both the AIA and the profession of architecture as a whole.


Maria Glaser, RID, IIDA, LEED AP, one of our senior associates has served on the IIDA Alabama Chapter Board for 8 years as both a Professional Development Officer and an Executive Officer. In her role this year as President of the Chapter, she oversees all activities of the Chapter and acts as liaison to IIDA International. She has also been Chair of the Chapter's primary fundraising event, ARTrageous, for the past 6 years. Beneficiaries of the event include the IIDA Foundation and Studio By the Tracks.


Melissa Porter, RID, IIDA, LEED ID+C, one of our associates has served on the IIDA Alabama Chapter Board for 3 years as both Director and Vice President of Communications. In this role she is responsible for Chapter communications, social media, and website maintanence.


Laura Yeatman, RID, IIDA, LEED ID+C, one of our associates has served on the IIDA Alabama Chapter Board for 2 years, as Young Professionals Liaison and currently as Birmingham City Center Representative. In her current role, she coordinates City Center activities with the Executive Officers and committees.

All of these individuals are leaders within our office, so it comes as no surprise to us that they have been chosen to serve with AIA and IIDA. We appreciate how they represent BPA well and positively influence the design profession of Birmingham.



Welcome our Fall Urban Studio Intern JD Duffie

We're excited to have our Fall Architectural Intern with us from Auburn University's Urban Studio. 

JD is a 5th year Architecture student from Lilburn, Georgia and will be with us for the Fall semester. 

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Get to Know JD! 

Proper Name:     Jonathan David Duffie

What has been something fun that you’ve discovered about Birmingham so far? :     All the great walking-distance restaurants downtown

What’s one thing you’ve learned in Architecture school:     When faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem, just start drawing! 

If you could sit down and have coffee with an Architect living or dead who would it be?     King Solomon

What do you like to do in your free time/what hobbies do you have?     Reading, writing, drawing, watching my favorite teams play, having high-quality conversations, travelling, hiking, eating, drinking good beer, listening to excellent music, attempting to answer existential questions

Fun fact:     I’ve read 25 books so far this year



BPA Proudly Announces a new Senior Associate and Associate

Birchfield Penuel & Associates proudly announces Alicia Pughsley, AIA, LEED AP, as Senior Associate and Laura Yeatman, NCIDQ, IIDA, LEED GA, as Associate!


Alicia Pughsley, AIA, LEED AP
Senior Associate

Alicia received her Bachelor’s in Architecture from Auburn University and is a registered architect in the state of Alabama. Alicia came to BPA while studying at Auburn’s Urban Studio program and has been an indispensable member of our team ever since. Her positive attitude and determined work ethic have earned her a role as a dynamic young leader in our firm.

Her technical proficiency and design talent have equipped her to serve some of our largest and oldest clients. On top of that, she has managed a team that has overhauled our web and social media presence. She continues to invest in the broader profession of architecture by serving on the Executive Board of the Birmingham chapter of AIA.

We are so proud of Alicia, the work that she’s done, and the leader she’s become. We’re excited to announce her as the newest Senior Associate on our team.


Laura Yeatman, NCIDQ, IIDA, LEED GA

Laura Yeatman received her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from Auburn University and is a registered interior designer in the state of Alabama and a LEED Green Associate.  

Since coming to BPA, Laura has been a force behind some of our most exciting projects and new client relationships. Her experience in both healthcare and corporate interiors are allowing us to expand further into those markets than ever before. Laura is also heavily involved in growing the local design community. She is currently serving as the Director of Birmingham City Center on the Executive Board of the Alabama chapter of IIDA.

Laura is part of an exciting new era in our firm and we are pleased to announce her as the latest addition to our team of Associates.



Schluter Systems Headquarters - Montreal


Last month, Pam Lowery of BPI invited some of the BPA interior designers to make a trip to Schluter Systems’ North American headquarters in Montreal, Canada. Schluter Systems hosted a workshop to discuss the challenges in traditional floor, wall, and exterior tile applications as well as new technologies available to address these issues. Working sessions and seminars were given throughout the visit with topics covering building efficiency and LEED, tile installations, proper drain installation, water-proofing and moisture management. 

The ladies also made time to explore the cultural gem that is Quebec’s most populous city. They enjoyed a dining cruise on Le Bateau-Mouche down the St. Laurent River and under the Jacques Cartier Bridge, a walking tour of Old Montreal and the Port, a tour of Le Notre Dame cathedral, and a visit to world-famous Gibby’s Steakhouse.

A special thank you to Steve Brasington and William LeBlanc from Schluter Systems for graciously hosting the visit and to Pam for coordinating the festivities!



St. Vincent's 119 Sisters Garden

After our addition of the Ambulatory Surgery Center at Saint Vincent's One Nineteen, we were tasked with dreaming up a sacred space for the One Nineteen campus to connect the existing wellness facility and the new Surgery Center.

We held collaborative charettes with healthcare providers and caregivers that serve the ministry, and as a product of these work sessions, came up with the idea for the Sisters Garden. Our goal was to develop a space that welcomed growth, sharing, renewing of the inner life, persistence of purpose and reminding us of the spiritual presence in all of creation. 


The St. Vincent’s One Nineteen Sisters Garden is a sequence of outdoor spaces designed as a fundamental component of the St. Vincent’s Health System’s Healing Ministry. This sacred space constitutes a meditative garden and labyrinth, ethereal canopy and intimate gathering spaces. 

The design underscores the physical and spiritual centrality of the project. Each detail element reinforces the concept of suspension between introspection and outward engagement.  Cedar screens shelter visitors, patients and caregivers alike, while maintaining a visual connection to their surroundings. A translucent canopy arcs across the space, drawing passers-by into a moment of rest and contemplation.

Check out our project page for more details and photos:

Photographs by: Luker Photography



Welcoming Jennifer Smoke for the Summer!


We're happy to have Jennifer Smoke back with us this summer as an Architectural Intern! Jennifer is a rising 5th year at Auburn University and worked with us a few summers ago when she was a second year student. Jennifer is a native of Birmingham and loves being able to be a part of the great design going on in the city while she's home on summer break.

Fun Facts:

- Jennifer is a dance minor! And studies dance when she's not slaving away in the architecture studio. 

- Her default hair style is an afro! 

- She once worked at a sushi restaurant - so we will all be trying to glean sushi knowledge from her.  

Welcome back Jennifer! 



2017 IDIES Awards

The 2017 IIDA Alabama Chapter IDIE Awards lived up to its Rock and Roll theme this year, from the venue to the trophies.  The twelfth biennial event held this year at Iron City hosted over 325 attendees, including Educators, Students, Interior Designers, Architects, and Vendors, and as well as clients who’s projects were being honored.  Birchfield Penuel was proud to be represented in two categories:  Best Of Corporate – Large for Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Best of Healthcare – Large for New Western Health Center for Jefferson County and St. Vincent’s Chilton Hospital.

(L-R: Russ Realmuto, Kelsie Perry, Maria Glaser, Amy Estock, Laura Yeatman, Marlee Caldwell, Tom Kidwell)

(L-R: Russ Realmuto, Kelsie Perry, Maria Glaser, Amy Estock, Laura Yeatman, Marlee Caldwell, Tom Kidwell)

Each firm represented was also invited to create an album cover to be used in the program.  Although no official award was given for Best Album Cover, BPA's was chosen as the overall favorite!  

(L-R: Laura Yeatman, Melissa Porter, Amy Estock, Wallace Williams, Marlee Caldwell, Maria Glaser, Kelsie Perry)

(L-R: Laura Yeatman, Melissa Porter, Amy Estock, Wallace Williams, Marlee Caldwell, Maria Glaser, Kelsie Perry)

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to the 2017 IDIE Awards Committee!

We'd like to give a special shout out to one of our favorite sculptors and artists, Richard Miree, for his wonderful work designing and sculpting all of the design awards for the event! Visit his website to check out his other work.



Mercedes: Design Innovation & Collaborative Workspaces

If you subscribe to our email newsletter, you may recall our inaugural issue that discussed the dynamic created by having three distinctly different generations in the workplace. In our feature article, we described how a flexible and collaborative design can accommodate the various needs and activities each generation brings to the workplace. BPA had an opportunity to implement these strategies recently when Mercedes-Benz US International (MBUSI) approached us about helping them do just that. The renovation, which encompassed more than 85,000 SF of workspace for multiple departments, allowed us the opportunity to utilize a number of recent innovations in both the design process and the final outcome.


The need for collaborative and flexible workspaces is not unique to MBUSI, but is rather a movement sweeping through progressive workplaces all over the country. The widespread nature of this trend has led to a fleet of new products and technologies designed specifically to address this need. We worked with some world-class suppliers to leverage the best of these products to create a truly innovative space for MBUSI.

Many of these products focus on providing new levels of collaboration among teams. We used a number of Steelecase systems and product lines to create meeting spaces at a variety of scales and uses. The Steelcase Post & Beam system helped give definition to informal seating groups that occur in a number of configurations throughout the large open spaces of MBUSI’s offices. Steelcase’s VIA system takes that concept a step further in a number of locations by creating glass-walled conference rooms that provide the audible privacy that is sometimes necessary while maintaining the visual connection to the rest of the team members. These conference rooms are packed to the brim with the latest in communication and productivity software. Each room comes equipped with fully-integrated video conferencing equipment and specially designed bands of LED lights that provide glare-free illumination. To top it all off, every surface of the conference room enclosure - even the glass - is writeable so that every idea can be captured. Software is integrated into every room so that scheduling and booking space is fast and simple. These technologies combine to create environments that foster unprecedented levels of teamwork and creativity.



Another hallmark of MBUSI’s new workspace is a flexibility to accommodate a variety of present and future uses. That desire for flexibility drove the development of the myriad of seating and meeting options. Providing a menu of workspace options gives team members the ability to choose where they work based on team size, activity type, or personal (or generational) preference. Power is integrated into much of the furniture to further facilitate the ability to work from anywhere. Even dining and break rooms have been outfitted to become “work cafes”. Some of the conference rooms were furnished to allow stand-up meetings around a workspace. But the flexibility of the space is not limited to the range here-and-now uses, but also has the ability to reconfigure to meets needs that MBUSI and the design team don’t even see coming yet. Not only is the furniture moveable, but even the VIA and Post & Beam systems are demountable so that the entire space can adapt with the growing and changing needs of MBUSI. That kind of flexibility extends from floor to ceiling. The Shaw Contract carpet tiles - whose colors, shape, and textures help define space for gathering and circulation - can easily be picked up and moved due to the lock-dot application method. An Armstrong cloud system was used to create a planar organizational element through the space overhead without the permanence of an architectural soffit. Every consideration was given to accommodating the needs of MBUSI’s team - both now and in years to come. We want to thank the team of suppliers, product representatives, and contractors that contributed to the success of this project. The result is a truly innovative and dynamic workspace.


The involvement of innovation in this project was not limited to the products used to shape the final outcome. It also included the process by which those concepts and products were brought to bear. A project of this size and scope is inevitably going to engage a variety of needs and preferences across the many departments represented. As a design team, we found it valuable to realistically represent the proposed outcome of each space so that each user group could provide real-time feedback during the design phase. To do this, we relied on a core functionality of the design tools we use on projects of all sizes. We were able to build a digital 3D model of each space that served as a basis for a series of photo-realistic renderings that provided a hyper-accurate visualization of the final product in the middle of the design process. This effort was bolstered by working with suppliers that not only provide accurate models of their furniture and systems, but also life-like representations of the material choices for each piece. Take a look at the images below for a side-by-side comparison of the rendering vs. reality. Can you tell which one is which?

Our use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) also enabled us to make use of cutting-edge Virtual Reality technologies to provide our client with not only what it looks like to see the space, but also what it is like to experience it. The growing use of VR in our industry and our practice is a post unto itself, so be sure to keep visiting our blog and social media accounts. You don’t want to miss it!

Also be sure to check out the MBUSI Workplace Transformation project page by clicking here for additional images and information.

The Vance plant produces some of the finest vehicles on the market, including the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the GLS SUV, the GLE SUV, and the GLE Coupe SUV. Visit the website below for information on MBUSI, its Plant Tours, Visitors Center and the Gift Shop.



Announcing the 2017-2018 Bham AIA EP Director: Charlie Abram

Our own graduate architect, Charlie Abram, was appointed to the 2017-2018 Birmingham Chapter AIA Executive Committee as the EP Director. What is an EP you might ask?

EP /ē-ˈ / n. 1. a young professional on the path to licensure. 2. an unlicensed architectural professional. 

As the EP (Emerging Professionals) Director Charlie will be the ambassador and liaison between the young professionals of the AIA and the broader organization. Part of his duties and responsibilities will be to help facilitate the growth and development of the EPs in their pursuit of licensure and also encourage their participation in both the AIA and the profession of architecture as a whole. Charlie will be helping coordinate educational site visits to local architectural projects, assisting with the sponsorship campaign for the Bham AIA chapter and will be responsible for reporting any updates from NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) on the ARE (Architectural Registration Examination) and the AXP (Architectural Experience Program) guidelines to EXCOM and the AIA staff. Additionally, Charlie will be guiding EPs through the AXP, and also will be coming alongside the EPs as a resource while they navigate the ARE. This role is one he's been humbly providing within our own office for all of our resident Graduate Architects. 

Fun Charlie Facts:

  • Charlie was a champion youth bowler! Don't let his calm and collected demeanor deceive you - he's a competitor on the lanes!
  • Charlie is an ACE mentor. ACE is a mentorship program and opportunity for local high school students to be introduced to the Architecture, Engineering and Construction professions.
  • Charlie was born in South Korea, which explains his affinity for Korean BBQ and his mamma's cooking.
  • In his free time Charlie is an avid eater and enjoys the great local food scene Birmingham has to offer. Charlie also enjoys hiking and the outdoors which evens out his foodie tendencies.
  • His biggest claim to fame might be that Charlie is the self-touted “biggest fan of Beyoncé this side of the Mississippi”

We love Charlie and it’s no wonder to us why Charlie was chosen to be the voice and advocate of our young professionals! We’re proud to have him as an integral part of the BPA family. 





Project Update: ALDOT Tuscaloosa Main Administration Building Renovation


The Alabama Department of Transportation’s Tuscaloosa District Office on Skyland Boulevard is in the midst of significant interior and exterior upgrades. 

The facility currently serves as an administrative and technical branch for ALDOT’s West Alabama region. Initially constructed in 1961, the office space has experienced a series of expansions to reach its current 33,000 SF footprint. Our scope of work features a comprehensive upgrade to the existing facility, including building code and life safety corrections, interior finish improvements, new exterior metal panels, and a new public entrance and lobby. The existing facility had difficulty establishing a formal street presence, making wayfinding and access by visitors difficult. BPA approached the challenges of the renovation project as an opportunity to enhance the ALDOT District Office’s visibility while creating a fresh, welcoming environment for ALDOT employees and the public.


Overall renovation work and the new entrance are currently at the mid-point of construction, and the final completion is expected this spring.  This project is one of several statewide that we are excited to be assisting ALDOT with. BPA is also pleased to be working with K&A Builders of Tuscaloosa on the project. Photos of construction progress can be found in the gallery below. 




Meet the Team - Tom Kidwell

Happy New Year everyone!  We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a good start to 2017! 

To kick off this year's "Meet the Team" posts, we thought it would be nice to feature one of our favorite architects and BPA Senior Associates, Tom Kidwell.  

Most would describe Tom as having a good sense of humor, thoughtful, very detail-oriented, and an excel spreadsheet wizard.  He’s even garnered a few nicknames here at the office.  One of those being “Iceman” because he is the self-appointed ice manager in our break room.  Those of us who love our drinks cold, are very much appreciative.  He’s also often referred to as “The Most Organized Man in the World” for his incredible organization skills -- no one here does it better. 

Above all, he is an architect extraordinaire who has managed some of the largest projects here in our office.  His attention to detail and focus make him an incredible project manager and a true asset to our firm. 

We’re thankful Tom took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.  Enjoy!


What made you choose architecture?  “It provides an avenue to directly improve people’s lives.”

What are you most proud of in your career?  “Having the opportunity to work with great clients on multiple projects spanning many years.”

Have you ever had any other career in mind?  “Astronaut.”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?  “I would love to see Giana and myself traveling with cameras in hand.”

What sort of music do you listen to?  “I like a variety of music.   There are times for smooth jazz or other genres of music, but for the most part my favorite is classic hard rock.”

Favorite TV show?  “If you consider comedies, the “Big Bang Theory” fits the bill.  I also like “Gold Rush” and other similar programs.  To be able to survive, and thrive, in that environment is so different from what most people experience.”

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? “My first job was cutting grass.  I had worked up to about 7 yards that I consistently cut for several years from middle school until the end of high school.  I also work in a motel from the time I obtained my driver’s license at 16 until I went to college working up from ‘busing’ tables, to bell hop to front desk clerk.  Both of these early work experiences were heavily centered on communicating face to face with people.”

What do you think is Birmingham’s best-kept secret?  “Our food scene as a whole is great!  We have a lot of great restaurants.  I especially think the many BBQ establishments across the city are consistently the best anywhere!  I’m generally on a quest for good BBQ when we travel and typically have found nothing better!”

If you could walk in someone’s shoes for a day, whose would they be and what would you do?  “Although this is a difficult question and tomorrow’s answer may be different, one would be Ansel Adams.  It would be amazing to be in the natural beauty of his day and time and to be able to not only experience spectacular scenery but also capture those images in such a powerful way.”

What is your favorite vacation spot?  “I love the mountains.  There is something about a cabin up in the mountains that helps to recharge one’s batteries.”

Make sure to subscribe to our blog to see our next "Meet the Team" post!



Looking Toward 2017

     With the new year upon us and 2016 slowly fading in the rear view mirror, the Birchfield Penuel team is excited about the many opportunities on the horizon for 2017 and beyond. It is apparent that the entire nation is in transition, from our country’s political leadership to a shifting workforce demographic and significant technological advances that are revolutionizing entire industries. As a firm we feel change is a good thing, however each individual may react differently to the idea of a future to which we are not accustomed. As a species, we are creatures of habit, clinging onto the old and familiar until we are finally convinced that the new is  an improvement to our old way of life.  

     The inevitability of change is real and as design professionals, we not only have the ability but the responsibility to embrace these changes. As a profession, we are the forefront of advancement - the early adopters of innovation - and we should be the visionaries to help pave the way for our society.  Not only to insure that the world we live in will become more aesthetically pleasing, but to set the standards for the responsible stewardship of our surroundings and environment. Designers are and should be the forward thinkers, the problem solvers and sometimes the ushers for society’s conscience.

     Although the new and innovative is often seen as positive, rapid change may have its own disadvantages. When the vehicle we are in is moving too fast, it can be difficult to see all of the detail around us; to plan properly for what is just down the road. Our culture tends to focus on being ahead of schedule, only to result in a disjointed product in the end. The idea that was initially inventive and exciting becomes hollow and meaningless without the necessary attention to detail and proper planning.

     Not every project that we are involved in allows us to push the creative boundaries,  initiate media attention or a design award. These opportunities are statistically few and the recognition can be fleeting. Our goal should be to treat each project as a step toward the future, an integral piece of the puzzle that requires careful planning and attention to detail and an opportunity to positively change the future in an enduring way, if only incrementally.

     As a firm, our resolution is to continue to provide that extra attention to detail for all of our clients regardless of the budget, complexity, or  prominence of the project. We will work even harder to make it apparent as to why BPA has been included as part of your team.

“We value this relationship and every opportunity to assist you in the future."

- Alan Crotwell, AIA, Associate Principal


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Spreading Christmas Cheer

Christmas Cheer from Hyde Engineering

Our friends at Hyde Engineering shared a little holiday project with us!

We got some good laughs out of it, and hope you do too. 

Check out their website at :



BPA Service Project - Pearson Hall

On November 19th, BPA teamed up with Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center (ADATC) staff for a workday at their Pearson Hall facility in western Birmingham. ADATC is a non-profit facility that provides chemical-dependency treatment services. The team was able to make a significant impact in a short time with carefully chosen material solutions, brightening up the environment for those receiving treatment and improving long-term maintenance for staff.

A special thanks to Fred Armstead at Pearson Hall for allowing us to be of assistance for a few hours, and to the staff for their help. We would also like to thank the donors that supplied materials for our workday: Brown Sales/Acrovyn provided over 200 square feet of wall protection material; Sherwin Williams provided 12 gallons of interior paint; and Armstrong Ceilings provided 500 square feet of acoustical ceiling tile.

More information about ADATC can be found at