Inside IONIC

#LunchtimeLive with Array Digital and D. Eugene Thompson

IONIC’s founder and Entrepreneurial Excellence Award winner, D. Eugene Thompson, recently sat down with Array Digital to participate in their Lunchtime Live series to talk about what it means to be an entrepreneur.
From speaking about the challenges he faced as a new business owner, to gaining the traction that got IONIC to where it is today, a lot is packed in the thirty-minute conversation.
Want to hear Eugene’s thoughts and the origin story on IONIC? The Lunchtime Live episode is still available! Stream it, below: 

 

No RSVP Needed: IONIC Open House

February is typically our favorite month of the year because it’s when we host our annual Open House. We invite friends, family and clients to celebrate another year around the sun at both IONIC locations, while showcasing past and future projects, and the team’s exceptional party-planning abilities. From “Brats + Hardhats” to “DeZignosaurus Rex” we enjoy outdoing ourselves by taking the theme a little too far. Some may say that’s the IONIC way!

We aren’t able to gather under the guise of a zany theme this year, but trust us – we’re still celebrating. Our 20th year was one for the history books and we look forward to keeping the momentum going. We will have a lot to celebrate the next time our Open House comes around, but until then, please enjoy these fun moments and favorite captures from years past!

Announcing Newly Licensed Architect: Chris Warren

Ionic DeZign Studios is proud to announce that Architectural Associate Chris Warren has successfully completed his Architect Registration Examination (ARE) 5.0 and is a newly licensed architect.

The ARE is administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and is designed to assess aspects of architectural practice that affect the integrity, soundness and health impacts of a building.

Chris has seven years of architectural experience, and joined the Ionic team in 2019.  He earned his Bachelors of Architecture degree from Virginia Tech in 2011.

Chris’ experience includes residential construction, with a multitude of projects involving  low-income housing, multifamily residential and single family homes. As a registered architect Chris will continue contributing his unique vision to Ionic designs, with a focus on creating outcomes that exceed client expectations.

Please join us in congratulating Chris on this achievement!

… the New Normal?

How is your new normal today?

Has everything flip flopped suddenly? Yeah, me too.

One day I was driving to work and the next stuck at home….trapped at home.

Seriously though I’ve never been NORMAL. Some will call me unique, creative, entrepreneurial….or crazy, strange or even give me the look of “what the heck is wrong with that man?”

So now we know that I have a problem/super-power, let’s move on.

Why have we resisted the new normal? Why is it so new? Foreign? So unacceptable? The overused phrases that have come through my email and heard on countless news broadcasts or webinars….How many webinars have you been on this week?

Yeah….me too!

ZOOM Meetings? Yeah….me too!

 

My friend Dave Will sent me an email via Propfuel that resonated with what I was experiencing as well.

Here are some of the phrases I cut and pasted right from my email in about a 5 min search, that make me want to BARF EMOJI all over the place.

  • we’re living in unprecedented times – tops the list

  • this is the new normal

  • we’re in ever changing times

  • there’s no script for this

  • we’re in a shifting landscape

  • we’re all in this together

  • current way of life

  • challenging times for all

  • social distance shaming (actually that one is kind of fun)

  • navigate this extraordinary health and economic crisis

  • navigate these turbulent times

  • if only we were more proactive

We KNOW this is an uncertain and unprecedented time! So let’s just jump to the value proposition.

Tell me why I’m getting your email.

He is absolutely right….I know this…why do I have to also get another email telling me that business is fine…we are ALL working from home…we ALL have the ability to still work on your project…blah blah blah.

Don’t get me wrong. I am so glad you have been able to MAKE THE SHIFT. However, I believe it is going to take a lot more than just working from home to meet the needs of …. OUR NEW NORMAL !

It’s going to take creativity to discover how ALL of our industries are going to react to this crisis. It will create change…IT WILL! There isn’t a doubt!

Your normal will never go back to normal again.

You can’t stick your heads in the sand and say, “I can’t wait until this is all over and goes back to normal.” Ladies and gentlemen….WE ARE NOT GOING BACK.

The question really is…are you going to make the change? Meaningful change? We need to do something….and we will need to keep on doing it!

Sure, right now we will all be working a little differently….maybe even required to do a little more. Many of our firms just became OVERNIGHT STARTUPS!

We must adapt during this crisis. And we need to do it now…FAST!

CRISIS = Circumstances Requiring an Immediate Shift In Strategy. 

Become the new normal….become the change.

CoVa BIZ and Eugene

Eugene was featured in the recent edition of The Business Magazine Of Coastal Virginia – CoVaBIZ. Not only his efforts with IONIC but also his upcoming charity run for Diabetes – The 777 Challenge where he runs 7 marathons in 7 days in each of the 7 cities of Hampton Roads. Talk about Community!

Take a read through his article and if you want to know more about his running, go to this link.

Run Eugene Run

Our Amazing Intern – Jaxon

Right after the presentation, a father brought his high school son to introduce to me and talk about the project in further detail. He also shared that his son was doing some AutoCAD in high school and wondered if we considered any internships. IONIC had considered summer interns in the past when there was a good match. We’ve even hired college students that worked part-time and went to school the other. Dahlia White is a testament to that success as she began with us that way more than 10 years ago.

So when this proud father introduced me to his son, Jaxon, a high school student, I must say that I was a little bit leery as to his ability to do much around our office. Honestly, everything we do is on the computer these days. And most high schools don’t teach the level that we would use in our office. However, I was very impressed with his portfolio work and found out that he had been in training with AutoCAD for three years. That’s just unheard of!

Jaxon was a pleasure in our office during his time with IONIC. He continued to grow and develop and not only honed his skills with AutoCAD, but quickly jumped into helping produce construction documents. We were excited to hear that this wasn’t just a job to make a few bucks but the beginning of a career and that he intended to go to architectural school at Virginia Tech.

Thanks Jaxon for all of your participation and energy that you shared in our Richmond office. We look forward to hearing and seeing great things from you in the future.

P. S. There are always summer breaks and holiday weekends!

Here is a quick note he shared with us:

My experience with IONIC started when they came to do an addition to my church; my dad dragged me along to the meeting just in case they offered an internship of some sort. I was doubtful that anyone would want a 17 year old kid working for them, but I went along anyway. After the meeting, I was super nervous about asking these two strange men (Eugene and Aaron) that I had never met about coming to work for them as it was my first time doing something similar to this.

However, it went smoothly! I secured the internship as well as a small pay, which was just unbelievable, and I went from there. When I first started at IONIC the one thing I remember is how welcomed I felt while I was first starting, almost like the family just took me under their wing immediately.

My first project I remember was a small project off of Twin Oaks, and Jeff gave me the floor plans and told me to put them into AutoCAD, no big deal right.

However, as I progressed I realized how hard it was! But with the help of Aaron and Google, I was able to continue to grow and learn. I am forever grateful for the opportunity that was given to me by IONIC and I am super excited to be back next summer!

IONIC isn’t only a business, it’s a family who care for one another deeply.

Thank you Jaxon for the kind words…Looking forward to seeing your success at Virginia Tech!

Ask IONIC #8 – The Final Look

Ask IONIC is a napkin series of questions that we often hear from our client and others that may assist those who are also seeking answers.

No question is dumb… just the ones you don’t ask.

We hope these will help you understand our industry just a little better so you can make informed decisions on your project.

Information that leads to knowledge is the key to success.

 

What will the completed product look like?

Owners are typically trying to find someone…i.e. an architect, that can ensure that what they envision in their heads or scratched on their cocktail napkins will look the same (or better) when it’s built.

So how can an architect best represent what’s communicated from the owner to the real world?

Architects have a variety of tools that we use to help owners visualize their completed projects before shovels even hit the ground. There has been a recent increase in the use of technology and software applications in construction, and we have seen the benefits first-hand. Our team utilizes Computer Aided Drafting Design (CADD) floor plans, elevations, conceptual drawings and 3D renderings that provide a photo-like image of your proposed building.

Basic Autocad is … well, just basic. It’s only a beginning. If this is all your architect is using, you might need something more.

At the start of a schematic design phase most efficient and creative firms will use design technology that represent your project in three dimensions. This is a huge help to see how your project looks and feels with all the appropriate materials. The project can be placed in its specific surroundings or similar one depending on your preferences and needs.

Be prepared to expend more in fees if you want the detailed exact surroundings. The designers will have to create these…they aren’t just “out there” on the internet.

If Interiors are a key part of your project, ensure that your design team has this capability. Often, a lot of other “pieces” are needed to populate an interior and make it visually exciting. Furniture, pictures on the walls, lighting, etc. Image if you went to look at an apartment that was empty versus one that was staged. Get the idea? Again, these take time to develop. If you are wanting the exact furniture or infill items, most likely the designer will have to create it from scratch…there is no “Easy Button”!

What’s next?

How about a walk-through video. These are great and really give you an idea of the flow for how you might enter the building and stroll through each of the spaces. There are a variety of programs that help the architect achieve these. These are very helpful for clients that are trying to receive an approval from a committee or a church. Maybe even for fundraising purposes.

Image it being like a movie set… you aren’t just doing one angle of a scene but rather everything as you turn around within the space. Be sure to ask your professional about these available services and examples that they have previously completed. How did they work for those groups?

What’s next? Can there really be more?

Oh yes, in today’s world of advanced computer modeling there seems to be more everyday. Holograms? Not yet… sorry, maybe next year.

Images that are interactive rather than just still renderings. These are beneficial if you are using them on your website for potential tenants. Like the example below.

How about a “walk-around”? Similar to a walk-through video but typically shared within the architects office. Videos produced by many architects take TIME to render. So they aren’t always immediate for the client needs. A system we often use at IONIC allows the clients to see in real time the space and places that we are designing. They tell us where to walk, where to turn, what to see. Standing inside an important space and turning around looking everywhere, left, right, up and down. It’s amazing!

With ours…none of those goggles needed.

Perfect for design-build teams!

Go back and look at the approved renderings and the final product…how do they compare?

Our team takes immense pride in the work we do. We treat each client’s project as if it’s the only one we have. When construction is complete, you can be confident that your new building or renovation will serve you not just now, but for many years to come.

Let IONIC serve you too.

Ask IONIC #6 – Project Cost?

Ask IONIC is a napkin series of questions that we often hear from our client and others that may assist those who are also seeking answers.

No question is dumb… just the ones you don’t ask.

We hope these will help you understand our industry just a little better so you can make informed decisions on your project.

Information that leads to knowledge is the key to success.

How much will my project cost?

This is typically one the first questions owners ask our design team–and understandably so. Constructing a new building or renovating your current facility is a huge investment and commitment. A structure that hopefully accommodates both present and future needs. Unfortunately there is quite a few answers to ask before we can work towards an answer for you. An accurate answer not just a guess!

There isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all answer.

We are sometimes asked for a “cost per square foot” ballpark figure. In England they call it “a wet finger in the air.” I love that phrase. Ballparks are a big area. You can get a number from several different contractors that are all over the place. It simply wouldn’t be as accurate as you might think. But it can be a starting point and we do recommend it.

The next BEST step is to produce a development set of documents. The more complete the better but at a minimum 30% should be used for a detailed break out. Further estimates can always be provided for further detailed pricing at 60% or even 90% complete. A friend of mine, a trusted contractor, uses the example of a camera lens:

“More detail provided, the more focused the picture is.”

Each project starts with the coordination with a general contractor that has a strong history with the project’s type. Thorough understanding of the schematic designs, often taking hours to fully comprehend the project scope will need to be facilitated between the architect and contractor.

The general contractor’s estimators and project managers calculate the project’s materials down to the number of bricks, blocks and rebar required. Cost analysis is completed on sitework, carpentry, masonry, roofing and drywall, all to narrow in (or focus in) on the exact cost of a project. Bid requests are then submitted to subcontractors and tradesmen who then send in proposals for their services. This stage requires immense attention to detail – and lots of phone calls and meetings. To avoid costly change orders, each subcontractor proposal is reviewed to ensure every aspect of the project is addressed and that estimated costs are accurate.

This is critical at these early stages of estimating since the “complete” picture hasn’t been formed yet.

Every building is unique and the type of construction methods and materials will impact the cost of construction. Availability of labor can have an extreme impact as well. A shortage means we won’t get as many competitive numbers. Or higher proposals because they are all too busy.

A building’s location, size, purpose, and features all contribute to the project’s overall costs. Although the estimating and pre-construction process can be time-consuming, we’re able to provide our clients with an accurate project cost without hidden fees using our trusted construction partners. We encourage an “open book” on actual costs from a general contractor during these negotiations and IONIC considers it our job to help you navigate design costs and design decisions that directly impact construction costs.

If your contractor is going to charge you for these pre-construction services…STOP! and call me right now! I mean it! 757.343.2461

IONIC believes in being forthright, prepared and to provide our clients with clear options that they can make educated decisions…so our project together can be successful and we end with a handshake and a smile.

As mentioned above, there are many factors that influence the cost of construction. Some are obvious: land acquisition, permits and construction costs. Then there are the future costs or life-cycle costs to consider: maintenance, repair, replacement—the cost of keeping the facility and its systems up and running. Many design decisions affect the life-cycle costs and we make sure our client’s have all the information needed to make those informed choices.

Construction Options:

DESIGN BID BUILD – The traditional method of construction delivery, the owner commissions an architect or engineer to prepare drawings and specifications, then separately selects a contractor by negotiation or competitive bidding at a later stage in the project’s development.

DESIGN/BUILD – In contrast, to the Design Bid process is to establish early involvement between the owner and the contractor. Design/Build process has the ability to streamline project delivery through a single contract between the owner and the design-build team, creating an environment of collaboration and teamwork between the designers and construction team.

Both are great ways to price a project. It simply depends on how you as owner what to work through the project.

Give IONIC a call and we can walk you through all the pros and cons of both of these common methods for your project so you can get the best value.

Crescent Community Center

Team IONIC is excited to share a sneak preview of the project that is currently in development. Crescent community center is a project in Virginia Beach off of Salem Road where the clients had received the condition of use approval back in 2013. The design that was completed at that time was very adventurous but didn’t quite capture the cultural desires of the client.

IONIC was brought in to assist the client in completing the vision that they so desperately desired. WPL is the civil engineer of record and had completed an approved site plan for the client to proceed with developing the infrastructure, grading and  parking but the client hadn’t move forward with any of the building documents.

The original plan called for 12,400 square feet of new construction. However this was too much for the congregation to afford. Originally a tower was included along with a dome structure both of which needed to be eliminated to bring the cost of construction within budget. After several years of frustration the client brought the issues to IONIC for assistance. We had previously worked with Syed Haider on other convenience store projects and had an excellent relationship with him over the years. When he walked in the door he told us that if anybody could make this happen it was us.

What a great testimonial!

And what a great responsibility to perform!

So after our discussion talking about the desires, goals and potential reduction in square footage for the initial phase, IONIC went to work on creating a plan that could be implemented. Our team of designers researched ideas, materials, and cultural impact that would make this project a success. All of these things needed to come together to meet the restricted budget.

IONIC first started with a floor plan and shared our initial ideas with client. After several back and forth conversations we were able to come up with a plan that fits the needs of the client and seemed to allow us to produce a structure within budget. This plan would also allow future growth to the full 12,000+ square feet whenever the church/mosque was capable of moving forward.

The next phase was researching ideas of how to keep the structure both contextual, cultural, and affordable. Yes, all those things usually do not go together. Regardless, that was our task.

Our team sketched ideas and concepts back and forth deliberating on an approach.

IONIC shared our Visioneering Master Plan with our client and achieved outstanding success!

Once we presented the idea and walked through the concepts as well as the interiors of the space by utilizing a three-dimensional model and capabilities of spinning the structure around so the client could see all sides different angles and interiors of our proposed design. Alongside our model we shared samples of exterior finishes which included porcelain tile on higher impact areas and stucco on the remaining portions.

Our primary focus was to have the front of the building become dominant in the design so the two key bookends were featured on the front utilizing the porcelain tile with tall glass entryway fronted by a simple arcade. To accomplish some of the blending of culture we proposed sandblasted storefront that characterized the Mosaic pattern often found in similar structures. This idea would allow sun to stream in from the outside and create a shadow cast across the floor replicating the Mosaic feel. Conversely at nighttime when interior lights are gleaming brightly, the shadows would be cast outside onto the paving in front of the entryway.

The effects will be dynamic!

After receiving accolades from our client in accomplishing exactly what they desired, our next hurdle was to see if we could get approvals administratively from the City of Virginia Beach on our new design. The primary concern here is that if they felt our design deviated too far from the original plans, we would have to go through the entire condition of use process again. This would delay the construction document phase by over three months if it was required.

With great joy the city’s planners saw that our design as being compatible with the original plan and found it pleasing. With this information we were granted an administrative approval to move forward!

Let us know if we can help you finish your master plan and help your project move forward. Send all questions and inquiries to info@ionicdezigns.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

Ask IONIC #5 – Permits

Ask IONIC is a napkin series of questions that we often hear from our client and others that may assist those who are also seeking answers.

No question is dumb… just the ones you don’t ask.

We hope these will help you understand our industry just a little better so you can make informed decisions on your project.

Information that leads to knowledge is the key to success.

 Do I need to hire an architect to obtain building permits?

We have this question asked of us all the time. The easy answer is, yes! Of course you do. What would you expect an architect to say?

Okay so here is the truth of the matter, there are times when you do not need to hire a licensed architect to create permit drawings. The tough part for me to answer is when exactly that time is. The reason I say I don’t know for sure is because I don’t need to produce a set of drawings without my license seal on it. I OWN ONE! So I can seal all of our work even if it is only interior-related work.

The primary reason most clients do not want to hire an architect for their work and obtain a set sealed drawings is all about COST. They simply do not want to pay an architect to review and stamp their design drawings. I get it! If you don’t need to spend money, then don’t! Which I can understand if you are on a very tight budget. However some jurisdictions will absolutely require an architectural seal on anything that is requesting a construction permit.

Honestly, for almost all commercial construction, jurisdictions will ask for a sealed set of documents. Most do this for liability reasons. They don’t want any! Residential construction is not always required as long as all of the calculations and the related information needed has been included in the documents. This seems to be the most common occurrence when you would not need to have a sealed set of construction documents.

In many cases when you’re doing interior design renovations moving interior non-load bearing walls and upgrading finishes you won’t need a sealed set of construction documents either. However, many times if the interior work is extensive it still might be beneficial for an architect to review and seal the work to ensure code compliance has been met.

IONIC partners with several interior designers that we know very well and have worked with them through their code review and analysis.

We have also been asked to stamp drawings that have been prepared by others. In cases where other architects have produced prototypical plans and it is a repeat of the same construction work, an owner has come to us and requested that we simply stamp the drawings without review. And of course only want to pay a few bucks. The problem with this first, is it’s unethical. I don’t know if I need to say any more than that. Secondly, the architect that seals these drawings is taking on full liability and if they didn’t review the drawings and thoroughly investigate all of the calculations and considerations they would be foolish. Most times it is not worth the risk for a few dollars to take on this kind of liability.

Also let me mention that you cannot necessarily take a set of documents that somebody else has produced and stamp them as your own. That is a copyright infringement.

So, please don’t ask us to!

Every jurisdiction is slightly different in regards to what they would require. It’s best to first ask your local reviewer what the requirements would be for your specific project and the scope of work occurring. They can share with you what would be required at minimum and then the owner or client could seek their best solution and determine how to proceed.

Every job is different. Every jurisdiction is different. It is getting more and more complicated to obtain permits and approvals.

Hope this clarifies the question for you. Should you have others, please submit them to us and we will add them to the list and post answers. Send all questions to info@ionicdezigns.com

We look forward to hearing from you.