Tag Archive for: architect

Where in the World is IONIC

When you’re finally ready to build the worship, commercial, office or restaurant space of your dreams – why would you let your potential partners be confined to your immediate radius?

We hear about business owners and decision-makers wanting to work with a specific architecture firm that aligns perfectly with their vision and values (often it’s us!) but headquartered out of state. Many times, they believe they must choose a firm closer to them, instead. Why!?

There’s no reason an architect based in your city can do a better job than one halfway across the country.
Architecture is an old discipline. It’s been practiced for centuries. For that reason, it’s also steeped in tradition and conventional beliefs. One of those beliefs being that build partners have to meet in-person to create the best space possible. Whether that means a lack of communication, a hurdle to building amicable relationships, or forfeiting oversight is the problem – it’s just not true.

With virtual communication processes now firmly ingrained in almost all businesses, in-person contact with your architect is an unnecessary remnant of the past. At IONIC, we’re licensed in almost twenty different states and in-demand in many of them. We continue to form great relationships, complete amazing spaces, and ensure top-notch service for our clients whether they are sitting in our Virginia headquarters, or not.


Your goal should be to find the highest performing firm with a portfolio that excites you, whether they can stop by your office for lunch or call in from a different climate. Experience, attitude, and design acumen are more important than proximity.

IONIC is licensed in 15 states. If you’re interested in working with us and your job is located in one of them, let’s talk!




New York State
North Carolina
South Carolina
New Jersey

Ask IONIC #9 – Punchlist?

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 is a punch list?

Too often, we in the architectural and construction world forget that we have our own language. It’s kind of like Starbucks… the only company in the world that makes up their own language to order some coffee…and you HAVE TO use it get your Caramel Macchiato, Venti, Skim, Extra Shot, Extra-Hot, Extra-Whip, Sugar-Free…blah blah blah! Some of the terms that we commonly use are not necessarily familiar with the rest of the world. The word punchlist is probably one of those words that not everybody understands.

The definition of punchlist is a written documented list of all of the items on the construction project that do not meet the standards or expectations for completion.

Sometimes items that are incomplete or missing will be added on to this list as well.

Many times IONIC prefers to allow the contractor to generate their own punchlist first prior to the architect of record walking through the site. They will most likely know the areas that need to be addressed before a giant list is created. The contractor requires his subcontractors to review their work and ensure it is ready for inspection. Mostly because a giant list of issues or incomplete work doesn’t look good on the contractor. Beforehand, we as the architect, may take notice of areas of concern and call them out informally to the GC so they can address them prior to origination of the punchlist. This can give everyone a clear expectation of the desired outcome.

Obviously, we want them to complete things on time so making them aware of our concerns earlier on helps them address the items more quickly without impacting the completion schedule.

Once the contractor has established the readiness of the project for architect and owner inspection, the meeting date is scheduled for all parties to participate. During that time, all parties will walk the site together and review not only the exterior of the building but also all of the interior including any site work that may have been performed as well. Anything that was included in the general contractor’s contract will be reviewed for completeness and the satisfactory level of performance that was expected.

Separate from the general contractor’s punchlist, other vendors that the owner has hired independently may be included on the primary punchlist or a separate punchlist for their action items. This could include furniture, telecommunications, signage, and other related items.

IONIC has a preferred way of producing this list that alleviates many questions and inquiries during the procedure and final completion. We provide a detailed scenario and explanation of the items that we have a concerns with. For example if we simply said room 101 in the far left corner has a flaw in the drywall near the baseboard, the contractor may not know exactly the location and will have to come back to the architect to indicate where this flaw actually occurs.

That happens if ONLY words are used and not pictures also.

The items that IONIC incorporates into a punchlist are the following:

1. A written list is created in an Excel type format that lists numerically all of the issues to be addressed. It also includes the location such as a room number or location on the exterior of the facility. It also includes the responsible party for the general contractor to assign to the responsible subcontractor that performed this work and the action necessary to resolve. This list is often delivered digitally so that several parties can address it during the course of resolution.

Recently, we’ve begun using it as a shared document so that any update to the work being completed is immediately alerted to all parties. This prevents multiple copies going out and unauthorized changes.

Less confusion and more communication!

2. Floor plans and Elevations. IONIC produces a small set of 11 x 17 size documents that incorporate floor plans, exterior elevations and if necessary interior elevations that are highlighted with a circle and a number and that references back to the Excel spreadsheet. By utilizing this procedure it eliminates all doubt of the area of concern. Sometimes this can be a bit time-consuming but we feel that in the long run it helps all parties involved to address the punchlist items quickly.

3. One feature that IONIC most often incorporates into our punchlist report is a photographic record of all of these areas. Photographs of the area of concern are taken and produced in the individual report that references again the item numbers on the Excel spreadsheet. Typically in the remarks column of the spreadsheet IONIC will list photograph numbers as a reference for all the parties. This isn’t always done for each and every one of the items but done for most of them. For instance we wouldn’t take photos of each and every occurrence where there might be a flaw in the paint finish. We wouldn’t necessarily take photos of final cleaning or close out documents such as warranty services but rather just listed as part of the general punchlist notes that the general contractor needs to address. This keeps the photograph report from getting too large and cumbersome.

With these three items provided in the punchlist documents the outstanding completion can be quickly addressed by all parties. This helps to get that final 10% of the project accomplished swiftly and efficiently.

By the architect producing these documents in writing, the contractor is then notified that this is a concern for the architect and owner. If it was just said in passing during the site visit there isn’t any record that can be addressed.

Written notices are always the best procedure.

Once items have been completed by the contractor and subcontractor, notification goes back out to the architect and owner to review again. This doesn’t always occur if there is only a minimal number or non-consequential items. Sometimes the contractor can simply take a picture of the completed work and send it to the parties for their final review and approval. However if an additional site visit needs to be performed, the walk-through follows a similar process as before and confirms each item has been addressed appropriately. If an item has not been addressed, it remains on the list and is updated once again for distribution to all parties.

The completion of the punch list is part of the process that is required for the general contractor to receive release of their retainage payment. If the final completed items do not get addressed in a timely manner and to the satisfaction of the owner then the retainage will remain.

There are times when a reduction in retainage below the 10% will occur for large projects if most of the items have been addressed and only minor items remain. This is at the owner’s discretion. It is always wise to retain enough money on the contract to ensure that all the work can be completed should the contractor failed to do so. In some cases we have seen a contractor walk off of a project and not complete these items. The owner retains that money and can utilize those funds to hire other workers to complete the work satisfactorily in accordance with the AIA agreement.

If we get to this stage it gets a bit ugly. I think we all prefer that the project get completed as we originally planned. Good contractors with solid reputations will never leave the project unfinished. They look for solutions.

Once all the items have been completed and the contract is fulfilled, the general contractor will typically issue warranties and final completion of the contractual agreement for all parties to sign off on.

Yay! The project is finished and you can now move into your new facility! 

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.

VHDA Certified

We spent the morning at the VHDA office in Richmond getting our certification for Universal Design. I had seen the office several times as it was only three minutes from the hotel I stay at when I visit IONIC Richmond. So that means about a mile away from from our office.

What does VHDA do? A lot, but for starters:

I was impressed with the amount of information we were educated on and the process about how they focus on design that accommodates more users. Universal Design is not the same thing as ADA American Disabilities Act. It has different criteria.

As we continue to move forward with mixed use and multi-family projects, this will help us guide our clients in a manner that could certainly benefit them.

One of the interesting displays that they had at their headquarters was a full mock up that you could roll a wheelchair through. It’s not as easy as you might think. The circle depicts the 5’ handicap circle required in commercial work. Rumor has it they may be increasing it to 66”.

Examples of ways a cabinet can appear perfectly normal for a residence but a few adjustments in the cabinet can help those with disabilities still function in their own kitchen. This drawer was cut in half and a lower counter or cutting board was added.

Make sure your projects have the appropriate backing for support of grabbars (other side of the wall). I’ve seen these installed just in the drywall and get pulled out the first time someone really needs them.

A great day spent getting some valuable information in order to better help our clients find solutions to their design and construction problems.

Two offices to serve you better. Headquarters in Hampton Roads. Second office in Central Virginia.

Find out more about IONIC 

IONIC Vision: Creating Places and Spaces that Enrich the Lives of Those Who Use Them.

BGAV Tradeshow Convention

This week IONIC attended the Baptist General Association of Virginia’s annual general meeting and convention in Hampton, Virginia. The event was well attended and lots of guests visited our booth.


IONIC featured its Gratitude Grant which you can read about in another blog post here. We highlighted the offer with actual rocks engraved with the word “GRATITUDE.” These handy little gems went FAST. Attendees of the event truly enjoyed them as they reminded themselves of the gratitude we should feel every day.

This was one reason IONIC began seeking more opportunities for religious architecture: the people we have the opportunity to work with. It has given us the chance to reflect on our own gratitude for the years of support our community has provided.

At the end of the day, our team received several significant opportunities to meet with various churches to share how we could assist them in their next step of church growth.

Those who attended and dropped by our booth will receive a free copy of our “8 Considerations for Church the IONIC Masterplan.” It shares exactly what simple steps you need to consider when building or expanding your house of worship. If you would like your own copy, please reach out to us here and we will email you the link to download it.

Remember that Ionic DeZign Studios is more than a designer of architecture, we help to resolve the issues your church is facing with growth. The obstacles in your current facility are preventing the opportunity for your ministry to grow.

With more than 300 built churches, our team can address any of your concerns. Schedule a low commitment consultation to begin your journey.

IONIC Vision: Creating Places and Spaces that Enrich the Lives of Those Who Use Them.

Two offices to serve you better. Headquarters in Hampton Roads. Second office in Central Virginia.
Find out more about IONIC

Providence Baptist Church is an Award Winner!

IONIC returned from the Annual Member Meeting for the National Association of Church Design Builders with two awards for its Providence Baptist Church project. We teamed up with general contractor JH Batten, Inc., a fellow NACDB member, to add an 8,200 square foot expansion to the existing church building in Hayes, VA.

Our partnership with JH Batten was rewarded with an Honors Award for best TEAM NACDB project for collaborating with a fellow member. The job was also a winner in the category for best project under $5 million.



The 1960s facility presented a challenge to the team, with a large amount of the existing square footage constructed prior to the existence of current Building Codes. To match the colonial style and brick facade of the existing building, special care was needed to meet the requirements of the fire code, without employing a sprinkler system. By designing and building a Firewall between the existing Commons and Fellowship Hall, the Design/Build team was able to isolate the existing Fellowship Hall and then add to it to create the new Fellowship Center. When completed, the firewall allowed the structure to be represented as though it was two separate buildings. The firewall also set the stage for the future Multi-Purpose Outreach Center addition, which could be separated and sprinkled for fire safety.

Creative collaboration and careful coordination between Ionic DeZign Studios and JH Batten allowed the fire code requirements to be addressed in a way that saved the church both time and expense. The client also had an extensive wish list for the new building and the team was able to meet those needs, while staying within budget.










The new Fellowship Center doubled the size of the church’s seating capacity from 150 to 300 seats for dining and fellowship events, while allowing for better furniture placement. Key features of the new center include a new Commercial Kitchen and handicap accessible bathrooms and showers. A new entry Commons with a coffee bar and high-top tables can be conveniently accessed from a covered Drop-off area in the parking lot. Additional parking, accessible walkways and new landscaping and lighting further enhanced the completed Phase 1 design.

The S-Curve

I was recently afforded the opportunity to hear Kyle Johnson, the minister of Next Level Church, speak at the recent Annual Member Meeting of NACDB (National Association of Church Design Build) in Arlington, Texas. He gave the keynote address based on the “S-Curve” thought process regarding growth. It was interesting to hear him compare business and church growth. Something you might not normally expect. I took the following notes and added my own thoughts and embellishments as they apply to our own experiences.

It’s funny how things often tie together. Kyle was about to share his message which often referenced the rollercoaster or S-Curve theory. As I was walking over from the hotel to the convention center where the event was to take place, I noticed a wonderful orange sunrise coming up in the distance. It was striking. But what caught my attention especially was the shadowy figure of the rollercoaster from Six Flags in the foreground. A few hours later Kyle would be sharing his thoughts about rollercoasters and sunrises……hummmmm makes you think.

Growth is linear…up and to the right. Well that’s what we would like to consider consistent growth. Consistent and sustainable growth. But we know that is in theory only and does not necessarily occur in practice. Growth doesn’t happen in our businesses in a linear fashion. Nor does growth for churches happen linearly either. It’s more up and down like a rollercoaster. A continuous cycle that has its ebbs and tides and hopefully moves generally upward as the cycle repeats.

There are several recognizable phases that are evident in this S-Curve process:

1. Launch

The launching is the first phase and can easily be demonstrated by the kick off of a new business. However, other areas can be illustrated by this such as expansion, an acquisition or even a new service. Something different. Anything new can be considered a launch phase. On a rollercoaster, it is when you sit in that seat and pull down the bar that holds you in… and you suck your gut in just a little bit more so you can tug on it just a little bit more and the bar clicks tighter one more notch. Then you hear the air breaks go off on a rollercoaster. Hear we go! Hang on!

2. Acceleration

Seth Godin described the next phase of any business cycle as the acceleration phase. That moment when your movement just begins. It’s slow as first but you are proceeding forward. Gaining a bit of momentum possibly. It’s that first dip on the rollercoaster as it leaves the loading area and heads out on the track. A short  downward portion that we all experience in our stomachs possibly, both on the rollercoaster and in the business world.

3. Rapid Growth

The third phase is all about growth. Business is fun at this point. Work is coming in. So is money. This is what was planned, right? Up and to the right, just as all business models are represented. Growth is rapid. You get more projects than you know how to handle. You have to hire more people to perform the work. Things are good, maybe even a bit frantic. But that’s okay. You are making money. Making progress. Accomplishing a lot. This is good. A little sweat is good… right? Sure it is. Put your hands up on the rollercoaster! You feel like you could do this all day.

4. Diminishing Returns

Oh no, here it comes. You couldn’t really expect it to continue up and right forever, could you? Progress slows, but that’s OK because you were swamped and now you appreciate the breather. It should be nothing. It might last a month, maybe a few before you recognize the slowed forward momentum. Maybe you looked at your financials and see that you increased in revenue in every previous month. Over and over. But not this month. It was still a good number. Maybe even a little dip from last month. Nothing to worry about… or is there? It’s that moment on the rollercoaster when the first car goes over the top of the hill. The question for business owners is are you in the front seat or the back? Can you see what is ahead or are you blinded by an obstructed view?

5. Free Fall

Here comes the sickening feeling in your stomach. We lose a project. And then another. We never lost projects before. What do you mean our prices are too high?After all these years of our relationship and the past work we have performed for you? The other guys? It’s a downward spin on the rollercoaster. You can feel the wheels coming off the tracks just a little bit. Stomach floating upward into your throat. Not enough work for those new people you just hired.

Here is the moment when we have to begin to make a difference in our company. Being a good leader isn’t just about doing good when things are well. That’s easy to manage. A good leader recognizes the issues and takes action. I’ve often heard that it isn’t the challenges that makes you who you are, but how you react to those challenges.

You are going to have to avoid the Doom Loop. You keep doing the same… over and over. Where is that ultimately going to get you? Probably in the same spot you began… without progress. You tried something new and it didn’t take off immediately. You got scared and freaked out! The free fall makes you want to stop what you are doing and go back to something safe. The growth isn’t there anymore and it isn’t happening the way you hoped or planned. Trust the systems, structures, communication and processes. It’s there… give it time.

However, if there aren’t any changes made, your are bound to endure the Doom Loop. A good leader will make the necessary changes. Sticking your head in the sand and expecting it to get better isn’t a solution. If you are not willing to make the changes necessary to get back to the top of the S-Curve then you will certainly suffer. And so will the rest of your team.

So guess what? Every organization will experience some part of the Doom Loop. The real question is for what duration will you remain on this reoccurring cycle? How long will it take you as a leader to react? Good visionary leaders can see across the rollercoaster and see what the future holds. You must be willing to make the changes necessary. Jim Collins describes this trait as a good leader becoming a great leader.

Sunsets: Close your eyes and picture a sunset in your mind. Where are you? What is the perfect sunset that you envision? If this was asked in a room full of people, everyone would have a different answer, right? Is only one person envisioning the correct sunset? No they are all correct but they may not be envisioning your sunset as the leader. Your sunset is the vision of the company. The direction you are going. The master plan or maybe the 3 year vivid vision such as Cameron Herold suggests and our office does. So have you shared your vision with the others on your team so they know what your sunset looks like?

Where are you on the rollercoaster? And can you truly evaluate your current status? The bigger question is what are you going to do about it? How will your react to this challenge?


IONIC in Chicago

Our office is working toward approval with the Architectural Design Commission and Planning Commission for a new furniture retail store.  It has taken several trips back and forth to Chicago to meet with all the approving jurisdictional parties. Planning Commission, Architectural Design Commission and now we are headed to their Board of Trustees. Basically, the same thing as a City Council hearing.

So far, all has gone well without issues. We hope to begin the construction documents soon for both the exterior and interior to be ready by December once we get the final approvals in place.

Be sure to check out more of our work on our website.


Headed to the Lone Star State!

I’m polishing off my cowboy boots and heading down to Arlington, Texas to attend the National Association of Church Design Builders (NACDB) Annual Member Meeting on Tuesday. IONIC is a proud NACDB member and this is a fantastic opportunity for me to connect with my fellow NACDB peers and stay up to date on this important market we serve.

Arlington Convention Center, here I come! Watch our social pages for updates from my trip. Maybe I should pick up another pair of boots while I’m there!