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Ask IONIC #2 – Contract Administration

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

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

We hope these help you understand our industry just a little bit better so you can make informed decisions. Information that leads to knowledge is the key to success.

What is contract administration and why do I need it?

This is the one of the most common questions we get in our office when our clients review our proposal. We always itemize out all the all of our work from conceptual design, schematic design, design development, construction documents and finally contract administration.

What is contract administration?

In short, as defined by CSI: Contract administration involves making decisions and the timely flow of information and decisions to enable completion of the project as required by the contract documents including review and observation of the construction project. This is important to the Owner and Consultant not only to determine that the work is proceeding in conformity with the contract documents, but also because it allows a final opportunity to detect any inaccuracies, ambiguities or inconsistencies in the design.

Many times people use the word construction administration, however, an architect typically is not involved in managing the actual construction. We do often manage the contract that involves the construction as defined above. We help the owner establish an agreement between themselves and the general contractor to produce a structure that is designated in detail supporting our construction documents.

We understand everything and are extremely familiar with what we put into the documents and are responsible for all of the calculations of all the details and all of the design decisions that went into the making of this (usually massive) set of documents.

It only makes sense that we would assist the owner in managing what we already produced.

When establishing the contractual agreement between the owner and general contractor, IONIC often includes the following:
1. Complete set of construction documents
2. Addendums
3. RFI’s Requests for Information
4. Written specifications

Often included:
1. General contractor’s proposal
2. Insurance
3. Proposed construction timeline
4. List of sub-contractors
5. Personnel list

All this detailed information is so everything will be encompassed in one agreement. This is sometimes very complicated. However, it is very important should something go wrong. We never want it to…but…just in case.

One of the small side bars that is often included in contract administration is bidding and negotiation. Typically there are always questions that come during the bidding process, whether you’re just having one contractor look at it along with his subs or you’re having multiple general contractors preparing a competitive bid. This is often established as a separate phase.

Why a separate phase?

We have had clients negotiate a contract, change their mind, bid the project, award it to the low bidder, change their mind, re-bid it, re-award it and then finally begin construction after some further negotiations.
And yes, IONIC wrote a contract for each general contractor during that time frame.
And yes, IONIC was present and/or involved during all of those discussions.
If bidding and negotiations were included under all of CA in this case we would have been out of our fee!

Another common question that occurs is why do I need to pay you for this?

We always hear that you produce a set of documents they should be perfect there should be no questions, there should be no issues, and if there are you must’ve made a mistake!

Construction simply does not work that way. I wish it did! There are always questions, ALWAYS! There are always substitutions, ALWAYS! There are always things in a set of drawings or the written word that cannot be covered completely or as clearly as envisioned. If it was…we would never finish the documents. And you would never get your building built.

It is just the nature of the beast!

The owners typically want a guarantee that our work will stand up properly will be capable of functioning in all manners of the design and we and IONIC, always stand behind our work. However, if we cannot see the contractor build the work and review his performance according to the way that we detailed the construction…how do we know if it is built correctly? How do we know that he did not make this mistake during construction inside the wall cavity that we have no easily accessible route to review down the road?

The contract administration is there to help the owner and contractor negotiate the complexity of a construction project so that it can be completed on time without enormous issues, mistakes, delays, added costs or whatever unknown expectations that may occur.

Some of the items that are typically included within contract administration are:

1. Creating a contract between owner and general contractor.

2. Respond to any RFIs request for information.

3. Review all pay applications from the general contractor to the owner for approval.

4. Conduct site investigations to review the progress and status of the work being performed by the general contractor and its subcontractors.

5 Respond and review any product submittals produced by the general contractor and its subcontractors for use in the project.

6. Coordinate any special inspections required from third-party jurisdictional agencies that review the work being performed.

7. Assist in reviewing any change orders that are generated by the general contractor either omitted from the original scope or added during construction. Note cynical and many times added scope of work and change orders also will increase the fees of the architect.

8. Review, complete, and report all punch list related work that is discovered during site visits to the project.

9. Produce closeout documents and operational manuals and warranties ensuring all pieces of literature complied with the requirements of the construction documents and contract agreement between the owner and the general contractor.

These items are often critical to the process of construction and owners typically do not have the staff available for the experience needed to navigate through many of the issues that arise. Our office and our team has done this over and over again on project after project and have developed a set of skills, experiences, and past related concerns that we ensure to address during this process.

There are many times when an owner elects to only use contract administration and its limited use.
An example would be: “I’ll call you if I have a question.”
Okay, we will be here. However the liability for determining the work in evaluating the quality of the performance completely falls upon the ownership and the general contractor if you choose not to hire the architect for these COMPLETE services. Every now and then involving the architect doesn’t provide the surety or warranty.

It’s not always just structural concerns. Although that is a major issue with every project. They can also be how the insulation or weather barrier has been incorporated into the project. Did the contractor apply the vapor barrier the under slab insulation before pouring the foundation? Did the contractor incorporate the finished details like we anticipated and described during the design phases to our clients?

These are just some of the issues that we see day in and day out.

Consider contract administration as an insurance policy.

You are ensuring with the architect that all of the design details and individual components of the construction are performed in a manner that is acceptable.

The architect acts as the owner’s agent. We are here to protect the owner.

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.

Ask IONIC #1- Concept vs. Schematic

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

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

We hope these help you understand our industry just a little bit better so you can make informed decisions. Information that leads to knowledge is the key to success.

Ask IONIC image

What is the difference between a “Conceptual” Phase and a “Schematic Design” Phase?

This is a question we received from a client after we had completed an IONIC Masterplan plan for the renovation of an existing facility. While preparing our proposal we included a phase for schematic design. The owner asked why we had included this because we had already prepared the concept… wasn’t this a duplication of services?

Actually no. It wasn’t a duplication but rather an extension of what we had started. In our initial study for the client, we used  PDF plan provided for the building. We had walked the site and taken a few pictures of the building so we had a good idea what challenges were going to be presented. No field measurements were conducted during the site visit.

Our office prepared a conceptual floor plan that represented areas for demolition, walls that were considered load-bearing and of course a new plan for how the client could adapt their program to the existing footprint in the most efficient manner. We also produced color exterior renderings for the proposed new use.

All was approved… now on to the next step.

So wasn’t that enough for you to jump in straight to the construction documents?

Unfortunately, NO!

First, we need to take detailed measurements of all the existing conditions so we can prepare an accurate digital plan to work with. Why is that important? Actually, a few inches here and there could take an area out of ADA compliance. Changes required during construction could cause delays and additional expenses. This first step is critical!

Secondly, once we have prepared all of the as-builts (definition: a digital accounting of the actual pre-existing conditions typically produced in AutoCAD.) Our design team can go back and develop the previously created floor plan concepts into a more detailed and accurate plan that not only we can use, but also our consultants. Again, we try to avoid changes in the field down the road.

Finally, we also take into account all the various little ambiguities with the exterior elevations and ensure that our heights are correct. Our bearing walls are correct. The structural integrity and sizes of existing beams are accurate. So many times we have seen changes made in the field that were never shown in the drawings provided.  Never assume!

With these new schematic documents completed, our office can proudly and confidently present a dimensioned floor plan, exterior elevations and even early building and/or wall sections of the design for everyone to progress safely onto the next phase of work.

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.

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.

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 #10 – What is Design/Build?

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.

The Benefits of Design-Build Construction

What business wouldn’t want to choose a building process that offers opportunities to save money, to reduce construction time, to allow customization, to optimize quality, and to streamline the entire experience?

So before you answer that question… don’t you think you should understand what design-build means?

Unfortunately it means different things to different people. There are pros and cons with everything. IONIC has worked with hundreds of clients over our many years in business, and finding the key advantage that each project requires is the right process our clients should utilize.

Choosing the right process should be the best for the client… not everyone else.

We hear a lot of suggestions from many individuals that have very little experience in project management processes trying to influence how a project should be managed.

Question: Would you listen to your financial adviser if he has only made a few investments? What experience does he have? What is his track record? Exactly! Today, we’re pleased to be regarded as an industry expert in determining our clients’ most suitable process for their specific project.

Not all processes are created equal! Neither are the projects!

This blog post will highlight a process loaded with many intrinsic benefits. Known as “Design-Build,” its cost efficiency, time savings, and collaborative nature have made it popular among clients for everything from commercial and municipal buildings to sports facilities, churches, restaurants, manufacturing plants, medical facilities, and more.

1. The Design-Build Team Selection Process
To begin with, the design-build process has the ability to be much more fluid than traditional design-bid-build. (If it’s approached the right way. The problem is that too many times it isn’t done the right way) In design-bid-build, the owner hires an architect to design a set of plans then puts the job out to bid. Instead of long gaps of time and (remember, time is money) between different phases of a project being completed by different participants, each member of a design-build team works together from the start and during every step of the process to help move things along quickly and more smoothly.

In truth, the idea that the design-bid-build process is entirely antiquated and riddled with inefficiency and waste is not true. Remember what we said at the beginning: it’s a process, an option to consider for your particular set of circumstances. Some contractors do not approach it as a team effort but rather that the architect is a luxury (I take great exception to this). The right architect has their unequivocal talents no different than the contractor does. It’s a team. A quarterback can be great, if he has his lineman, but can’t achieve anything at all without quality teammates.

The idea that any contractor can build anything is just as wrong as saying that any architect can design anything. They all have their specialties and experiences. Architects shouldn’t be lumped into the same pile together any more than all contractors should be grouped together with the “two guys and a pick-up truck.” That’s why the selection process is a critical step. Our goal at this stage is to ensure that you find the team whose goals for success are as cohesive as possible. Design-build can allow you to vet potential candidates based on experience, then dig into the details of your specific project.

2. The Pre-Construction Phase
This design-build selection process often overlaps with the next phase—the pre-construction phase—since the design-build team selected will likely have already done a significant amount of research and analysis of the construction site and other particulars of the project. Conceptual drawings and vivid visions are produced in the form of conceptual floor plans, exterior elevations, renderings and even a conceptual site plan.
Our goal at this stage is to provide the image that everyone on the team can focus toward without question. A sort of dream board without all of that cutting and pasting.
Notice that you’d have the potential to save time even at the very beginning of the project. The key to this savings was that you found the right team with right linemen (the contractor) and the right quarterback (the architect).

This pre-construction step is critical. Attention to detail is paramount. This is when the design team will learn about the owner’s business, including goals, challenges, budget, and overall vision for the project and put that into a vision. The contractor or build team will ask as many questions as necessary, so as to get a solid picture of what is expected to be delivered. Our clients tell us that they find this phase invaluable. This is when our experience can help you fine-tune plans based on what we have learned from more than 40 years in architecture.

3. The Evaluation Phase
Efficiencies, added benefits, cost reductions, and enhancements have grown out of this collaborative, team-focused process. During this phase, the owner, architects, engineers, contractors, and other consultants work together as a team to assess existing structures, electrical systems, HVAC systems, operational necessities, and more to determine what needs to be done before construction starts. These assessments allow for a thorough analysis of the construction site, which helps the design-build team maximize efficiency throughout the project.

At this stage, we view our work—together with you and the entire team—as an excellent opportunity to assess areas for cost savings and optimized productivity, while also meeting functional requirements. We’ll leave no stone un-turned when it comes to suggesting ways to save time, money, or logistical hassles. This process helps us deliver a product that suits your needs and schedule.

4. Ready…Set…
The overall project vision is established during this phase, and design development drawings are produced. Pricing estimates can be established during this phase as well, and a firm budget is provided. In addition, we’ll have a timeline for you so that you understand start and end dates, and every critical point in between.
Our goal at this stage is to ensure that you find the construction experience as disruption-free as possible.

Bottom line: IONIC has often experienced that fewer design changes and construction mistakes are made due to miscommunication when design-build is employed. The increase in collaboration enables customization and innovation, which results in less time and fewer materials being wasted at each stage of the project.

The result?

A higher quality deliverable—with no surprises—ultimately resulting in increased satisfaction by the owner.

Let us know if we can help you on your next project and find the riht solution for your needs.

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 #7 – Construction Duration

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 long will it take to build my project?

Let me first help to define this question since we get it often.
1. Are you talking about designing and producing construction documents?

2. Are you talking about getting all your permits?

3. Or are you actually talking about digging, hammering and seeing the project physically take shape in the field?

All three are different questions.

Short answers:
1. Depends on the complexity of your project. Small build outs or retail projects we have completed in 2-4 weeks. Others take months. IONIC always gives you an anticipated timeline.

2. Permits are out of our control. Some cities are quick to respond and others just don’t have the manpower to review the documents quickly. Civil drawings typically take much longer than building review.

3. Construction periods are best determined by the actual contractor doing the work. We can always estimate the time frame using historical data but each project is different.

OK…that really didn’t answer your question. I know.

Many of the same factors that affect cost also determine your project’s timeline. Permitting, financing and weather also play a major role in deciding when you can occupy your new space. IONIC understands that the sooner you can move into your new building, the sooner you can get started in business and make money.

In addition to spending hours to fully design our clients’ projects, we also outline the expectations of the time table for all the phases.

The time table also needs to take into account the method of project delivery. Design-Bid-Build or Design-Build?

Design-build construction’s cost efficiency, time savings, and collaborative nature have made it popular among clients for everything from commercial and municipal buildings to sports facilities, churches, restaurants, manufacturing plants, medical facilities, and more.

The design-build process can be much more fluid than traditional design-bid-build. Instead of long gaps of time (and remember, time is money) between different phases of a project being completed by different participants, each member of a design-build team works together from the start and during every step of the process to help move things along quickly and more smoothly.

We have experienced fewer design changes and cost overruns when design-build is employed due to improved communication between all parties. The increase in collaboration enables customization and innovation, which results in less time and fewer materials being wasted at each stage of the project. The result? A higher quality deliverable—with no surprises—ultimately resulting in increased satisfaction by the owner.

IONIC strives to maintain constant communication with our clients, allowing them to be informed about all aspects of their project. Our construction administration team meets daily to discuss project developments and construction progress.

IONIC’s communication doesn’t stop when the blueprints and conceptual drawings have been drawn up.

We believe that it’s crucial not only for our team to start working on a project from the beginning, but also to have the same team members following through with construction administration to the end.

Not only does this mean your project is under constant supervision, but it ensures issues are resolved before they happen, saving our clients time, money and headaches.

After all, your time is important, 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.

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.