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.

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

We look forward to hearing from you.


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.


How does that pre-engineered metal building affect my architecture?

This is a question that we often explain to our clients because so many general contractors like to use pre-engineered metal buildings as a way to simplify the structure for a building. And we agree, there are many advantages for using a PEMB. Cost can be a benefit. Large clear spans un-interrupted by columns. Industrial uses. However there are limitations to a pre-engineered metal building.

The client should know both advantages and disadvantages before making a final decision.

IONIC has used pre-engineered metal buildings for industrial uses, gymnasiums, multipurpose spaces for churches, and other similar projects. In all of those cases, it has been a huge success. Because we shared the facts with our clients.

Most often there isn’t a need for a structural engineer for all of the system of the building when using PEMB components. We will use a structural engineer for the foundations and for any specific modifications such as an exterior façade applied to the design as the client requires. Designs that can’t easily be accomplished with the limitations of the factory fabricated steel can accommodate some modifications allowing conventional steel to meet the goals. A fancy brick veneer with multiple windows is an example. The PEMB often requires cross bracing and limits the multiple openings. Taller tower features are another application where conventional steel works better as an added component.

In most cases, the structural engineer will require the completed metal building shop drawings to complete their full calculations regarding the moment reactions needed for foundational confirmation. It’s a math thing! Without those moments calculated the structural engineer cannot fully complete their work. In many cases, they can make assumptions that allow us to move forward while returning later for a cross check on the reactions.

One of the other things that is explained to our clients is the need for cooperation between the manufacturer of the pre-engineered metal building and the architect/engineer. oordination is very important. Too many times it is overlooked because of improper understanding. The architect, with an understanding of the pre-engineered metal building requirements will design the space that most likely will work while the manufacturer will take our documents and complete a set of shop drawings that reference in detail how the structural will be assembled.

It is a back and forth effort to make sure all is coordinated properly. Coordinated! Properly! Achieve optimal results!

What IONIC has found most often is that our documents, without the shop drawings provided by the manufacturer, will not receive 100% approval during permit review. The jurisdiction reviewing the documents will always want a sealed set of “engineered” pre-engineered metal building shop drawings to accompany our work. The catch here is that most PEMB will not provide these free of charge they will require the owner to sign an agreement to purchase the building and pay a deposit so that they can begin their work on the shop drawings. The don’t just want a fee for doing the drawings. They want the sale of their building product.

What this means to the owner is they will need to expend money towards the project, the construction of the building, in order to obtain 100% approvals by the governing jurisdiction. They may not want to do this or they may want to bid to various general contractors with the idea that the general contractors can choose a similar manufacturer of the PEMB to facilitate their needs best.

What works best typically is a fully committed owner and a design build construction team if this is the design path the owner wishes to take.

If the owner wants the flexibility to choose the general contractor and a manufacturer that might allow the best pricing scenarios, then the owner needs to allow the architect to submit for permit drawings and receive the approvals minus the pre-engineered metal building shop drawings. Many jurisdictions will often write a letter saying that all things are approved with the exception of this or that. With letter of conditions and knowing that only one piece remains to obtain full permits, the owner can proceed with bidding and negotiating with various general contractors to obtain competitive pricing.

The owner needs to understand that the architect’s obligation in seeking approvals has really been fulfilled at this stage.

One of the other issues that is critical to the process of success relates to complying with shop drawings and architectural drawings. The shop drawings must match our foundation details before they can be released for fabrication. If the general contractor releases fabrication of the metal building and they do not match what is shown on architectural or structural foundation drawings, there will be a disconnect when the steel arrives to the jobsite, and when this happens the owner and general contractor take liability and risk unnecessarily.

An anxious owner should never bypass this critical process of proper coordination.

Another consideration when using PEMB is the idea that all exterior walls of occupied spaces such as offices and populated areas will need to meet energy requirements. All of the walls must be insulated and comply with local energy code. Again, another coordination that must be accounted for when seeking PEMB solutions. There are still many items that need to be accounted for.

An architect is still needed for permits and code compliance. You will still need mechanical, plumbing and electrical solutions. A floor plan. Exterior elevations. It’s not necessarily one stop shopping by choosing PEMB.

A mistake that many owners make is the assumption that just because you elect to use a PEMB as your primary structure that it means the building will look like a metal warehouse. IONIC has seen the use of PEMB in historical applications where the entire building is shrouded in brick veneer and detailing to meet the requirements of the surrounding design criteria. We have seen PEMB clad in metal panel for a high contemporary look or cladding in EIFS which is an economical  and attractive solution for the owner.

There are many ways to make a pre-engineered metal building fit your project needs.

If you are exploring the opportunity, IONIC suggests that you reach out to us and we can quickly provide some useful information as to whether it would be beneficial for you to seek this as a building solution for your next project.

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

We look forward to hearing from you.

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

We look forward to hearing from you.

Building your Retail Project

When was the last time you hired an architect to design a retail facility for your organization? Next question: How long did it take them?

Yes, that’s what we thought. Most of the time we hear from our clients about the dissatisfaction of waiting for a set of construction documents from their past architectural firm.



The second biggest complaint we hear is that the details are not conducive to a retail structure. The contractor has to change or simplify how it is built to fit the budget.

That’s unfortunate.

We might have a solution for you when it comes to your next retail project. Whether you are building new, adding an addition or doing a facelift, IONIC can find the right solutions to address your concerns. That’s what we’ve been doing for nearly twenty years. Making your projects successful, both financially and aesthetically.

We understand that not all architectural firms are created equal. The best price doesn’t always equal the best value. Our clients come to IONIC because we address the challenges they’ve experienced with previous inattentive design firms failing to provide what was promised. For the right organizations, our clients tell us that we swiftly solve that challenge with amazing results. But, our approach might not be the right fit for every organization. We won’t know if we can help you until we learn more. If solving the challenge you are experiencing is important to you, we are happy to talk.



Here are a few questions to ask when you are looking for the right design partners for your next project. What is important to you?

  1. Do you want a team that is responsive to your needs and requests and looks out for your best interests or one that’s just told what to do and ignores best practices?

  2. Do you want an architect that seeks creative solutions to minimize costs and time or are you more concerned with someone that can just give you exactly what you’ve asked for, right or wrong?

  3. Are you looking for a team that is:

    A) Minimally Involved

    B) Adequately Engaged or

    C) Fully Invested?

  4. Finally, are you looking for someone who is interested in YOUR results not their own?

Feel free to reach out to anyone on our team and we look forward to an opportunity to serve your architectural needs.

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

Two offices to serve you better.