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Seven Steps in the Bush Construction Design Process

Taking on a construction project can feel overwhelming. Outlining your scope. Securing financing. Selecting partners (sometimes multiple partners). Designing. Building. Ribbon Cutting. Is your head spinning?

Bush Construction takes the complication out of construction by bringing all the critical services under one roof: real estate buying/planning, architectural design, and construction build. Read more about that here.

In today’s blog, we’re focusing on the design process and the seven fundamental steps that the design team at Bush Construction uses to get you to the construction phase of your project. As your design partner, we’ll make a process that can feel overwhelming and complex as stress-free and straightforward as possible. Let’s dive into the phases we’ll take you through as our partner.

1.    Pre-Design

The pre-design phase is all about forming a vision and analyzing the project space. As one of the more client-involved stages, we’ll closely collaborate with your team to capture your vision, understand your values, and plan for optimized functionality.

Our team will conduct a series of exploratory meetings which include listening, questioning, and ideating. We’ll take a deep dive with your team to build the foundation of your design:

Function: How will the space be used, organized, and arranged?

Style: Your personality, lifestyle, and design style preferences.

Space: How much space is needed now and in the future?

The other vital part of the pre-design phase is observing and documenting the existing conditions of the project site including surveying the land/existing building (property lines, measuring structures etc.) and doing background research on surrounding areas (contextuality, zoning, etc.).

2.    Schematic Design

In this phase, we’ll start translating the pre-design program into a real building design – your vision is beginning to take shape! The schematic design phase is also about capturing a general look and feel.

We’ll work together to discover what inspires us through hand sketches, models, and examples of past projects. We’ll develop preliminary site and floor plans as well as 3D renderings to visualize the size, shape, and relationship of the spaces to each other.

3.    Design Development

Using the approved preliminary site and floor plans, we’ll start making more concrete decisions about your space. These include the development of detailed drawings and specifications documents while keeping an eye on code compliance. Things are starting to come to life!

A rigorous coordination effort with all applicable disciplines will ensure fine-tuning and solidifying the design. You’ll be asked to review and approve these documents to confirm we’re on the right track. This is a great time to ensure the project scope is in line with the project budget – refining early on will save the most cost during construction. Construction costs have been varying widely in the past couple of years, our team collaborates to account for changes and conducts an exercise in value engineering.

Once approved, the deliverable will be a more detailed set of drawings that communicates the overall layout and volume of the building or space, all significant equipment, and the type of material or finish for every surface of the project.

4.    Construction Documents

It’s critical we communicate with the construction team in a way that creates clarity and accuracy. In this phase, the established design plans will be translated into precise construction documents. This step ensures that the vision is precisely and completely communicated to the construction team. (While we will handle this, check out these 12 terms to make yourself more familiar with the lingo.) Construction documents define:

a. Details, dimensions, and notes necessary to communicate the entire design intent

b. Specify all materials, finishes, and fixtures

c. Specify and place all required equipment with connectivity

5.    Building Permitting

In this phase, we’ll take the load off you, identifying and acquiring all required building permits so you can enter construction with peace of mind.

Permits show your project complies with the applicable guidelines and regulations required by your city or jurisdiction including but not limited to land use, building, and energy codes. We’ll manage this process from start to finish including submitting all required plans and forms, monitoring progress during the review process, and providing additional information or clarification as requested.

6.    Bidding and Negotiation

Bush Construction has a fully integrated team that can provide a seamless experience from concept to completion. Depending on the complexity of the project, subcontractors may need to be engaged. Our team of experts can lead the bidding and negotiation process to qualify and hire the best fit for you while remaining completely transparent.

We’ll engage pre-qualified and reputable subcontractors we know and trust, including those you may prefer. With a wide range of providers, we’ll ensure we’re weighing all options to best fit your needs and budget.

7.    Ongoing oversight and site walkthroughs

Much of the design work will be complete at this point, but we’ll stay involved until project completion to ensure the results are delivered with the quality and intent you expect.

The beautiful part about working with Bush is that our integrated approach brings expertise in all aspects of the design-build process.

Through construction, we’ll be your eyes and ears on the job site to answer questions from our construction team and proactively address potential issues. As one team under one roof, we can easily address the natural inefficiencies and waste that occur through a typical multi-firm-led process. At substantial completion, we develop a punch list and guide the construction team to wrap up the project to your satisfaction.


Why Bush?

One vision. One team. Concept to completion.

When you choose Bush Construction, expect a seamless experience from concept to completion. With development, design, pre-construction, and construction services under one roof, our integrated team works together to make your project stress-free and fun.


Ready to get started?


Get started with a no-obligation discovery meeting with Sameer Kulkarni, our Director of Design.

Telephone receiver 563-549-2115


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Construction Delivery Methods: 4 Paths for Business Owners

For business owners, proceeding with a construction project is a major decision, and to ensure a great construction experience, they must select the right team. Once an owner proves the project’s financial model makes sense for their business, they can either hire a design firm (architect) or a commercial general contractor. Who the owner contacts first largely depends on the owner’s preference or a pre-established relationship. However, the most successful projects have the perspectives of both the architect and contractor during the early phases of the project.

The next important decision an owner needs to make is selecting the construction delivery method for their project. “Delivery method” is a fancy term for describing who holds the legal agreement (contract) with whom. There are four typical paths or delivery methods an owner can take.

  1. Design-Bid-Build or Hard Bid – The owner first engages and holds an agreement with a designer. The designer designs the project to 100% completion, at which point the owner hires a contractor under a separate agreement.
  2. Construction Manager as Constructor or Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) – The owner holds agreements with both the designer and the contractor. The critical difference is that the owner brings on the contractor early in the design process. Thus, the owner has the perspective of the contractor and designer as they are going through the design process.
  3. Construction Manager as Agent (CMa) – This delivery method is the exact same as CMAR with one major difference. The owner also holds agreements with each individual trade contractor such as a plumber, electrician, carpenter, etc. While the direct contractual flow is from the trade contractor to the owner, the CMa does all the work of administering those contractors.
  4. Design-Build – The owner holds an agreement with a single entity responsible for both design and construction risk. Most often, this agreement is held between the owner and the contractor who either hires an outside architect or who has the design capabilities in-house.

In our Delivery Methods: Four Paths A Business Owner Can Take to Complete Their Next Project podcast, we dive into the pros and cons of each delivery method. Listen and learn why selecting the right delivery method may be one of the most critical factors in determining a project’s success.

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Because we could have spent hours on this topic, we decided to break each delivery method into its own podcast.

What is Contingency and How Does it Benefit Construction Management?

The word “contingency” has many different meanings, depending on the industry you serve or your point of view. In commercial construction, contingency refers to money (often a percentage of the total project cost) reserved to cover project costs that arise after construction starts. A contractor, an owner, or a design professional (aka architect, engineer, etc.) all likely feel that the proper use of contingency within a project stems from different, but justifiable causes.

Design professionals

For instance, a designer assumes responsibility for planning and designing a building that meets the expectations of the owner and complies with all building codes and regulations. However, to design a complete project that identifies every possible section or detail, and also accommodates every possible combination of material, model, or manufacturer is inconceivable. Therefore, in the designer’s eyes, it may be perfectly acceptable during the construction phase to use contingency spend to accommodate variations or updates that need to be made to the “as-bid” plan set.

For example, the architect discovers the brick specified for the project has been recently discontinued, is no longer in stock and only a more expensive brick is available and acceptable.


In contrast, if an owner is fortunate enough to have contingent funds in their budget, they are likely to prefer that they are used on project betterments. Perhaps to add items to the project that had been eliminated during design or value engineering, or maybe just to incorporate items from their wish list that hadn’t made it into the project initially. It is conceivable to see the justification for this case as well.

If contingency funds are still available late in a project, the owner could use the funds to purchase a higher grade flooring product than was identified on the original plans and specifications.


Lastly, a contractor may take the stand that the use of contingent funds is reserved for unforeseen or differing conditions than those outlined in the plans and specifications upon which they based their bid. The contractor often has neither the responsibility nor the ability to know about certain conditions of the project and therefore should be entitled to additional compensation to address the issue, drawn from the project contingency. An example of this is when the contractor discovers old foundations buried on a project site that wasn’t documented on the plans and specifications.

Finding the right partner to guide decision making

Whatever your viewpoint, one thing is clear. Every project should have some measure of contingency included and its acceptable uses defined and agreed upon at the onset, you’re going to need it!

What’s important is having a team that can help guide decision making. As a full-service construction company, Bush combines our expertise in real estate development, architecture and building to provide our customers with a turnkey experience. As one team with one mission – your project – we can work unselfishly and transparently as a group to understand your needs and prioritize contingency budgets. Contact us to learn more about our fully integrated approach.

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Cement Soil Stabilization

Why Cement Stabilization?

Cement stabilization is required when the soil on a construction site needs to be amended. This process allows the installation of the building pad on-site before the cold temperatures and ground freezing of winter sets in.

At one of our new construction sites, Lujack Hiline – a high-end car dealership in Davenport, Iowa, a geotechnical engineer recommended we proceed with cement stabilization. It was no surprise – we could not drive our vehicles on the site without sinking. We were aware, after a very wet September, that we were going to be facing poor soil conditions. Unfortunately, there was no way for the soil to self-correct on this site since as we would not have been able to get the soil to compact before winter began. The ground just wasn’t hard enough.

While this predicament is fairly common for this portion of Scott County, we don’t have to use this method often. In this area, we generally hit moisture at 6-7 feet down. On many job sites, we may hit pockets of poor soil, but on the Lujack’s site, the entire 4-5 acres were moist. The site was much too large to core out and fill with rock-like we can on smaller jobs. Together with the owner, we made the decision to move forward with cement stabilization over the Thanksgiving weekend.

What is Cement Stabilization?

Soil stabilization can sometimes be done with lime, but since the temperatures were not warm enough for a long enough duration, this was not an option for this situation. Cement would need to be the cure.

Cement stabilization is the improvement of soil material through the addition of a cement binder. The goal of stabilization is to improve soil for construction purposes. The most common method involves the incorporation of small quantities of binders (cement) to the aggregate.

On the St. Vincent Athletic Complex football field project, we ran into a similar situation and were able to amend with lime. Lime is laid layer by layer and you can see the difference in color. We rototilled the lime in and then rolled it over. The process took two days for each football field. The lime was brought in from our sister company, Linwood Mining; truck after truck. Just like at Lujack’s, the ground wasn’t stable, and we couldn’t guarantee the fields without stabilizing the soil.

At Lujack’s we chose the cement process as it was recommended by the geotechnical engineer, it was weather appropriate and it was the most cost-effective option. Cement stabilization requires only one layer, but the air temperature is key. The temperature must be 40 degrees or higher for the stabilization to set appropriately.

How does Cement Stabilization Work?

Since we do not have a local company that performs cement stabilization, we hired McCleary from Decatur, Illinois. They set 200 lbs. of cement every three feet. The machine itself costs $800,000. Also, on-site was a tiller and two trucks. The two trucks each weighed over 15,000 lbs. McCleary remediated 170,000 SF in two 12-hour days. If we had decided to core out and fill the site with rock, it would have taken at least two weeks and we would have needed to find a place for 1,000 truckloads of spoils.

The cost to stabilize the soil ran approximately $200,000. If we had filled with rock, the cost would have been around $300,000. A savings of nearly 33%.

The cement stabilization was a success and construction is in full swing.


Location: Lujack’s HiLine – Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volkswagen

Kevin Mericle | Superintendent | Bush Construction

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