Fair and Square Construction

IMG 20171017 104513Fair and Square Construction draws on its co-owners’ years of industry experience to ensure projects are delivered on schedule. 

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

As veteran commercial framing contractors each with 25 years of industry experience, Doug Sweers and George Brigham founded Fair and Square Construction in 2011 to meet a growing demand in west Michigan. “We saw the demand for a commercial framing company that could handle the bigger jobs,” co-owner George Brigham says. “Driven by our background in the industry we pushed forward to build a company with greater manpower and equipment to meet the demand.”

With an in-house staff of 30, Fair and Square Construction also leverages the manpower of its subcontractors that are strictly committed to the company. “At least 35 percent of our employees are journeyman and 20 of them have been with the company since our inception,” Sweers says. “That’s hard to do today, but we pay them well and provide vacation time. George and I are also on the jobs all the time.” Fair and Square Construction box

Fair and Square Construction completes about 1.25 million square feet per year in western Michigan and has seven projects under construction today. The company is contracted to perform work on assisted living, multifamily and hotel projects throughout west Michigan. “If it’s wood and it’s big, we build it,” Brigham says. 

The company maintains a close relationship with general contractors and enjoys repeat work from Wolverine General Contractors, AVB, BCI, Omega, Orion II and Rockford Construction. Fair and Square Construction continues to see increased demand for its work because it meets the general contractors’ needs. “We meet schedules, have the manpower and offer quality workmanship,” Brigham says. “The reward for us is getting to build their projects and there’s nothing too big for us. We will continue to do what we do best, which is rough framing.” 

Built to Impress

Fair and Square Construction recently completed 85,000 square feet of framing at Bridge Street and Stocking Avenue NW in Grand Rapids, Mich., for a Rockford Construction mixed-use project. The $60 million “super block” development will include a market on the ground level. Fair and Square Construction oversaw the framing of the four stories of market rate and affordable apartments that will sit above the grocery store. 

After more than three decades in the commercial business, Brigham and Sweers say they have developed best practices to tackle the challenging logistics of each project. “Because of the height and lack of lay down area, it took a lot of logistical planning to stay on schedule,” Brigham says. “It’s downtown Grand Rapids and everything we do is during regular daytime hours, so controlling our orders is key. We know the construction companies that makes our prefabricated panels and are on a first name basis with them and the drivers, so everything is just-in-time into the air.” 

Fair and Square Construction prides itself on building Grand Rapids’ largest wood frame structure, which totaled 325,000 square feet of framing, for a residential apartment complex. The project began in November 2016 and was the city’s only five-story wood frame construction project. It took the company nine months to complete. 

The company is also completing 160,000 square feet of framing for a 235-unit apartment building at 234 Market Avenue in Grand Rapids. “We’ve almost doubled our sales every year since we started,” Sweers says. “This year it’s plateauing and the bigger projects have been built, but there’s still a lot out there. Grand Rapids is growing because of the colleges and medical industry, so more apartment complexes are going up and the inner city is going to get more developed.”

Safety and Technology

Fair and Square Construction focuses on safety on its jobsites. “We bought two telescopic boom lifts about a year-and-a-half ago to provide for safer working conditions on the exterior and for fall protection,” Sweers says. “We made a big investment in safety to put up guard rails, close off windows and keep everyone off ladders and scaffolding with the diesel-powered boom lift. We also hired a private safety contractor and developed a detailed fall protection plan.”

The company prides itself on training its staff “every chance it gets,” Brigham says. For example, Fair and Square Construction employees are trained regularly on heavy equipment and tools, as well as in first aid, OSHA and CPR. 

Fair and Square Construction invested in tablets and walkie-talkies to ensure its employees are all on the same page, stay safe and can stay in constant communication. “Our guys on the ground can talk to the crane guy or the guys up in the air regarding deliveries and are crucial on the bigger jobs,” Brigham says. 

Moving forward, Fair and Square Construction says it plans to continue to stay focused on work in western Michigan, but may consider traveling to perform framing projects for its general contractors. “We are at the right place at the right time and we do our jobs well,” Sweers says. “We cover about one-third of the state and we see there will always being enough work.”

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