Case Studies

Setterlin Building Company

Around for the Long Haul

The year 1935 was a memorable one, for many reasons. Babe Ruth was knocking baseballs out of the park, Amelia Earhart was charting her course across the deep blue of the Pacific, and Robert W. Setterlin, Sr., was opening Robert W. Setterlin & Sons, his brand new building company in Columbus, Ohio, despite the Great Depression.

Now known as Setterlin Building Co. (Setterlin), the company is still a full-service commercial construction firm after seven decades, and it remains family owned. Setterlin is now under fourth-generation family leadership/ownership, with the third generation, the founder’s grandsons, still active in the business. Robert (Rob) Setterlin is CEO; James (Jim) Setterlin is chairman of the board; and Rob’s two sons Steve and Mark serve as executive vice president and president, respectively.

Experience Makes All the Difference

As Setterlin’s president, Mark and Steve lead with a strong commitment to personal integrity, honesty, reliability, dedication and sincerity – all traits that are in line with the company’s historical culture. And it’s not just a positive attitude that has helped Setterlin improve with age. The benefits that come from being in business for decades are numerous: “Our field staff has a wealth of experience,” says Mark. “They’ve been with us for decades, many of them for over 20 years, and they are able to handle the challenges that come with major renovation projects.” Mark himself has been working in the shop since he was in high school, before starting his professional career in 1998.

Equipped with an expert team of professionals with extensive industry experience, Setterlin is able to tackle a variety of projects, including large-scale, complicated renovation projects, which make up a bulk of the company’s work, particularly in the education sector. The company offers a variety of project delivery methods, as well; customers can hire Setterlin to serve as a general contractor, a construction manager or as a design-build partner. Construction services include project administration, cost control, critical path scheduling, quality control and safety supervision.

The company acknowledges that, although it’s an intricate, highly involved and collaborative process to manage the building process from start to finish, it all can be viewed simply: success comes from hard work, anticipating problems, meeting deadlines and keeping promises.

“Your building. Our promise.”

With every job, Setterlin’s reputation is on the line. Mark knows that in order for the company to succeed and have a lasting positive impact on the community, a project must be completed flawlessly; the end result of a project speaks for itself and client satisfaction is always the most important indicator of success.

The education sector is a big market for builders in Ohio – and it’s how Setterlin first got its start in the 1930s. Years later, in the ’70s, Setterlin completed many construction projects for the expansion of Ohio State University, and the company has done over $100 million worth of work on educational facilities in Ohio since 2000 alone. The work is not limited to higher education; Setterlin completes many elementary, middle school, and high school projects as well.

Recently, Setterlin finished a large rehab project for the City of Columbus public school system: 12 science labs, at 12 far-apart sites. The project has to be carefully timed in order to culminate before the start of school in the fall. The project was completed in nine weeks’ time, though, Mark acknowledges, “It was a challenging project.” However, renovations and ground-up construction of large facilities, over 100,000 square feet, are not uncommon for Setterlin; one such project was for the construction of a new K-12 school in Portsmouth completed in summer 2012.

The company’s activity is not restricted to one sector, however. Setterlin completes a wide range of work, in addition to educational facilities, each year. Working throughout central and southeast Ohio, Setterlin is active in both the public and private sector and, in turn, the company has a diverse range of skills and project experience. “We’re able to service a lot of different needs,” says Mark. “We [also] do industrial, offices, medical facilities, worship centers, warehouses, [etc.].”

Also in 2012, the company finished a $5 million contract for the Columbus and Franklin County Metropolitan Park District: the Battelle-Darby Creek Metro Park Nature Center, located in Galloway. A unique community project, the nature center is a 14,000-square foot LEED-certified building designed by Design Group featuring a 53-foot living stream – stocked with organism native to Big Darby Creek – flowing through the center’s exhibits.

Another LEED Gold project is Setterlin’s very own headquarters, a 13,000-square foot building with a 40-foot atrium and a geothermal heating and cooling system.

Trust in Partnerships

As a mid-sized general contractor/construction manager with 50 full-time employees, Setterlin puts an extraordinary amount of faith in its long-time subcontractors, of which there are many due to the diversity of work the company completes. “We have a diversity of subs, large and small, located in a wide geographic range,” explains Mark. “We’ve probably used a thousand in the last decade [alone].”

Although the company relies on subs to perform all mechanical and electrical work, site work, masonry, roofing, and finishing details (e.g., small-scale craftsman work), Setterlin does perform demolition and concrete work, as well as carpentry (doors, hardware, windows, etc.).

Strong subcontractor partnerships mean Setterlin can rest assured all parties involved will deliver a quality project to each customer and keep the contractor’s strong reputation intact. Setterlin’s reputation is also bolstered by the fact that 80 percent of its management personnel are LEED Accredited Professionals, and sustainable building practices have been important to the company since the beginning – before “going green” hit the mainstream – back in the mid-20th century.

While they faced challenges during the recent economic downturn, Mark, Steve and the rest of the Setterlin leadership look back positively on the company’s ability to adeptly handle its risk management and continue to secure solid work in Ohio, but that’s what 77 years in the industry will do for you. As Setterlin Building Co. heads toward another decade of business, the Setterlin family are confident their company is well-prepared for what may lie ahead.

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