Finding a Place in History
‘No Roof Left Behind’ Program Busies Community Building Services
Old structures needing a little love motivates the owners of Community Building Services (CBS) into action.
Clayton Shafer, President, and Jared Browers, Vice President, have carved out a business that gives back to their community. They are like humanitarians of the construction world.
From their business location in Mason, Michigan, the partners do the basics—painting, carpentry, masonry, roofing, etc.—covering the central Michigan area and including the state capital of Lansing. They are also frequently involved with downtown development associations in the area.
Generating upwards of $1 million in revenue each year, the pair employs 10 workers to plan and perform interior and exterior work that is increasingly focused on older structures.
One obvious example is the 125-year-old Darius B. Moon House in Lansing, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. CBS performed comprehensive facade repairs, as well as totally reconstructed the dilapidated front porch of the colorful Victorian-style “painted lady.”
For its part in restoring the grandeur of one of the city’s historic gems, CBS received an award from Preservation Lansing.
“It has always been something we have loved to do,” Shafer says about CBS’ preservation work. “We take pride in building back to the closest representation of the past craftsmen’s work, while at times utilizing modern technologies the original builders could not fathom.”
Older structures don’t have to be architecturally or historically significant to draw their attention. The company also participates in the No Roof Left Behind (NRLB) program, a North Carolina-based national program that partners with companies like CBS to help those in desperate need of home repair of some type. Since the program’s formation in 2009, NRLB’s volunteer contractors have helped between 55 and 80 families each year get a new roof at no cost.
“It fits our passion for the community,” Shafer says.
Cementing a Friendship
Owners Shafer and Browers have known each other since childhood. Browers says they were friends since sixth grade. In fact, their first job was together, working for Shafer’s uncle, who owned a concrete company.
“While we got our feet wet in concrete,” says Shafer with a grin, “after a few years of that, we got more opportunity in construction and Jared’s family encouraged that switch.”
One of their first construction projects together was renovating an old building into a coffee shop. The historic preservation nature of that project planted the desire to work on other preservation projects.
The probability was high they’d get to do just that. Browers’ family was active in real estate in the city of Mason. They owned a few turn-of-the-century buildings in the downtown area that operated as retail businesses. The structures often needed minor, and sometimes major, repair.
Mason was an excellent launch pad for the two men who have roots in the Ingham County community dating back four generations. Browers guesses that up to 85 percent of the structures in Mason—higher than average for a town its size (population 8,300)—are historical and potentially worth preserving. The Ingham County Courthouse, for instance, is surrounded by a thriving downtown that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Mason is the only city in the nation that is the county seat with the state capital located in another city, Lansing, 15 miles to the north.
Having joined forces in 2012, the partners and their growing interest in preservation called for a company name that reflected their “social and community conscience,” as Browers describes it.
“We wanted to come up with a name that showed how we felt about doing business in the community,” he says. And the name Community Building Services was born.
Past, Present and Future
Breathing new life into an old structure—be it with a total renovation or just a new roof—means respecting and even matching the design and construction of the past while advancing the quality of the new and improved structure.
Browers says this concept is increasingly a very viable proposition. While original building components are ideally preserved in place, the building industry has for years been coming up with materials, products and methods that can complement any redo of an aged structure.
He points to fiber-reinforced cement siding as an example of a newer material that can masquerade as original wood or masonry. It is cheaper than the original materials and able to withstand the harsh elements of Michigan winters in fine style.
Additionally, asphalt shingles or slate tiles make great substitute materials for roofing needs. Fiberglass or metal doors mimic original wood doors while providing more security and a greater barrier to extreme weather conditions.
Shafer and Browers are no less enthusiastic about caring for other, less prominent structures in town through their local participation in No Roof Left Behind. In 2017, the team they headed reroofed a Lansing home occupied by a single mother and her 12 children.
“It was a hellacious roof,” Browers says. CBS supplied the labor, and GAF Materials Corp. supplied the products that replaced a huge tarp covering a weakened frame and compromised shingles.
Like all NRLB campaigns, the effort got the community involved by seeking nominations for the roof belonging to the house that most needed repair. Social media helps spread the word and then helps tally votes. Over a three-month campaign, the single mother’s home garnered 1,600 votes, with commenters describing the single mother as a kind and caring woman who helped others every way she could.
“The guys all knew they were doing something for the betterment of society—a gift of giving on a life-changing scale,” Shafer says.
“Clayton Shafer and the CBS team embraced their No Roof Left Behind campaign with enthusiasm,” says Dena Elie with NRLB. “During the length of their program, Clayton focused on his community’s needs with genuine interest in helping a deserving neighbor. We are thrilled to have civic-minded installers like him on board.”
It’s nothing new for CBS and its mission of serving its community. What’s old is new, or at least well-restored, these partners agree. “We continue to look for ways to give back to the community,” Shafer says.