Editorial: 10.23.2023

Many Castle Projects Start Out on Dan Schaefer’s Desk

Dan Schaefer

Dan Schaefer plays a pivotal role in converting project opportunities to full-fledged Castle jobs. 

As estimating manager, he’s responsible for calculating the specific materials, equipment and labor costs required to complete potential assignments.

Schaefer has completed detailed estimates for dozens of jobs, but he doesn’t follow a cookie-cutter formula. “Every site and project is a little bit unique, so you have to spend time digging in and figuring out potential problems,” he says. “There are so many variables to consider.”

He and a fellow Castle estimator will divide responsibilities on most jobs, with one person focusing on the earthwork and grading portion of a project and the other focusing on site utilities. “I like to dive into the plans and start reaching out to material vendors as soon as I can to give them as much time as possible to work on pricing,” he says.

After all project costs are compiled into a draft estimate, it undergoes an internal bid review to ensure everything is accurate, complete and ready to submit to the potential client.

The fast-paced estimating process appeals to Schaefer. “Generally, I'll have a week or two to work on an estimate, so it’s a quick turnover before I jump to the next project,” he says. “I'm never stuck on one project for long.”

Working in estimating requires Schaefer to be detail oriented and organized. “Earthwork can get complicated,” he says. “You may have all these different cubic yardages of dirt that need to be moved…and they're all being moved in different ways and to different places. Having a consistent approach will keep you from missing things and make sure that everything is accounted for.”

Shifting to Construction

Schaefer grew up in Josephville, Missouri, a small town outside of Wentzville.

After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Missouri in Columbia, with plans to pursue a civil engineering career.  

But that goal changed when a buddy told him about the construction management program at the University of Central Missouri. “It just really struck an interest in me, and I thought it would be a good fit, so I decided to switch schools after my first year,” he says.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in construction management, Schaefer began working for a small general contractor in Columbia that also self-performed concrete foundations and steel erection. “I got experience in estimating, self-perform work and soliciting subcontractors…basically, all the parts and pieces required for a building project,” he says.

In 2015, he moved to St. Louis and signed on with a family-owned grading and site utility company. “I spent three years as an estimator and project manager, and that's where I got my foundation in civil work,” he says.

He learned about the Castle opportunity when a McCarthy talent acquisition manager reached out to him. “Castle was a competitor, so I knew a little bit about them, and I always thought it would be a company I might like to work for,” he says.

Since joining the estimating team in 2018, Schaefer has valued Castle’s people and culture. “I work with a lot of smart people, and the environment's really good for collaborating,” he says. “Everybody's always willing to help out.”

His enthusiasm for Castle even convinced his younger brother, Ben, to follow in his footsteps. After completing an estimating internship at Castle, Ben joined the company full time as a project engineer upon graduation from Missouri University of Science & Technology with a civil engineering degree. “I've been working with Ben for almost a year now, and he's actually going to slide over to estimating soon to help our group,” he says.

Schaefer lives in St. Peters with his wife, Brooke; nearly 3-year-old son, Dax; and 5-month-old daughter, Blair. Dax is already starting to exhibit signs of a future career in civil construction. “He's got little construction toys and knows which one's the excavator, which one's the dump truck and which one's the bulldozer,” he says.

When Schaefer’s not on the job, he enjoys hunting, fishing, sports and other outdoor activities. “We’ve got a lot of friends with kids in the same age group, so we get together with them quite often, and it’s always a good time.”


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