Home insurance perks for green-friendly design (guest post)

house and moneyWondering how to get your residential clients to pony up more money for green design?  Check out today’s guest post by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley and Katherine Wood.  They are writers for the Homeowners’ Insurance Blog, which serves as a resource center for insurance consumers and homebuyers across the country.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s new LEEDv4 standards present challenges for contractors, engineers, and architects – the restrictions in many cases are more stringent. There is, however an added bonus to remaining on the sustainable-building track: it’s more marketable than you think.

That’s because green homes don’t just appeal to buyers with environmental concerns any more. Now smart budgeters seek them out as well. Why? While it’s true that sustainable construction can cost about 2% more than conventional methods, McGraw-Hill’s Smart Market Report says it typically increases a building’s overall value by an average of 7.5% and improves the return on investment by 6.6%.

In fact, 80% of Generation Y homebuyers said in 2012 that they prefer energy-efficient homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Buying both green and new not only can save your clients on utilities costs, it also can reduce their home insurance premiums.

Pitching the insurance angle

Rightly or wrongly, the insurance industry isn’t known for innovation. However, it is embracing sustainability. Why? Americans experienced $52.9 billion in insured property losses in 2012 – $30 billion more than the average annual losses from 2001 to 2011. For more than two decades, the home insurance industry has quietly monitored climate change and its impact on the weather, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Many providers now are committed to being more visibly sustainable in their own practices and extending their concerns to the business of insuring residential, commercial, industrial, and other buildings. Why? Because environmentally friendly construction, using updated materials and systems, typically proves to be more durable – and less likely to result in huge insurance claims.  If you already participate in these green building practices, use them to your advantage by mentioning how much clients could save.

Some environmentally friendly features that can earn your clients savings:

  • Buying new: Homebuyers typically can earn a home insurance discount (usually around 10%) when they buy a house built within the last 10 years. New homes normally prove more energy efficient as well.
  • Sustainable roof: As much as 95% of wind and water related losses to the home involve roof      damage, according to the Insurance Information Institute (iii). That’s a big deal when the average loss resulting from wind or water damage adds up to more than $6,000.

Homeowners insurance providers offer lower premiums to homes with roofs made of more durable, sustainable materials such as steel and aluminum. These roofs can save on energy efficiency, and they also can better withstand wind, rain, and hail. If your designs include these roofs you can use these expected insurance savings figures when marketing to your clients.

  • Efficient plumbing and fixtures: About one quarter of home claims in the U.S. are caused by water damage, with the average claim exceeding $7,000. By designing updated, green friendly plumbing, you can save your clients a huge mess both physically and monetarily.
  • Electrical system:      Each year, 19,000 to 25,000 fires in the U.S. involve electrical wiring or lighting equipment, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Outdated electrical systems and wiring present significantly more fire risk. The average cost of a house fire claim is more than $33,000, so buyers could qualify for lower premiums when the home includes modern wiring and circuit-breakers. New systems also are more energy efficient so they can save the client more money in utilities.
  • HVAC: Malfunctioning heating and cooling systems are the second-leading cause of house fires in the U.S. (after cooking). Newer, more efficient systems involve less risk and therefore can save your clients money in insurance premiums.

Twice the advantage

When practices you already use in your everyday work can provide you with an extra client selling point, why not take advantage? Use home insurance and utilities perks to help you sweeten the deal for your residential clients. If your work includes security systems, fire safety sprinklers, or smoke detectors, you also can alert them of additional home insurance discounts for those features. Now it can be satisfying both morally and monetarily to be environmentally friendly.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions?  Share in the comment section, below.

Picture via Flickr/401k2013 thru CC license.

 

New Green Standards; Same Green Warnings for Architects & Engineers (law note)

The newest version of the LEED ratings system, LEED v4, has officially been released.  For a comparison of the major changes between LEED 2009 and LEEDv4, check out this downloadable form from the USGBC.LEED croppee

As the folks at Schinnerer’s pointed out, there is one major change that is fraught with peril for design professionals– the requirement for increased transparency concerning the composition and performance requirements of composition materials.

Notes the insurance carrier:
While design firms always had a level of responsibility for ongoing product research, the lack of standardized, affirmative industry data made it difficult for design firms and project owners to assess the impact of building materials on human health.
As with many aspects of sustainability in design and construction, the danger to design firms is likely to come from self-inflicted perils. When a firm accepts responsibility to “ensure that a project meets its goals by using the best products that align with project requirements,” it is essentially giving the project owner a guarantee that is both beyond the firm’s control and uninsurable by any insurance carried by a firm.

 

What is an architect or engineer to do?  NOT make guarantees.  That’s the easiest way to avoid potential problems and lawsuits down the road.

Inform your client that any green design guarantees may cause an otherwise covered claim to be denied by your errors & omissions insurance carrier.  Show them this post, or the Victor O. Schinnerer (CNA) blog article.  Whatever you do, do not make guarantees related to green design.

Your turn.  What has been your experience educating clients concerning green “guarantees” and the uninsurable nature of any such contract provisions?  Share in the comments section.

Photo adapted from (c) Albert Herring

Is Your Next Project Going to Be LEED Certified? (guest post)

Happy Autumn, everyone (in the Northern Hemisphere, that is)! I hope you are finding some time to get out and enjoy the changing leaves.Today, we have a guest post on sustainable construction by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17@gmail.com.

recycling globeIs your next construction design going for LEED certification?  Even if you don’t aspire to have your project be LEED certified, the methods of developing a sustainable home can help everyone. Sustainable construction is the future in many areas of the United States and developing a home or office building that can contribute to this way of thinking could be one of your most crowning achievements. It doesn’t take much effort to develop a project that can benefit from the technologies that are available. Although the costs may increase, the value to the customer could offset those amounts.

1. Solar Arrays - On average, adding a solar array to the roof of any project could increase the value of the land by approximately $30,000. If you are building a residence for a full-sized family, it could cost you nearly $15,000 in materials to make the home 100-percent energy sustainable. This could mean that your investment of building the locale could potentially double from the installation of a solar array. Of course, these amounts are based on a global average and may increase or decrease given the area you are constructing. However, the benefits are high when building a self-sufficient system of maintaining power.

2. Tankless Water Heaters – Tankless water heaters are a superb way to reduce energy costs. As opposed to traditional water heaters, they don’t consume power or gas in order to keep the temperature of the water a specific degree. Water is heated when it is used. This greatly reduces the energy costs of a location when compared to annual costs of operating a traditional method.

3. Thermal-barrier Paint Additives – When painting the walls of your project, why not mix in additives such as Insuladd. These additives have been tested to provide an added layer of insulation to the room making heating and cooling more efficient within. The more efficient any particular area is for handling the ambient room temperature, the less energy there is used for making the area bearable by human standards. Essentially, you’ll use the air conditioner less in the summer and the heater less during the winter. Other items such as organic insulation as cotton, and perhaps hemp in the future, can make a home more efficient and sustainable as well.

4. Geothermal Heat – Some projects can be created where you can implement geothermal heat exchangers. Geothermal solutions can be implemented for a wide variety of conditions for home and office. They can be used for floor heating, ice melting, heating spas and pools and much more. Of course, installing geothermal capabilities requires prime condition of the land your project is sitting on. It may not be practical or advisable to install such a system in certain conditions such as a high water table.

There are many ways you can develop a building in order to be sustainable. In today’s market, looking at LEED requirements as a base for construction can make the project worth the investment. Many clients would be happy to pay extra if the perks of a sustainable system are great enough. Not paying the electric company a single dime could be worth an extra $30,000 to the property’s asking price to a great deal of residential and professional buyers. The next time you are planning a construction project, why not look at how you can make the development more sustainable? Even the smallest additions could peak interest in discerning or environmentally-conscious clients.

Thanks, Liz, for your thoughts.  Do you agree or disagree?  Is the typical homeowner ready to plunk down an additional $30 grand to avoid ongoing energy costs?  Share your thoughts below.

Photo (c) The Gold Guys.

 

Recycling Your Construction Site: 5 Materials that Can Be Reused to Save Money (guest post)

Today’s guest post is  contributed by Madoline Hatter. Madoline is a freelance writer and blog junkie from ChangeOfAddressForm.com. You can reach her at: m.hatter12 @ gmail. com.  Read on to find out how those scraps and remainders could, in a pinch, turn into some cold hard cash.

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During the construction project, there are a variety of materials that are simply tossed in the dumpster that can be re-purposed for other uses or used to enhance a last minute idea.  As you perform construction observation, take note: there could be tons of this material that can be used to save a great deal of money, if you know what you’re looking at. What recyclable materials are available on a construction site that can be reused later?

1. Wood - A lot of scrap wood is discarded during any given construction. While some of these pieces can be simply too small or odd-shaped to be of any real use, other pieces might be a perfect shape for other smaller projects. Frames, odd angle cuts, small pet doors, stairs, and a variety of other wooden uses can be created with this material that you may find yourself tossing in the dumpster. In any event, you could simply sell it by the pound to those who wish to burn or otherwise use the material which could recuperate some of the expenses of building the structure.
scrap wood
2. Drywall - Given the nature of renovations or new constructs, it is quite common place to have sections of drywall that are too small for a complete wall, but they could be used to patch holes or fit into smaller areas in other locations. As long as you can keep the drywall from experiencing moisture, it can be held for quite a long time before it is reused elsewhere.

3. Glass - If you’re planning a renovation project, keep in mind that securing the old windows can help you down the road in future projects. As long as the glass is intact, it can be cut down to fit a variety of other situations which could help save you a great deal of money on your next project. Although storing these pieces of glass may be a sensitive ordeal, the benefits could outweigh the risk as some plates of glass could be as much as $100 and up for each piece.

4. Concrete - Whether you are laying a new foundation or renovating a location, you could accumulate a great deal of wasted concrete. Although recycling concrete can help reduce the amount of waste in landfills, you can use pieces of this material to assist in other applications. Bits of concrete can be used to add stability to pipes and conduits that run underground, for example.

5. Copper - Not only does the wiring within a location contain copper, but pipes contain this metal as well. In some areas, recyclers will pay as much as $3 per pound for copper. In renovations or new developments, some of your expenses can be reimbursed by recycling copper. If you projects don’t produce a lot of waste from the metal, there is nothing that says you can’t simply save a collection of it until it becomes worthwhile to take to a recycler.

You don’t have to be a member of Green Peace in order to see the value of re-purposing or recycling materials from a construction site. There is a great deal of usefulness from these bits and pieces that can save you a great deal of money later on. The next time you walk a building site, take a look around prior to clean-up and determine what can help save money later.

Thanks Madoline for your thoughts. 

Your turn: ever recoup expenses through recycling or re-purposing construction debris?  Share in the comments, below.

 

Photo credit

 

LEED Lasts in Latest NC Bill (news note)

stack of woodAs many of you may be aware, the North Carolina legislature was considering a bill that would effectively take away the option of LEED certification for public projects.  In a misguided effort to protect the NC timber industry, the original bill would essentially take away the option of using LEED for public projects.

Thanks to the strong potests from many industry groups, and the great coverage of the issue by Bob Kruhm and the folks at his paper NC Construction News, the NC Senate passed an amended version of House Bill 628 on Monday night that retains the option of LEED certifciation for State construction projects.  Read the full story here.  [For the original bill and other versions, click here].

 

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