Wondering 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is 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.
Today, a guest post by the folks at Vector Foiltec. Vector Foiltec invented the use of Texlon (ETFE), and have developed the use of this innovative technology worldwide in the design and constructive industry. Some of the world’s most impressive offices, stadiums, and transport buildings have been developed by Vector-Foiltec.
Recent years have seen a surge in the number of designs and commissions of green buildings by designers and architects. All around the world, green, eco-buildings are becoming the benchmark of expectation. Not so long ago, a green building would standout because of how different it was. It would be something new, even quirky, and something unfamiliar that not everyone was comfortable with.
Those days have long gone, however, with a realisation that green building is the way forward, with environmental benefits as well as those attached to finances and quality of life improvements.
Eco-friendly buildings aren’t yet at the stage where we can celebrate them as the final frontier of construction, however. Yes, the new designs of buildings and the materials used certainly mean that an office block can be carbon neutral, but are they sustainable in other ways? The evolution of green building, now and in the future, will center firmly around the ability of designers and construction professionals to create buildings that are not only eco-friendly, but sustainable for use in terms of how they deal with extreme weather or other natural events, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, for example.
Meeting the challenge of ensuring that a building can ‘always work’ has been an obstacle for designers. Placement of windows, for example, and the materials used within construction means that issues such as insufficient daylight are no longer an issue.
But what about when there is a power cut, or problems with the water supply?
To reach that searched for ‘final frontier’ that we mentioned earlier, designers need to make a building that can stand independently of central supplies such as electricity and water. This creates new challenges around energy recovery and storage as well as on-site water recycling, but it is possible to achieve results.
When a building is at the level where ‘always working’ has been achieved, a hurricane or other severe weather will then be minimally disruptive to it.
‘Always working’ represents a model for a truly sustainable building.
How It’s Made
The materials used are often the central focus of eco-building and have been responsible for many of the positive results seen in recent years. However, there is still a focus on developing eco-friendly construction materials further, and using them to best effect within a building.
So strong is this focus that there are now homes being constructed from ‘cob,’ and other similar compounds around the world. The great thing about these? They are lightweight, resistant to fire and earthquakes, and also stand up to events such as flooding and powerful winds.
The very meaning and identity of ‘green building’ is changing fast. Architects and designers that combine environmental benefits with true sustainability over the coming years are sure to find themselves in high demand.
Thoughts, comments? Know of a ‘cob’ home that we should get pictures of? Post in the comments section below.
Photo (c) Vector Foiltec
Today, a guest interview on the always timely topic of greenwashing. Alex Levin is a writer for Seeger Weiss LLP, a top ranking Plaintiff’s law firm specializing in consumer protection, commercial disputes, and defective product injuries. Please welcome Alex to the blog, as he shares a greenwashing interview with us. ______________________________________
As the public grows increasingly aware of the environmental costs associated with the modern consumer lifestyle, it also grows increasingly concerned. Such public concern has become a major factor in driving the industrial world to the adoption of an environmentally friendly façade, which has come to be known as greenwashing. While such companies may strive to be seen as addressing environmental concerns, not all of them are actually doing so, and some may be responsible for severe harm to the environment even while claiming to be catering to it. To what degree then can the government or the public regulate such “false advertisement,” or discern between those truly conscientious organizations and those which mislead?
James d’Entremont may be something of an expert on the topic of greenwashing. A Baton Rouge – based attorney for Moore, Thompson & Lee, he is also on the board of directors for the Louisiana chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), having both spoken and written extensively on the subject of greenwashing. He spoke to us about the surprising degree to which this rapidly growing practice is illegal, and what the public can do to fill the void left by the government’s limited involvement.
What measures has the US government taken and what measures do you think it should take to dissuade greenwashing?
James d’Entremont: The primary federal regulations aimed at preventing greenwashing are set forth in section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a) (1), and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, commonly known as “the Green Guides,” sets forth its interpretation of federal trade regulations governing environmental marketing claims. The Green Guides and accompanying regulations require that parties making environmental marketing claims pertaining to products and product-related services have a reasonable basis for substantiating their claims. According to the Green Guides, this “will often require competent and reliable scientific evidence” to back up the claim, 16 C.F.R. 260.5. Moreover, the Green Guides require that an “environmental marketing claim should not be presented in a manner that overstates the environmental attribute or benefit” of the product or service and, further, that marketers “should avoid implications of significant environmental benefits if the benefit is in fact negligible.” -16 C.F.R. 260.6(C).
The existing FTC regulations, while perhaps not perfect in every case, can provide a solid framework for adjudicating greenwashing claims. That said, because the Federal Trade Commission Act does not provide a private right of action, private litigants must resort to other federal or state laws to bring a greenwashing claim, citing the Green Guides and relevant regulations as a “measuring stick” to judge the reasonableness or culpability of the defendant’s conduct. Such actions may be based in state consumer protection laws, breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, commercial law or product liability. Depending on the nature of the claim, various federal statutes may also provide a basis for relief.
What measures has the public taken to discourage greenwashing and what should the layman do in response to this trend?
JD: Social media has played a big role in addressing claims of greenwashing. There are numerous blogs and websites addressing greenwashing in general and issues with specific products. For example, www.greenwashingindex.com is a website promoted by EnviroMedia Social Marketing and the University of Oregon that is devoted to identifying and indexing greenwashing claims across various industries and products. In addition to this and other similar sites, there are also websites, blogs and twitter feeds devoted to specific products such as sprayfoamdangers.com which is focused entirely on problems related to spray foam insulation. There are also an increasing number of private lawsuits addressing greenwashing claims.
As far as how the public should protect itself, the key is to seek clarification as to why the product or service is supposedly “green” and document any representations concerning the purported environmental attributes – as well as any potential environmental hazards – of the product or service. Often times, the purportedly green product or service has certain environmentally friendly attributes – which are being promoted – as well as certain not-so-environmentally-friendly attributes which are either not promoted or completely undisclosed.
What are some examples of products that might be greenwashed?
JD: For one example, polyurethane spray foam insulation (SPF) is widely touted as green because its superior insulating capabilities can make a home or other building dramatically more energy efficient. While this is certainly true, what is less well known – and what is generally omitted from marketing claims by SPF insulation manufacturers and installers – is that SPF is comprised of ingredients that, when evaluated individually, seem far from green. These include isocyanates, amines and various flame retardants. These chemicals are known irritants and, in the case of isocyanates, may cause sensitization or cause or aggravate asthma and other adverse health effects. As a result, if proper precautions are not taken or if the SPF insulation is not properly installed, building occupants may suffer adverse health effects caused by the chemicals in or emitted from the SPF insulation.
Moreover, SPF insulation may not be appropriate for certain consumers, such as people with pre-existing asthma, allergies or sensitivity to one or more constituent chemicals. In addition, because the SPF insulation dramatically “tightens” the house, there is less fresh air coming in from the outside which, in turn, may cause or trigger allergies due to increased moisture or airborne allergens. Unfortunately, homeowners are generally ignorant of this because these risks are typically not disclosed to them. Making matters worse, many manufacturers do not disclose all of the chemicals contained in their products. In contrast, the purported green attribute – energy efficiency – is typically highly promoted. The EPA is currently investigating health problems associated with SPF insulation and there are several individual lawsuits as well as at least one national class action, with more expected, seeking recovery of damages arising from this purportedly “green” product.
What factors encourage greenwashing?
JD: Rising consumer demand for environmentally friendly and high efficiency products and services is leading to more claims of greenwashing. I expect this market trend to continue with a corresponding increase in greenwashing claims.
Now, dear blog reader, it is your turn. Do you believe the green washing problems will get worse before they get better? Share your thoughts in the comment section of the blog.
As long-time blog readers may remember, last year I won the “Best Construction Blog” award from Construction Marketing Ideas, thanks in large part to you. The ”shameless marketing favor” post has come ’round again, with a twist.
Right now, Construction Law in North Carolina has been nominated for TWO different award competitions. If you have a minute (or two- get it?) to spare, I’d love your vote in both places:
- Construction Marketing Ideas “Best Construction Blog” contest. (Scroll down about halfway to find Construction Law in North Carolina. Note that this blog is not Construction Law Carolinas, which is colleague Greg Shelton’s very good Charlotte-based blog. You can, however, vote for *both* of us, and any other blog which strikes your fancy, as there is no limit to which nominees you can vote for. Voting ends 5 p.m. on March 30, 2012.
- JDR’s Annual Industry Blogger Award, in the “Construction Business” category. (Full disclosure: this one comes with a small $ stipend if I by any chance win!). Voting ends April 13, 2012.
Would love to have your votes in one or both! And be sure to check out all the other fine blogs at both contests– you will find some gems among the nominees.
Photo: (c) Matt @ stupidfresh