Archive for the ‘Green Building’ Category

Cut Your Risks: Build – or Rebuild – Sustainably

Cut Your Risks: Build – or Rebuild – Sustainably

This article was contributed by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley, Editor of the blog. Carrie has been writing insurance news and consumer information for since 2008. She graduated from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington in 2005 with a B.A. in Professional Writing and Journalism.

Green building practices do more than protect the environment, and smart homeowners have more than energy savings to gain when they strive to comply with LEED requirements. Homes built with sustainable, energy-efficient materials are proving to be less vulnerable to wind, hail and water, making them better investments for homebuyers and more attractive to insurers seeking to lessen risk. This could mean lower insurance premiums for homeowners who take steps to increase their homes’ sustainability.  

Shelter from the storm

Extreme weather is nothing new to Louisiana, but the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was particularly severe.  The need to rethink building practices became all too clear overnight. If there is a silver lining to be found in the Katrina disaster, it’s that those communities devastated by the hurricane have had – and still have – the opportunity to rebuild in such a way that should make them better able to withstand the next storm that blows through.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports an average cost of more than $6,000 to mitigate an insurance claim caused by severe weather. According to the III, Hurricane Katrina cost $16.2 billion in insurance claims, averaging $96,821 each. Consider how much lower this might have been if more homes and businesses had been built using impact-resistant roofing materials such as aluminum or steel that can withstand not only fire but wind, hail and flying debris. Some insurance companies already offer premium discounts to Louisiana homeowners who install these roofing upgrades.

It pays to upgrade your home

Water damage claims typically cost insurance companies around $7,000, according to the III, and make up almost 25% of homeowners claims in the U.S.  In an effort to bring this average down, some insurance companies may offer lower premiums for homes that earn Indoor Water Efficiency points by complying with the LEED v2009 requirement of 20% water savings.

Following are some other upgrades that could lower your homeowners insurance costs:

  • New plumbing systems
  • Updated HVAC systems
  • Modernized electrical systems

Updating these systems in your home can help you avoid expensive water damage, mold and fire claims. Insurance companies recognize that you are lowering your chance of filing claims and are likely to reward your efforts.

The benefits of green building are so great that some homeowners insurance companies now offer green replacement coverage for standard homes.  If a non-LEED certified home is damaged or devastated by covered peril, green replacement covers the cost to rebuild using sustainable, energy-efficient materials.

Savvy homeowners know that saving energy and materials are the underlying reasons to go green. But they also understand that the value of sustainable building goes beyond those savings. One way you could realize that value is by lowering your home insurance risk, which could mean lower home insurance premiums.

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Posted in:     Construction News, Green Building, Hurricane, Insurance  /  Tags: , ,   /   Leave a comment

Mediation! New Service Available at Wolfe Law

Seth J. Smiley, partner at Wolfe Law Group, LLC and author of is now a formally trained mediator. New Orleans just hosted the AAAU’s (American Arbitration Association University), Essential Skills for the New Mediator workshop in downtown, hosted by Neil Carmichael.

Why would parties want to mediate a dispute instead of going to court? That answer is easy, yet has many factors. The most important are that mediation is less expensive and much more efficient compared to litigation. But the most important factor is that the parties control their own outcome, rather than a group of strangers (jury).

So if you are in a dispute and are looking for an economical, logical and swift conclusion that is mutually agreeable between you and your adversary, then mediation may be just what you are looking for. Contact the Wolfe Law Group, LLC for more details.

Posted in:     About Our Services, Arbitration & ADR, Business Matters, California, Collections, Construction News, Disputes, Green Building, Insurance, Litigation, Louisiana, Oregon, Washington  /  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,   /   1 Comment

Think Green Building Risks Are Overstated? Check Out San Juan’s Green Roof Project

San Juan, TX set out to install a beautiful green roof on a city building, but after some engineering work was performed, the roof had to be decreased substantially in size because it would not be able to support the additional weight. The story was reported by a local publication, The Monitor.

It seems the green roof weight issue came as a surprise to the local planners, who already received a grant for the installation. It shouldn’t come as a complete surprise to readers of our blog. We proposed this exact thing as a potential problem with green roofs in an October 2010 blog post: Examples of Things That Can Go Wrong With Green Building Projects. I’ve mentioned it a number number of times in various presentations I’ve given on Green Building.

The good news is that San Juan discovered this problem before the roof’s installation, reminding us that engineering reports and review of green jobs on the front end can pay dividends in the long run. This weight problem could have easily gone the other way, with the problem discovered during or after the installation.

Posted in:     Green Building  /  Tags: , ,   /   2 Comments

Is Obama’s “Better Buildings” Initiative Real or Rhetoric?

Earlier this month President Obama unveiled an initiative to make buildings more energy efficient in America. The Wall Street Journal simply summarized the President’s goals and rationale with the following:

[The program will provide] tax breaks and other proposal aimed at getting commerical-building owners to retrofit their structures to be more energy efficient, an initiate [the President] hopes to fund with higher taxes on oil and gas companies.

President Obama introduced the program with this statement:

[O]ur homes and businesses consume 40 percent of the energy we use…So the good news is we can change all that. Making our buildings more energy-efficient is one of the fastest, easiset and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs right herein the United States of America.

The plan for Better Buildings is outlined in a White House “Fact Sheet,” which you can view online here.  There is a lot of fluff in this fact sheet on the initiative’s ideas, and even more fluff on the White House’s Energy and Environment blog. I count 5 blog posts from February 3rd (the day the program was announced) touting this “Better Buildings” program. Administration officials, however, have yet to identify a cost for the program, or any specifics as to how anyone can utilize the program.

Obama says that all this information is forthcoming…can it be an important benefit to the green building industry?  We’ll soon see.  Here is a clip from the speech at Penn State when Obama announced the program:

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Solar Panels Now Allowed in New Orleans Historic French Quarter?

Last week, the New Orleans City Council voted to approve the installation of solar panels on a home in the city’s historic French Quarter. This would seem to be  no-brainer for the city, which is one of America’s 20 Solar Cities and has pushed solar energy with tax credits and other programs, but it was only allowed after some controversy. (See Solar Energy tag).

The vote of the city council was on appeal from the homeowner, after his request to install the solar panels was denied by the Vieux Carre Commission. The commission complained that the solar panels are outside the “soul and character” of the French Quarter.

Green building technologies and the industry has a whole certainly has its challenges, and we’ve discussed them in the past on this blog. This situation, however, presents an interesting issue confronting those in the green building industry that we really haven’t previously discussed: Successfully getting through homeowner associations and municipal control with energy efficiency equipment that just isn’t very pretty.

As far as popular support goes, it seems to be in the corner of progress and incorporation of this technology. ran a poll asking readers whether the solar panels should have been allowed, and as of this writing, 76.88% of people said yes (372 votes, poll here).

It will be interesting to see more of these situations pop-up across the country, and not just involving municipalities, but also involving homeowner and condominium associations. When a municipality or homeowners association denies a request for incorporation of these technologies, will the property owner have a remedy in law to force acceptance?

Insofar as this decision, it appears to only concern the one property petitioned. As such, there is no blanket rule allowing solar panels in the French Quarter, and the next resident will first have to go to the Vieux Carre Commission and their obvious disposition to deny the request. But, this is a welcoming precedent for those in the New Orleans solar market, and french quarter property owners.

Posted in:     Green Building  /  Tags: , , ,   /   3 Comments