It’s Not Easy Being Green

Green home construction is fraught with challenges, including increased costs and the potential for bigger losses.

Environmentally friendly home building and renovations are on the rise. People are incorporating solar panels and low-volatile organic materials into their houses, and they’re spending extra money on lumber and carpeting and paints that won’t harm the environment or make them ill.

It usually requires some extra “green” to go green, so the investment should not be taken lightly. But what does it mean to be green? Today, a green home is defined as one that is built to be cost effective to own and operate, will provide a healthier living environment for its occupants and minimal destruction to the ecosystem during and after its construction. A green home incorporates elements of four major building concepts: Energy efficiency, indoor air quality, conservation of natural resources and water quality protection.

According to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook report, green homes comprise more than 20 percent of the new home market. This share is expected to increase to nearly 30% by 2016.

In addition to new construction, many homeowners are including green elements in home renovations. The installation of solar panels is one of the most visible home improvements designed to make a home more energy efficient, but homeowners are also installing geothermal heating systems and wind turbines.

A geothermal heating system can provide significant long-term savings for a homeowner, but it is expensive to install and costly to replace. If a residential property has a solar panel field or a wind turbine, the homeowner may require insurance coverage for “other structures.” In addition, solar panels mounted on the roof of a home—a common sight—are exposed to damage from falling tree branches, hail and strong winds. The roof mounts may also lead to leaks in the roof, which can cause expensive damage to the home and more than offset the energy savings from the solar panels.

Homeowners are also seeking alternative construction materials that are ecologically sustainable, such as bamboo or cork flooring or framing made from recycled materials. These, too, can be more expensive than traditional lumber and manmade products.

Green home construction and renovations are a worthwhile investment, but homeowners should know what they’re getting into. And they should keep their insurance agents informed, too, so that they have sufficient homeowners coverage in the event of a loss.

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