Just before the July 4 holiday, Fireman’s Fund, which launched the green building property insurance market back in 2006, released what it is calling its “next generation” of green building policy endorsements. Calling it a “significant enhancement to what’s currently available in the marketplace,” Fireman’s Fund’s Steve Bushnell also introduced a “Green Financial Incentive Coverage” policy that provides policyholders with protection from the loss of green building-related financial incentives, including tax credits and deductions, utility rebates, and loan discounts, for a period of two (2) years after the loss.
According to Mr. Bushnell, the new endorsement evinces Fireman’s Fund’s “deeper understanding of evolving green building construction and insurance issues.” David Cohen, the company’s senior director of real estate, called the policy “a powerful incentive as many new green buildings are built with these cost savings factored in. Every day, new incentives are introduced – both from the utilities and the government at the local, state and federal level – incenting property owners to build green and losses could get in the way of that.”
This latter point, of course, is one we make frequently here at GRELJ in the context of design and construction agreements and leases; the pace of regulatory activity continues to make translating legislative requirements into contract documents a major challenge. The new endorsement also appears to be – at least implicitly – an acknowledgment of the $600,000.00 in lost tax credits which the developer suffered in the Shaw Development litigation, though it is unclear whether – under the terms and conditions of the endorsement – the developer’s loss would have been covered.
In addition to the new endorsement, Fireman’s Fund simultaneously announced that it has made further refinements to its existing line of green building coverage, including:
- Broadening eligibility for post-loss green upgrades to include all real and personal property that more efficiently uses energy or water, improves human health or reduces environmental impact (such as alternative energy generating equipment and water systems or green roofs);
- Combining four of its endorsements – three commercial and one manufacturing – into a single endorsement, which also includes coverage for building commissioning;
- For certified buildings, coverage now allows the insured to attain certification at one level above the certified green building level that the insured had prior to the loss or damage (i.e. LEED Gold instead of Silver);
- Vegetated roof coverage has now been extended to vegetated swales and other vegetation that reduces the heat island effect, including vegetated walls. This coverage now applies to both certified and traditional buildings (previously it was only for certified buildings); and
- Coverage has also been expanded to include porous paving – water permeable paving that allows water to drain into the ground to help manage water flow.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about the press release is Fireman Fund’s acknowledgement that, to date, approximately 1500 commercial property insurance policyholders have purchased one of the company’s green building endorsements (though there is no information on how many claims have been asserted against those policies). It goes without saying – as always – that you should review your policies of insurance – property, professional liability, builder’s risk, or otherwise – with heightened scrutiny in connection with your green construction project to confirm exactly what additional insurance – if any – you may need to procure.