Monday, May 27, 2013

New Perspectives: Sustainable Living in Boston

Boston is nothing if not sustainable; historic buildings all around the city provide proof of it. But Sustainable Living, in the modern sense, doesn't just mean how long a structure stands; instead, it's tied to how long we can make the planet last. Modern sustainable homes are built to be sturdier, safer and, when it comes to electricity, stingier. All those things can help reduce the risk of filing a home insurance claim, which will make your newer Boston home cost less to insure.

But the sustainable lifestyle isn't just for newly built homes. Using green building techniques to update an old house also can lower risks of damage from fire, water and wind, among other covered perils. Many Boston residents have learned this in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, choosing to rebuild using sustainable materials and methods.

Following are a few features or parts of a home where green building techniques can help reduce risks, whether your house is in Charlestown or Dorchester and whether it was built in the 17th century or the 21st.
Modern electrical wiring

Fire is of the most devastating of all the bad things that can happen to a house. Payouts from blazes average $30,000. Don't think it can happen to you? There are 500,000 structure fires every year in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association. Every 82 seconds, there is a residential fire. Many are caused by homes that fall short of current safety codes, including having outdated fuse boxes and ungrounded power outlets.

The electrical systems in green homes primarily are designed to save energy, regardless of whether they're the original system or a renovated one. That's why they earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design points for their homes. But they also minimize the risk of house fires, which could make owners eligible for lower home insurance premiums.

Heating and cooling systems
A heating system is a given in Boston, but you might think you can get away without a cooling system. Wrong. Many providers require them to cut the chance of mold. However, failures of air conditioning systems are responsible at least in part for about 2,500 home fires a year, the NFPA says. Heating system failures lead to frozen and burst pipes, which are responsible each year for about $5 billion in claims.
Modern heated and cooling systems use less energy and can greatly reduce threats caused by severe weather, making homes safer and again lowering the chance of claims.

Plumbing and pipes
Cold weather isn't the only potential problem for pipes and plumbing. Older fixtures and pipes are more prone to failure, which could lead to water damage. Green plumbing systems are designed to use less water, but they also are sturdier, which again means less likelihood of having a problem that would require a claim.

The roof
Sustainable roofs use highly reflective steel and aluminum over at least 75% of their surface area. This helps make them energy efficient. But steel and aluminum also are some of the strongest, most fire-resistant materials around and can help roofs stand up to harsh weather such as wind and hail. Because a roof made from such materials is safer, it also can cost less to insure.

Planning for the future
If you can’t afford to convert your current home into an eco-friendly paradise just yet, you can still plan ahead. Some insurance providers offer green coverage for homes that aren't certified by LEED or other green programs such as ENERGY STAR for New Homes or Enterprise Green communities. This protection will help pay to rebuild or replace your home with green materials and more energy-efficient products if your residence is ever damaged or destroyed by a covered peril.

This article was contributed by Shannon Casey, writer for With a background in comedy and playwriting, Shannon branched into blogging and marketing in 2011, writing for several national brands. She graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, in 2010 with a B.A. in Liberal Arts.

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