The sky is not falling. Despite claims of "lifetime warranty" and a never-ending push toward "low maintenance," (neither of which is something new), homebuilding in the U.S. will continue to have plenty of opportunities and jobs for maintenance, repair, remodeling and renovation (ENR 2/2 p. 48).
Entering the construction industry as a carpenter and tile setter who cut his teeth in housing (tract developments, custom homes, and finally urban renovation), I would assert that the need to fix something thats broken will continue to account for only a small proportion of the growing volume of post-occupancy construction. Most of the work will continue to be generated by the desire for improvement, whether due to changes in users, use, satisfaction, expectations, income, status or technology.
No doubt there will continue to be changes in the homebuilding industry. I am not certain that were always worse off for whats missing. Although I know how to patch plaster and tooth-in a T&G board sub floor, I am glad we have gypsum board and plywood.
Brokers Should Know
You did a commendable job reporting on the hard insurance market in your recent issue (ENR 1/26 p. 52). However, while insurance companies may deserve some of the criticism leveled in your editorial, Im not certain they should be criticized for failing to communicate changes in policy language.
Insurers rightly view one of the primary roles of agents and brokers to be communicating information such as this. One of the many value-added services that a professional agent or broker should be providing to contractor customers is careful analysis of policy language, including identifying any important changes from one policy year to another.
Your editorial asks, "Why arent changes like this being posted so that contractors, as well as agents, know about them in advance?" Advance information about policy form changes along with independent analysis of the implications of those changes is available to agents/ brokers, as well as interested construction companies, by subscribing to insurance industry reference services and attending industry conferences.
Agents and brokers who are committed to serving the construction industry do this, as do many construction company managers with risk management and insurance purchasing responsibilities. If a contractors agent or broker isnt keeping up with coverage changes and alerting the contractor of their implications well in advance of renewal, it is probably time to seek a new agent or broker who will.
February 16, 2004