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Re: GSBN:SB Registry Insurance info



Bill,

This is a sorry state of affairs!  We have several buildings insured by
State Farm at the present time and, in the past, they were my first referral
because they didn't question sb at all. This regional manager obviously does
not know that State Farm's local agents and regional office has insured
straw-bale buildings in the past, even though the owners did not hide the
fact that their buildings were constructed with straw bales as
infill/insulation. 

Here's what I received as a reply to my inquiry to our State Farm regional
manager in their regional office here in Lincoln as their concerns with
straw-bale construction:  There was a long delay in replying to my inquiry,
and this letter was received only after a follow-up telephone call to the
regional manager.

"There has not been a change in State Farm's underwriting position regarding
straw-bale construction. It is not an acceptable form of construction and
State Farm's intent is to not knowingly insure a straw-bale home.

"The company has a number of concerns with straw-bale construction. Some of
our concerns are: 

¥ Few jurisdictions have building codes or inspection criteria for
straw-bale buildings. This is a concern because the construction process may
be unregulated and contractors who are unfamiliar with straw-bale
construction requirements may install the utility systems in an incorrect
manner. Proper installation of utilities is critical.

¥ Casual labor is often involved in the construction. It is difficult to
verify that the builders of a straw-bale building were qualified or that
they built the structure correctly.

¥ There are an insufficient number of straw-bale homes to permit development
of adequate rating, underwriting and loss criteria.

¥ Little is known about the ability to repair or replace damaged building
components. There could be difficulty finding a qualified contractor to do
repair work.

¥ Accurate replacement cost estimates can be difficult to develop.

¥ The ability to repair or replace damaged building components is unknown.
In addition, there may be few people available to do qualified repair work
in the area where the loss occurs. Either factor could drive up claim costs
substantially.
 
¥ Straw-bale buildings are susceptible to fire if not properly protected,
additionally, if straw becomes damp, it can spontaneously combust. We
recognize that properly compacted straw bales will not burn quickly,
however, they will smolder for long periods and thus can e harder to
extinguish.

"State Farm monitors construction technology continuously. Should the
factors affecting straw-bale construction become more favorable, we will be
better postured to reevaluate our current position."

I was surprised no mention was made of concerns about mold or mildew, as
that was one of the claim situations (along with natural disasters - floods,
tornadoes, forest fires - which occurred in 2002) that prompted State Farm
to stop writing any type of homeowners insurance for six months (latter part
of 2002 and early into 2003).

Perhaps the GSBN members could work together to provide informed responses
to State Farm and share information that would educate their attorneys,
underwriters and claims adjusters about straw-bale construction.

Joyce

Joyce Coppinger
jc10508@...

on 8/26/03 1:04 AM, billc_lists@...
billc_lists@...:

> Hi folks,
> 
> I'm sad to report that I've temporarily taking the list of insurance
> references from the Straw Bale Registry offline.
> 
> It seems that someone used a listed home in the registry as a
> reference in their attempt to get insurance with one of the larger
> home insurers, State Farm.  The referenced home was insured by State
> Farm, and the owners had been completely on the level with them about
> the construction methods - the plans they submitted were even titled
> "Straw Bale Home".
> 
> When the new application came in, State Farm took their heads out of
> a certain dark place and decided to *drop* the insurance for the
> referenced home.
> 
> Rumor has it that they were also planning on going through the
> Registry and dropping any other bale homes that they insured.  If
> you're currently covered by State Farm, I'd suggest getting your
> ducks in a row to change to another insurer, just in case.
> 
> This of course is exactly the opposite effect from what we had
> intended for the Registry.  I'm *quite* disappointed by this
> development.
> 
> I'll be going through the code and removing the insurance company
> reference from the individual house listings next.
> 
> Should you need insurance information for your area, feel free to
> contact me.  I'll be re-thinking how/whether I'll be allowing anyone
> to retrieve the insurance data in the future, though we'll continue
> to collect it for research and statistical purposes at the very
> least. (suggestions welcome).
> 
> 
> For those of you who are new here, the Registry
> (http://sbregistry.sustainablesources.com) is an attempt to collect and
> disseminate data about strawbale construction: where and when they've
> been built, by whom, using what construction techniques, who has
> mortgaged and insured them, what problems were encountered, and which
> ones are open to having visitors.
> 
> The registry currently lists 933 bale buildings in 19 countries,
> including 255 spread among 41 US states.
> 
> If you have built or designed a straw bale building, please consider
> listing it, and please encourage your friends in straw buildings to
> do the same.