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The Property Restoration Industry and the Green Building Industry: Ripe for Integration

Wednesday, December 22, 2021 1:35 PM | Kim Pyszka (Administrator)

Have you heard of Belfor Property Restoration, Servpro, or CRP Contracting? These are some of the largest property restoration companies in the U.S.

Companies like these typically provide residential and commercial fire, water, wind, mold/biohazard cleanup, disinfection, and reconstruction services.

For example, Belfor with over 7,000 employees and more than 150 locations in North America boasts over 450 locations around the world. Servpro has grown since its founding in 1967 to more than 1,700 franchises with over 1,900 locations in the United States and Canada.

Why are such companies important stakeholders in sustainability?

Property restoration services are increasingly needed to address the greater frequency and intensity of both small-scale and large-scale disasters. The annual market of the American property restoration industry has skyrocketed to well over $200 billion. During the past three years, 60% of restoration contractors surveyed predicted American industry revenues growing in the 25% range each year.

For example, on the small-scale side of the disaster continuum, let’s take a quick look at some data about water and mold damage. According to Water Damage Defense, an estimated 14,000 people in the U.S. suffer water damage at home or work each day. And within a homeowner’s lifetime, 98% of basements in the U.S. will flood.

Mold growth often accompanies water damage. Mold growth can also occur without water damage. A case in point, some modern, energy saving homes have very tight building envelopes, but were constructed without frequent air exchanges. Under these circumstances, with or without the owner’s knowledge or awareness, mold can thrive due to limited air movement.

On the macro-level, the chart below from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the alarming trend line of climate and weather disasters in the U.S. overtime that cost $1 billion or greater. Over the period from 1980 to 2020, these disasters cost over $2.2 trillion.

What are the implications for green design and construction?

Historically, USGBC Chapters have focused on green built environment projects that either involve new construction or remodeling. Architects, engineers, and construction (AEC) personnel deserve accolades for helping green buildings become more of the norm.

However, there is a gap between the green building community and the property restoration community. The green building community has been squarely focused on eco-friendly new construction and remodeling for decades; the property restoration community has an interest in green design and construction, but this hasn’t been their primary area of emphasis.

Concerted efforts by the green community must be made to bridge this gap. Beyond the collaborative business potentials, the existential threats from climate change, including sea level rise, wildfires, superstorms, earthquakes, epidemics and pandemics, and mass extinction demand is integration.

Here are a few kick-off ideas for USGBC chapters and green AEC professionals:

  • 1)      Reach out to property restoration companies in your area. Create forums that may be of interest to them. Work toward their joining your USGBC chapter or other green building associations. Gain understanding about the work they do and discover synergies together.
  • 2)      Give greater emphasis to resilience. Explore the use of the RELi™ 2.0 Rating System (RELi 2.0). It’s a resilience-based rating system for neighborhoods, homes, commercial buildings and infrastructure. Learn about FORTIFIED. This insurance carrier financed home, commercial, and re-roofing program uses research supported approaches to strengthen buildings against severe weather.
  • 3)      Support green/disaster recovery/resilience training and credentialing. Associations like AIAand ASCEas well as NIBShave developed important initiatives that can help inform professionals and be woven into webinar presentations. Some non-profits like Green Advantage offer ANSI-accredited credentials that can be utilized to advance green/disaster recovery/resilient means, methods, materials, and best practices for construction-related personnel.

This is just a partial list of ideas to consider. I’m sure you and other readers can add more. By working together, these two industries can make critical strides toward greater sustainability in the built environment.

© New Hampshire Chapter, U.S. Green Building Council
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