Insurance company opens smart home claims training center (video)
Some of the more than 300 AMIG employees who built the training home celebrate its completion.
Solar panels and smart thermostats used to be cutting edge devices, but not any more. More homeowners are incorporating smart and high performance technologies into their homes, and the financial side of the residential industry is pushing to keep up.
As appraisers and lenders adopt green home valuation strategies, home insurance providers like American Modern Insurance Group are learning as well by building a two-story home that incorporates smart and green home technology.
The 1,471 square foot, two-story house was built in AMIG’s 50,000 square-foot-claims training center, located in Amelia, Ohio. The house, which features smart technology, sustainable building materials and increased security measures, will be used as part of the company’s hands-on claims training curriculum.
"We want to be able to identify the system so they know a home doesn't necessarily have a $40,00 upgrade, smart home technology can be done over time," Lewandoski said. "We're learning that as green flooring like bamboo and cork become popular, we have to be able to identify it because there can be huge prices differences."
Sister company Hartford Steam Boiler contributed and installed the smart home technologies. Both companies are members of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), which is also a partner in the company’s LivingWise initiative.
The house was built with sustainable and environmentally friendly materials, including bamboo and cork flooring, low volatile organic compounds paint, concrete countertops and carpet made from recycled plastic bottles.
Smart technology features include a thermostat, keyless entry doorway, camera security, water sensors, carbon dioxide and smoke detectors and full voice-controlled home automation. The garage was built to meet the IBHS's FORTIFIED construction standards, which will make it more resistant to high winds and hail.
The high performance home joins the single story home, commercial roof structure, motorcycled, water craft, manufactured home and other simulators in AMIG's claims training center. The company decided to add a two-story home incorporating the latest technology.
"Because the risks are changing what better way to have a home that you can train on," said Shannon Lewandoski, training specialist. "And if you can build a new home you can implement the stuff you like smart and green technologies that our adjusters might be seeing in inspections."
During training classes the home will receive real-world damage, and the trainees will have to assess the damage and actually do the repairs. The laundry room on the second floor will flood, and cause damage in the dining room.
"Our adjusters will see it flooded and scope out the damages and then actually go in and extract water and learn how to do humidity measuring and monitoring of the equipment, and dry it out," Lewandoski said. "They can see what's dried out and can be saved and what has to be replaced."
Other rooms will be staged to represent various claims, such as vandalism and smoke damage.
"Students will actually measure around furniture, look at policies, and make assessments and estimates," Lewandoski said.
The company is preparing its adjusters for when then may encounter these building products and technologies when insured customers file claims.
"We wanted to get out in front of it because we know the interest is out there for both green and smart homes, and we anticipated that we'll be seeing it in inspections when our adjusters go out," Lewandoski said. "We wanted to have someplace for them to be able to identify these materials so when they're out the field they can write the estimate properly."
One of the goals is to equip adjusters so they don't have to rely solely on information from the homeowners about green technologies. Adjuster have to know that smart technology can be brought into a home a smart switch or outlet at a time and may to represent a large upfront investment, and finishes and furnishings can vary widely in costs.
The goal is to serve insured customers better by understanding the latest in green and smart home technology.
"The point of insurance is to put things back to the moment before the loss, so we have to have our adjuster be able to identify materials and ask questions like are these new high performance windows, so we're able to adequately pay the claim," Lewandoski said.
Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.www