When you’re ready to build your dream house from the ground up, you’ll want to make decisions that create strong foundations for the future. In the early stages of the project, you may spend time selecting the perfect location, choosing the right architect, and planning the style and design of your new home. While most homeowners only start thinking about protecting their homes after completing construction, it can be easier to plan for safety before you break ground. 

Kevin Aikman, a vice president and risk manager at AIG Private Client Group, has observed that “acting early is key” in helping to safeguard a home and protect the homeowner and their family. “As a residential risk manager and former firefighter, I have seen countless examples of hazards that could have been avoided had different decisions been made up front,” Aikman explains. “For example, if a home is situated far from a fire hydrant, I might suggest installing a water tank on the property. However, that can be quite disruptive after the residential construction is completed.”

Are you asking yourself which factors you should consider to help create a safer home with less stress? Aikman recommends that you take these 10 major factors into account during the planning process to help maximize the safety and security of your custom home:  

  1. Location: If you live in an area prone to natural disasters (hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, floods) or freezing temperatures, there are precise recommendations to maximize safety and lessen the chance of related damage. Encourage your builder to go beyond standard building codes when additional safety measures can be employed.
  2. Family safety: I can personally attest to the importance of this often-overlooked step and can’t stress it enough: Install a residential fire sprinkler system to protect your family and possessions.
  3. Security: Go beyond fire and burglar alarms and consider a home monitoring system or interior/exterior surveillance cameras. If you employ household staff, assign individual alarm codes to all employees to monitor their activity.
  4. Building materials: Consider pre-treated wood products that are fire resistant and protect the home from fungal and insect infestation. You can also elect more energy-efficient and environmentally conscious design options on the market today, such as geothermal heating/cooling (renewable energy stored within the earth to heat and cool the home).
  5. Household water damage: Plumbing leaks are the leading cause of home insurance claims, not to mention a major frustration. Consider installing a whole-house automatic water shut-off system, which can be programmed to monitor personal water use patterns and be easily integrated into a security system.
  6. External flooding: Your builder can install engineered openings, called “smart vents,” in the foundation and breakaway walls. Another consideration is using free board to raise your home above the predicted flood elevations for your area.
  7. Wind damage: Even if you live elsewhere, consider using products that meet the strict Miami-Dade, Fla., specifications for exterior glass (windows and doors) and shutters. You can also install impact-rated entry and garage doors.
  8. Gas leaks: Earthquakes are occurring more frequently and can impact unexpected areas. A gas shut-off valve will automatically shut off your home’s gas supply in the event of a 5.4 or greater earthquake.
  9. Lightning: You never know where lightning will strike. Lightning rods help protect against fire and damage to increasingly sophisticated electronic systems.
  10. Valuables and art: Build a safe into the framework of your home that is U.L.-listed and fire-rated for at least two hours. If you plan to display art, choose windows with ultraviolet filters.

Interested in learning how we’re helping some of AIG Private Client Group’s customers build smarter, safer homes from the ground up? Read Part I in our series on custom home protection and watch the video below.

AIG Private Client Group, a division of the member companies of American International Group, Inc., specializes in the protection of luxury and custom homes. Over the years our risk managers have visited tens of thousands of properties to advise on safety measures and other concerns. We’ve seen what works—and what doesn’t. In many instances, we’ve found that costly damage could have been avoided if different decisions were made from the start. Armed with this experience, we created Smart Build, a complimentary service for policyholders who are ready to begin the construction of a new home or major renovation. (Eligibility requirements may apply.)


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