For the members of the Construction Contractors' Alliance of the PHCC, it was "A Total Industry Experience." The September 18-20 conference included hot-button topics like mold and the economy, and also featured a well-rounded panel of speakers from all aspects of the industry. Not to mention the luxurious accommodations and activities the group experienced at the hands of one of the world's leaders in comfort and style - Kohler Co.

Held at the American Club resort hotel in Kohler, Wis., CCA members were treated to a Kohler factory tour and opening reception by the company, as well as a keynote speech by Ron Pace, president of Plumbing Americas for Kohler. Pace spoke mostly about the state of the economy, and offered forecasts and trends to watch in the industry.

"There are little shortages in the housing market," Pace said on the opening day of seminars. "But it's a slow recovery; an anemic growth. The economy is fundamentally strong We have to have the confidence to let it happen."

Pace has full responsibility for the Kohler, Sterling and Kallista brands, and shared some statistics with the group about changes occurring in residential bathrooms:

  • Master baths have doubled in size, growing from 75 sq.-ft. in 1970 to more than 136 sq.-ft. today.
  • There are more baths - and bigger baths - being constructed in 21st century homes.
  • Home comfort and mass personalization has fueled the bathroom remodeling sector.

'Dealing With The Mold Issue'

Co-sponsored by the Kohler/PHCC Educational Foundation Seminar Series, a panel of three speakers offered insights into dealing with mold as a construction contractor.

Covering the legal aspect of mold was attorney Lance Smith who represents builders, general contractors and individual tradesmen. He has been working in the mold field for the last five years developing and supervising mold investigation and remediation programs, and has written various guidelines on how to practically deal with the mold crisis.

The mold issue has legs for another five to six years, according to Smith, so contractors will need to deal with it head-on.

"Give clients reliable brochures," suggests Smith, who told the group the last place they should send homeowners for information on mold is the Internet. "A simple Yahoo! search brings up the first 100 sites for plaintiff attorneys, each a big flashy ad screaming, 'Mold Is Killing You!'"

Ian Cull, PE, is an environmental engineer at the Chelsea Group, an indoor air quality firm. He is a certified indoor environmentalist and has taught numerous courses on moisture intrusion.

Cull dispelled some myths of mold, and offered scientific data about the issue as it stands today.

Addressing the mounting legal and insurance fees associated with mold was Kenneth Anderson, the managing director of Gallagher Environmental Risk and Insurance group, an expertise team within Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. His job is to design appropriate risk management and insurance programs for clients, which includes several contracting firms.

Anderson highlighted a few high-profile mold cases, including the Honolulu Hilton, a $95 million hotel that had to close all 453 rooms in July after discovering an outbreak of toxic mold. He cautioned the group about rising insurance risks for mold removal and maintenance. An estimated 16,000 mold claims have been filed with insurers since 1999.

"Insurers fear mold because of its frequency, severity, it's a popular cause, and because of the media's reaction," said Anderson, and noted that most commercial property carriers seek to exclude mold, without regard to whether it results from a covered peril. Insurance companies are no longer selling subcontract/homebuilder policies in some states.

Here are some other facts the CCA took away from this well-rounded mold seminar:

  • $276.5 million has been paid out in mold claims in Texas by Allstate, Farmers and State Farm between January 2000 to June 2001;
  • Estimated 2002 premiums will be $2 billion;
  • Mold claims for a single case in the Phipps Apartments in New York City ($12 billion) total about 50 percent more than the cost to rebuild the World Trade Center ($6.7 billion).
The panel concluded that the first order of business for any contractor that is dealing with mold is to develop a company mold program that establishes procedures to prevent mold. It should also create a mold response protocol, and review and monitor its insurance coverage for mold.

The CCA ended its round of seminars with a virtual tour of one of its members' facilities. Bill and Stephen Jones of Raven Mechanical, Houston, Texas, showed the CCA how their 23-year-old plumbing and mechanical construction company takes each project through a step-by-step preplanning process.

Raven does 74 percent plumbing work with revenues at more than $21 million. The company was also proud to announce its expansion of its pre-fab shop with the purchase of an adjacent lot and building.

The virtual tour is a staple for CCA seminars, and gives its members a chance to take a closer look at how others in the industry get the job done.

The next CCA meeting will take place Feb. 6-8 at the Wigwam Resort in Phoenix, Ariz. Topics to be discussed will be risk allocation and fabrication. For more information call 800/533-7694.