Large construction projects are often difficult to finance because of high costs and increased risk. One way to decrease the cost of the project and lessen the risk is through “wrap-up” insurance programs.
Under this type of program, one group of insurance policies covers all parties involved in the project for the length of time it takes to complete the project. This insurance is underwritten for the specific exposures of the project and it protects the project owner, contractors, and all subcontractors. Most wrap-ups include workers’ compensation, general and excess liability, and builder’s risk coverage. Wrap-ups can also include professional liability, environment liability and other essential coverages.
These wrap-up programs can be initiated either by the project owner or the general contractor. When the owner controls them, they are referred to as “owner controlled” insurance programs (OCIP). When the general contractor intiates the program, it is called a “contractor controlled” insurance program (CCIP). The minimum size for a wrap-up to make sense is generally $100 to $150 million in hard construction costs.
The most common reason that wrap-ups are used is for potential cost savings. Subcontractors always include in their bids the cost of insurance for a project. Depending on the type of work the subcontractor performs and location of the work being performed, the subcontractor’s insurance cost could add several percentage points to their bid amount. By insuring all of the subcontractors under one insurance program, the owner/general contractor can realize a substantial savings.
Wrap-ups not only save money on premiums, but additional cost savings can be gained through the design of the insurance program itself. Many wrap-ups are written using risk sharing techniques, such as larger deductibles or retrospective rating. Retrospective rating is a premium calculation formula in which the final premium is not determined until the end of the coverage period. The insurerreviews the owner/general contractor’s losses after the policy ends, and adjusts the premium based on those losses.However, the premium is subject to a maximum and minimum. If a project is well run, this can result in a significant premium reduction. Wrap-ups have also been written at fixed rates for the duration of the project.
Another reason for a wrap-up is that it enables an owner/general contractor to fulfill Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) requirements on public projects. If the controlling government authority of a project requires that minority contractors must be hired, a wrap-up may be the only way to meet this standard. That’s because many minority contractors may not be able to afford the level of coverage required by the government authority and would be unable to bid on the project. If the owner/general contractor is providing all necessary coverage, this removes the obstacle of being unable to pay for insurance that would prevent an MBE or WBE from bidding.
Aside from potential cost savings, wrap-up programs can also provide a measure of asset protection for owners. With most construction projects, contractors are individually required to secure and maintain the minimum insurance required under their contract. While owners may have a certificate of insurance to verify coverage, there is no guarantee at the time of a loss that the insurance will be in force, the coverage will be sufficient, or the necessary limits will be available due to the contractor’s claims activity at other projects. This is a critical aspect that is often overlooked during the decision making process.