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Building Insurance for Mass Timber

As mass timber projects have proliferated across the U.S., many developers, building owners and contractors have found that insurance companies unfamiliar with these types of buildings are reluctant to provide insurance. Their questions to WoodWorks are typically:

  • Who has faced this issue before?
  • How did they address it?
  • What information is available to alleviate insurance company concerns about building safety and performance?
  • What is the best path forward?

While mass timber is relatively new in the U.S., it is also experiencing tremendous growth—as of December 2020, there were 1,060 mass timber projects completed, under construction or in design—and much can be learned from successful projects.

In Progress Construction of Hybrid Project
Rhode Island School of Design / NADAAA / photo Odeh Engineers

Insurance Industry Professionals

Enter to win a free pass to the 2023 International Mass Timber Conference! Take a short survey on mass timber and insurance and you’ll be entered automatically.

Timber House / MESH Architectures / photo Travis Mark

Conversations with Insurers Video Series

Watch this 3-part series from Ricky McLain, Senior Technical Director – Growth and Innovation Program Manager, on addressing challenges that mass timber projects are facing with respect to builder’s risk insurance.

Part One

Why are insurers now providing mass timber-specific insurance programs and how are those programs structured?

Video length: 2:46

Part Two

How should insurers view mass timber relative to other structural building materials? Video length: 2:46

Video length: 3:21

Part Three

What information should AECD teams be prepared to share with their insurers on mass timber projects?

Video length: 4:30

The insurance challenge tends to present itself in two forms: builder’s risk insurance (or course of construction) and fixed property insurance (after the building is complete and occupied). Relative risks are assessed differently for each type of insurance, and each requires a unique approach. For example:

Builder’s Risk Insurance

Construction-phase risks associated with fire are different in mass timber buildings than with most other framing systems. Since the timber elements have inherent fire-resistance capabilities, a building has a certain level of fire-resistance as soon as the frame is erected. Protection doesn’t rely on (and wait for installation of) materials such as spray-applied fire proofing. The potential for faster construction can also mitigate several risks. Less time under construction means less time for potential hazards such as theft, arson, etc.

Fixed Property Insurance

In addition to safety, fixed property insurance for mass timber buildings requires an understanding of performance related to things like moisture, durability and building enclosure detailing. Much of the fixed property insurance discussion is also site-specific—e.g., Is the area prone to flooding, earthquakes or high winds? Mass timber has been rigorously tested against potential natural disasters as demonstrated in the test and research reports linked below.

WoodWorks offers two avenues to assist project teams who face insurance issues:

Individual project support (at no cost)

We regularly engage in building-specific discussions on insurance issues. In addition to providing design and construction-related technical support, we can also interact with brokers and insurers to answer their questions related to mass timber’s performance. To request assistance on your project, contact your local Regional Director or email the WoodWorks help desk at help@woodworks.org.

Published resources

Because insurers often have similar areas of concern, WoodWorks maintains a growing list of resources that demonstrate mass timber’s safety and durability, including the results of testing, research and ongoing monitoring. WoodWorks has also published a white paper, which takes an in-depth look at the insurance industry, including its history, what affects premiums, how risks are analyzed, and how project teams can navigate coverage for mass timber projects.

Oregon Conservation Center meeting room
Oregon Conservation Center / LEVER Architecture / Photo Lara Swimmer

Insurance for Mass Timber Construction: Assessing Risk and Providing Answers

Whether you’re looking to insure a mass timber building, want to make your project more insurable, or need information on safety and performance—this paper is a useful resource.

Download

Mass Timber Project Questionnaire for Builder’s Risk Insurance

This document is an editable form that construction, development and design teams can fill out to aid in collecting mass timber project-specific information to share with their insurance team.

Download

Market trends: projects in design, under construction + built.

WoodWorks tracks mass timber projects in design, under construction and built across the U.S. as a resource for developers and design teams who want insights into market trends. Information is updated quarterly.

Market Trends - Mass Timber Project in the U.S. displayed on a map.

Browse mass timber projects and connect with their teams.

For details on mass timber projects and their teams, visit the WoodWorks Innovation Network (WIN). The WIN site includes a dynamic project map, photos and profiles of mass timber buildings across the U.S. (and beyond), and information on the architects, engineers, contractors, and others who brought those projects to fruition. It gives developers and owners an easy way to connect with experienced mass timber professionals.

Other Resources

Mass Timber Building Trends 
Fire Performance:
Post Fire and Sprinkler Remediation:
Wind:
Earthquake:
Moisture Protection – Construction Phase:
Building Enclosure & Related Long-Term Moisture Topics:

Want to know more about WoodWorks? 

Staffed by engineers, architects and construction experts, we help project teams identify and successfully realize the most appropriate wood solutions for their projects. Watch this short video to learn more and contact us for free project support.