Mass Timber Building Insurance

Mass Timber Building Insurance

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.

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:

  • 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.
  • 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 using our Project Assistance Map or email the WoodWorks help desk at .

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 is also developing a white paper, to be released in the Spring of 2021, which will take 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.

Additional information on mass timber design topics and project examples can be found in our Wood Solution Papers and Case Studies.

Mass Timber Building Trends and Project Maps

Testing Data and Results

Fire Performance:

Post Fire and Sprinkler Remediation:

Wind:

Earthquake:

Moisture:

Construction Phase Moisture Protection

Building Enclosure & Related Long-Term Moisture Topics