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Mitigating Risks as Mass Timber Construction Expands

May 16, 2024

Mass timber construction, a revolutionary building method, is rapidly gaining traction. Experts expect its global market to grow to $4.9 billion by 2030. Innovative and visually appealing, it uses large, engineered panels of laminated wood as primary structural components for buildings. The results are impressive, exemplified by the Ascent residential tower in Milwaukee, which became the world’s tallest mass timber building in 2021. 

Mass timber is celebrated for its environmental benefits, notably its ability to sequester carbon, which reduces the overall carbon footprint of construction projects. Additionally, mass timber allows for faster construction timelines than traditional building materials like concrete and steel. The prefabricated panels can be quickly assembled on-site. 

Identifying Insurance Challenges for Mass Timber

However, despite these advantages, mass timber construction introduces specific risks, which require new considerations from insurance agents and carriers for adequate protection.

  • Fire Hazards
    Mass timber is fundamentally wood-based and, despite being engineered for fire resistance, poses significant fire risks. The insurance industry must carefully assess these risks, possibly requiring additional fire suppression systems, fire-resistant treatments, and specific building designs to minimize hazards.
  • Structural Integrity Concerns
    Concerns about the long-term structural integrity of mass timber, especially under variable loads and seismic activity, necessitate a rigorous evaluation of engineering data and real-world performance. This might lead to specialized inspections, strict adherence to engineering guidelines, and potentially higher insurance premiums for buildings with significant risks.
  • Moisture-Related Issues
    Wood’s susceptibility to moisture can cause mold, rot, and structural weakening. Insurers need to assess construction practices and maintenance plans for effective humidity control and water-damage prevention. They also must incorporate policy clauses that address liability for moisture-related damages.
  • Regulatory Compliance Complexities
    As mass timber is a relatively new technology, evolving building codes and regulations make compliance more complicated. Insurers must stay informed about these changes and may need to require policyholders to provide additional documentation or certifications to demonstrate compliance.
  • Strategies for Mitigating Risks
    Insurance agents can further mitigate risks by encouraging clients to engage architects and engineers early in the design phase, implement advanced fire detection and suppression systems, and ensure comprehensive liability coverage. Educating clients about the insurance implications of using mass timber is crucial, including providing detailed explanations of coverage options, limitations, and risk mitigation strategies.

Why Jencap Makes Mass Timber Easier for Agents

Jencap supports agents through education, collaboration, and proactive risk management, helping them stay informed about the latest developments in specialized construction. By facilitating the best insurance solutions with the best carrier partners, Jencap effectively navigates the evolving landscape of sustainable construction. Contact us today to learn more or get a quote for your clients’ upcoming mass timber project.

The Jencap Construction Insurance Team

The Jencap Construction Insurance Team

Jencap’s construction experts specialize in a variety of construction-related coverages—from commercial general liability and professional liability to wrap-ups and workers’ compensation, and beyond. Jencap has dedicated teams of construction brokers for every risk type, account size, and geographic area in the country. We have broad market access to brokerage and binding authority and can offer exclusive program solutions to fit any construction need.
Building materials | Fire hazards | Mass Timber Construction | Risk mitigation | sustainable construction

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