Opening the door to mass timber

A new report that addresses one of the biggest challenges faced by developers of mass timber buildings, the Mass Timber Insurance Playbook, was launched this month by SDF Alliance member the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products, with support from Built by Nature, global insurance broker Marsh, and Zurich Resilience Solutions.

The guide has been created to enable a collaborative approach between construction teams and insurers, opening the door to more equitable insurance for mass timber buildings. It’s now available as a free download from the ASBP and Built by Nature websites. 

The Playbook was written by insurance and building resilience specialists, to help stakeholders in the insurance and construction industries to understand each other’s priorities and language. The aim is to enable constructive communication, to help overcome gaps in understanding that sometimes hold back mass timber construction.

Simon Corbey, ASBP’s Director, says the Mass Timber Insurance Playbook is a relevant and practical resource, that dovetails into the construction process from early concept through to operation. It encourages early-stage engagement of all parties, as a key element of success in the design and planning processes.

The perspectives of the client, designer, architect, insurer, broker, lender, fire service, fire engineer, and building control, can all be different. The Playbook provides a common ground, following the RIBA stages, that can be used for all parties at any stage, as a reference point for what is relevant and required by insurers.

Olly Booth, timber specialist and partner at property consultancy Gardiner Theobald, speaking at a Mass Timber stakeholder workshop:

“This new guidance is incredibly important. There has been a lack of understanding of how risks are mitigated by design and construction teams, which have been holding back mass timber construction. Mass timber has been on the back foot and insurance is by far the biggest thing making projects stall.”

“There’s a lot of pointers in the Playbook that we should be adopting on all our projects.”

Playbook co-author Philip Callow of Mass Timber Risk Consulting:

“My research has made it very clear that communication is the key to progress. For the most part trades are doing the right thing, but when communication fails that is almost always where the issues lie.  There has absolutely been a disconnect in this area.”

“The cladding crisis exposed the fact that understanding and regulation of fire risks in construction was not fit to be relied upon. This has made insurers wary about buildings with any combustible components. Simply complying with the regulation is not sufficient to give insurers comfort.”

A further event on 23 June offers the opportunity to meet the authors in person at a networking and Q&A event hosted by Zurich Insurance in London. Find more details and register to attend via the ASBP website here.

Launch of the Mass Timber Insurance Playbook at Zurich HQ in London on 4 May 2023