Mass Timber’s Resilience Makes It an Increasingly Popular Choice — but Are Insurers Pricing Its Risks Accurately?

Many carriers are overcautious when it comes to mass timber construction, leaving insureds with a case of sticker shock. But as the sustainable building material’s popularity grows, some insurers are leading the way with better guidelines and more tailored coverage.

By David Agnew, Risk & Insurance

A Brief History of Timber

We’ve been building homes with wood since our caveman days (that’s how we stopped being cavemen), but wood-framed multistory towers were virtually unheard of until relatively recently.

Mass timber has existed in one form or another for over a century, said Nick Milestone, director of project execution at Mercer Mass Timber, who has been working in mass timber construction in the UK for nearly 20 years.

But it wasn’t until the 1990s and the invention of cross-laminated timber that mass timber was rediscovered. Austria, Germany and other parts of Central Europe with a history of timber production were the first to explore its potential.

“Around 2008 or 2009, it started venturing over to our shores,” said Milestone. “And the next thing you know, the UK has gone, ‘We’re going to start doing nine-story residential developments in solid wood as an alternative to concrete.’ When climate change was becoming real and on-radar, we were looking for alternative forms of structural build systems.”

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For commercial and, increasingly, housing projects, Mercer Mass Timber supplies products that can help developers realize long-term operational savings.

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