New insurance stakes related to wooden buildings

Should we stop « investing in bricks » and start « investing in wood »? Is this the end of the “all concrete” era? If the bill is fascinating from an economical, ecological, architectural and healthy point of view, we must not underestimate nor neglect the risk management related to this new lifestyle.

Since the 21st Conference of the Parties, the wood sector is being supported by the government that launched, in 2016, new projects with municipalities, regarding the construction of new … wooden buildings! And because an environmental policy goes by the improvement and the change of behaviors, our habits and our lifestyle are gradually redesigned and adapted to new environmental stakes.

So, the wood construction field has gradually developed, thus appearing as a satisfactory « green » alternative for traditional constructions.

Many advantages… and safe risks!

The advantages related to this type of constructions are undeniable thanks to lower CO2 emissions, a challenge in fighting greenhouse effect. Wood is a renewable natural resource thanks to a suitable forest management. It needs few raw materials and energy allowing to lower costs and pollution. Wood is seducing real estate owners through the possibility of building a house with a reduced budget and a bioclimatic approach.

Insurers can expect the development of this new way of living and think about new risks related to these constructions and how to meet them by the suitable insurance offer.

Indeed, the number of risks to be taken into account can easily compete with the advantages previously evoked, for private individuals and companies.

Humidity, termites, mushrooms and risks related to specialized companies interventions

One of the main risks is humidity with the surge of climate events.

If certain specialists report a rise in the frequency of climate events, due to global warming, (bad weather with exceptional precipitations, increased river flooding, etc.), the impact of these events on constructions that are sensitive to humidity cannot be ignored.

Besides, the development of wooden buildings – as years ago, the development of photovoltaic panels- cause a quick increase of the number of new specialized companies, whose lack of qualification and staff know-how can sometimes be a problem. The maintenance of wood buildings needs regular contractors, doubling risks.

Finally, some disorders related to wood specific features such as biological risks, termites or mushrooms, must be taken into account, in particular according to the region and the origin of the wood.

Fire consequences that could be more expensive

Contrarily to received ideas, fire risk is not very high for this type of constructions but the costs related to losses can, on the contrary, result to be much higher compared to traditional constructions.

While a fire start in a traditional house would cause partial reparations, the same type of loss in a wooden house could cause very much bigger work. In a recent case, it was necessary to destroy then rebuild a villa because of the weakness of the central beam. This solution caused very important costs.

Master and know-how, origin and treatment of materials, professionals and individuals information, so many challenges that seem essential, in particular since the announcement of very high buildings (VHB) in wood. The development of this sector represents a real future challenge whose insurance issues need to be taken into account.


Stéphanie Dumoulin, Industry and Services Loss Adjuster

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