A number of commercial insurers- including Zurich- expressed concerns in a recent issue of Property Week over the increased installation of green roofs across the United Kingdom, believing that some installations have the potential to dry out and become flammable. Stuart Blackie, a risk management consultant for Zurich, argues that green roofs could become hazardous during drought conditions, identifying schools as particularly at an increased risk. “If roof access is easy, it could be quite an easy way to set fire to a school,” he said.
Mr. Blackie recommends that green roofs include means for irrigation and that insurers assist their policyholders during the green roof design phase. Blackie also cautioned that Zurich was not implying that buildings with green roofs would not be insured, only that insurers should be consulted prior to construction in order to ensure that a proper maintenance schedule is established and overall risk assessment program executed.
Property Week also cites a 2006 report authored by Mr. Blackie in which he noted that “[t]his concept of construction is often sold on its environmental benefits. The issue of fire spread, combustibility and indeed fire safety are often overlooked.” Interestingly, the co-founder of livingroofs.org, Dusty Gedge, noted in the same piece that the 35 million square meters of green roofs in Germany actually garner their owners a reduction in fire insurance. Still, this is exactly the type of hidden risk that the green building industry is only now beginning to acknowledge and address, and demonstrates the necessity for the vigilance by which stakeholders must guide themselves in connection with green projects.