Red-Hot Green Roofs a Hidden Green Building Risk for Owners and Insurers?

Some major insurers are becoming increasingly concerned about risks arising out of green roofs drying out and becoming flammable, particularly in connection with scholastic installations.

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.

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2 Responses to Red-Hot Green Roofs a Hidden Green Building Risk for Owners and Insurers?

  1. UVyas Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 11:49 pm #

    Stephen,

    It should be noted that this claim about the isurance premium break in Germany for green roofs is highly misleading. It is true that such a premium reduction is present in Germany from what I know, but this is not the case throughout Europe. I know that engineers in France for a major construction compliance entity made it clear that the addition of a green roof in France leads to an automatic increase in premium. Continuing to reference German or some other European circumstance for sustainbale or green building issues is highly misguided. The regulatory and governmental structure impinging on the built environment there is quite different as is the professional structure and training of architects.

  2. Jim Johnson CRS Monday, September 22, 2008 at 11:10 pm #

    We live in the woods and a green roof would definitely reduce the fire danger.