A few weeks ago, Toronto announced a mandatory green roof requirement, which my fellow bloggers dutifully covered.  When I read about the green roof mandate, I thought of another Canadian city with a similar program. 

You remember the Vancouver Catch-22, right

Many British Columbia jurisdictions, including Vancouver, began mandating green roofs.  Simultaneously, the Homeowner Protection Office required homeowner’s insurance covering roofs for new developments.  A resourceful government official with the Homeowner Protection Office did some digging and sent out a letter emphasizing that insurers would not issue policies covering green roofs.

In the end, the Homeowner Protection Office had to call a meeting with the insurers, the building industry and government officials to find a solution.  Quite embarrassing. 

When I read about the Toronto green roof mandate, I thought to myself "good for Toronto, they ironed out all of the insurance and liability issues associated with green roofs."

Not so fast

Marks says, however, that green roofs built to the Toronto construction standard won’t be able to pass Underwriters Laboratories of Canada’s CAN/ULC S107-03, Methods of Fire Tests of Roof Coverings. “Under the flame-spread test, they shoot a flame across the top of a traditional roofing membrane,” says Marks. “There isn’t one green roof that will pass that test — the vegetation will burn, and the City of Toronto has been aware of this.”

Marks notes that the insurance sector is generally reactive to emerging issues, not proactive.

“The insurance industry hasn’t caught up with this yet,” he says. “They may need to experience some losses and claims before clueing in.”

I am no engineer but I am pretty sure grass catches on fire if you shoot a flame at it. 

The green building industry is a brave new world.  How long will it be before the insurance industry can assess the risks associated with green roofs and projects?  

Photo:  Earth Hour Global