Friday, October 26, 2007

Quasi Detail of the Week: Fun with Asbestos

Even though I got several phone calls today from my contractor, it was quiet overall, and I got a fair amount of drawing and RFI-answering done, all while propping my foot up on my desk. Every little bit of elevation helps, it seems. It was quiet because, as I mentioned in an earlier post, my procedure suite project was shut down until Tuesday for asbestos abatement and removal.

Quick refresher for some: asbestos was long used as fireproofing on building elements (like beams and columns) as well as in finishes (like wall coverings, fabrics, and flooring products). Even in Roman times, asbestos was used in napkins because they could be burned clean (wish I could find the source on that). However, it was discovered in teh late-1970s/early-1980s that breathing asbestos fibers gave one a touch of the cancer, so asbestos had to be removed or at least sealed up wherever possible (a process called abatement). I recall doing a remodel job up in Fort Collins back when I started at Design Associates in 2000 in the art building at a small college. The project manager I was with wanted to look in the ceiling (we call that "popping a tile", as in popping a ceiling tile up out of its grid so as to have a look around), and the building manager nearly had a stroke. "If you pop a tile, I'll have to shut the building down--we have asbestos on our structure!" he gasped. Hence, until abatement occurred, no one could even do so much as replace a ceiling tile--just had to patch it up.

In the procedure suite at MHRC, the VCT (vinyl composition tile) was safe, but the adhesive used to attach the tile to the concrete slab has asbestos. We had originally planned to just cover the floor, tile, sealant and all, with the new flooring, but the slab was in such bad shape from demolition that we were going to have to bead-blast it (not sure what that entails), then pour a self-leveling topping over the slab, then lay our new flooring on that. The bead-blasting, which I imagine is a lot like sandblasting, would have made the asbestos fibers friable--that is, singular and crispy, able to be handled and breathed--so we had to shut the area down and have it abated.

Not all asbestos removal is this drastic. Sometimes, it's found in pipe insulation on old plumbing systems, and it can simply be removed while wearing some gloves, put in a bag, and picked up by the hazardous waste folks. That also happened on the demo of the procedure area, and it was handled nicely and quietly.

So, the abatement company, which charges handily for its services, will be working through the weekend (charging even more handily, I'm sure) to finish removal. Monday, the state health board comes in and looks everything over and approves it. After that, we can go back in and get going again. My contractor will then begin looking for ways to accelerate the construction schedule so that we can make up for lost time and finish when we said we'd finish.

More construction details later. Guy should be home from his business trip any moment now. I'll have my foot up, anxiously awaiting his arrival. Wonder if I should just go ahead and call Pizza Hut now?


faded said...

An asbestos horror story for you. Thankfully I was not involved in it.

In downtown Pinkville there was a 2 story structural brick building built in the 1840's that needed to be torn down. The demolition guys show up and knock it down. It was just a little job, no problem. People did notice large amounts of black dust billowing up every time a piece of the build collapsed.

All the rubble gets picked up and hauled away. There is a lot more dust during this process. The job is done and now we fast forward 2 years.

The 20 story office building next to the demo site goes up for sale. This building was built in the late 70's and does not have any asbestos building materials in it.

Well some body does a check and discovers that the entire inside of the building is covered in asbestos dust. I mean all the surfaces, above the ceiling tiles, inside the ductwork, on the walls, in the carpets, in the elevators. It is everywhere.

It turns out the black dust from the demo project was asbestos dust. That dust made its' way into the fresh air intakes for the building and contaminated every surface in the building.

The building finally was sold for $110,000 and new owners gutted the building down to the structure and replaced everything in the building.

Mile High Pixie said...

Woof, Faded! Now *that* sounds dreadful! Thank God every demo company I've worked with has the good sense to look at asbestos issues before they start willy-nilly whomping out walls.

Wilderness Gina said...

I wrecked a small flat roofed house back in the 90's in LaGrange. It had an outside water heater room accessable only from the back of the house. The whole 36 square was finished with sheets of asbestos 24x24. Cool eh? i actually got some of them out unbroken and used them to protect my house from the chimney of the POS wood heater I had installed thru the not ask- it ain't pretty.

Miss Kitty said...

I can has asbestos?