Many of our country’s older buildings contain high levels of asbestos, and with the common change of building use we’ve seen over the last few decades – banks into restaurants, for example, or warehouses transformed into craft centres – an asbestos refurbishment survey has become an integral part of the renovation process.
These vital surveys protect the health and safety of construction workers and site visitors, and ensure compliance with important health and safety regulations. The Control of Asbestos Regulations, 2012, places a ‘duty to manage’ asbestos in non-domestic building on certain individuals, typically those in charge of building maintenance.
Asbestos use in the UK
The use of this carcinogenic substance, which historically took precedence in the construction industry as a fireproofing and insulating material, is now banned in the UK but its continued presence in the general fabric of many buildings is a matter of great concern.
So if you’re planning to renovate a commercial property, how do you comply with the law and what do asbestos refurbishment surveys involve?
Asbestos refurbishment surveys minimise the risk to health
To comply with asbestos legislation you need to find out where all asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) lie within the areas of your building to be refurbished, and identify their type. Materials might include asbestos cement products, for example, or partition walling that contains the substance.
An asbestos refurbishment survey is intrusive and destructive by nature, and will disturb any asbestos present, which is why the building must be unoccupied until certified fit for reoccupation.
Key aspects of an asbestos refurbishment survey
Detailed scope of works
This is needed to inform the extent of the survey.
Confirmed refurbishment plans
Refurbishment plans will determine the specific areas for surveying. This is likely to include ‘hidden’ areas such as within the building’s walls or floor voids, behind cladding, and underneath floor coverings.
Removal of furniture and other items
Removing furniture and other items from the areas to be surveyed allows easier access for surveyors. Steps should also be taken to minimise the spread of debris wherever possible.
Examination and air-testing
Following a survey the area will be checked for the presence of asbestos dust and fibres, by visual examination and potentially air testing, prior to the area being certified fit for reoccupation.
Any samples of materials suspected of containing asbestos will be tested to confirm their makeup.
Refurbishment survey report
All findings are detailed in a comprehensive report, allowing you to develop an asbestos register and an asbestos plan if you don’t already have them.
A consultation takes place, and professional advice provided on asbestos remediation where necessary.
An asbestos refurbishment survey may also be needed if specific parts of your building require extensive maintenance or repair that affects its fabric. Acorn Analytical Services are asbestos experts and offer a full range of asbestos surveys, including a management survey, an asbestos refurbishment survey, and an asbestos demolition survey.