Asbestos Testing When Renovating(Last Updated On: February 27, 2019)
Asbestos is a formerly popular material used in construction that when inhaled can lead to serious and potentially deadly health problems. When renovating an existing building, one must test for asbestos to ensure the safety of the workers and anyone exposed. In New York City, buildings built before April 1st 1987 are required to be tested before any permits can be issued. Even minor alterations require asbestos testing. Asbestos testing before building renovations or demolition saves lives and should always be taken seriously. Below is some basic information and direction on how asbestos is dealt with and related protocols. If you are planning a renovation please check your local regulations; they may differ from the information in this post. The information provided here is based on New York City regulations for Asbestos Testing and Management.
Asbestos Testing for Renovations & Demolitions
As per NYC BUILDINGS BULLETIN 2009-031, buildings built after April 1, 1987 are exempt from asbestos testing. NYC buildings built before April 1, 1987 require asbestos testing, even if the renovations are minor. If you are planning to renovate in New York City, you will most likely need to test. Asbestos is harmful when its fibers or asbestos dust is released into the air and then it is breathed in, potentially leading to serious health problems. Asbestos becomes most dangerous when the materials are disturbed. For example, when a construction worker hits a wall with a sledge hammer, asbestos dust will be released into the air. This is why testing is done before renovation work can commence. Demolition work also requires testing. Asbestos test results are filed with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Who Tests For Asbestos?
A licensed professional handles asbestos testing. Someone will visit the job site to take small samples from materials where asbestos is most commonly found. The sample is taken from areas that will be disturbed during the proposed work. The material samples are then sent to a lab to determine if asbestos fibers are present.
If there is no asbestos, the agency who performed the sampling and testing will file an ACP5. This document filed with the NYC DEP states the test was completed and work can commence. As an architect I would then include the ACP5 in my application to the department of buildings in order to proceed getting a construction permit.
If there is asbestos, the agency will file paperwork for asbestos abatement (removal of the asbestos). You will need to hire a contractor licensed in asbestos abatement. A third party air monitoring agency will then verify that the asbestos was removed properly and that the air is safe to breathe. When the asbestos abatement is completed, an application can be filed with the Department of Buildings in order to get a permit to proceed with the work.
Don’t Panic About Asbestos
Asbestos is very harmful but don’t panic. As long as you do not disturb the material creating dust and small particles, it is unlikely to cause harm. Always make sure to hire licensed professionals. The presence of asbestos dust particles can only be determined through laboratory testing. Do not trust anyone who tells you that they know whether or not you have asbestos without performing a lab test.
Thank You for reading our blog post on Requirements for Asbestos Testing in NYC.
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Author Jorge Fontan AIA
This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.