Asbestos Testing When Renovating(Last Updated On: November 22, 2018)
Asbestos is a formerly popular material in construction that when inhaled can lead to serious and deadly health problems. When renovating an existing building one must test for asbestos to ensure the safety of the workers and anyone exposed. In NYC 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 be always taken seriously.
Asbestos is a material which was commonly used in construction that is known to cause severe life threatening medical conditions. 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 here is based on New York City regulations for Asbestos Testing and management.
When to Test For Asbestos? (in NYC)
If you are planning to do a renovation in New York City (in most cases) you will need asbestos testing. Demolition work of course will also require testing. Asbestos test results are filed with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Asbestos is harmful when its fibers or asbestos dust is released into the air and then people breathe it in which can lead 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 releasing asbestos dust into the air. This is why testing is done before renovation work can commence. As per NYC BUILDINGS BULLETIN 2009-031 buildings built after April 1, 1987 are exempt from asbestos testing. All buildings built before that date require asbestos testing in NYC, before renovating.
When to Test For Asbestos?
Any time you are going to disturb materials that could have asbestos you need to test. Asbestos is harmful and can lead to life threatening illnesses. In NYC buildings built after April 1st 1987 do not require asbestos testing.
Asbestos Testing For Renovations
When you are performing a renovation asbestos testing is only required on materials and areas that will be disturbed by the renovation. For example if you are removing a wall you only need to test the wall to be removed. All renovations in buildings built before April 1st 1987 will require asbestos testing even for minor renovations.
Asbestos Testing For Demolition
If you are going to demolish a building you will most likely need to test for asbestos unless the building was built after April 1st, 1987. Any materials types that are known to potentially have asbestos will be tested and a lab will provide a report on such materials.
Who Tests For Asbestos?
A licensed professionals handles asbestos testing. They will send someone to the job site who will take small samples from materials commonly known to have asbestos. The sample will be from areas that will be disturbed during the proposed work. The material samples will be sent to a lab that will determine if asbestos fibers are present. At this point 1 of 2 things will happen.
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 and we can proceed to get 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 verify the asbestos is removed properly and that the air is safe to breathe. When the asbestos abatement is complete we file documentation 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 it is essentially harmful when it enters the air. As long as you do not disturb the material creating dust and small particles it will most likely not harm you. Always make sure to hire licensed professionals. Asbestos can only be determined through laboratory testing. Do not trust anyone who tells you 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.