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Abatement - not always by the book.

Abatement--Not Always By the Book Hands on hips. Quick short steps. Head down and shaking. "Can't be done. Can't be done. We'll have to close the building down in order to remove the asbestos. Shut this place down!"

So boomed the asbestos abatement contractor's area supervisor after examinig the scope of the removal project for the first time. Fortunately, the contract specifications required the removal to be completed with the facility fully operational. With this less-than-auspicious beginning, the removal of asbestos from the Hartford Graduate Center got underway.


The 154,000-square-foot Hartford Graduate Center consists of a nine-level Tower Building and a three-level Seminar Building, constructed in 1969 and opened to the public in 1971. Level 1 through 8 of the Tower encompass 13,750 square feet. Level 9 has approximately 10,000 square feet. Each level of the Seminar Building has 6,600 square feet. A two-level Plaza Building, totalling 14,000 square feet, was constructed from the mid-1970s to early 1980s.

The Hartford Graduate Center, academically affiliated with Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, offers master degree programs in management, engineering, and computer science. The Professional Development Center offers non-degree courses in management and computer programming.

In early March 1986, two samples of sprayed-on fireproofing from structural beams were taken to an environmental laboratory for analysis. Results indicated approximately 5 percent of the insulation was chrysotile, the most common form of asbestos used in facilities. A confirming analysis was performed by a second consultant.

The environmental consultants laboratory was retained by the Hartford Graduate Center for perform an indepth audit of the asbestos-containing materials (ACM) to determine the extent and locations of contamination; potential hazards to students, faculty, and staff; response actions; and plans for mangement of ACM.

The facility audit was conducted on March 17, 1987, by lab technicians. a sample was taken from each level of the Tower and Seminar Buildings. Each of the 13 samples indicated the presence of chrysotile asbestos.

The study estimated levels 1 through 8 of the Tower Building each contained approximately 11,000 to 12,000 square fee of ACM. Each level fo the Seminar Building contained 4,500 square feet of ACM. Applications on the structural beams and columns were approximately 3 inches thick. Overspray on ceiling decks varied from 1 to 3 inches. The 9th level mechanical room, elevator penthouses, and ceiling decks of the north and south stairwells were completely covered and contained approximately 14,000 square feet of ACM. Additional overspray was present on each ceiling deck of the north stairwell except Level 6. Offices, classrooms, and common areas had drop ceilings, while storage and mechanical areas had fireproofing exposed.

Setting priorities

The EPA exposure assessment algorithm was used to determine the potential for exposure. The findings, based on the ratings of eight factors (Figure 1), provided a means of accessing the areas of greatest concern. Areas were prioritized from greatest to lwest risk.

Abatement, encapsulation, and enclosure are the accepted metods to handle asbestos. Abatement, the most expensive process, removes the ACM with a one-Time expenditure. With encasulation and enclosure, the ACM would remain on site and would probably have to be removed when delanination or damage occurs. Abatement was the chosen approach.

The lab provided technical assistance to identify areas for removal, develop the bid package, select appropriate contractors, participate in the prebid meeting, and assist in selecting the bid.

Prebid work

In hte regulated world of asbestos, an in-depth knowledge of ever-changing federal and state regulations is imperative to developing the bid package.

It is not enough to identify what will be removed; how it is to be removed is equally important. Specifications must reflect state-of-the-Art practices, reducting liability should litigation to follow at some point. Respiratory protection, negative air systems, and air monitoring touch only the surface of the regulations in an abatement process.

A competitive bid by competent contractors is critical to the success of any abaement operation. The lab's extensive experience working with abatement firms ensured competent contractors would receive an invitation to bid. Consequently, the "rip 'n' skp" outfits or contractors not capable of handling thescope of the project were avoided.

The pre-bid meeting consisted of a briefing on the project's scope, a tour of the areas targeted for abatement, and a question and answer period. Building management responded to facility-specific inquiries, while the expertise of the laboratory's senior management was required for asbestor-related issues.

With the bids submitted, final cost evaluations, including alternatives, were addressed. Confident that capable firms were involved, the lowest bid was accepted. All bids were within a simmilar range, indicating the scope fo the project was fully understood by the competing firms. Interestingly, one firm priced the project over the phone based on information from the bid package. Yet, they were only several thousand dollars removed from the lowest bid.

The estimated cost for total removal of the ACM was $4 million, or approximately $26 per quare foot. Included were costs associated with removal ($1.6 million), general contractor ($235,675), engineering ($520,000), and contingency ($354,000). Not included were costs of lost employee productibity, disrption of student services, and the shifting of operation from floor to floor or to a leased facility during abatement.

Handling of furnishings, fixtures, and equipment presents another issue. A reaistic assessment of salvageable materials is required. For example, removal and replacement of existing carpet is the practical approach. Tears in the poly covering the floor are inevitable, as is water damage. Ceiling tiles and drids, damaged during removal, would have to be replaced. Estimates of assocated costs will depend on the standards of your facility.

Because the projected costs were beyond the financial capacity of the Graduate Center, a more modest approach was addressed. Areas identified as potentially most hazardous were targeted for immediate removal. A long-range plan was developed which balanced user safety against the financial constraints of the Hartford Graduate Center.

With ACM remaining in the facility, dealing with it would be an ongoing process. An operations and maintenance program was developed by building mangement to addtess visual inspection, air monitoring, and procedures for in-house and contract maintenance personnel. Before implementation, the plan was reviewed by the lab.

Project defined

The areas targeted fo removal were:

* The 9th level roof decking, building control, telephone, lockers, and restrooms.

* Roof decking on the north and south stairwells, including all overspray on the north stairwell.

* Roof decking of two elevator penthouses, including overspray.

* Mudded insulation on pipe fittings in the 9th level mechanical room, elevator penthoused, and stariwells.

The project was scheduled to be completed in the three phases.

* Phase 1: the south stairwell deck, south elevator penthouse, toilet and locker rooms.

* Phase 2: the north stairwell and the north elevator penthouse.

* Phase 3: the 9th level mechanical equipment area and associated rooms. OVerspray on stairwells.

Removal was scheduled from July 6 to August 24 with working hours from 2:00 to 10:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The summer months represent a time when there is reduced building activity. Summner session enrollment is modest, and associated seminars and conferences are also light.

Late afternoon and evening hours were choses for a number of reasons. The Graduate Center's summer session ends the first week in august, enabling the air handling system to be disabled at 5 p.m. during Phase 3. This shutoff reduces the possibility of building contamination. Waste transfer would be more readily accommodated later in the workshift.

Although operating procedures are transferable from phase to phase, each had certain aspects detailed: where the contaminated waste was to be stored, route to remove waste to disposal truck, where and how the decontamination enclosure system would be arranged.

Finding solutions

The areas targeted for removal posed some unique problems. The 9th level contains four air handlers supplying conditioned air to Levels 2 through 9 of the Tower Building. Two additional exhausts, one for the Tower restrooms and one for a Level 6 hygiene laboratory, were also on Level 9. The ducts, up to 6-feet wide, were in areas, placed within a few inches of the deck. Add chilled water pipes, lighting fixtures, heat detectors, gas exhaust vents, and support hangers, and the configuration creates obstacles for the removal team (Photos A and B).

Ten fan motors require a constant flow of air to remove the heat generated by their operation. A wood and poly containment was built around each motor, with HEPA-filtered air passed over the motors and exhausted into the containment area. The supply motors were located at chest height, while the return and exhaust motors were located at a height of approximately 10 feet (Photos C).

The switchboard/motor control station was located in the center of the floor. The 7' x 20' x 3' panel activates the air handler supply and return motors. Extra efforts were made in isolating the panel from moisture and dust generated in the removal process. Additional overlapping layers of poly were applied to isolate the panel.

The building control room encompasses the energy management system (EMS), manual overrides, exterior lighting, and fire control panel. Historically, access to this room is required periodically during daily operation. Consequently, detailed operating instructions were transmitted both to the abatement contractor and the consultant. Daily adjustments and modifications were completed during Phase 3 by the contractor and consultant.

The elevators needed to remain operational during the abatement process. The north penthouse housed the motors and controls for two elevators, while the south penthouse housed a single elevator. The containment for the equipment (Photo D) was plywood secured over a frame constructed of 2' x 6' planks, isolating the equipment from the abatement area. Two overlapping layers of poly were applied over the plywood to complete the containment barrier. Elevators act as pistons drawing air behind them and pushing air in the direction of travel. The containment must withstand sudden and frequent bursts of pressure.

Normally, mechanical components were cooled pneumatically through a fan and damper. The damper, disconnected from the pneumatic controls, was used to exhaust HEPA-filtered air as part of the negative air system. The exhaust fan remained on, drawing air up the elevator shaft, over the equipment, and to the outside.

The primary concern was isolating occupied areas of the facility during the removal process. With the air handlers circulating conditioned air through most of the facility, a breach in the containment barrier could pose health risk to the occupants as well as grind the Center's operations to a halt. Contaminated areas would require extensive cleaning at great expense before business could resume.

Integrity was the key to the containment barrier. A tracer gas, sulfur hexafluoride [SF Sub .6], was used to determine the effectiveness of the containment. Although an expensive procedure, circumstances dictated that the test become part of the process.

Prior to the release of the gas, smoke tubes were used to test the containment visually. Numerous breaches were observed, and subsequently repaired. further checks were completed until no discernible movement of smoke was observed.

The tracer gas test was completed in two stages--first, with the air handlers operating; second, with both air handlers and the negative air system operating. In both cases the gas was released and dispersed in the area to create a dilution ratio of 100 parts per billion. At this point neither of the air movement systems were operating. Air samples were taken at the first supply diffuser for each air handler at the 1-,3-, and 10-minute intervals. A similar procedure was followed for the second test.

Results indicated a range of 1 to 3ppb for the first test with similar or reduced level for the second test, with a high of 1.6 ppb. But questions arose: Is the containment effective? Obviously, traces of the gas ware detected, but the ratio was substantially reduced from 100 ppb. Would fibers escape as easily as gas? Probably not. As minute as asbestos fibers are, gases will penetrate breaches more readily than fibers.

consensus was to begin the most critical part of the removal. Daily visual inspections and air monitoring of occupied areas remained a key ingredient in evaluating the integrity of the containment barrier. Air samples taken prior to any abatement activities formed a comparative basis for samples obtained during Phase 3.

Phase contrast microscopy (PCM) was the method utilized to compare the variations in samples. Throughout the final phase, the samples were similar in results. Had variations occurred, a transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis would have been employed to determine the presence of asbestos. The use of an electronic beam in this analysis forms an image which is used to determine the presence of asbestos fibers.

The sophisticated equipment that is required for TEM analysis is only available on a regional basis. A lab capable of performing 24-hour turnarounds on such an analysis was identified should the need arise.

Unanticipated problems

A project encompassing physical barriers to efficient operations coupled with government regulations and a hazardous material will present certain unanticipated problems.

The initial quote at the beginning of the article was the first in a series of surprises and mishaps during the project. Admittedly, when the area supervisor stated his firms's inability to complete the project with the facility operational, I was taken aback.

After examining his position more closely, however, his approach becomes understandable. The bid was a lump sum, payable upon completion. His responsibility was to finish the project successfully while minimizing the operating costs. Significant reductions in labor and material costs would be realized if the facility was closed during abatement.

With his initial request rejected, cutting and removing portions of the air handling ducts was suggested to facilitate removal. Following the second suggestion would close most, if not all, of the facility. Portions of the facility would not be operational with the air handlers not functioning. Additionally, the Center would absorb the removal and repair expense. The second request was also denied.

Another contractor for the project could have been secured, however, limitations existed. Bringing another contractor on board in late June would set the project back several weeks. A decision was made to move forward.

Detailed specifications will identify operating parameters of your facility. Make sure each bidder is fully aware of your requirements.

Require a meeting with the individuals (area supervisors, site supervisors) overseeing the day-to-day operations as a qualifier for awarding the bid. The meeting should be arranged as soon as possible with the firm selected. Problems will be addressed and solutions established. Time will also be available to secure another contractor should a problem persist.

A low-key approach to the project was stressed throughout the bid process and subsequent meetings. The fact that asbestos existed and an abatement project would occur was known to senior management, but much of the faculty and staff were unaware of the project.

Be upfront with building occupants. Accurate information concerning the project, scope, and procedures is important. Information received from third parties may not reflect the actual situation and thus generate unnecessary concern.

Some hard-won experience

The erection of scaffolding and platforms in the facilities north stairwell led to the shortcircuiting of the stairwell emergency lighting system. The circuit breaker controlling the stairwell lights from Levels 1 through 9 was not located in a readily accessible panel for the abatement foreman. The frayed wires were capped, but the circuit could not be located. Work continued under the glare of drop lights while a late-night call alerted me to the problem. Early arrival the following morning permitted the illumination of the stairwells before staff arrived.

Orient the contractor and consultant to the location of breaker panels and valves controlling lights, power, and water to the areas where they will be working. Do not make the assumption that they will be able to find the proper control. In this case, the panel was located in the first floor mechanical room.

The abatement contractor arrived on site at approximately 2:00 p.m. on July 6. The first order of business was to unload scaffolding, wood, poly, and the associated materials. Fine. Many of the workers wore half-face respirators unloading a truck in the open air. The intention was to bring the materials to the work areas wearing respirators; nothing like petrifying staff and visitors!

The simple approach was to indicate to the foreman that the workers would not be allowed into the facility wearing or visibly carrying respirators. Further conversion with the foreman indicated the Hartford Graduate Center's concerns were never communicated.

Approximately 60 workers were employed during the course of the project. Generally, the daily workforce totaled eight to ten workers. Except a substantial turnover in personnel, especially if work conditions are uncomfortable or difficult.

A clause required the contractor to provide documentation indicating each employee had received a physical and proper training. At times, the contractor was slow in meeting this requirement. The consultant should prohibit individuals access to the work area until all documentation is in hand.

After Phases 1 and 2 of the abatement activities were complete, reinsulation was scheduled. The abatement contractor subcontracted this activity to a Boston firm experienced in the process. Initial application would occur on the south stairwell and elevator decks during the morning.

The enclosure for the single elevator had been partially removed during the final cleanup. Most of the poly and portions of the plywood were missing, and evidently, no direction was given to repair the enclosure. The respraying process requires a substantial amount of water mixed in with the insulation. Not properly protected, the electrical controls and motor were covered with dust and moisture created in the application process.

Elevator mechanics were able to restore stovice after one week, at a cost to the contractor of $1,500. Associated concerns involved informing the senior management about the accident, estimated time for repairs, and absorption of the costs.

On two consecutive days, the resprayers "forgot" to turn the water off to the apparatus. Water was observed cascading down the north stairwell to Level 3. Fortunately, each level was equipped with a drain and the cement stairs did not sustain any damage. However, the area had to be cordoned offuntill the water was removed, and countless questions were asked concerning the mishaps.

With the abatement contractor performing removal during the afternoon, the reinsulators worked unsupervised. Also, the work area was not inspected prior to the reinsulation. Had inspection occured, the equipment would have been properly protected.

As a result, what appeared to be a rather routine procedure resulted in three mishaps. Require that the contractor and/or lab provide direct supervision during all aspects of the project.

With the bulk removal of the ACM in Phase 3 completed, power washing was initiated to remove any particles remaining on surfaces. This procedure generates a great deal of water and as most professionals in building operations will testify, water, once released, has a tendency to find the easiest path downward. In this case, it moved to the occupied 8th level below.

An early morning call alerted me to the problem. The area foreman and consultant were immediately called to the site for evaluation. Water seeped through the deck penetrations into the plenum, past ceiling tiles, to the furnishings below. We did have good fortune, however. No damage was caused to computer or other sensitive equipment. Water generally fell on classroom tables or carpeting.

Questions arouse: Was the water contaminated? If so, how to treat the affected areas? Residue from a dried light diffuser was tested for ACM with negative results. Affected areas were HEPA-vacuumed as a precautionary measure with damaged ceiling tiles treated as contaminated waste.

The first problem was alleviating the fears of the occupants. Test results from the diffuser were made available and explained. The stage of the removal process was also detailed to indicate removal was essentially complete.

A second problem was preventing a similar mishap when the power washing resumed in the afternoon. All penetrations were resealed with expanding foam and reinforced with additional poly. Increased use of wet vacuums were employed to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents.

Concerns about the care and removal of the waste arose in two areas. In both instances, the Hartfold Graduate Center retained a great degree of liability. A 40-foot trailer was situated outside receiving for storage. A number of times the fully loaded trailer was removed to a site in Maine.

One afternoon, I noticed the trailer unlocked. Picture the publicity and liability which would ensue had children decided to play with the waste material. Both the contractor and consultant failed to monitor the security of the waste material. Determining how often the trailer remained unlocked was not possible. Our in-house security was instructed to check the trailer after the abatement ended each night.

The final load of waste resulted in a half-full trailer. The contractor's intention was to transfer the trailer to another job site, continue to fill the trailer, and deliver the waste to the dump site in Maine. Essentially, this is what occurred. Nowhere in the specifications was the issue of a half-filled trailer addressed. Waste from our project remained at another job for several days. In your specifications, require that the final load be transferred directly to the waste site.

The consultant's supervisors for the project consisted of several people in their early 20s. There is nothing wrong with youth, however, questions concerning experience and expertise in abatement projects seemed in order. With the expense and nature of the project, individuals assigned significant responsibility should be qualified. Require protiles of the individuals to be assigned by your consultant. Care should be taken before the consultant becomes irreversibly involved in your operation. Make sure you are comfortable with their representatives.


The abatement project at the Hartford Graduate Center was a success, but not without problems. The ACM was removed and the building remained operational, but the feeling or relief was greatest when the contractor and consultant left for the final time.

No matter how well you plan, remember the best of plans tend to fall short when the human element is introduced. Inspect the work area. Check the progress. Make a point of being involved in your abatement project. You will be happier with the result.

Paul J. Murphy is the facilities manager for the Hartford Graduate Center, Hartford, Connecticut. He has spent the past 11 years in the operations department at the University of Hartford, the last four and one-half directing the physical plant, project management, development and implementation of capital and renovation projects, and needs assessments and space planning for the Graduate Center. Mr. Murphy holds an M.B.A. degree from the University of HArtford and the RPA and SMA designations awarded by BOMA.
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Author:Murphy, Paul J.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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