Sunday, October 19, 2014

Asbestos - Part 3 – More places to find asbestos in buildings



…..the inspection, identification and testing of asbestos is a specialist activity which is shrouded in a wide range of policies and procedures written into legislation.  It is therefore imperative that specialist advice is sought where there is a possibility of the existence and/or discovery of asbestos or asbestos containing products or components in buildings

Source: http://www.ultimatehandyman.co.uk/
Over the last few weeks I have introduced asbestos and in particular its extensive use in UK construction.  In Part 1 (link) I discussed the health risks associated with being exposed to asbestos fibres and subsequently why asbestos is no longer used in UK construction. I also explained that asbestos containing products/components in buildings only becomes a problem if they are disturbed or become damaged and that there is no need to panic if asbestos containing products/components are discovered in buildings. In last week’s article (link) I went onto explain that asbestos is not easy to identify, even for the trained eye as it is often concealed or decorated, making it difficult to differentiate from other building products/components. I finally gave some examples of the wide use of asbestos cement in UK construction with some images of its typical uses.  In the final part of this three part article I will gives some examples of the wider uses of asbestos containing products and components in buildings, some of which you may find surprising.

It is first worth re-emphasising that the inspection, identification and testing of asbestos is a specialist activity which is shrouded in a wide range of policies and procedures written into legislation.  It is therefore imperative that specialist advice is sought where there is a possibility of the existence and/or discovery of asbestos or asbestos containing products or components in buildings.

Textured Coatings – used as a finish onto ceilings or wall surfaces to give a decorative appearance. Textured coatings that may contain asbestos are difficult to identify from a visual inspection, as many have been painted over. The asbestos fibres are held in place within the coating and are not easily released unless sanded down, or during removal.


Textured coating - Source: http://hawkenvironmental.com/
Floor tiles, textiles and Composites – You may be surprised to learn that asbestos can be found in PVC floor tiles. Discovery is often further complicated as these types of floor tiles are often covered over with newer floor coverings. 


PVC Floor tiles - Source: http://www.mesotheliomahelpnow.com/
As previously discussed in Part 1, asbestos is an extremely flexible material as such it could be woven and spun, allowing it to be used for products such as fire blankets as well as textiles within electrical fuse boxes which allowed additional fire protection behind the actual fuses.


Asbestos fire blanket - Source: http://houseinvestigations.com/
Electrical fuses - Source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/
Asbestos composites allowed asbestos to be used for a variety of products for which typical examples are toilet cisterns and seats, window sills, and bath panels. These are products that many people do not readily associate with asbestos.


Asbestos cistern and seat - Source: http://asbestosadvisor.net/
Spray Coatings - often found as insulation on the underside of roofs and sometimes on the sides of buildings and also used as fire protection on steel beams/columns as well as on the underside of separating floors. Identification of suspected asbestos containing spray coatings is usually made with the presence of a rough surface, white or grey in colour, although painting of a spray coating can make this more difficult to identify. Some spray coatings can contain up to 85% asbestos.  When this is added to the fact that spray coatings can be very friable (break up easily), this use is one of the most dangerous asbestos containing products found in buildings.


Asbestos spray coatings - Source: http://www.asbestostesting.com.au/
Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) – Can be found in a number of different locations within a building as it was used for a variety of fire proofing applications.  AIB can therefore be found as ceiling panels/tiles, soffit boards, partition walls, lift shaft linings, panels within fire doors amongst other applications.


Asbestos insulating boards - Source: http://www.ekii.co.uk/
Lagging and Insulation – Mostly found as insulation around heating pipework and has many different appearances, which is commonly a fibrous material that can break up easily. When applied to pipes it is often covered with a protective coating, which can be a variety of different colours that sometimes makes it difficult to identify. As with spray coatings, this is a particularly dangerous form of asbestos.


Asbestos pipe lagging - http://www.topasbestosremoval.co.uk/
Loose Fill Asbestos – used as insulation and found in cavity walls, in floors and loft spaces. Due to its loose nature this is possibly the most dangerous form of asbestos used in buildings.  Its appearance is blue/grey in colour or sometimes off white and is often made of pure asbestos.  Although much of this form of asbestos has now been removed it is still likely to be discovered and should only be inspected and dealt with by a specialist wearing and using the correct protective equipment.


Loose fill asbestos in roof space - Source: http://www.torontorealtyblog.com/
The information and images discussed above and within last week’s article provide some typical examples of the use and identification of asbestos containing materials and components within buildings.  Please bear in mind that the examples provided are far from exhaustive and asbestos can be found in numerous other locations within buildings.  Having said this I hope these articles have provided a good introduction to asbestos is buildings.

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and colleagues who you think would be interested


Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Asbestos - Part 2 - Where to find asbestos in buildings



Asbestos in buildings is not easy to identify even for those with experience of buildings and construction.  This is not only due to the vast use of asbestos in buildings but also due to the fact that it is often concealed or decorated, making it difficult to differentiate from other components/products

http://www.house-extension.co.uk/
In last week’s article (Link) I discussed the many positive characteristics of asbestos, which led to the extensive use of asbestos in UK buildings for a wide variety of components/products.  I also explained that due to the serious health risks associated with either working with or being exposed to asbestos fibres, that asbestos is no longer used in building construction in the UK.  Having said that asbestos was so widely used in UK buildings particularly between circa 1950 to 1980 that it’s discovery in buildings is still highly likely today and something that will continue to be an issue well into the future.  It is therefore worthwhile trying to understand how to identify asbestos and where it may be discovered in buildings.

The first thing to make clear is that asbestos in buildings is not easy to identify, even for those with experience of buildings and construction generally.  This is not only due to the vast use of asbestos in buildings but also due to the fact that it is often concealed or decorated, making it difficult to differentiate from other components/products.  The only real way of knowing whether something that may be suspected as asbestos is actually asbestos is to have the component/product tested.  There are very strict procedures for sampling and testing of asbestos as set out in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, which will require the services of a specialist.  As you would imagine this can sometimes prove to be costly, however if you do not follow the legislation you are obviously breaking the law and secondly, possibly compromising the health of yourself and others. 

Without wishing to go into too much technical detail for this article there are six different types of asbestos that may be found in UK buildings; Amosite, Chrysotile, Crocidolite, Tremolite, Actinolite and Anthophyllite, for which the first three were the most commonly used in UK construction. The health risks associated with all types of asbestos are very similar however Crocidolite, sometimes referred to as blue asbestos is considered to be the most dangerous of all.  As stated previously, in order to establish whether asbestos is present and if so which type it is it will be necessary for sampling and testing to take place in accordance with the procedures detailed in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

So where is asbestos likely to be found in buildings? Interesting the answer is pretty much anywhere!  Remember asbestos is not easy to identify so an awareness of where it was used will help those to identify ‘suspected’ asbestos and recommend subsequently sampling and testing to confirm the presence of asbestos, or not.  Asbestos cement products are discussed below and in next week’s article I will provide some further typical examples of where asbestos may be found in buildings. Also, if you want to undertake further research into the uses of asbestos in UK buildings then you will find that the examples provided in my articles are far from exhaustive.

Asbestos Cement - Asbestos cement is ordinary cement mixed with asbestos, in some cases the asbestos can make up over a third of the overall content however, typically however the overall asbestos content is often much lower.  Asbestos cement is generally considered as one of the lower risk asbestos products as the asbestos fibres are effectively held or ‘trapped’ within a ‘rigid’ component, once the cement, water and asbestos has cured (hardened).  Asbestos cement products start to become a problem if they become damaged or disturbed, so it is worth knowing where these could be found.


The photographs below demonstrate that asbestos cement sheeting was a very popular way of providing roof coverings for outhouses and garages in domestic buildings as well as roof and wall cladding for industrial or low specification commercial buildings. Asbestos cement roof and wall cladding sheets are usually identified by their distinctive ‘corrugated’ form and their dull grey colour, (although the colour can sometimes be affected by the impact of weathering and decorations):


Source: http://www.roofersinedinburgh.co.uk/
Source: http://www.asbestostesting.com.au/
Associated with asbestos cement roof and wall cladding sheets were also products such as asbestos cement rainwater downpipes and hoppers. Hoppers are located at the top of a rainwater downpipe, or at the junction of a number of rainwater pipes, as detailed in the image below: 


Source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/
Due the excellent fire resistant properties of asbestos, asbestos cement was often used for flue pipes for boilers and heaters.  This enabled combustion waste products, often at high temperatures to be discharged from a building safely and with minimal risk of fire. Asbestos cement pipes were also used for air conditioning and ventilation systems:


Asbestos cement products and components were used and installed in UK construction for many years and are arguably the most commonly used asbestos product installed.  There were however many other uses/applications of asbestos in UK construction and next week I will provide some examples of these wider applications and how they may be identified.

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and colleagues who you think would be interested

Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Asbestos - Part 1 - Is asbestos really a problem in buildings?



Despite popular belief the discovery of asbestos containing materials in a building does not need to be a serious problem.  There is nothing written in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 that states that asbestos must be removed from a building

Source: https://www.nachi.org
Most of the publicity that asbestos has received for many years is negative and would have us believe that anyone who works or occupies a building that contains asbestos are at significant risk, however this is far from the truth. It is also true to say that those who worked with asbestos, whether it’s extraction or use/installation in buildings and were oblivious to the associated health risks at the time are those who are suffering asbestos related diseases such as Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer, Asbestosis and the like for which many have sadly died.  Having said that, the answer to the article title is quite simple, Asbestos is not a problem in buildings as long it is identified, managed and controlled.

Before delving into the many publicised problems with asbestos it is first worth understanding why its use was so popular and why it is still found extensively in buildings throughout the UK.  Asbestos was such a versatile and durable mineral that it lent itself to so many different uses in buildings due to its many positive qualities.  You may be surprised to learn that Asbestos has been used for many centuries in different forms throughout the World however its use became much more widespread in the UK from the early part of the twentieth century and was extensively used in UK buildings between 1950 and 1980. In fact asbestos is still used in some countries today despite the many know health risks associated with it.  There are still vast amount of asbestos deposits present around the World which are extracted using mining techniques which are much the same as processes used for extraction of other minerals.

Source: http://www.nzdl.org/
Positive qualities of Asbestos for use in buildings - Asbestos is chemically inert which means that it does not react with other chemicals, it is heat resistant making it non-flammable even at high temperatures, it is alkaline and acid resistant, water resistant, strong in tension, flexible (it can be used and made into rigid components or spun and woven like cotton), it has no detectable smell, it is resilient and can last for many years and it is extremely resistant to abrasion.  All in all, when you read through these qualities it is easy to see why asbestos was so popular and used for so many different products/components in buildings.

For a number of years in the UK asbestos has been classified as a ‘deleterious material’, which is defined by Longworth Consulting as ‘materials or building techniques which are dangerous to health, or which are environmentally unfriendly, or which tend to fail in practice. Often listed in property agreements, appointments and building contracts where the developer, consultant or contractor is required not to use them’.  The Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE), ‘Working with Asbestos in Buildings’ leaflet identifies the point at which asbestos was banned from use in the UK, ‘blue and brown asbestos (the two most dangerous forms) have not been imported into the UK for nearly 20 years and their use was banned in 1985. White asbestos was banned (except for a small number of specialised uses) in 1999’. Therefore, although asbestos has not been used as a building component/produce for nearly fifteen years we are still seeing deaths and serious illnesses as a result of exposure to asbestos many years ago.

The positive attributes of asbestos described above are conversely the main reasons why asbestos related diseases are nearly always incurable. Working on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres, which may have been many hundreds of times that of environmental levels could increase the chances of getting an asbestos-related disease.  Due to asbestos fibres being so hard to destroy, the body cannot break them down or remove them once they are lodged in lung or body tissues. They remain in place and over a period of time they can cause disease.  There are many instances where asbestos related symptoms have not manifested themselves for almost 30 years, however this will also depend on the general health of an individual, which can significantly reduce the point in which symptoms will show themselves. 

Source: http://globalnews.ca/
Although the above may seem to be alarmist the truth of the matter is that asbestos containing materials in buildings are perfectly safe as long as they are identified, managed and controlled. Asbestos will only become a problem in buildings if it is disturbed or becomes damaged.  Despite popular belief the discovery of asbestos containing materials in a building does not need to be a serious problem.  There is nothing written in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 that states that asbestos must be removed from a building, in fact If existing asbestos containing materials are in good condition and are not likely to be disturbed, they may be left in place as long as their condition is monitored and managed to ensure that they do not become damaged.

Over the next few weeks I will provide some guidance of the many uses of asbestos in buildings and also provide some examples of where you may find asbestos in a building. For those who are not familiar with asbestos I suspect that some of the uses will come as a surprise.

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and colleagues who you think would be interested

Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Septic Tanks – An alternative to mains drainage



Guest article from Duncan - www.propertyhive.org

Under the Water Resources Act 1991, it remains a criminal offence to discharge effluent that is not of a sufficient quality into a watercourse without the consent of the Environment Agency. This can result in a three month prison sentence or a fine of up to £100,000. Therefore it is important to ensure your installations are up to date.
Source: http://www.mtmdrains.co.uk/
Consideration of drainage is an important part of any development and in the vast majority of cases UK developments will enjoy the benefit of being able to connect to ‘main drainage’.  In rural or more isolated areas, where mains drainage is not generally available, alternative methods of controlling and disposing of drainage, particularly foul waste, need to be considered.  Septic tanks are one such option:
The first recorded septic tank was installed in 1896 by Donald Cameron who was the city Surveyor for Exeter. This septic tank served the entire town and was 20 x 6m to a depth 2.1m. Since then there has been some progress in the development of septic tanks, but the principles are basically the same.
Source: http://www.septicrepairny.com/
Septic tanks are covered in UK Building Regulations under Approved Document H, and it is an offence not to build new structures to the standards as set out in the Building Regulations under the Building Act 1990. However as long as the British Standards are followed or bettered this should not be a problem. See BS6297:2007 for further guidance. Building Regulations do not apply retrospectively and so septic tanks that pre-date the 1985 Building Regulations are not affected. This is despite the fact that many septic tanks are no longer fit for purpose due to the increase in water usage rates over the last fifty years. However under the Water Resources Act 1991, it remains a criminal offence to discharge effluent that is not of a sufficient quality into a watercourse without the consent of the Environment Agency. This can result in a three month prison sentence or a fine of up to £100,000. Therefore it is important to ensure your installations are up to date.
Treatment  - All foul drainage should enter a tank including water from W.C’s, showers, sinks, baths and domestic appliances such as washing machines etc. Washing machines and dishwashers are often discharged into rainwater pipes as it is easier, but this can have a significant impact on the local environment and should always be avoided.
A Septic Tank is a self contained installation that processes and treats raw sewage. It is a tank which stores the waste allowing enough time for the organic matter to decompose through natural processes. The sewage becomes liquefied, with a thick oily scum forming on the top and sludge that settles on the bottom. What is left is a central layer of clear liquid, which in older tanks is often emptied straight to a watercourse (which is illegal and harmful to the environment), but in new installations it is treated further before been discharged. The sludge at the bottom is made up of everything that is too heavy to remain in suspension and the oily layer that sits atop is the matter that can decompose naturally.
The secondary treatment usually comes in the form of a soakaway, where the water is drained into a hole formed underground, using plastic formwork that can be described as looking like milk crates, where the water will be soaked up slowly by the ground. Soakaways come with their own set of legal requirements.
The other type of secondary treatment comes in the form of a bio-filter. These have sweeper arms that drip the effluent over clinker beds. Please note that a septic tank is not the same thing as a cess pit, which is a container that stores sewage until it can be emptied and treated elsewhere. Older tanks are often square in shape with brick walls, although modern installations are often pre-fabricated uPVC units that can be square or circular. The septic tank is made of either two separate tanks or one tank split into two
Capacity - A septic tank should be 180 litres in size for every person it serves, with an additional 2000 litres of capacity regardless of the number of people using it.
Litres = 180P + 2000
Where P = the amount of persons served by the tank.
The above calculation should treat children as adults and allows for emptying on an annual basis.
This is so the sewage can be stored long enough that the decomposition of the waste can occur. Anything smaller than this will mean untreated sewage is discharged and solids may cause blockages in the pipework, or if installed the bio-filter. If untreated sewage is allowed to drain into the local environment, there is likely to be an increase in disease, rat infestation and damage to the local environment.
End Product - One of the end products of a septic tank is sludge. This is raw sewage that remains in the tank, and then emptied periodically. The other is water that consists of nitrates and tiny fragments of sewage.
General Problems - An excess of detergent will inhibit separation of the three layers. An excess of disinfectants will kill of the bacteria involved in the treatment process. Day to day domestic use should not cause any problems in a well designed and maintained system. Water softeners however produce salts which in excess can kill of the bacteria required to make the system work.
De-sludging - How often to de-sludge depends largely upon the occupancy of the household and size of tank, but for an average household of 4 people it would be reasonable to assume an annual de-sludging would be sufficient.
Mains Drainage - If there is a nearby sewer you have the right to connect to it. Just contact the local sewerage company and they will give you further details on how to arrange for a connection.
Construction Requirements - Reference should be made to BS6297:2007, which contains recommended materials for use. Rain and groundwater must be prevented from entering the Septic tank, as clean water should not be contaminated. Therefore the tank should be covered, which also helps with the safety issues of having an open tank. Access must be maintained with an access hatch of at least 600mm square. This access should allow for inspection of the inlets and outlets, and should be large enough to allow rodding. Tanks should be situated;
1. Not within 15 metres of the dwelling in question.
2. Not within 10 metres of a watercourse.
3. Not on land that it is regularly flooded, or land that has a high water table.
4. So that a tanker can access for emptying (e.g within 30 metres of vehicle access).
5. Downwind of nearby dwellings if at all possible.

For more information on a variety of property and construction related articles please visit www.propertyhive.org

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and colleagues who you think would be interested


Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Commercial Leases - Dilapidations Liability – Tenants beware!



Once a lease is signed a legal contractual relationship is formed.  It is no defence for a tenant to claim that they were not aware of what they were signing as ignorance is no defence in law! 

Source: http://brisbanecommercialproperty.com.au/
A tenant occupier of a commercial building has a legally binding contractual obligation through their lease to return a building to the landlord in a state of repair that is stipulated within the lease, when the tenancy ends.  Now it may seem obvious that a landlord would expect to have a building returned to them in such a condition so that they can re-let the building immediately, however in reality this very rarely is the case.  This can then lead to protracted dilapidations claims where the costs to the tenant can start to escalate due to a landlord’s a claim for loss of rent and service charge and additional professional fees in addition to the costs of repairs, reinstatement and decorations that are associated with the lease covenants.

In my professional career I spent many years negotiating dilapidation claims (acting on behalf of both landlords and tenants) in the whole spectrum of the different commercial sectors, such as office, industrial, retail, leisure etc.  During this time I have encountered many tenants who did not understand the significance of meeting their lease obligations and in fact entered into a lease arrangement without seeking professional advice or indeed reading the lease in any detail before signing!  The gravity of the situation did not dawn onto these types of tenants until they were served with a schedule of dilapidations accompanied by a summary of claim which often ran into tens of thousands of pounds and sometimes even more. 

Source: http://commercialpropertyforsalewall.blogspot.co.uk/
Once a lease is signed a legal contractual relationship is formed.  It is no defence for a tenant to claim that they were not aware of what they were signing as ignorance is no defence in law!  Therefore a tenant should be aware of what they are entering into and in particular their repairing and other obligations BEFORE they sign the lease.  Although there would be a fee involved it would always be advisable for a tenant to seek professional advice to enable them to understand the lease and in particular their likely dilapidations liability once the lease comes to an end.  Good professional advice may identify obligations and clauses in a lease that may be particularly onerous to a tenant and negotiations may be possible to have clauses removed or at least re-worded.  Also, a professional advisor may recommend that a schedule of condition is taken prior to occupation which can later be used to help limit liability when the lease comes to an end.  In my experience I have found that many tenants are reluctant to pay professional fees for some of the services/advice previously discussed because they do not have the foresight to appreciate the benefits and especially the amount of money it could save them in the future.   Avoiding professional fees, particularly in relation to a tenant entering into a commercial lease arrangement really is a false economy.

A few of years ago I was asked to carry out a dilapidations liability assessment on a number of branches of a mid-sized DIY retailer’s stores which had been put up for sale.  I was acting as Consultant for the prospective purchaser.  The stores were located in many parts of the UK for which each one was occupied under a commercial lease arrangement.  Basically, my Client was considering acquisition of the business, however before being in a position to negotiate a fair price for the business it was necessary for them to understand the likely financial impact (their dilapidations liability), to them when each of the leases came to an end.  Each of the leases were unique, with a variety of remaining terms, (some had a few years remaining and some were much longer). There were also a variety of different repairing, re-instatement and decorations covenants within the leases. 

Prior to undertaking any type of dilapidations inspection it is important to read and understand the lease, which is what I did, and on completion of each inspection I was able to prepare a schedule of dilapidations for each branch.  The difference with dilapidations liability inspections compared to interim or terminal dilapidations inspections is that you need to have an eye on the future.  So I therefore had to take account of the length of term remaining on each lease and to make an assessment of the likely dilapidations that would occur at that point (the end of the term) and not just in the here and know.  I was then able to cost/quantify the lease obligations which would also factor in likely future inflationary cost increases.  I cannot remember the exact overall dilapidations liability however I do remember this totalling in excess of £1 million.  Not exactly the type of money you want to ignore if you are proposing to purchase a business!  My Client then went onto to use this to help negotiate a purchase price.

Not all dilapidations liability will be as costly as the example I give above, however it is worth educating tenants about the benefits of seeking and paying for professional advice before they enter into a commercial lease arrangement.  In most cases larger companies will have there own professional advisers so the pitfalls discussed above are much more likely to be avoided.  In my experience it is the medium and particularly the smaller size companies or even individuals who are less familiar with commercial lease arrangements and worse are much more willing to avoid paying professional fees.  Perhaps it is to these companies/individuals that we need to focus our education?

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and colleagues who you think would be interested


Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.