Can You Demolish a Building With Asbestos?
You’ve probably heard the word ‘asbestos’ thrown around before, likely in a newspaper headline extolling the harmful impact this material can have on a person’s health. However, you may be unsure of exactly what asbestos is.
Given how prevalent this material is – it’s estimated that asbestos is still present in roughly 1.5 million commercial buildings across the country – everyone undertaking any kind of construction work must be aware of what materials will likely contain asbestos, especially if you’re planning a demolition.
But can you demolish a building with asbestos inside? Or is this simply too dangerous? The team at Hill Demolition is here to explain everything you need to know.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a fibrous material that was widely used in many construction projects across the country between the 1950s and the 1980s. Asbestos was originally thought of as a wonder material; it’s cheap, insulating, sound-absorbing and resistant to heat. However, as soon as the dangers of prolonged asbestos exposure became apparent, the sale, supply and use of this material was banned throughout the UK in 1999.
Why is asbestos banned?
If asbestos becomes displaced or damaged, it can release fibres into the air. If inhaled, these tiny fibres can become trapped in the lungs and accumulate which, over time, can cause scarring in the lung tissue. This can increase the risk of developing several diseases, including asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Even now, more than 20 years on from the ban on asbestos, there are an estimated 5,000 asbestos-related disease deaths every year. The seriousness of this issue can’t be overstated; it’s impossible to cure or reverse the scarring and damage caused by asbestos exposure.
Where can you find asbestos?
Although asbestos has been banned for over two decades, many buildings constructed before 1999 will still feature asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Unfortunately, thanks to its fire resistance and insulative properties, asbestos was widely used in a vast range of construction materials, such as:
- Flooring tiles
- Ceiling or floor cavity insulation
- Roofing felt
- Asbestos cement products
- Asbestos insulating boards
Can you demolish a building with asbestos?
What most people don’t seem to realise is that the mere presence of asbestos isn’t dangerous; it’s when asbestos becomes disturbed that it poses a risk, making demolition a potentially hazardous operation.
Whilst you can demolish a building with asbestos, there are a number of extra precautions that must be taken to ensure safety:
- Asbestos survey:
Before any demolition work begins at your property, a Refurbishment and Demolition Survey must be carried out by a qualified professional, as is legally required by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive). This extensive and often intrusive assessment will scour all areas of the property to establish how widespread any asbestos is and identify any ACMs and PACMs (presumed asbestos-containing materials), from which samples will be taken.
- Asbestos management plan:
If a survey confirms the presence of asbestos in your building, you’ll need to have a plan in place to minimise danger. You should appoint a designated coordinator to manage the situation and conduct a thorough risk assessment.
- Asbestos disposal:
Before a building can be demolished, any asbestos must be safely removed in a process known as asbestos abatement. Due to the hazardous nature of this job, it must only be performed by a licensed contractor, like Hill Demolition. First, the asbestos must be dampened down to minimise fibre release. Then, the asbestos will be gently removed, either manually or mechanically, in full compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The asbestos will then need to be disposed of at a licensed facility.
Do you need help demolishing a property with asbestos inside? The team here at Hill Demolition can make light work of asbestos management with our full range of asbestos removal and asbestos disposal services. With over 50 years of experience to our name, we adhere to all HSE and Environment Agency guidelines and will handle any demolition with the utmost care.