Older buildings and homes have character, but they can also come with hidden health concerns. Outdated and unsafe building materials like asbestos and lead paint can cause serious risks and require quick remediation. Additionally, allergens like mold or mildew can occur due to unchecked moisture levels, condensation build up, humid climates, undetected leaks, or inadequate air movement. These dangers not only pose a threat to the health of occupants, but they can also create legal issues for commercial building owners.
First let’s look at asbestos, the health concerns, and the process for remediation. Asbestos is a known carcinogen that was used extensively in building materials prior to the 1970s due to its fire resistance. It’s usually found in older buildings built before regulations banned its usage in the United States. Asbestos was commonly used as duct and pipe insulation, vermiculite attic insulation, ceiling and wall acoustical tiles, cement asbestos siding, roofing, and floor tiles. When exposed to asbestos over time, the fibers cause scarring and inflammation, which can affect breathing and lead to serious health problems. If asbestos has been identified, removing it should become a priority because it is widely known as a cause of permanent lung damage, deadly mesothelioma cancer, and asbestosis.
Generally, a residence and a commercial building have the same challenges for asbestos remediation. The primary difference is that a commercial space often has more square footage, so it most likely will cost more to seal off the area during preparation. Only a professional asbestos abatement company is certified to remove asbestos using proper safety equipment, creating a negative pressure environment, and oversee proper disposal. Most of the cost will go toward protecting the area from additional exposure during removal. If removal poses a larger risk due to the concern of fibers becoming airborne another option is to encapsulate or seal the asbestos. Encapsulation costs about 20 percent less than asbestos removal costs and involves applying a special coating to bind the fibers together. Encapsulation is commonly done in ductwork or around air handling systems due to the high risk of air movement.
Lead Paint Removal
Properties and buildings built prior to 1978 almost assuredly have lead-based paint covering, even if it is under newer layers of safer paint. Lead was commonly added to paints to accelerate the drying process, maintain durability, and add moisture resistance. It was a cheap, effective way to manufacture paint but the exposure to the toxic heavy metal created health concerns. Exposure to lead was shown to cause anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. Very high levels of lead exposure can actually cause death, so laws enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2010 were put in place to further prevent contamination from lead-based paints. Simple testing can determine the presence of lead-based paint. If you have lead-based paint in a commercial building, there are a few options for remediation. A certified contractor is trained to safely determine the best abatement strategy and according to the EPA, professional lead-based paint removal costs about $8 to $15 per square foot. There are four types of remediation for lead-based paint.
Encapsulation which typically is the most affordable method, involves applying a specially paint-like coating that creates a watertight bond and seals in the lead-based paint. However, opening and closing doors and windows eventually may wear off the coating.
Enclosure secures the old surface with lead-based paint and covers it with a new material such as drywall or vinyl cladding. If the enclosed surface is ever removed, then exposure is a risk.
Removal of lead-based paint completely is the most complicated and includes wire brushing, wet hand scraping with liquid paint removers, wet sanding surfaces, or stripping of paint with a low-temperature heat gun.
Replacement is the most expensive and is essentially taking out the offending surfaces or features and installing new windows, doors, woodwork, and other surfaces. Disposal is costly.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew spores are a microscopic part of nature that float freely in the air we breathe whether we are at home, work, or outside. Even if people have regular exposure to mold or mildew there is a health concern when those spores find a warm, humid, and often porous space where they germinate and become a harmful colony. In older buildings or large commercial properties, it can be hard to identify the severity or even the mold or mildew source. Furthermore, remediation of a severe issue can potentially stir up the mold or mildew colony, sending new spores and harmful mycotoxins into the air. A professional mold inspection is a first step in identifying the type and severity of the mold or mildew problem, which on average costs $500 to $800 depending on the size of the testing area. In addition, some locations such as New York, require a licensed hygienist to do the inspection, so it is important to check local, state, and federal requirements.
The cost to remediate mold or mildew from a commercial building can vary depending on square footage, location, condition, and severity of the mold infestation. It can range in price from as low as $13 per square foot to $30 per square foot. Though in many cases the mold colony is limited to one or two locations, which can be remediated for a much lower price than a complete building remediation.1
Mold Prevention with ArmaFlex®
Armacell can help with at least one of these remediation problems. Once abatement is completed on an older property to remove any offending materials, it is essential that contractors use safe, compliant building materials during the rebuild to avoid future health issues. To prevent future mold issues, building owners repairing or replacing mechanical systems can chose the right products that prevent poor air quality and health risks. An increasing number of building owners seeking better Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) have decided to replace existing fibrous or open cell insulation with Armacell’s elastomeric foam. Only a closed-cell material like AP/ArmaFlex elastomeric foam insulation is specifically designed to prevent mold and mildew on the insulation on mechanical systems, pipes, and ducts. ArmaFlex is not only fiber-free, formaldehyde-free, low Volatile organic compounds emitting, and non-particulating, but it is also made with Microban® antimicrobial product protection for added resistance to the growth of mold on the insulation. Most of our insulation products are third-party GreenGuard Gold certified, the standard designed to define low-emitting materials suitable for environments where people spend extended periods of time. So, remember, you won’t have to do wellness remediation on mechanical systems later if you use right insulation now.