Planning, planning, planning!

Permits, Asbestos and Demolition

A quiet few weeks from the outside, Block and Cube have been busier than ever from a planning perspective!

We’ve been going through the asbestos remediation process. Remediation is now required prior to a demolition, and with 515 and 523 Washington slated for removal, it was crucial for us to get this process completed.

The Sharland was a different story – asbestos for the most part can be left in place if it will not be disturbed. We could have simply left it where it was (or covered it, in certain cases such as the vinyl tile on the main floor).

However, we chose to remove it because (1) we will be working on insulating the wall cavity, which was filled in certain places with contaminated vermiculite, and (2) we will be investing quite a bit in the upstairs particularly (adding a second bathroom and a reconfiguration of the bedrooms) and since a lot of the asbestos was found in the attic, we decided that if it was ever going to be removed, now was the time (prior to investing in our new walls, floors and fixtures!)

While this required a lot of preparation, it has given us some appreciated down time to further develop the overall site plan and individual unit plans, which has been quite exciting!

Asbestos Remediation

Basic Steps for Asbestos Remediation:

1. Hazmat Testing or Assessment: A qualified contractor will assess your home or building. They take samples from any assembly or building material that may commonly contain any amount of asbestos. A few places asbestos might be commonly found: vermiculite insulation (attics or miscellaneous wall cavities), older vinyl tiles (we were told if it was 9×9 in dimension, there was a strong chance it contained asbestos), ceiling textures and plaster wall finishes, insulation covering older HVAC ducts.

Several samples are taken from anything suspected to contain asbestos. The assessor will create a basic plan of the house and marks where the samples were taken from. The samples are shipped to a lab for analysis and the owner is then provided with a detailed report on where asbestos was found, and in what quantities.

2. Remediation: In this phase a remediation contractor will look at both the report and building itself and determine the best method to remove the asbestos and provide the owner with a detailed quote. Once accepted, typically, if the asbestos is friable (crumbles easily and risks contaminating the air) the entire building will be sealed before remediation, which is performed in several ways. In the cases of the tear downs, it was actually easiest for the contractor to pull the entire ceiling down onto plastic. Other methods including vacuuming and encapsulating.

This will generally take at least a few days, depending on the size of the building, amount of asbestos, and complexity of the removal.

3. Final Clearance and Report: Once completed, testing is done to determine if all the asbestos was removed. The contractor who performs this step cannot be the contractor who performed the remediation (although in our case, it was provided by the same company as did the initial assessment). The final clearance report is required for the demolition permit, or for future use (such as a sale, insurance purposes, etc).

A few additional lessons for those with looming asbestos problems:

  • Start early! It can be a pretty expensive process and you’ll want multiple quotes. Accurately assessing (and quoting) is time consuming for both the owner and the contractors, so give yourself lots of time.
  • Expect to pay in the neighbourhood of $15,000 for a single family home – although this can vary quite a bit. Make sure this possibility is accounted for early in the budgeting process for any purchases or projects.
  • Asbestos removal generally requires power and water. If the buildings in question have had services disconnected (as was our case and may be common for teardowns not currently inhabited) the contractor will require generators and water on site.

Demolition Prep

We had previously removed things such as recyclable metals, salvageable materials (doors, trim, electrical panels etc.) and recycled, donated, or saved for future use as appropriate.

With the asbestos remediation complete, we were at the permitting stage. Alberta One was called, a site plan prepared, and documentation and applications completed.

This stage was simplified by the fact that the services had already been disconnected, although some things were still required (cable and overhead electrical needed to be physically disconnected, for example).

However, with everything in place, we anticipate demolition to take place soon.

Stay tuned!