While every situation is different, this article deals with the responsibilities of:-
Where due to nature of Industrial production, the occupier may have been in situ for some considerable time.
In the case of a purchase of an Industrial Building, as part of the purchase process and the legal obligations placed in the Sales contract, an asbestos survey is a requirement.
Asbestos cement in Industrial properties…
Almost all properties of an Industrial usage build during the period 1960’s to 1970’s almost certainly have asbestos present in one form or another, as its use was widely prevalent at that time. One of the most common uses was in asbestos cement which was used in the creation of mainly roofing ribbed panels. Asbestos is present in what is sometimes referred to as the Big 6 or its alternative the Big 3, which is ribbed asbestos sheet that is then applied to a steel roof frame by way of bolts. The normal arrangement was a series of roof lights set into a frame within the material. Any trip even today through an old Industrial estate will illustrate this construction method.
Asbestos cement roofs, the hidden dangers.
Asbestos ribbed panel roofs are widely used and have been around so long, the danger is “out of sight out of mind”. It was in the past the larger Industrial estate land owners who erected the estates, mainly in one go that initiated the then ‘unknown’ problem.
Since that time, the process of Estate break-ups and the tendency of owner occupiers and investors in the late 70’s and 80’s that led to the proliferation of ownership of individual Units and the break up of the larger estates.
‘Renting out’ the properties to suitable tenants.
Asbestos reports, are they needed?
While it is becoming standard practice for Solicitors to ask questions about asbestos/ its presence or not, sometimes the checks are not as rigorous as they should as it is also practice to renew a lease and stay in the same premises for years, sometimes the need for attention in this area is overlooked.
Modern leases usually incorporate a covenant requiring a Type 2 asbestos survey, which is non evasive in its nature and this should identify the danger areas.
Asbestos comes to light on a re-let or dilapidations report.
As discussed, asbestos can be discovered on a re-let or sale, but also can be spotted if a tenant has been happily in occupation for years – and on a renewal, a dilapidations inspection is performed and suddenly the ‘historical’ problem appears.
As asbestos was not foreseen as a problem at the time of the original lease preparation, often the area of responsibility for putting the matter right can be both expensive and the responsibilities for who pays are often the subject of litigation.
Our professional ‘advise’ team will be happy to investigate and point the way forward on this rather tricky subject.
What can be found on a basic dilapidations survey or inspection?
Over the years, there are many temporary ‘fixes’ to asbestos roof panels, ranging from replacement plastic sheeting, stick black tape/or felt type material called in the trade ‘Flash band’ . In the 80’s there was a period when the entire roof was sprayed with a tar type roofing liquid, that solidified and ‘hid’ all the problems – and indeed did stop the leaking of old roofs.
However, all the above, while temporarily effective – were just that – they stopped the leak, but did not address the underlying problem of the deterioration of the panels, and as we now know, the potential release into the air or the Unit asbestos fibres.
Asbestos cement a life of 30 years?
How long should Asbestos cement roofing last?
It is thought within the trade that 25 to 30 years is acceptable.
However, as mentioned previously, some treatments have been put in place that extends the life of the panels by many years. At the same time, sometimes the industrial process within the building creates chemicals that have a negative result on the panels or the fixings, which themselves corrode.
Fixing bolt problems with asbestos cement sheets
Excess salt in the air, particularly in Coastal towns and Cities, also contributes to the deterioration of the fixing mechanisms – leading to movement in the fixing holes and subsequent damage to the panels.
Badly repaired gutters, mainly the central valley gutter can store excess water and once penetration works its way around the fixings, they will start to deteriorate. In older buildings the bolts were not stainless steel or water resistant coated and so are prone to problems. It is the movement of panels on loose bolts that tends to either
Rock the panel or lead to oversize fixing holes.
Over cladding with a sheeting material intended to stop water penetration on an old roof may be effective for a while, but it can also cause sweating between the ‘over cladding’ and the original roof, leading to the formation of moisture.. Which is not a good thing!
Problems of encapsulated roofs.
As we have said earlier, encapsulation by a material or some form of bitumen type sheet can help, but it masks the underlying problem.
An asbestos roof that is deteriorating has to be repaired, encapsulated or replaced completely.
Asbestos cement sheet repairs
Must be replaced with a different material – even if available (say recovered sheeting) it is not advisable to replace with asbestos sheeting.
Encapsulation of asbestos cement roofs
The normal practice is to over-clad with profile metal sheeting which can be reasonably effective.
However, this does have its problems due to the need to ‘fix’ the new over-roof and does not remove the potential threat of ‘asbestos’ fibres.
Removal and replacement
As regulations become more stringent and the ‘legal’ requirements in leases become more ‘mandatory’ unfortunately, the only real alternative is complete replacement of the old roof, which itself has ‘asbestos’ implications.
The costs of providing short term protection while either removing an old roof or indeed over cladding may be costly in terms of temporary re-location of tenants.
The need for professional advice.
It is essential for Owners, landlords and tenants to make it their business to understand both the implications to their employees in terms of health, but also financially to understand the implications of an ‘asbestos’ included building in their property holdings.
In 2014, we are now possibly some 50 years after the erection of these Industrial Units, and while many have still many years of good service to go, it is essential for you to understand all the implications of owning, renting or occupying one.