Buyer Aware: Managing EHS Aspects of Facilities; EHS Professionals Should Be on the Front Line in Assuring That the Purchase and Renovation of Buildings Hold No Health and Safety Booby Traps

By Gladu, Nicole | Occupational Hazards, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Buyer Aware: Managing EHS Aspects of Facilities; EHS Professionals Should Be on the Front Line in Assuring That the Purchase and Renovation of Buildings Hold No Health and Safety Booby Traps


Gladu, Nicole, Occupational Hazards


The purchase and development of a building or property is often conducted without thoroughly evaluating environmental, health and safety (EHS) concerns. Assessing facility-related EHS issues can reduce the potential for unforeseen costs, scheduling delays and potential exposures to environmental contaminants. Properly managing the EHS aspects of a facility can also add considerable value to buildings and properties.

Regulatory requirements and best practices relating to EHS management throughout a property's life-cycle are examined in this article. These elements include:

* "Due diligence" when acquiring a property

* Renovation or demolition of a property

* New construction

* Operations and management of existing properties

* Facility decommissioning, and

* Site remediation

Pre-Purchase Due Diligence

An environmental site assessment (ESA) should be performed prior to purchase. ESAs should be conducted in accordance with ASTM standard E 1527-00 and performed by a qualified environmental professional. ESAs are the most common tool for evaluating a site's history and potential environmental liability.

Phase I ESAs involve non-intrusive investigative techniques to identify current and past (historical) use at the subject property, and the potential effects of that use on the subject and adjoining properties. If a Phase I assessment indicates a potential environmental concern, a Phase II ESA should be conducted to further define the extent of the identified concern (this generally involves intrusive environmental sampling techniques).

Properly conducted ESAs enable corporate managers, borrowers, investors and lenders to fulfill due diligence requirements for all types of properties and transactions (before purchase, sale, development, refinancing or foreclosure). The importance of this information is related to how it affects the property's value. Properties that have a "clean bill of health" are worth more than properties with environmental impairments.

In addition to standard ESAs, many purchasers and lending institutions require additional building investigations as part of due diligence, including:

* Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) assessments,

* Mold evaluations,

* Asbestos surveys, and

* Lead investigations.

The results of these investigations can also have a dramatic effect on property values. Generally, these pre-purchase inspections are non-destructive and include a complete walk-through of the building to identify visible signs of water incursion or mold growth, accessible suspect asbestos-containing material (ACM), and deteriorated suspect lead-containing paint (LCP).

Pre-purchase inspections may also include observing maintenance procedures and schedules as well as reviewing available historical documents. Limited sampling may be performed; however, assessments performed as part of due diligence are generally not adequate for renovation or demolition.

Operations and Maintenance

If regulated materials are present in a building (such as ACM, LCP, contaminated drinking water, etc.), a written Operations and Maintenance (O & M) program should be developed to reduce EHS liabilities and control costs.

O & M programs should include survey information identifying regulated building materials as well as descriptions concerning the location, extent and condition of the materials. They should also outline standard operating procedures for maintaining these materials, such as:

* Maintenance schedules

* Inspection schedules

* Personnel training requirements

* Handling procedures, and

* Emergency response procedures

O & M programs should be continuously updated to reflect current site conditions. Depending on the size and complexity of a site, the building owner or manager should consider incorporating the use of computer-based technologies (such as databases and geographical information systems) to more efficiently implement and sustain the O & M program. …

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