A large construction development project can be divided into two phases: the demolition of existing property structures and the construction of new buildings. It is the construction phase that is often focused on by developers/owners: they secure a reputable general contractor, architect, and engineer to ensure an efficient and quality process. The demolition phase, however, is often erroneously oversimplified, with the entirety of its success entrusted to the sub-contracted demolition/abatement contractor. While it is important to have a reputable subcontractor to perform the demolition and abatement work, it is not in the owner’s best interest (or the subcontractor’s preference) to leave them responsible for all aspects of the demolition. Failing to ensure your subcontractor has a well-written specification to adhere to and not hiring an experienced project manager to advocate for the owner’s interests on-site are two common mistakes top developers aren’t making and here’s why:
A well-written specification will outline for the subcontractor the quantity and location of hazardous materials (asbestos, lead, etc.), universal waste, and heavy metals; address the safety regulations that need to be met by correctly classifying the level of abatement each area necessitates; and to meet the interests of the owner, often details the most cost-effective way of sequencing the abatement. A strong specification will also consider the areas deeper within the building structure where further regulated materials are likely to be encountered during demolition, which allows for the pre-planning of probable delays and eradicates a potential scheduling setback. The specification is a very important document to have done well because if information is left out or erroneous (as often seen in specifications written by inexperienced project designers), it leaves the subcontractor to assess and decide what needs to be removed, which regulations need to be followed during the removal, and how it should be sequenced—critical project design decisions they are not qualified to make, and if made incorrect, can lead to project setbacks and fines.
If left without a specification to guide them, a subcontractor will perform the demolition and abatement with a “take it as it comes” approach. This equates to abating hazardous materials as they are discovered. As one can infer, not only does this method make a project vulnerable to lengthy delays, but it also takes away an owner’s ability to hold someone accountable for the delay since this hazardous material potential was never written into the original bid and schedule. Furthermore, each time potentially hazardous materials are encountered, normal demolition activity must be suspended while these materials are assessed. Depending on the results of the assessment, project parameters (crew and equipment) and their coinciding schedule must be altered. Remember, construction crews schedule their work far in advance and are continuously moving from one project site to the next. If one does not utilize their services in the time allotted, it can be very stressful and difficult to arrange a new schedule within a short time period.
Besides a strong specification, it is imperative that a developer/owner also have a knowledgeable project manager overseeing the demolition and abatement work. Unless they plan on being on-site each day and are highly knowledgeable about construction time sequencing and pricing, not having a project manager prevents them from having accurate, real-time information about their project. A knowledgeable project manager will provide them with the certainty that people are adhering to the most optimal process of demolition/abatement and being held accountable to the agreed upon project timeline. A good project manager does this through weekly planning meetings that verify the scope, what was accomplished, what still needs to be accomplished, and forces the subcontractor to answer how they will address any current lags. An experienced project manager will calculate the current pace and force the subcontractor to take the necessary steps (for example, by increasing the crew or adding additional equipment) needed to keep the project on schedule. (Industry Tip: When hiring a project manager, look to ensure their bid mandates being on-site while project work is being performed (versus remote or infrequent check-ins). This ensures that each challenge that arises is handled immediately with the least amount of lag time, and visits from L&I and other regulating bodies are taken care of with precision and efficiency.)
Having an experienced project manager providing demolition oversight also streamlines the discovery and abatement of materials that may be found deep within the building structure. Hazardous material specialists have the knowledge to foresee the areas where hazardous materials may be present ahead of time, synchronizing these potentials into the schedule from the beginning, rather than having to alter the schedule during. They also hold the training needed to sample and analyze these materials in advance, rather than as encountered.
Besides causing schedule delays, not investing in a strong specification can be a costly decision because it means the abatement costs of hazardous materials is an unknown entity in the agreed upon contract/budget with the demolition/abatement subcontractor. As anyone in the construction industry understands, having anything unspecified in a contract leaves the price of that work open to leaving the budget as the work progresses. This can strain the owner/subcontractor relationship; the subcontractor feels uncomfortable having to continually ask for addition funding and feels this could’ve been avoided had he/she known about the materials beforehand and been able to provide a more applicable bid, while the owner can experience feelings of distrust, as well as stress from the project going so far above the initial budget.
A second aspect of cost control that a well-written specification provides is greater precision. A subcontractor does not have the skillset of an experienced project designer to construe the most economical and efficient removal. What’s more, there is an extremely high price differential between labeling an entire area as hazardous material containing versus, for example, having the expertise to deduce that only one layer of a floor needs to be classified as such.
Lastly, hiring an experienced project manager for project oversight allows the owner to rest-assured that there will be clear adherence to the specification and the identified budget—no exceptions.
Unlike the construction phase, the demolition phase deals with the abatement of many heavily regulated materials. They are dangerous to the health and safety of humans and being such, regulating agencies take their proper handling and disposal very seriously. This is why there are hefty fines (often bankrupt worthy) when officials discover project sites out of compliance with these regulations. At the end of the day, an owner is both liable and culpable for what is happening on their property, and therefore it is important to have somebody on-site who is knowledgeable about the regulations, an expert at properly identifying hazardous materials, and can ensure that the contractor’s means and methods are adequate to meet compliance standards.
The demolition phase of property development should not be overlooked. Just as you wouldn’t hire a general contractor and tell them to “just start building”, it is unwise to subcontract out the demolition and leave them to “just start demolishing”. In the same way that a general contractor needs architectural drawings to build well and benefits from the collaboration of a project manager, the subcontractor handling the demolition and abatement needs a thorough specification to effectively perform his/her role and also benefits from knowledgeable project guidance. Top developers understand these realities and protect themselves by hiring a skilled project designer to write a comprehensive specification and an experienced project manager to remain on-site throughout demolition and abatement, advocating on their behalf.
Sometimes hiring a “certified” asbestos abatement contractor is not enough to protect your employees and the public.
PacRim has years of expertise to help you get your project identified, planned and executed. We can ensure your abatement contractor is completing the work in an efficient and legal fashion.
We have the experience and team to keep you, your employees and the public safe.
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today issued a memorandum outlining the initial enforcement of the standard for respirable crystalline silica in general industry and maritime. Most provisions of the standard become enforceable on June 23, 2018. The standard establishes a new 8-hour time-weighted average permissible exposure limit, action level, and associated ancillary requirements.
Full details here: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/silicacrystalline/gi_maritime.html
PacRim was pleased to be part of the “Dream Team” that helped facilitate this project.
Work to restore the Otis Hotel in downtown Spokane was stopped this month after air quality inspectors found signs of asbestos and no sign the developer had hired a certified contractor to deal with the cancer-causing material.
Notices posted March 9 on the doors of the old hotel show an “order of immediate restraint,” which halts all work as the state Department of Labor and Industries investigates if proper handling and disposal of any asbestos-laden materials has been done.
Jeff Lewis our President and founder has been accepted and will join the Spring Class of 2018 of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program. This is the national program designed by Babson College, the nation’s top-ranked entrepreneurship school, that provides small businesses with an intensive 4 month, online and on-campus, program to develop practical skills that small business managers can immediately put into action within their company. The skills learned during the program will include how to recognize new opportunities, embrace practices that increase business growth and ultimately develop a customized growth plan for their business.
As a part of being accepted into this program, Jeff will be attending the 10,000 Small Businesses Summit: The Big Power of Small Business event on February 13 and 14, 2018 in Washington DC. Some of the speakers of the event include Lloyd Blankfein, Michael Bloomberg, and Warren Buffet, along with some of our elected officials who are involved in the support and development of small businesses.
Tumwater – A Seattle hotel owner who knew his building contained asbestos decided to cut corners and save money by removing it using untrained workers. As a result, the Seattle Pacific Hotel has been cited for multiple egregious safety and health violations and faces $355,000 in fines for exposing the workers to asbestos hazards.
The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited the hotel for a dozen “willful” violations, the most severe, for knowingly exposing workers to asbestos during the hotel remodeling.
“It’s unconscionable that anyone would knowingly expose untrained and unprotected workers to asbestos. It’s an extremely hazardous material that’s notorious for causing cancer and other serious health issues,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
L&I began its investigation last July and immediately issued a stop-work order when it discovered that asbestos removal was being done by workers who were not trained or certified to safely perform the work.
During the lobby renovation, an asbestos-abatement contractor had discovered that much of the ceiling was originally constructed with cement-asbestos-board. The L&I investigation found that the hotel owner, Raj Nariya, had gotten an estimate from the certified asbestos-abatement contractor who discovered the issue, but didn’t hire that firm. Instead, the owner had untrained employees of a roofing contractor do the work without letting them know the ceiling contained asbestos.
Asbestos is extremely hazardous and can cause potentially fatal diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Removal and disposal of asbestos-containing building materials must be done by a certified abatement contractor who follows safety and health rules to protect workers and the public.
The L&I investigation found a total of 12 willful workplace health violations related to removal of the asbestos. Ten of the violations carried a penalty of $35,000 each, the maximum amount allowed for an employer of its size.
The violations cited were for exposing workers to asbestos, failing to provide respiratory protection, leaving asbestos debris on site and other safety and health issues. The hotel owner was also cited for an additional willful-general violation for not taking a pre-removal air sample before removing the asbestos-materials. That violation came with a $5,000 fine.
The employer has 15 business days to appeal the citation.
Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.
For a copy of the citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.
For media information: Elaine.Fischer@Lni.wa.gov or 360-902-5413.
PacRim is proud of Amazon in their support of Mary’s Place. We are happy to be part of the team, and have assisted Mary’s place in their current facilities and look forward to helping them expand their programs and services and the good work they are doing.
News article in the Tacoma News Tribune regarding a project we recently completed for Pierce County.