High-profile, deadline-driven projects pose a variety of challenges that can test project managers, increase construction budgets, and cause a lot of headaches. Terracon performs services on projects like this every day throughout the country, while addressing challenges before they grow into bigger problems.
Amid intense regulatory scrutiny and a fast-track completion schedule, IHI/Terracon completed a project that included hazardous materials consulting services for one of the largest single-building asbestos abatement projects in the history of the State of Colorado at the Byron G. Rogers Federal Office Building in downtown Denver.
From 2011-2013, IHI/Terracon performed abatement management and air monitoring services during the removal of asbestos-containing materials on 21 floors that included 465,000 square feet of building space.
Addressing Logistical Challenges and Intense Regulatory Scrutiny
Logistically, the project was challenging in many ways — more than one thousand tons of asbestos-containing waste was removed from a large building located in a densely populated metropolitan area. It was a high-profile project that involved more than 250 onsite personnel including engineers, architects, construction managers, abatement workers, and renovation tradespeople.
For all of these reasons, the project was highly scrutinized by municipal, state, and federal regulatory agencies that included the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Federal Protective Service, and City and County of Denver agencies.
To start, IHI/Terracon assigned a full-time onsite asbestos abatement project manager with more than 20 years of experience to supervise and coordinate with regulatory agencies, the client, and onsite personnel. The manager was onsite and worked exclusively on this project for the duration. During abatement activities, the project manager supervised a team of asbestos specialists who performed over 13,175 hours of abatement monitoring that included two shifts per day staffed by up to five personnel, six days a week. Having a dedicated field manager onsite, who was able to give his full attention to client requests or challenges, was key to the success of this abatement project.
Project Complicating Factors, the “Piston Effect”
In addition to the managerial, regulatory, and communication challenges posed by this project, there were a variety of technical factors that complicated the abatement project from a consulting standpoint. One of these factors, the “Piston Effect,” involved forced movement of airflow through the building by elevator operations. The Byron G. Rogers building had nine operational elevators and 20-story-tall shafts that passed through asbestos regulated areas.
The regulated areas in the facility consisted of 25,000-square-foot heavy plastic “tent-like” containments inside the building that operated under negative air pressure and filtered 250,000 cubic feet of air at a rate of six times per hour. The protective containments and air filtering systems in these regulated areas protected workers and the general public from the release of asbestos fibers during the removal of asbestos-containing materials that included sprayed-on fireproofing, plaster, thermal system insulation (TSI), floor tile and associated mastic, and concrete masonry block filler.
How did the Piston Effect complicate working in the asbestos abatement containment? The building had elevators acting as large pistons pushing air at various intervals through a 20-story high-rise. These dramatic fluctuations in air flow had the potential to compromise or damage the containments, which would cause a release of asbestos fibers that would contaminate the building.
Before the project began, IHI/Terracon carefully reviewed asbestos abatement project design and specifications to verify that they were in adherence with federal, state, and local regulations. The IHI/ Terracon team also invested thousands of hours monitoring abatement activities to verify compliance with regulations. Daily project management, visual inspections, observation of work practices, air monitoring, and final clearance air testing were all important components of these monitoring procedures.
Given the complexity and scale of this project, it is noteworthy to mention that no notices of violation were issued to the project by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. On a large project like this, violations can lead to fines, delays, and create other financial setbacks. These factors also open the door to litigation and other legal liabilities. Terracon prefers to get the job done right the first time and this project was a good example of meeting this goal.