Crumbling Schools Pose Asbestos Risks
It’s been all over the news, crumbling concrete threatening schools all over the country. With worries about repair costs factored in, some of these schools might be demolished to make way for new ones, instead of the existing buildings being renovated.
For those that are due to be renovated, asbestos poses another risk. The presence of asbestos in some of the schools could complicate remedial work even further. Removing the undesirable RAAC concrete can range anywhere between thousands of pounds to multi- millions, depending on the scale. But, if there is found to be asbestos in those buildings, that cost could skyrocket even further.
One building surveyor talked about the trade-off between renovating a 50-year-old building from 1970, to add another 20 years of life expectancy, versus building a new one that will last at least 50 years.
Plus, experts have warned that trying to remove RAAC in ceilings or floors can increase the risk of exposure to asbestos.
Why Is Asbestos Such A Problem?
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time not too long ago when asbestos was one of the most commonplace building materials around. A naturally occurring, fire-retardant fibrous silicate, asbestos had the advantages of being relatively cheap to produce and highly effective to work with. This means it would have been a popular building material in schools erected in the second half of the 20th century.
What wasn’t commonly understood at the time was that asbestos can also cause a condition called asbestosis – a chronic lung disease that results from small fibres of asbestos making their way into people’s lungs – which can, in turn, lead to an often fatal form of cancer called mesothelioma.
If these schools are going to be renovated, then thorough asbestos surveys will need to be conducted, to ensure there is an adequate asbestos management plan in place. This is the only way to protect the workers, staff and pupils at these schools.