Refurbishment of a flat in Onslow Gardens, London SW7

As an ARCHITECT you have to be aware that asbestos has been used historically as a building material, most prominently used from the 1930’s in various forms, asbestos building products were banned in 1977.

In the above project we discovered some AIB hidden in part of the wall we were demolishing, which was not expected as it looked like the flat had been renovated in the late 70’s early 80’s.

While I am used to discovering anomalies in buildings, having dealt with them for over 25 years, these can usually be dealt with in a timely manner by coming up with a solution and resolving this with the contractor on site while informing the client of the possible cost implication.

This is why I advise my clients to set aside 10% of the construction costs as a contingency amount.

Once we discovered the AIB, we contacted the client and recommended we get a specialist onto site to examine the situation and give us their advice which was that the amount of work involved in the removal of the AIB was notifiable and that we should have a licensed contractor carry out this work.
We then proceeded to get quotes for this work…….this is where my first warning and piece of advice comes in. SHOP AROUND FOR QUOTES.
We got 4 quotes ranging from £40K to £7K which is a huge difference.

Once we had selected the contractor to carry out the works, the notification had to be submitted which has a 2 week notice period, the contractor was booked and then the works had to be carried out. All of this effectively closed down the site and works were delayed by 5 weeks which on a 16 week contract was horrendous but could not be helped. The client wanted the best quotes, we had to have a specialist undertake the work and there were statutory requirements.

This brings me to my second piece of advice.


Fortunately we had a considerate builder who did not charge the client for the “down time” but would have been within his rights to do so.
My third piece of advice therefore is that if you are having building work done and there is such an unforeseen delay requiring a specialist, do not ignore your contractor – NEGOTIATE HIS COSTS FOR THIS PERIOD.

Common uses of asbestos include:

Loose asbestos which can be found in wall cavities and floor /ceiling voids is a loose “candyfloss” insulation material and white/grey in colour and is probably the most dangerous as this is almost pure asbestos and when disturbed can release a large amount of fibres into the air.

Lagging and Insulation often used on heating systems around pipework the appearance of this can be deceiving as it may have been painted, again a very dangerous fibrous material which flakes and powders when disturbed.

Sprayed coatings used as insulation to the underside of roofs or a fire retardant to steel and concrete beams usually a rough white/grey finish but can be painted, with around 85% asbestos breaks up easily releasing a large quantity of fibres.

All of the above should not be worked on unless by a HSE-licensed contractor.

Asbestos insulating board (AIB) has a variety of applications in ceilings, walls and linings and can be difficult to identify. This work should be notified
There are other products such as floor tiles, textured coatings and asbestos cement products. These can be dealt with by trained non-licensed contractors with certain provisions and may not need notification.

Please refer to the HSE government website for further information.

Please be aware that all information given in this article general and not definitive and comments are there to raise awareness and not used as a guide or other etc…..