We have reported many times about renovation projects that have been derailed when unanticipated asbestos is discovered. When handled properly, however, projects can be kept on track while also keeping workers and the public safe from potential health hazards. Officials at Columbia College have done just that, and a major renovation is progressing safely and on schedule even with the presence of asbestos.
According to a Sept. 5 article in the Columbia Chronicle, renovations being done at the Getz Theatre at Columbia College in Chicago are continuing despite uncovering asbestos. As part of the campus’s ongoing initiative to update campus space, the theater is undergoing a $10 million renovation to make it a “state-of-the-art academic theater.” Initially budgeted for $9 million, another $1 million was added to manage the asbestos.
John Kavouris, Associate Vice President of Facilities and Operation said that asbestos is “everywhere.” Finding asbestos in the 1929 building is not uncommon since asbestos was used heavily in construction material in buildings built prior to 1980.
“We found it in some places we expected, [but] we also found it in some places we didn’t expect,” said Kavouris.”Every time we find it, we immediately abate it. It’s a very common issue in old buildings like this.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health is charged with managing the management and removal of asbestos in the state’s structures. Illinois regulations require all workers who manage or abate asbestos to be trained and licensed. All contractors who conduct asbestos abatement projects must have insurance and are required to be licensed. Asbestos abatement includes removal, encapsulation, enclosure, cleanup and repair of asbestos-containing materials.
Expert Insight“Construction is on schedule, despite the unexpected amount of asbestos in pipe insulation and flooring found.”
Inhalation of asbestos fibers has been linked to mesothelioma, an incurable cancer, lung cancer and asbestosis, scarring and hardening of lung tissue. Symptoms resulting from asbestos exposure often take decades to present themselves.
Renovations at Getz Theatre include reconfiguration of sixth-floor classrooms, creation of a scene shop, accommodations to allow for tall pieces of scenery to be built in the scene shop and moved directly onto the theatre stage, and a reconfigured main stage auditorium.
It can take between 15 and 60 years after exposure to asbestos before an asbestos-related disease is diagnosed. Anyone exposed faces a life-long health risk. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.