Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Handling Adaptive Reuse

Mt. Vernon Mill, Baltimore, MD
Hazardous Materials In Older Buildings
With the increasing popularity of adaptive reuse and historic preservation projects, we find ourselves working in older buildings more often. These projects are environmentally friendly by cutting down on the amount of demolition and construction waste ending up in landfills. But we need to be mindful of the hazardous materials we may encounter in older buildings. Many of the products and building materials commonly used decades ago are now considered hazardous materials. 

One of the most widely used hazardous materials was asbestos. Asbestos was a miracle fiber that added properties of strength, fire resistance, corrosion resistance, and heat, noise and electrical insulation to any product it was added to. It’s no wonder it was added to literally thousands of different building materials including pipe insulation and spray-on fire proofing. It was even used as fake snow on Hollywood movie sets. Unfortunately, we now know that when fibers of asbestos become airborne, they can cause serious lung diseases including lung cancer. The removal of asbestos-containing materials is heavily regulated by OSHA and the EPA and should only be done by properly qualified employees.

These projects are environmentally friendly by cutting down on the amount of demolition and construction waste ending up in andfills. But we need to be mindful of the hazardous materials we may encounter in older buildings.

Many old buildings from before 1978 also contain leadbased paint. Lead dust from demolition, or fumes from burning, can cause lead poisoning. Employees can inhale the dust or fume, or it can be ingested indirectly if good hygiene practices are not followed. Lead can accumulate in a person’s body and cause neurological, digestive and/or reproductive problems. Children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning. Work practices in child-occupied facilities such as schools, childcare centers, or apartment buildings are strictly spelled out by the EPA. Mercury is another hazardous material that can be found in older buildings. Mercury is used in fluorescent and HID lights, thermostats, and switches. Mercury is a metal that is liquid at room temperatures and can evaporate into the air when spilled, or when equipment is damaged. Mercury exposure can cause symptoms ranging from tremors and mood changes, to brain damage. In the nineteenth century, hat-makers used mercury when making felt hats and often suffered from mercury poisoning – hence the phrase “mad as a hatter.” 

Polychlorinated biphenyls are another example of a commonly used material that is now considered hazardous. Better known as PCBs, they were used in electric transformers and light ballasts as an electric insulator and coolant. PCBs can cause skin disorders and are believed to be carcinogenic. If a light ballast is not labeled as “No PCBs” you should assume it is hazardous and should be disposed of properly. Oils in electrical equipment can be tested and disposed of by an environmental remediation contractor. These are just a few examples of the hazardous materials that may be encountered in older buildings. The list doesn't even include the old batteries, cleaners, oils, and pesticides that may be left over in the building.

Older buildings may be full of hazardous materials, but with proper work practices and disposal, they can be handled in a safe, healthy, and environmentally responsible manner.

For any help or questions regarding hazardous materials, please contact John Kotchish, Safety Division Manager, jkotchish@rkinsley.com or (717) 741-8333.

Social Security Administration National Data Center

Kinsley Site has teamed up with small business contractor JHG Contractors to perform the mass grading and utilities for a new 300,000 SF, $500 million National Data Center for the Social Security Administration. This Center is located on a 33-acre parcel of the Urbana Corporate Center that Kinsley constructed right off of MD 270 in Frederick, Maryland. The team’s contract is with Virginia-based Hensel Phelps Construction and Kinsley’s portion of the project consists of two phases. In August of 2012 we began working on the first phase which includes installation of sediment and erosion control work, constructing stormwater management facilities, moving 250,000 CY of bulk excavation, and boxing in new access roads. The second stage is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2013 and will involve the final grading of the stormwater management system. JHG is responsible for the installation of the substantial amount of underground utilities servicing this facility. The data center is scheduled to open in 2014.

Phoenix Contact

Phoenix Contact, Middletown, PA
Phoenix Contact, Inc. is a global corporation that provides products and solutions for all aspects of electrical engineering and automation. The company, headquartered in Blomberg Germany, employs more than 12,000 people worldwide and has sales in excess of $1.5 billion. They operate seven production facilities including the Middletown, PA location. Phoenix Contact is a valued client for whom we have completed several projects including a 100,000 SF warehouse and distribution addition in 2008.

The RBU Building Expansion project will provide additional office and production areas that will allow Phoenix, to expand their production capacity to meet an ever increasing demand for their products. The 142,700 SF addition will provide additional production area on the ground floor and offices on the second and third level as well as a 3-story office tower. There will also be several smaller infill areas that include a kitchen/canteen, new bathroom facilities, offices, labs and training rooms.

The building consists of a structural steel frame clad with a combination of insulated metal panels, an aluminum and glass curtainwall system and architectural precast concrete wall panels. The three-story area will be supported on a series of 36” diameter concrete friction caissons that are drilled to depths of 50’-70’. The specifications require that an inspector be lowered to the bottom of each caisson to ensure proper conditions prior to the concrete being poured.

One of the main challenges of the project is to minimize any disruption to the day-to-day production activities. Our close working relationship with the staff and management and thorough knowledge of the existing plant will help us to phase the work to accommodate the owner’s needs and still meet critical completion schedules.

Interesting features of the project include:

  • A 3,000 SF “green roof” consisting of an open air atrium on the third floor, which has a small outdoor patio area and a rooftop planting area that borders a ridge-type skylight bringing natural light to interior spaces below. A continuous band of windows on the third floor provides a view onto the patio and planting area.
  • A rainwater harvesting system that will be used to provide irrigation for the landscaping
  • Motorized shades on exterior glass to control solar heat gain
  • A new gas-fired generator that will be capable of producing sufficient power to meet the needs for the entire facility
The project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2013.