As the third largest school district in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Allentown School District (ASD) Facilities Services Department has their plate full maintaining 24 academic facilities that support a safe learning environment throughout the city. Element works closely with ASD’s Facilities Services to ensure their environmental projects are conducted in a safe and controlled manner to prevent disruptions in the academic calendar. Providing a safe learning environmental for students and faculty includes the overall indoor environmental quality from a health risk standpoint.
Many schools across the Commonwealth are meeting the end of their life cycle and require upgrades or complete renovations. If a school was built prior to the 1970s when hazardous construction materials were commonly used special precautions must be implemented to eliminate exposure pathways or cross contamination between contaminated and clean spaces. School districts, like any other public institution, implement a check in balances system is in place to ensure projects are protective of the public health. To avoid conflicts of interest, a third party is contracted to oversee construction projects to ensure they are designed to protect the public’s health when and if hazardous materials are identified in the building. Element partnered with ASD’s Facilities Services to support the rehabilitation project of the existing gymnasium at the Muhlenberg Elementary School. E2S provided a hazardous material survey, abatement specifications, and bid services in addition to asbestos abatement oversight and air monitoring services during the removal of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) from the gymnasium, as part of their renovation project.
Many school renovation or construction projects are conducted over the summer when the buildings are mostly vacant to prevent exposure to hazardous materials and construction hazards; however, the planning for such projects occur during the academic year well in advance to ensure projects are ready to commence once the students and faculty have left for summer break. During the hazardous material survey, E2S identified asbestos in felt and mastic under the wood gym floor, acoustical wall and beam plaster, ceiling tile adhesive and stage spot-lighting wiring that would need to be safely managed during the renovation project. Please remember that asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are not harmful until the asbestos-containing material is damaged, potentially releasing asbestos fibers into the air. The ACM that Element identified was in good condition and was not identified as a risk for building inhabitants under normal circumstances. Element prepared abatement specifications after the survey was conducted and provided construction administration services to help the District select a qualified contractor capable of safely remove the hazardous materials during the renovation and to keep the project on schedule. Inspectors and abatement contractors must be certified as Asbestos Building Inspectors and licensed Abatement Contractors (Worker/Supervisor), respectively.
Once the abatement work was contracted out, Element provided contractor oversight and indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring during the removal of approximately 11,630 square feet and 100 linear feet of ACM from July 1, 2014 through August 6, 2015 from the gymnasium. Our responsibility was to ensure that the contractors were implementing the correct methods to remove the ACM. Air monitoring is conducted to ensure workers are protected and that the installed containment area is working properly. Air samples are collected from outside the work area to monitor cross contamination issues should they arise. Once the abatement was complete, Element performed a final round of clearance air sampling to ensure the gymnasium was ready to be reoccupied.
At the end of the day, the gymnasium was deemed safe for re-occupancy and the renovations continued. Now, without missing a beat, the Muhlenberg Elementary school has a new and improved basketball court for gym class and other extracurricular activities.
Mulhenburg Gym Before
View of Muhlenburg Gym prior to renovations ACM was identified out of harms way in the felt and mastic underneath the wood gym floor.
Muhlenberg Gym Abatement
View of abatement containment set up and exposed ceiling tile adhesive that contained asbestos fibers.
View of the Muhlenburg Gym after the ACM abatement and renovations were completed but prior to re-occupancy.
Muhlenburg Gym Closets
View of shallow wall closets used to store tables.
Muhlenberg Gym and Stage
View of the gym and stage following the abatement and renovations. The stage's spot-lighting wiring was identified as ACM and removed as part of the abatement project.