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Pollutant investigations during the conversion or dismantling of buildings - Ecosens can help

In the past, many buildings were erected using substances hazardous to health such as asbestos (until 1990), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) (until approx. 1976) polycyclic aromatic carbohydrates (PAC) (until approx. 1990) or heavy metals. The majority of these building pollutants do not pose an immediate risk during ongoing use. However, this changes when the materials are processed or dismantled. Inappropriate dismantling or conversion poses the immediate risk of releasing large amounts of asbestos fibres or other pollutants.

On 1 January 2016 the Federal Government implemented a new waste ordinance (Prevention and Disposal of Waste Ordinance, PDWO). It obliges the building owner to submit a contamination report as well as a disposal concept for the building waste created when buildings erected before 1990 are dismantled or converted and health-hazardous substances such as PCB, PAC, lead or asbestos are to be expected. In June 2018, the Canton of Zurich introduced the Private Control Method for conversion or dismantling projects that require a building permit. This method checks the contamination report and the disposal concepts for completeness and plausibility and releases them.

The depth of the investigation concerning the building to be converted or dismantled depends on different factors. In general, we discriminate between building screening, building check, partial building check and detailed clarifications. A comparison of the different investigation types with regard to their objectives, investigation and sampling depths as well as advantages and disadvantages is shown in Table 1.

The use of the building at the time of inspection determines how well a building can be investigated. An empty building usually permits full sampling (exception: walled-in riser zones, façades - which require the involvement of a master builder) and allows us to complete our work. However, if the building is currently in use, invasive sampling, e.g. of floor tiles, is either not possible or not desirable. Furthermore, some areas and components cannot be opened and inspected, e.g. fire protection flaps, ventilations, suspended ceilings, suspended floors, flat roofs. A residual risk regarding undiscovered contamination will therefore remain until the building is examined in an empty state.

The laws, knowledge regarding new sources as well as guideline and limit values for building pollutants may change. We recommend to have existing expert opinions checked with regard to their currency and comprehensiveness if their compilation date is more than one to two years before the first building alterations in/on the object.

Ecosens has qualified specialists, documented experience and proven instruments for handling building pollutants. We assess the need for action and support you in the planning and implementation of remediation. Pollutant remediation is a challenge for all participants. It must be ensured that neither the persons involved in the remediation nor uninvolved third parties are put at risk by the release of substances hazardous to health. The experts at Ecosens will help you handle this challenge and solve issues related to building pollutants rapidly and in a focused way.  

Your contact person:

Denise Kull
Building Pollutants Divisional Manager

Katrin Tanneberger
Building Pollutants Divisional Manager


PDF: Building screening, building check, partial building check and detailed clarifications