Do I Need to Survey for Asbestos Material in My Commercial Property?

Are you an owner or developer wondering if you need an asbestos report for commercial property development? Effective asbestos assessment is a critical step if you are buying, selling, renovating, or demolishing commercial property. Read on to find out more.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was widely used in building and pipe insulation, roofs, and floor tiles for many years because of its durability and fire resistance. Asbestos was phased out starting in the 1980s after it was discovered that damaged asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) release microscopic fibers into the air which, if inhaled, can harm the lungs.

The use of asbestos is now heavily regulated with federal, state, and local regulations controlling how asbestos is installed, monitored, and removed. Nevertheless, significant amounts of asbestos remain, mostly in older buildings.

As a commercial property owner, asbestos contamination poses a potentially serious threat to the health of your tenants and workers.

Read More: What is Asbestos?

What Is an Asbestos Report?

An asbestos report involves the sampling and laboratory analysis of building materials to assess the risk of asbestos exposure to occupants or construction workers who live or work in the building.

When Is an Asbestos Report Needed?

As a commercial property owner or manager, you will typically need to obtain an asbestos report in the following circumstances:

  • When you are buying or refinancing a property
  • To obtain a building permit for renovation, repair, or demolition work
  • When flooding or a natural disaster damages a building’s structure
  • To develop long-term asbestos management guidelines

What Types of Asbestos Reports Are There?

Four types of asbestos report are commonly used, depending on the threat posed and the type of intervention that is likely needed:

Asbestos Screening

Screenings are useful when you need to repair damaged materials that may pose a potential health risk to building occupants or workers. Samples are taken from damaged/deteriorating areas or from materials that must be cut, drilled, or broken to complete repairs. This is usually done as part of ongoing maintenance or a building upgrade.

Limited Asbestos Survey

This is a more comprehensive sampling of materials in a building where the presence of ACMs is suspected. It’s commonly used by banks or potential buyers as part of the environmental site assessment of a property during a sale or refinance. You might also choose to have this type of survey done if you want to develop an asbestos management plan.

Path of Construction/Pre-Renovation Asbestos Survey

Generally, this survey is required before a local building department can issue a permit for renovation or major repair work—like overhauling a storefront for a new business or taking on ACM remediation work in a single apartment before a new tenant moves in. It aims to prevent asbestos from being disturbed during construction or contaminating the wider environment.

Pre-Demolition Asbestos Survey

This is a comprehensive survey of all the exterior and interior materials used in a building to identify and manage ACMs during demolition work. It is essential to ensure the safety of construction workers, neighbors, and future occupants of your site.

Read More: Asbestos Surveys, Sampling, & Analysis

What Happens If ACMs Are Found in My Commercial Building?

Options for managing ACMs include:

  • Removal, remediation, and abatement
  • In-place management

This work must be done by specially certified environmental services providers.

Removal and Remediation

If ACMs need to be removed as part of renovation or demolition work, the removal must be done by technicians who are trained to handle asbestos using special equipment as part of an approved remediation plan. It will often include ongoing sampling, air monitoring, and other abatement measures.


If ACMs are in good condition and it’s determined that any further construction or repair work will not disrupt them, then the materials can often be professionally sealed to prevent damage. But, you’ll need to develop an operations and maintenance plan to manage those materials, and you should still look for opportunities over the long term to remove ACMs from your property.

What Are the Risks of Not Doing an Asbestos Survey?

Failing to obtain a survey before starting construction can lead to ACMs being discovered partway through a project. This will endanger workers as well as lead to delays while the materials are removed and remediation work is performed to clean up any contamination.

Even worse, you risk not discovering significant sources of asbestos contamination that might already be putting your tenants’ health at risk. As the property owner or manager, you are potentially legally liable for any illnesses or deaths that might result from asbestos exposure.

Therefore, it’s better to take responsibility now for any ACMs that might exist in your building.

How Much Does an Asbestos Survey Cost?

The cost of a survey is based on:

  • The size of your property
  • Ease of access to all areas 
  • How long the survey will take to complete

For a small commercial property where 10 to 15 material samples are taken, costs could fall between $1,000 and $1,500 (with the work taking about half a day). 

While larger projects can run between $5,000 and $10,000, this kind of scale increase can be partially offset when similar materials are used throughout a building, thereby reducing the number of samples that would need to be taken.

Read More: How Much Does Commercial Asbestos Abatement Cost?

ACMs and Industrial Hygiene: The Way Forward

Today, companies like Total Environmental Concepts provide asbestos inspection, surveying, and abatement services as part of a comprehensive industrial hygiene approach that also addresses health hazards including:

Our industrial hygiene specialists are highly skilled professionals who are fully accredited to plan and carry out asbestos remediation and abatement projects in both Maryland and Virginia. They are also qualified to handle the permitting and regulatory compliance requirements.

Click below to learn more about Total Environmental Concept’s full-service asbestos testing and remediation services.