When you buy a property with the aim of redeveloping it for another purpose, regulations dictate that the outgoing owner has to declare whether they are aware of any imperfections or not. This will allow you to make an educated assessment of its value and decide whether you want to move forward, in the knowledge that you may have to do something about the "issue" thereafter.
You may be faced with this type of situation as you have bought this property at a good price, with the intent of repurposing it for commercial reasons, such as a retail outlet or restaurant. On the top of your list is the search for asbestos, as its presence may have been indicated and you will need an audit before you can begin. Where should you start?
Before anybody raises a hammer to start the renovation, asbestos auditing professionals will need to conduct a risk assessment. They will look at the initial information to see how detailed it is and investigate the source for validity. In any building of this type and vintage, they may expect to find traces of asbestos in certain areas, and this will form the basis of their initial plan. A look at the architectural renderings and design documents will then highlight possible trigger points.
Regulations dictate that they will need to inspect each room very carefully and look at any building material that may or may not contain asbestos. Unfortunately, this material found its way into a huge variety of structural, insulation and roofing products "back in the day" and if anything suspicious is found, a sample will need to be taken away carefully for analysis. Separately, air quality tests will need to be initiated to search for fibres.
Great care is taken to deconstruct any walls, floors and ceilings as the search unfolds and detailed records are kept while this happens. The auditors will take photographs to back up their records, and this information will form part of the report that you receive when all is done.
All workers have to be well trained and don the appropriate clothing. Asbestos found is placed into airtight plastic bags designed for the purpose. They are then transferred to a secure storage facility and will be destroyed in a controlled manner.
In an ideal world, the building will be certified as free from asbestos, or you will be told that the material is safely contained in areas that may not be touched. You will need to keep all of this detail very carefully and discuss forward progress with your builders as you get ready to begin work. However, always make sure that you bring in auditors who are fully licensed, insured and knowledgeable.