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Thursday, September 23, 2021
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'Heart of Campus' renovations halted at UB by asbestos removal

Construction will not begin until at least June as asbestos removal takes place

The Spectrum's Ashley Inkumsah reports on the asbestos removal project that began on the third floor of Capen Hall on Wednesday. 

Contractors clad in respirators and jumpsuits have set up shop on the third floor of the Oscar Silverman Library in Capen Hall for an asbestos removal project that won’t conclude for another two months and will delay the start of the Heart of Campus renovations.

The asbestos removal, which began Wednesday, is not expected to conclude until June 5. Construction on the third floor of the Silverman Library, the first phase of the Heart of Campus project, was supposed to begin in April but will not begin until the asbestos has been removed, according to David Vasbinder, the associate director of environment health and safety.

“People get very concerned when they hear asbestos, it can be dangerous if it’s not being handled properly,” Vasbinder said. “If anyone thinks they may have been exposed to asbestos, our office is where they report it to.”

The third floor has been closed for renovations since December 16, 2014, with an expected completion date in November 2015. Last year asbestos was found and removed in the floor tile mastic and joint compound on the first floor of Capen Hall.

UB Asbestos Program Coordinator Nancy Hutchison and project managers had a meeting with staff and faculty who work or have offices in within the Silverman Library to give them information about what to expect and what is being done to protect them, and to answer any questions they had about a week and a half before the removal began.

Thevinyl floor tiles of the Silverman Library were constructed with asbestos back in ’60s and ’70s, according to Vasbinder. The glue that holds the tiles down and the drywall joint compound that is found between wallboards also contains asbestos.

Vasbinder said the university is able to ascertain where asbestos fibers are going to be found based on the age of a particular building. Vasbinder said UB is required to remove those materials prior to renovation.

New York State regulations require the university to post flyers 10 days prior to the start of asbestos removal. Vasbinder said another purpose of the postings is to make sure there no ones enters the third floor of the Silverman Library.

“We are concerned they will get airborne because they can cause various diseases when exposed,” Vasbinder said.

Epic Contracting Inc. is currently conducting the abatement. Vasbinder said the contractors prevent the asbestos from getting airborne by building plastic sheeting and placing negative air pressure on it. This is a “control method” so that if something goes on inside abatement area the team makes sure it does not get inside containment area.

The team will be using high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filters. Vasbinder said if any asbestos fibers get airborne, the filter takes it out so it cannot get outside of the containment. The team will take air samples and make sure there are no asbestos fibers in the air fibers.

“The federal process requires we put all these systems in place,” Vasbinder said. “We also have to monitor the air to make sure those methods are effective.”

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Watts Architecture and Engineering is currently handling the air monitoring for the project.

Vasbinder said the university is also required to hire a third party unrelated to the contractor to make sure the contractor is following rules, observe work practices, make sure containment is good. Watts Architecture and Engineering will serve as the third party.

Ashley Inkumsah is an assistant news editor and can be contacted at



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