The Advantages of Developing a Brownfield Site

A brownfield site refers to any site which has been previously developed and is not currently in use. Melbourne’s inner and outer suburbs are dotted with brownfield sites which have great development potential but are left unused as buyers are often scared off by the possibility of contamination and the costs associated with remediation. However, brownfield sites have many advantages which outweigh the potential time and costs associated with managing environmental contamination. In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the key benefits associated with developing a brownfield site.

Pre-existing infrastructure

One of the biggest benefits of developing on a brownfield site is the presence of pre-existing infrastructure including accessibility (i.e. roads and proximity to public transport), water and sewer lines and electricity.

Location

Many brownfield sites are located in desirable urban or suburban locations where all pristine land has all been developed. Being willing to compromise and invest in a brownfield site opens up the possibility to develop in highly desirable areas where there is no other free land available.

Social

Developing a brownfield site can have a significant impact on the surrounding community. By putting a previously derelict and unsightly piece of land to good use by running a business or developing the land for housing, you are adding value to the area by helping the community grow and creating jobs.

Environmental  

Of course, there are numerous environmental benefits to developing a brownfield site. Foremost, by choosing to develop on a site that has previously been used, you are saving pristine land which is a limited and ever diminishing resource. Secondly, by performing the necessary testing and environmental remediation requirements to bring the site up to standard, developers are playing an active role in removing environmental contamination.

 

Alpha Environmental are established environmental consultants based in Melbourne. We are the perfect partners to work with on your brownfield site as we offer phase 1, 2 and 3 environmental site assessments. To learn more about our capabilities, please get in touch with us by calling 1300 039 181.

After the Fire: The Environmental Hazards Associated with Fire Damage

 

Last Thursday (30/8/18) Melbourne’s western suburbs were engulfed in a thick cloud of toxic black smoke emanating from a warehouse fire between Tottenham and West Footscray. The blaze, touted as Melbourne’s biggest in decades, is believed to have been fuelled by thousands of improperly stored chemical drums containing harmful substances. Although the blaze has been brought under control, firefighters are still working to put out ‘hotspots’ and significant environmental damage has already been done with chemicals present in the waterways and local residents reporting a range of smoke related respiratory problems.

This event is an extreme example of what can happen when commercial property holders fail to comply with EPA guidelines regarding dangerous chemical reporting and storage. However, it can also be used as a valuable case study on the environmental hazards associated with a fire damaged property.

 A bit about fire damage

Despite advances in the management of flammable materials, firefighting technology and fire detection, fires remain one of the most common causes of property damage worldwide and cause millions of dollars’ worth of damage every year. The Melbourne Fire Brigade attends thousands of commercial structure fires every year and in a city like ours where land is scarce and property values are sky high, it’s inevitable that fire damaged structures in and around the CBD will be redeveloped. If you are thinking of investing in a fire damaged property, you need to know that the  damage often extends far beyond what is immediately visible and remediation on these sites are often extensive and extremely costly. In this article, we’ll be examining the key environmental hazards associated with fire damage and the necessary steps required to remediate a fire damaged property.

Contaminants

Contaminants are inevitably released during a fire, but the types of chemicals and extent of the damage depends on the source of the fire, the materials impacted, the extent of combustion and the methods used for containment.

Soot, char and ash

Common combustion byproducts, soot and char are made up of a combination of organic and inorganic solids, organic tars and resins whilst ash is the residue which remains after total carbonisation. These substances remain in fire damaged buildings in HVAC systems and venting as well as in the surrounding environment. They can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin and eyes. Soot, char and ash are well known to be carcinogenic but they are also linked to respiratory issues, cardiovascular disease, stroke and premature death. In infants, exposure to these substances can permanently damage their respiratory system development.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

This is a group of chemicals which are released or generated from the incomplete combustion of organic matter. Once released, PAH’s condense and cling to the surfaces of a building and they also permeate the soil, air and waterways. PAHs have a number of health risks associated with them including cancer, cardiovascular disease and poor fetal development.

Mold

Structural fires need to be doused with significant amounts of water before the fire stops smoldering. The idea is to saturate all flammable materials with water so they no longer have the potential to become fuel. Whilst this is effective from a fire fighting perspective, it does mean that water ends up in places where it shouldn’t and mold can begin to grow within 48 hours. We’ve often talked about the health risks associated with mold before, but stagnant water left over from firefighting can also facilitate the growth of harmful bacteria.

Industrial pollutants

Because the West Footscray fire is thought to have been fuelled by stored chemicals, significant concentrations of contaminants related to industrial activity were released into the surrounding waterways. So far, in addition to polyaromatic hydrocarbons which are fire and soot byproducts, the EPA has detected the industrial chemical and cleaning product phenol, industrial solvents including acetone and butanone and chemicals known as BTEX which include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene).

Asbestos

As a fire eats its way into the structure of a building containing asbestos and exposes the material, the fibre becomes airborne and hazardous for humans.

 

Lead

In older buildings where lead paint is present, combustion can cause the lead to be carried into the atmosphere. Lead is highly toxic, particularly to young children.

 

Site management

The first step in remediating a fire damaged site is to send in qualified environmental consultants who can assess and delineate the extent of the damage as well as identify all contaminants present.

Restoring a fire damaged building to an inhabitable state involves assessing air quality, the presence of contaminants on building finishes and determining if anything was absorbed into porous surfaces as well as into building cavities which are not visible. This this can be achieved with a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment. Aside from the building, soil and any bodies of water will also need to be tested for contaminants which will need to be at acceptable levels before the site is deemed usable again. Remediation usually involves a combination of debris removal, cleaning, drying and sometimes demolition if the contaminants have permeated building materials.

Alpha Environmental are Melbourne based environmental consultants with the skills and experience necessary to assist local businesses and developers with all of their environmental compliance needs. To learn more about our capabilities, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 1300 039 181.

Common Factors that Halt Excavation Projects

Basement excavation is becoming an increasingly popular way to manage inner Melbourne’s growing parking needs, but such projects can often be troubled by unexpected costs and delays as work is halted to rectify various unforeseen obstacles. In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the most common factors that halt basement excavation projects and how you can plan ahead to avoid unexpected costs.

 

Archaeology

Whilst the city of Melbourne isn’t as old as Rome or Paris, the CBD and inner suburbs of Melbourne have been continuously occupied by members of the Kulin nations for an estimated 40,000 years, and by Westerners since 1835. As a result, when buildings in these areas are demolished, occasionally archaeological remains are uncovered. When this happens, findings must be reported to Heritage Victoria which will then conduct an archaeological investigation, which can take many months depending on the size of the site and the cultural value of what has been uncovered. If the site is deemed to be of high historical significance, planning permits may even be revoked.

 

How to avoid delays and unforeseen expenses:

It is highly recommended that developers obtain a Heritage Certificate from Heritage Victoria when planning site works. If it is deemed that you are likely to disturb archaeological artefacts then Heritage Victoria may require an archaeological investigation, which will need to be integrated into the planning and development process.

 

Soil and groundwater pollution

Whilst the state of the environment around where you plan to build might not seem like a particularly pressing issue, excavation disturbs the environment and if pollution is present in either the soil or groundwater, it can spread to the surrounding area, affecting both the environment and human health. If pollution or contaminants are uncovered during the excavation process, the site will need to be shut down whilst testing and remediation is performed. If the pollution is significant, remediation costs can be significant.

 

How to avoid delays and unforeseen expenses: 

A site environmental assessment should always be performed before any planned works are undertake. Indeed, many developers invest in one of these before they even purchase a site as part of their due diligence. A stage 1 environmental site assessment will assess the likelihood of soil or groundwater pollution being present whilst a phase 2 assessment will assess the type and extent of pollution as well as what is needed to remediate it. Having this information enables you to include any necessary remediation processes into your plans, to ensure you stay on schedule and within the budget.

 

Alpha Environmental offer site 1, 2 & 3 environmental site assessment services to Melbourne developers. To learn more about our services, send us an enquiry or call 1300 039 181.

The Traumatic History of Asbestos in Australia

Australia has a traumatic history with asbestos. To this day we are still dealing with its insidious presence in Australian homes, workspaces and public buildings. Asbestos went from being the ‘miracle fibre of the 20th century’ to ‘devil dust’ that devastated thousands of lives. The second highest rate of Mesothelioma deaths is in Australia – Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused my inhaling or ingesting asbestos.

Cover up

Asbestos was first used in Australian infrastructure in the 1920s. Around the same time Doctors started documenting the negative health effects of asbestos, unfortunately, this vital research would be ignored and buried by the asbestos industry for several decades.

While Industry higher-ups knew about the risk being exposed to asbestos they did not warn workers. Over time these works would develop terrible lung diseases, or cancer. While big asbestos mines (owned by companies like James Hardie Industries) profited, more and more workers were exposed to dangerous amounts of asbestos. Until, the amount of asbestos related illness became impossible to ignore.

Exposed

The 70s marked the peak of the asbestos industry as well as its rapid decline. It was during this time the public began to associate asbestos with cancer and lung diseases. The increase of compensation claims, union’s fighting for safer workplaces and public disapproval meant asbestos companies could no longer ignore the health risks.

Laws prohibiting asbestos began trickling in. By the 80s around 1 in 3 homes were made using asbestos materials.

Materials containing Asbestos includes:

  • Thermal boards around fireplaces
  • Fences
  • Roofing
  • Insulation
  • Asbestos-cement Pipe
  • Fireproofing
  • Textile and Cloth Products
  • Tiles and Vinyl
  • Adhesives and Gold Bond Adhesives

It can take several decades before asbestos related diseases start to show, so there are still people today suffering from exposure.

Bans

Bans on asbestos come in around in the 80s and mines were abandoned. Despite the clear health risk, a full asbestos ban didn’t come into effect until 2003. There are still many buildings still standing from before the asbestos ban and can be extremely dangerous to demolish. Even a building constructed in the 90s may have asbestos. If demolished without the proper precaution you risk exposing asbestos.

Apha Environmental offer professional asbestos testing services to Melbourne based businesses, local government, and homeowners. To learn more about our capabilities, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 1300 039 181.

 

 

Why You Should Invest In Office Plants in 2018  

What’s important to every business owner? While there are certainly a long list of things, at the top of every business owners’ priorities is the health of their employees. Besides from encouraging work health and safety procedures, this is mostly out of their control. However, luckily, there is an easy step you can take to improve the health of your workplace: office plants. To explain why office plants are great for your business, we’ve created a blog outlining the top benefits.  

The dangers of office buildings 

Many Australians spent most of their time in office buildings. Yet cubicles in offices typically consist of partitions made of particle board and vinyl carpet, synthetic flooring, a particle board desk and plastic or synthetic office chair. While some are lucky enough to receive natural light and a window, poor ventilation, common in office buildings, spreads germs.  

What’s the solution? 

An easy way to reduce your employees’ sick days is to fill your office with plants. In fact, a recent NASA clean air study found that many common indoor plants are very effective at removing multiple kinds of organic compounds from the air.  

You want to find plants that will rid the air of pathogens, improve the office’s mix of bacteria, and survive in low light with little maintenance. Look for species with large leaves as the more leaf surface area, the more efficient it is.  

At Alpha Environmental, we care about keeping the environment of your office in check. We are specialists in environmental and occupational hygiene solutions relating to: site assessment, refurbishment or demolition, professional advice, asbestos, groundwater, soil and mould. And with over 19 years experience, you can trust us to get the job done on time and in budget. To learn more, or to request a quote – please call us on 1300 039 181.  

New Year’s Resolutions To Help The Environment

A lot of us make New Year’s Resolutions to improve ourselves. But have you ever considered a resolution that is good for both you and the planet? In this week’s blog, we share some great ways to help the environment this year.

1) Grow our own organic herbs/vegetables

The first way to help the planet is to grow our own organic herbs/vegetables. This will significantly reduce the amount of plastic, paper, waste and transport emissions involved in mass manufacturing vegetables and herbs. Growing our own vegetables and herbs is also a great way to take care of your body, as they won’t have the harmful chemicals involved in commercial production.

2) Cut down your vehicle’s emissions

The next thing you can do to help our planet this year is to get an electric or hybrid vehicle. If this isn’t feasible for you, use a proven fuel additive to lower your emissions. Also, remember to leave your car at home when it’s not necessary and opt for public transport, cycling or walking.

3) Be more aware of your water usage

While you can’t down on water usage completely, try to be more mindful of how often and how much you use water in 2018. Make sure to decrease shower times and only have the tap running when needed.

4) Donate old items

Most of us have some clothes, kitchen supplies or furniture lying around the home that we no longer need. If you do, why not donate these to a local shelter or op-shop? The items will be greatly appreciated by those who receive them and will also help decrease use of natural resources.

At Alpha Environmental, we’re passionate about helping the environment. We are a “boutique” style service, offering environmental and occupational hygiene solutions. To learn more, please call us on 1300 039 181.

Top Environmental Issues In The Workplace

Maintaining a safe and healthy workplace is essential for every business. But what are the key environmental issues which are likely to arise in your place of work? Well, in this week’s blog we share the top environmental issues for businesses and what you can do to prevent them from occurring 

1) Poor air quality and ventilation 

Bad air quality and ventilation is a major concern for the health of employers and their employees. Besides from being unpleasant, poor air quality and ventilation has a number of negative health consequences. Some short-term health effects of poor air quality and ventiliation include inflamed airways, eye irritation and damage to the respiratory tract. This can cause coughing, mucus secretion and long-term infections. Long-term exposure to poor air quality can result in reduced lung functions and breathing problems, as well as lung cancer or cardiovascular disease. For those suffering from asthma or compromised immune systems, poor air quality is especially problematic.   

2) Asbestos  

Another environmental issue, which can be harmful to your workplace is asbestos-contamination. Although asbestos was banned in Australia many years ago, it continues to be an ongoing threat to public health. This is because breathing in asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. For those who smoke cigarettes, these risks of inhaling asbestos fibres is even greater.  

3) Mould 

The presence of mould is something no one wants to discover in their workplace. Exposure to damp and mouldy environments can produce various health problems such as throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, nasal congestion and, in some cases, skin irritation. 

To treat or prevent these environmental issues, it’s essential that you contact an environmental and occupational hygiene solutions specialist. At Alpha Environmental, we offer a “boutique” style service to treat and prevent the environmental issues in your workplace. We can also offer you professional advice and recommendations with all matters regarding AsbestosSoilGroundwater and Mould. To learn more or speak to one of our friendly staff members, please call us on 1300 039 181.

Everything You Need To Know About Demolition 

Demolitions can be a thrilling part of any construction process. But there are some things you should know about what’s involved in a demolition. So, in this week’s blog, we share five things everyone needs to know before starting a demolition.  

1) Call in the experts 

The first and most important thing before considering a demolition is that you seek the professionals. Although it may seem like a cheap and easy thing to do yourself, it is essential that an experienced crew performs the demolition to create the best outcome, as well as to prevent any injuries.  

2) Let your neighbours know 

Demolitions are generally loud and messy. While this is something that can’t be avoidable, it’s only courteous to let your neighbours know prior to the demolition beginning so they are aware of what’s going on. Maybe even bring over a bottle of wine or sweet treat before the demolition begins to maintain a friendly relationship.  

3) Find another place to live 

During a demo, it’s not safe for you to live in your home. This is the perfect time to go on a holiday or get away for a bit.  

4) Asbestos procedures can cost the project 

If asbestos is discovered during the demolition, this can shut down the project. It’s crucial that you understand the significance of discovering asbestos and how dramatically this can impact your demolition.  

5) Take the walls down 

To achieve the best results and particularly, if you’re undertaking a significant remodel, we recommend stripping down all the walls to the studs. There can be lots of stuff hidden between the walls from when someone tried to perform a remodel years ago.  

At Alpha Environmental, we can provide you with a Hazardous Materials Audit, which identifies the hazardous materials prior to the refurbishment or demolition of a building. This is an essential step that must be taken before beginning a demolition. To learn more or to receive a site specific, obligation free quote, please call us today on 1300 039 181.   

 

 

Top Four Hidden Places You’ll Find Mould 

Finding mould is an unpleasant discovery no one wants to make. Yet luckily, there are easy things you can do to remove unwanted mould. In this week’s blog, we discuss the top four hidden places you might find mould in your home. 

1) Air Conditioners 

With the weather heating up, air conditioners will be on full blast soon. Yet the air that air conditioning units suck in from the outside typically contains dirt and pollen, appealing substances for mould. If you haven’t used your air condition during the cooler months, it is likely to contain mould spores. To prevent the buildup of mould, run your air condition everyday, even if just for ten minutes.  

2) Window Sills 

The next hidden place you’ll find mould is on window sills. These areas are typically neglected and therefore, make the perfect place for mould to start and spread. As window sills are continually exposed to moisture from condensation, they only receive adequate air flow during the summer months when the windows are open. To prevent mold developing in your window sills, make sure to regularly clean them when you see condensation building up. 

3) Wallpaper 

A top hidden spot for mold to develop is underneath wallpaper. This is difficult as you are unlikely to know if mold spores are growing behind it but if you suspect there is mold there, the best thing to do is to have the paper removed and replaced. 

4) Washing Machines 

The last place to keep an eye out for mould is in washing machines. Although the popular new front-load washing machines are fantastic for high efficiency, they are known for off odours due to mould growth. To avoid mould growing in your washing machine, either leave the door open after a load to allow the gasket to dry or wipe the gasket with a cloth following a cycle.  

At Alpha Environmental, we can access commercial and domestic premises for the presence of mould. For environmental and occupational hygiene solution specialists, get in touch with us today by calling 1300 039 181.  

How to Green Your Office

We all know the importance of implementing measures to create an environmentally-friendly home and school. But have you ever considered greening your office? In this week’s blog, we discuss five easy ways to make your workplace more environmentally friendly. 

green office

1) Purchase eco-friendly office products 

The first thing you can do in the process to greening your office is to buy environmentally-friendly office products. This includes items such as pens, notepads, 100% recycled paper, refillable ink cartridges and non-toxic highlighters. On average, eco-friendly items cost only 5% more than their conventional version, which is a small price to pay in the price of waste and pollution. 

2) Go paperless 

Reducing or eliminating paper is a great way to help our planet. Although it may seem like somewhat of an unrealistic goal at first, relying primarily on digital versions is quite easy. If you have to use paper, make sure to opt for 100% recycled paper. 

3) Reduce electricity use 

Start to be more mindful of when and where you can cutdown on electricity use. This will not only save the planet but also your wallet. Try turning off all computers, printers, photocopiers and other equipment when it is not being used. Also, when leaving a room for more than a few minutes, switch off the lights. You can also use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent ones. 

4) The three R’s  

In any effort to help our planet, always remember the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. This is a great mantra to helping our environment in any area of life. For instance, do you need disposable cups at the water cooler?  

5) Opt for non-toxic cleaning products 

The last way to green your office is to choose non-toxic cleaning products. With so many great and budget-friendly brands available today, there really is no excuse. Non-toxic cleaning products not only benefit your office but also your workers. 

At Alpha Environmental, we offer environmental and occupational hygiene solutions. For an obligation free quote, please do not hesitate to call us on 1300 039 181.