Why was asbestos used in the construction of the University of Konstanz?
Due to its fire-resistant properties, asbestos was regarded to be an effective fireproofing material. For this reason and because it was not considered to be a health hazard at the time, asbestos was built into concrete and fibreboard walls as a fire safety measure.
The fact that asbestos is a carcinogen was discovered much later.
Asbestos, however, does not usually release itself from the construction materials that it was added to. It can only be released into the environment and become a hazard when these materials are somehow altered by, for example, drilling into or puncturing them.
Wall partition systems
The asbestos contained in the wall partition systems (type “Mechel-Wände”) is not released under normal conditions. Asbestos fibres can only be released if these walls are worked on, i.e. drilled into etc.
Lightweight building boards containing asbestos
For fire safety purposes, some wall partitions were installed to create separate fire zones at the University of Konstanz. For this purpose, so-called "Promabest" lightweight building boards were used that contain a high concentration of “loosely” bound asbestos fibres. This means that minor damage to the surface of these boards can release such fibres into the air. While protective coatings prevent worst-case scenarios, removing or damaging the coating could be enough to release asbestos. Such walls will be removed and replaced in the medium term.
Releasing asbestos by damaging these walls must be avoided at all times. In addition to instruction manuals for carrying out manual work on these walls – which the actual room users are prohibited from doing – we provide you here with a wide range of information on asbestos (origin, detection, applications and risks).
The asbestos register
Between October and December 2018, a specialist contractor re-evaluated the entire University of Konstanz according to asbestos guidelines. About 6,000 log sheets need to be updated for the university’s asbestos register. That is not a small number! The final report has been submitted to the university. The following pages provide updated information on the status of the re-evaluation and on the planned measures.
Current information on the re-evaluation
What are the next steps?
The good news is that we are making progress! Fact is, all buildings identified as priority level 1 will be renovated. There's no way around it!
The less good news is that the final clean-up (i.e. removal) of all asbestos products assessed according to priority level 1 must begin within a three-year period. A specialist contractor is currently reviewing and planning the exact timing and order in which this work will be carried out. This planning process is well under way.
The university must and will continue to operate while ensuring the safety of all staff members, students and visitors. Important measures include maintaining the fire protection equipment (fire dampers) as well as working on and with the wall partition systems.
These are the next steps:
Using the designated priority levels, Vermögen und Bau Baden-Württemberg (the university buildings are state property) will evaluate the report in cooperation with technical experts in order to develop a renovation schedule. For all rooms and building components classified as priority level 1 or identified with “immediate attention required,” preliminary safety measures will be checked, implemented and coordinated with the trade supervisory authority.
New operating instructions and procedures
Before the renovation work can begin, the same company will revise and adapt the existing operating instructions and procedures for carrying out work on wall partition systems and maintaining the fire protection equipment. Once these tasks have been completed, it can be determined whether the renovation projects can be carried out, and if so, which ones.
Training to provide technical expertise on asbestos
To be able to work on the fire dampers, maintenance personnel must be able to handle products containing asbestos. Such work must be reported to the trade supervisory authority and supervised by a qualified person. The university will have its own staff members trained to supervise such work in accordance with TRGS 519 appendix 4C, thereby avoiding the need for an external supervisory expert for every job involving the handling of asbestos.
Who will receive such training?
Colleagues at Facility Management and other staff members who regularly work on the university buildings are required to take part in this training.