From detection to disposal: a complete guide to asbestos in buildings with Whitefox Chartered Surveyors

By Darren Frias-Robles [email protected]

Published: April 23, 2024 | Updated: 23rd April 2024

In this month’s Construction Matters, Whitefox Chartered Surveyors MD Darren Frias-Robles looks at the use of asbestos in buildings, the different types and how to effectively manage and remove it.

We also get to meet Whitefox office manager Grace Haggerty and learn about her eclectic love of music.


Asbestos was used widely in buildings until 1999 when its use was banned. All buildings built prior to 2000 must therefore be presumed to contain Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) and treated accordingly. (Source – Health & Safety Executive)

Asbestos Related Disease

Asbestos fibres are tiny sharp spike like fibres that do not decompose. It is when these fibres are breathed in and they then embed themselves in the lungs that long term serious / terminal health issues arise.

The main asbestos related diseases are:

  • Pleural plaques: this is a thickening of the lung lining causing pain when breathing.
  • Pleural thickening: scar tissue build-up of the inner linings of the lung that close off the space between the lungs and pleura causing breathing difficulty.
  • Mesothelioma & lung cancer: malignant asbestos related cancer that is usually fatal.

Materials Containing Asbestos

Loose fibrous asbestos

This was used to insulate buildings and can be found in cavity walls, below floorboards and in loft spaces. It is a loose, fibrous insulation material (similar to modern glass fibre insulation) which is white or blue/grey in colour. This is the most dangerous from of asbestos because large quantities of fibres are released into the air if it is disturbed.

Pipe lagging & insulation

Often found in heating systems including boilers and distribution pipework. Again, this is a loose fibrous material often encapsulated in hessian wrap of cementitious coating. When the protective coatings are disturbed, the asbestos fibres are released.

Sprayed Applied Coatings

Asbestos was used as fire protection sprayed on as a coating onto steelwork, walls, columns, beams and the underside of roofs. These coatings often have a high concentration of asbestos fibres that are easily released into the air when the coatings are disturbed.

Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB)

Common material again often used as fireproofing but also used as a lining board for soffits, ceiling tiles, wall boarding and panelling. Asbestos content varies, but again dangerous when disturbed.

Floor Tiles, textiles and other materials

The use of Asbestos floor tiles was widespread, as was the use of asbestos in adhesive materials used to bond flooring tiles to solid floor substrates. Asbestos was woven into many textile materials such as fire blankets and flash guards for electrical fuse boards and other materials such as toilet cisterns. Visually they are difficult to distinguish from their modern (non-asbestos) equivalent products.

Textured Coatings

Textured coatings (e.g. Artex) applied to walls and ceilings in many residential buildings can contain asbestos.

Asbestos Cement Products

Asbestos cement products are widespread and often easily identifiable. Common examples include corrugated roof sheets, rainwater goods, flues and pipework.

Legal requirements

Managing asbestos

The control of Asbestos is covered by the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). This controls how people work with asbestos. It sets out the framework for licensing of asbestos-removal activities.

Regulation 4 of CAR 2012 sets out a duty on the owners and occupiers of premises (who have maintenance and repairing responsibilities), to manage the risks presented by of asbestos.

They are required to take steps to identify asbestos containing materials (ACMs), maintain a written record of any ACMs and manage them effectively. This may entail managing ACMs and ensuring no works disturb ACMs that are in good condition or removing them completely. Less often ACMs are encapsulated within encasement structures. Specifically, the HSE guidance on asbestos sets out the requirement to:

assess the risk of exposure from ACMs and presumed ACMs and prepare a written plan of the actions and measures necessary to manage the risk (i.e. the ‘management plan’)

Construction work

The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) requires arrangements to be in place to deal with asbestos during construction work, including refurbishment and demolition.

Pre-Construction Information (PCI) – Where construction or building work is to be conducted, designers and contractors must be provided with project-specific information about the presence of asbestos, so that the risks can be addressed.

Refurbishment and demolition surveys

A refurbishment and demolition survey would be required before any refurbishment or demolition work is conducted. This is a fully intrusive type of survey used to locate and describe, as far as reasonably practicable, all ACMs in the area where the refurbishment work will take place (including any hidden areas) or in the whole building if demolition is planned.

Removal of asbestos

Many types of asbestos can only be removed by a licences contractor who will issue a notice to the relevant enforcing authority that asbestos removal work is planned. All work with asbestos needs to be carried out with appropriate controls in place to protect workers and occupiers from the health risks that asbestos causes.

Asbestos material that has been removed requires careful disposal as controlled waste to licensed tip / waste carrier. Certificates of disposal should be sought from contractors to confirm that asbestos waste has been disposed of correctly.

For the safety of your team and compliance with the law, it’s crucial to identify and manage asbestos risks effectively.

If your property was built before 2000, there’s a high chance it contains asbestos, which could pose serious health risks.

At Whitefox Chartered Surveyors, we offer the complete management of your project from start to finish including dealing with asbestos as part of building refurbishment works. Contact us today for more information on how we can help.


Name: Grace Haggerty

Role: Office Manager

Time at Whitefox : 6 ½ months

  • Tell me about your background and how you ended up in this role?

I began my career at Aster Group as a coordinator within the Adaptation team. This significantly helped me gain the skills I have now, mostly for organisational skills and having the proficiencies for arranging multiple projects at one time and keeping within targets we have set. Following on from this, 5 years later I managed to procure a position within land registry as a civil servant and a registration officer, deepening my understanding of property transactions and government processes. This then helped me gain the position I am now in at Whitefox with the knowledge I gained from both the property-related sectors.

  • What do you enjoy most about your work here?

The variety of work I am involved in is really interesting and keeps things exciting. Most importantly, being able to have my own freedom to work in a way that best suits me and the flexibility this gives me is good as I wasn’t able to do this before and previously had to work within a set /fixed method to carry out a task.

  • What do you consider to be your greatest professional success out of everything you have done careerwise?

I think the role I obtained at the start of my career as this was really rewarding helping others to be able to live independently and it gave me great job satisfaction, but also key experience needed to progress.

  • If you weren’t doing this role, what do you think you might have been doing in an alternate reality?

A Police officer if I wasn’t such a mouse!  I was thinking of joining the police originally, but realised it wasn’t the right fit for me so decided not to go ahead with it in the end.

  • Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of work? What are they?

Yes, massive fan of hiking and walking. The UK has the most beautiful countryside and scenery, so I really love going out there and enjoying what’s on our doorstep more!

  • Do you have any books or podcast recommendations that you listen too? Or if not this then any music you love to listen to.

Yes I am a bit of a metal head so love any bands under this genre but also a lot of old school rock music as well – mostly from early 00s and 90s and also a mix from the 80s and 70s. I am a massive Queen fan!  I will say I don’t just listen to rock but also any genre of music and love a bit of Hip Hop and R&B.  Lastly to add, I am a fan of Amy Winehouse so am looking forward to the movie Biopic about her as well!

What’s the one thing you’d like to do or achieve?  whether its career wise or in your personal life in the next 12 Months? (ie something you haven’t done before – could be take on a new hobby or sport Ect).

I would like to do a hiking trip abroad somewhere as a goal to aim for or something that takes me out of my comfort zone. I’ve always fancied taking part in the “Race across the world” programme as that looks and sounds amazing as a challenge to do with someone.

  • If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Japan looks amazing for their landscape and culture as the first place I would like to go but then in close second place is Rome for its history plus the food!!

  • Do you have an idol or someone who inspires you? (celebrity, family member or even someone from work or a previous job).

My sister Megan is a constant source of inspiration for me. Even when she’s dealing with her own personal challenges, she manages to support me. What I admire most is her ability to stay level-headed, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Secondly for a celebrity idol I will say, believe it or not, an old Hollywood actress, Hedy Lamarr.  She was an Austrian-American actress and inventor. She is someone I admired for not just her acting roles but the fact that she co-invented a signal-hopping technology during World War II that contributed towards today’s Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth communication systems! She sits alongside many other talented women in history including Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie.

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