In late 2017 the New Wilshire Grand Center will open in Financial District of Downtown Los Angeles. The 73-story skyscraper will boast a 900-room hotel, restaurants, retail, and will hold the record as the tallest building west of the Mississippi. But before this $1 billion dollar mega structure could break ground, the original Wilshire Grand Hotel and Center had to be removed. Prior to any demolition activities the entire site required investigation for hazardous materials that would require remediation.
Alta Environmental was selected as the sole consulting company responsible for conducting the hazardous materials survey on the Wilshire Grand.
The investigation included a demolition survey for asbestos, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, and universal waste. The magnitude of the existing structure was significant and included three basement levels, two lobby levels that included ballrooms, restaurants and conference rooms, one entire floor dedicated to house HVAC equipment, three parking levels, eleven floors of hotel rooms, ten floors of office space, three roof levels, and a penthouse.
The site investigation was conducted with three teams of two inspectors to conduct the asbestos, lead, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and a seventh inspector concentrating only on the universal waste. One team began in the office building, the second in the hotel, and the third team tackled the common areas and basement levels.
It took almost two months to complete the field investigation. More than two thousand bulk samples for asbestos, two hundred paint chip samples, and hundreds of XRF readings were collected. During the investigation Alta set up temporary office on site in order to facilitate rapid paperwork and reporting.
The inspectors sampled the brake material on the elevators and found that it was fifty percent chrysotile asbestos, flooring was discovered below two layers of plywood and a metal raised flooring system in one of the restaurants, and a metal furnace duct was found to be insulated on the inside with asbestos brick insulation that subsequently contaminated an exhaust stack that went from the sub-basement boiler room up twenty floors to exit out of the penthouse roof. An asbestos-containing window sealing compound was discovered only after one of the window casing had been removed from a concrete perimeter and Alta was able to gain access to the exterior of one of the basement foundation walls and located an asbestos-containing waterproofing mastic.
There was a maze of tunnels snaking throughout the sub levels of the building. Some were pipe chases, while others were ventilation shafts for the underground parking levels. All were accessed and asbestos pipe insulation was discovered towards the end of one as it extended up two floors from the basement to exit at the sidewalk.
Lead-based paint was discovered throughout the site. From the exterior metal panels and concrete walls, to the interior plaster/drywall walls, to the coolant lines for the old ice skating rink. Alta discovered lead-based paint on stairs the once lead from the basement to the first floor, now terminating into a concrete slab. All the restroom’s ceramic tiles and fixtures also contained high levels of lead. Upon completion of the field work each team would go over the others area to look at them with “fresh eyes,” and to verify nothing was overlooked. The reporting began shortly after the field work as the client needed the close out report and specifications in a rush. At times administration staff would work out of the field office on site in order to expedite the reporting process.
The new Wilshire Grand Center in downtown Los Angeles is slated to open in 2017. An article in the New York Times, November 2015 states “there is one potential feature of the project, unstated in any brochure, that looms large in the minds of downtown’s many champions: Wilshire Grand could catalyze more growth and diverse interest in the office market, long the troubled sector of real estate in downtown’s revitalization efforts.” One thing is certain, this major project will be a new beautiful addition to the downtown skyline.
Blog post by Eric Fleming, CAC, CDPH-IA, PM, S