San Diego City Hall and the adjacent City Operations Center will require a $7.9-million face lift if dangerous asbestos insulating materials are removed from the ceilings and fire sprinkler systems are installed, city engineers estimate.
That estimate was given to City Council members in a May 6 report from John Fowler, assistant city manager, in response to a council request in January about the cost of retrofitting the two public buildings with fire sprinklers.
City Engineer Jim Casey said Friday that the asbestos insulation in both buildings poses no danger to employees or visitors. Although the asbestos materials now are banned, Casey said, only a major renovation project--such as the installation of sprinklers or a new air conditioning system that requires disturbance of the insulation materials--would pose a health hazard.
The multimillion-dollar estimate includes the cost of displacing city employees on a floor-by-floor basis and relocating them in leased quarters for several weeks while the highly toxic asbestos materials are removed and disposed of, and safe insulation and fire sprinklers installed.
Extensive Work Required
According to the report signed by Fowler, "installation of fire sprinkler systems in both of these buildings would require extensive work in the plenum area above the suspended ceilings and would require removal or stabilization of the fireproofing material containing asbestos fiber."
Because of "disruption and major cost impacts," such a project "should more properly await a future building acquisition or otherwise be coordinated when a temporary facility is available at a minimal cost," the manager's report stated.
"Any work in the ceiling area would also require adherence to strict EPA standard for isolating the work area from surrounding occupied areas," the report said.
Installing sprinklers and removing asbestos insulation in the 13-story City Hall on a floor-by-floor basis would take three years to complete and would cost about $3.6 million. The six-floor City Operations Center conversion would require 30 months and an estimated $4.3 million.
"Stabilizing the asbestos-bearing material by encapsulation is the least disruptive and least costly approach," the report said, warning that the stabilization method "is subject to deterioration over time, requiring additional cost when future remodeling or major maintenance is needed."
The City Hall at 2nd Avenue and C Street was built in 1964 and would require an automatic fire sprinkler system if constructed under today's building safety codes, the report stated. The newer operations building at 1st Avenue and A Street would not require sprinklers.
Casey said the cost estimates were compiled because of a request City Council members made in January during a discussion of design work on a building-permits center in the city operations building.
He said he did know of any state or federal requirements for the conversion to an automatic sprinkler system or removal of the asbestos insulation materials in the two public buildings.