Solving Environmental Problems as a Sustainable Livelihood

Do you wonder if there is some way you can combine your career with making an impact on the health and future of your community? Do you enjoy working with your hands in environments that might be less than hospitable? If you’re a sustainable livelihood and also a person who under­stands that there is a need for identifying real environmental hazards and repairing them, this could be the business or job for you.

Most if not all commercial real estate deals today include an environmental assessment. In these examinations of a property, a prospective owner hires a professional to determine the nature and extent of risks such as lead paint, asbestos, moisture, mold, radon, contaminated soil, buried hazardous waste, etc. After the assessment is complete the buyer and seller both estimate the cost to fix the iden­tified problems.

The same process holds true in home sales, only on a smaller scale and presently less often. In the residential real estate business buyers hire home inspec­tors to check the structure and seek out the obvious problems or potential prob­lems. These will require an adjustment to the purchase price for the deal to close.

Newer homes are also candidates for environmental remediation because of mold problems caused both by construction mistakes and sealing up homes to conserve energy. The newer home problems come about because of moisture leaks resulting from mistakes made between the architect and the mechanical engineer. For example, many times architects do not leave enough room for air-conditioning ducts, so the ones installed lack ventilation, which leads to moisture building up and leaking out to eventually create the conditions for molds to grow.

Up steps the specialist in environmental remediation. You are the solution to everyone’s problems. Both buyer and seller, as well as real estate broker, if one is part of the deal, want to know what it will cost to remediate the identified environmental risk factor. Many projects are too small for the “big guys” who take on Superfund-scale projects. This is where the small business comes in.

In many residential settings the problems are located in one part of the house, for instance asbestos wrap on pipes in the furnace room or an improperly ventilated laundry room spreading dampness throughout the basement.The complicated, expensive, and regulated asbestos abatement and lead abate­ment projects require training and in some jurisdictions, licensing. Often the size of a project determines the expertise and training level required by regulating agencies. Bigger businesses will have significant start-up expenses with equipment to create negative pressure environments that protect the neighboring spaces from contamination.

Contaminants other than asbestos are more easily removed, and many environmental challenges can be met by relatively simple changes in struc­tural components, such as ventilators or windows.

Remediation of environmental hazards is inherently unsafe, and you must pay much attention to your own safety at all times. Removing lead, asbestos, mold, or other environmental pollutants from one property that is being sold by a real estate broker will provide many future referrals and help grow your business.

The construction trades particularly lend themselves to environment repair work. In addition, hobbyists in gardening, chemistry, and home repair will find many of their skills transferable.

 Training is available online and through state and local environmental pro­tection departments. Training for most forms of remediation must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, or in states with their own programs, by the responsible state agency. So consult your state or local Department of Environmental Protection about regulations and available training before enrolling in a training program, ascertain that it has been approved. Three of the associations listed offer approved training.

  • The Environmental Information Association offers training and certification in mold and lead paint abatement,
  •  The Indoor Air Quality Association offers training in mold remediation,
  • The National Association of Mold Professionals offers training in mold inspection and removal,
  •  National Ground Water Association. Its scope includes remediation.

When you stick with small projects, your time is your own and fairly easy to manage. Income is based on fees charged. The substance being removed or condition being corrected determines the rate you charge. Asbestos and lead abatement projects can command more than one hundred dollars per hour; billing for containment setup is at this rate.

As land in or near cities that has been used in the past to dispose of indus­trial waste is redeveloped for schools, commercial developments, or homes, it’s not uncommon to encounter contaminants. This is another ingredient in pro­viding a growing amount of work for remediation firms who in the future may be able to employ new techniques using nanotechnology for neutralizing con­taminants. All in all this can be a very lucrative business requiring thoughtful and hard work.

An expense in start-up will be insurance. You cannot disturb toxic materials without protecting your personal and business finances. If concerns about the cost of insurance and the risk involved in handling typical remediation problems trouble you, consider necessary but less risky services, such as consulting to busi­nesses and consumers offering practical recommendations about how to lessen their environmental impact by cutting down their energy and water usage, air duct cleaning, or worm farming (vermiculture).

For an initial free consultation to explore this or another sustainable livelihood that bests suits your personality and your community, contact us.

Comments on the substance of the blogs are welcome. If you have other questions, please contact me directly for a consulting appointment.

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