If you want to advance your client’s commercial real estate transaction to the closing table without incident, then you must ensure that all pre-closing processes are complete. While there are many moving parts involved in any commercial real estate deal, one of the most vital reports that you may need is a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA).
Although every Phase 1 ESA should adhere to a set of established best ASTM practices, there is a substantial amount of disparity within the site assessment sector. In light of this fact, it is essential that you select a reputable Phase 1 environmental site assessment firm when scheduling your property analysis. Otherwise, the closing may be delayed.
More importantly, a Phase 1 ESA that lacks thoroughness could expose your clients to substantial environmental/civil liability or undermine their business venture.
Below, we explore what a Phase 1 environmental site assessment is, outline why these assessments are necessary, and provide several tips for finding the best firm for your property analysis needs.
What Is a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment?
A Phase 1 environmental site assessment is a detailed analysis of commercial properties. This site analysis is used to determine whether the groundwater or soil of a property has been contaminated by hazardous chemicals.
Phase 1 environmental site assessments must be performed in accordance with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard e1527-13. This set of standards defines certain hazards, which are referred to as Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs).
A Phase 1 ESA firm will provide you with a detailed assessment report after the analysis is completed. This report should highlight the findings and reveal any contaminants that could impact the site’s viability for commercial endeavors. This is critical because the presence of contaminants may make the site unsuitable for business operations or diminish its value.
If contaminants are found during the Phase 1 ESA, then a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment will likely be required. During this more extensive analysis, site assessors will determine the scope of the contamination and create a plan for site remediation.
The cost of remediation efforts should be factored into any purchasing decisions, as these processes can be quite expensive and will have a direct impact on the value of a property.
When Are Phase 1 ESAs Necessary?
As you well know, most financial institutions require Phase 1 ESAs to be performed before funding for commercial property is distributed. While the responsibility of scheduling a Phase 1 ESA typically falls on the buyer, loan officers often assist with this process in order to facilitate a smooth transaction.
Understanding how to identify the top Phase 1 ESA firms will allow you to better serve your clients, especially if they are engaging in a commercial real estate deal for the first time.
Phase 1 environmental site assessments are particularly important when purchasing previously developed land that was used for specific purposes. Properties that were the site of gas stations, dry cleaning facilities, chemical processing plants, mining operations, and other business ventures that produce potentially harmful substances should always be the subject of a Phase 1 ESA.
Additionally, undeveloped land should be analyzed by a Phase 1 environmental site assessment firm as well. Undeveloped land could have been contaminated by runoff from nearby industrial sites or other processes.
Purpose of a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment
The primary purpose of a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment is to identify the presence of any potentially hazardous substances at the subject property.. The hazardous substances could endanger employees, customers, tenants (when building apartments or hotels), or others who may be present on the site.
By ensuring that your clients have access to Phase 1 ESA reports, you can help them make informed purchasing decisions. If a site requires significant remediation efforts, buyers can adjust their offer accordingly. This approach will allow them to reduce the financial risk associated with the transaction and increase the viability of their endeavor.
In addition, Phase 1 ESAs will protect your clients from civil liability. If a Phase 1 environmental site assessment is not performed or is improperly completed, then it may not reveal the presence of contaminants. As a result, your client may be held liable for any damages caused by the contaminants after the transaction is concluded.
Keys to Finding the Right Phase 1 ESA Firm
There is a lot riding on Phase 1 environmental site assessments. Therefore, it is essential that you help your client find the best Phase 1 ESA firm for the job. When searching for an assessment firm, look for a partner that exhibits the following attributes:
The best Phase 1 environmental site assessment firms will possess years of relevant experience. Frequently, site assessors will have operated within the construction or commercial site analysis sector for years, if not decades.
While any team may include less seasoned personnel, the project should be led by an individual who has an abundance of relevant expertise.
When speaking with Phase 1 ESA firms, find out who leads assessment efforts. Do not be hesitant to ask about the firm’s experience and knowledge. If this conversation does not inspire confidence, then you may need to seek a different provider.
While the site visit itself is integral to any Phase 1 ESA, it is only a portion of the equation. In addition to conducting a thorough site visit, the firm should also perform extensive site research.
During the research phase of the assessment, analysts can determine what the property was used for and how it has evolved over the years. Assessors may review documents like previous environmental reports, permits, maps, deeds, aerial photographs, and tenant records.
After the site research has been completed, then the assessment team will move on to the site visit. The team will interview nearby property owners, photograph any structures that are present, collect soil samples, and perform other data-gathering processes.
Prompt Turnaround Times
Time is of the essence during any commercial real estate transaction. While a great Phase 1 ESA partner will be incredibly thorough, they should also offer prompt turnaround times.
When speaking with prospective partners, find out how long it will take for your client to receive the Phase 1 ESA report. They should be able to give you a general estimate so that you can relay this information to the current property owners.
This information will help you maintain positive relations between all involved parties and minimize any delays to the transaction.
Finally, the best Phase 1 environmental site assessment firms offer a full suite of environmental services, including Phase II environmental site assessments, remediation, spill prevention, etc.
A full-service environmental engineering and consulting firm like RSB Environmental will be able to help your client with all compliance and safety needs to achieve cost savings and efficiencies that come with comprehensive support.
Request a Quote from RSB Environmental
We would like to provide you with more information about why loan officers and other parties responsible for commercial real estate transactions turn to RSB Environmental for Phase 1 ESAs and other environmental solutions.
Contact our team today to receive a quote about our services. We are confident that we can identify a cost-effective and innovative solution for your next deal!