The Unocal building has been a part of the Anchorage landscape since 1970. The six-story, 55,000 square foot structure at 9th and L streets became the property of Chevron Corporation when it merged with Unocal, in 2005. In 2010, Ellsworth LLC won out over the Alaska State Legislature in a bid to purchase the building from Chevron. In 2011, the Legislature tried again to purchase the building but was outbid by Nana Regional Corporation, the current owner of the building.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Unocal building was constructed, asbestos was a common ingredient in a wide variety of building materials. Known for its superior insulating ability and fire-retardant properties, asbestos was a component in ceiling and flooring materials, pipe insulation, joint compound, and many other applications. Although some of the risks associated with asbestos exposure were understood as early as the 1930s, asbestos use would increase throughout the post World War II construction boom years, topping out in the mid 1970s at 1400 million pounds per year.
During the Alaska State Legislature’s attempts to purchase the Unocal building, critics cited costs associated with asbestos removal as a reason not to go ahead with the purchase. According to the Anchorage Daily News, an architectural firm conducted an analysis of the building’s condition for the legislature, which found:
The majority of the building elements and systems are from the building’s original construction in the 1970s and are near the end of, or beyond, their life span. No major renovation has occurred for the life of the building. One reason is likely the presence of asbestos in the structural frame fireproofing.
This type of fireproofing material was often sprayed on, and is considered to be one of the most problematic types of asbestos-containing material, due to its friable nature. Friable materials are those which crumble easily to the touch, or are otherwise easily disturbed, releasing tiny asbestos fibers into the air which can then be inhaled. Other asbestos containing materials which were common in buildings constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s include vinyl sheet flooring, pipe insulation, “popcorn” style ceiling material, and industrial adhesives.
Workers may have been exposed to inhalable asbestos fibers at the Unocal building, either during construction or while working as an employee in the building. Although asbestos was known to be a hazardous material at the time the Unocal building was constructed, regulations did not yet require employers to take proper safety measures when working with and around asbestos containing materials. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos while working at Unocal or another job site, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Bergman Draper Oslund today, for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.