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Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

The gold standard in evaluating environmental risk.

Environmental Due Diligence

Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (Phase I ESA) are an important risk management tool during commercial real estate transactions. Phase I ESAs are our core environmental expertise. Partner fully understands how the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Report is used in the commercial and multi-family real estate industry. Partner provides Phase I ESA reports throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe for U.S.-based commercial real estate lenders and those based outside of the U.S. 

Standards for environmental site assessments are published by the ASTM. Standards should be carefully reviewed to fully understand the work to be completed as well as the limitations of reports. In addition, the National Engineering and Environmental Due Diligence Association (NEEDDA) has published a white paper that can provide a useful starting point. The National Engineering and Environmental Due Diligence Association or “NEEDDA” is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization formed to improve the practice of engineering and environmental due diligence for all stakeholders, members, clients, vendors, and non-member firms. Read the full White Paper here.

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is the gold standard for evaluating the environmental liability associated with a real estate asset of any type. Whether the property is industrial, commercial, mixed-use, multifamily, Partner is able to fully assess the historical and current uses of the property. Partner is truly an expert at the implementation of the ASTM E1527-13 Standard. Our Phase I Environmental Site Assessments are done by Environmental Professionals who meet the requirements of the EPA's AAI Standard.

Our experience in Phase I Environmental Site Assessments dates back to before the creation of the ASTM Standards. Having performed Phase I ESAs on hundreds of thousands of properties, we offer our clients an expert perspective on every property type.

All Appropriate Inquiries Rule

The EPA's All Appropriate Inquiries Rule governing the scope of Phase I Environmental Site Assessments went into effect on November 1, 2006, and provided specific scope requirements for a Phase I ESA to meet the requirements of CERCLA's innocent landowner defense.

In Partner's environmental risk practice, we help buyers meet the legal requirements for the CERCLA innocent landowner defense and we provide practical business advice on environmental liability to our clients.

ASTM E1527-13 Standard Update

Currently, an ASTM committee is reviewing the current standard for proposed changes. Check back in the coming months for an update on these potential changes. 

On November 6th, 2013, ASTM published the long-anticipated new standard for conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, ASTM E1527-13. ASTM E1527-13 will take effect immediately and will replace the E1527-05 standard as the industry best practice for Phase I ESAs.Partner is an active member of the ASTM committee tasked with updating the E1527 standard. We have been involved throughout the committee’s revision process and are fully prepared to implement the new standard. The changes from the 2005 to 2013 ASTM standards do not significantly alter the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment report or process, but there are a few key changes you should be aware of.

The most significant changes include:

File Reviews - The E1527-13 standard imposes a stronger imperative for conducting regulatory file reviews. The environmental professional reserves the right to forego such a review, but must explicitly explain in the report why a review is not warranted.

Vapor Migration - E1527-13 places greater emphasis on assessing impacts to the subject property from vapor migration. This is done through several changes in the standard: 1) clarifying that the definition of a release does include contamination in the soil vapor phase, not just in soil or groundwater; 2) adding a definition of “migration” that includes vapor (as well as soil and groundwater); and 3) clarifying that vapor migration/intrusion does not fall under the category of an Indoor Air Quality concern (which is out of the ASTM 1527 scope of work).

Definitions - Several definitions have been clarified and simplified, and a new definition has been added of a “Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition” or “CREC.” You will now see CREC as an additional section being discussed in the executive findings and conclusions.

Phase I ESA Scope:

Site Visit

  • Inspection of the Site by an Experienced Inspector
  • Catalog the Presence of Hazardous Materials or Petroleum Products
Historical Research
  • Historical Aerial Photographs
  • Reverse Street Directories
  • Building Permits
  • Planning Records
  • Topographical Maps
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
  • Department of Oil and Gas Maps
  • Title Information

Geology and Hydrogeology

  • Soil Type
  • Geological Setting
  • Groundwater Depth

Regulatory Research

  • Fire Departments
  • State Environmental Agencies
  • Federal Environmental Agencies
Interviews and Document Review
  • Interview Tenants and Owners
  • Interview State and Local Regulators
  • Review Provided Reports

Limited Environmental Due Diligence Products

Not all circumstances require a full Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. If the user is not looking to qualify for CERCLA liability protection, such as many lenders conducting environmental due diligence for loan originations, a tiered environmental due diligence policy utilizing both the Phase I and limited-scope or "desktop" environmental reports can be successful at screening for high environmental risk properties. Read more about limited environmental reports.