Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Environmental Screens.
A Environmental Screen is a type of environmental due diligence that people purchase when commercial property changes hands. Frequently, Environmental Screens are also known as a Environmental Radius Search, Desktop Risk Assessments, or Desktop Environmental Reviews. The best use for a Environmental Screen is when you need a fast, inexpensive overview of the environmental risks associated with a property.
What's In a Environmental Screen?
An Environmental Screen is a high level review of the Federal, State, County and Municipal databases. It can tell you if there were generators or users of concerning chemicals, spills or underground storage tanks. You'll receive a 1/4 mile radius map and a database that lists all the sites and locations that are a concern inside the radius. They'll be listed in order by distance from your site. There'll be some information regarding the type of environmental impact on the report. There is no detail and sometimes there are more questions than answers. For a few more dollars, a A3 Environmental Consultant will read your report and provide some guidance in the form of an email or phone call.
Who Buys Them?
Sellers include a Desktop Environmental Review as part of their marketing materials. These environmental reports signal to buyers of how difficult getting through the Phase I ESA will be when the buyer goes for financing. It's a signal, loud and clear to buyers. The seller is a straight dealer even (especially) when the reports come back with environmental concerns. Often, these environmental radius searches are done at the request of the real estate agent or mergers and acquisitions professional to help 'grease the skids' of a deal.
Buyers who are moving quickly with multiple options on facilities to purchase use environmental screens to help narrow their choices. Investors who are buying property with cash sometimes use environmental screens as a minimum effort before closing, however we don't recommend it.
Banks often run desktop environmental reviews on every commercial transaction that is below a certain dollar amount. Sometimes the data that comes back is too much to process. At that point they ask us for interpretation so they can rest easy and close the loan.
Desktop Environmental Reviews are very high level, there's not a lot of fine detail. An analogy would be like reading the headlines of a newspaper without reading the article. You can figure out a lot from the headlines, but sometimes the headlines are frightening. A professional needs to read the story at length. To solve this problem we have two price points, $59 for an automated response, and $99for a scientist reviewed report. If your environmental screen leaves you with questions, you can upgrade to have a scientist tell you what you need to worry about, if anything.
The Turnaround Times:
Environmental Radius Searches are the fastest turnaround environmental product you can buy. You can typically have an answer in two hours if you don't need a scientist's review and three if you do.
If you requested your Environmental Screen without review you'll receive the database results, a radius map showing your property and the proximity of any environmental issues that were in the database. For the lowest price-point there is no cover letter explaining any further detail. A buyer of the subject property would need to determine for themselves if any issues raised from the database report were concerning. If you ordered the "with review" option for an additional $40, you'll receive an email with a paragraph from the scientist. It'll speak to any issues raised by the database which might be concerning.
As with all products, a Desktop Environmental Review has limitations. They are the lowest level of Environmental Due Diligence but also the fastest and least expensive. Environmental Screens don't carry any official weight with the Small Business Administration (SBA) or any bank. They aren't a limitation to environmental liability from any previous owner or use of the property. Environmental Screens are simply a tool to open your eyes to potential risks. Even the scientist's opinion is limited to what the database returns and the data that can be quickly derived. There are no warranties or guarantees. If you need work that is guaranteed in any way, you'll need to choose either a Records Search with Risk Assessment or a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). Both of these options take more time and money but are deeper dives into the data available regarding your site.