Environmentally friendly design and construction is an ever-increasing trend as being ‘green’ plays on the consciousness of todays society. The importance of such should therefore be transferred through every aspect of a building and with the floor being one of the major components in every building; we need to establish sound eco-friendly solutions. Concrete is unparalleled as an environmentally friendly flooring material. With the option to manufacture out of recycled materials, long life cycles, intrinsic energy efficiencies, improvement of indoor environmental quality and endless design options, concrete flooring not only poses as a functional product but an aesthetically beautiful one to.
Sustainable building designs overall aim is to reduce the impact of buildings on the environment. These impacts are varied and motives for such include environmental, economic and social benefits. Sustainable building practices take advantage of renewable resources and bring together a vast array of practices, techniques and skills to reduce and ultimately eliminate the impacts of buildings on the environment. This is achieved without sacrificing aesthetic appeal; instead using the philosophy that building design should in fact be in harmony with its natural surrounds.
Taking this into account, how does concrete fit the mould as a sustainable and environmentally friendly material to use in building design as a flooring solution? Firstly, the concrete mix installed into a floor can be made up of waste byproducts. The predominant raw material for cement in concrete is limestone, the most abundant mineral on earth. Furthermore, concrete can also be made up of fly ash and slag cement, both waste byproducts from power plants, steel mills and other manufacturing facilities. More on from this, concrete floors can incorporate recycled products in the design. These include crushed glass, recycled plastics, marble chips and metal shavings. To top it off, the concrete itself is 100% recyclable. So it can be safely assumed that concrete is a sustainable and environmentally efficient flooring material right throughout its lifecycle because it is recyclable and reusable.
Life Cycle Efficiency
Concrete is one of the most durable materials found on the earth and few flooring materials have the longevity of concrete. It is only a natural progression then to use this material as an internal and external flooring solution. From an environmental aspect, the long lifespan of a concrete floor reduces the future need for replacement and therefore an overall reduction in the amount of waste products produced. The high level of durability and low maintenance requirements of a concrete floor also mean that reoccurring maintenance and replacement costs are reduced in comparison with associated, less enduring flooring materials.
A key element in environmentally friendly buildings includes measures to reduce operating energy consumption. Basically the goal of energy efficiency is to provide energy for the functions of the building to run on a day-to-day basis, whilst having the least impact on the environment, through the use of the earths natural energy source providers. The largest of which is of course the sun.
The floor area is one of the major components in every building. Due to this, it is extremely beneficial that the flooring material chosen have the capabilities to maximise energy efficiency. Concrete floors fall quite intuitively into this element of sustainability due to its thermal mass properties. Thermal mass means that concrete floors will absorb heat from direct sunlight and release that stored heat at a rate that is required, as dictated by the air temperature. So rooms will be kept warm in winter and conversely, cool in summer. This natural form of controlling room temperature has fantastic results for the environment as it keeps the use of air conditioners and heaters at a minimum. In addition, polished concrete floors are a highly reflective surface, which aids in light distribution and can reduce the use of electrical lighting by up to 15%. This also in turn creates large savings in the overall operating costs of a property.
Indoor Environmental Quality
An environmental factor that isn’t commonly thought of when it comes to sustainable building design is the quality of the indoor environment. The choice of construction materials and interior finish products are important and those with low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions will improve air quality in a property. Furthermore, it is important that an indoor environment provides a comfortable atmosphere that is centrally focused on the well-being of its occupants. Therefore moisture controls, hypoallergenic and easy to clean surfaces are imperative.
Concrete floors are the ultimate flooring solution in terms of indoor environmental quality. They do not emit VOCs and can be finished with low VOC sealers. Concrete floors are also an allergen free option. They help to maintain clean air through the lack of dust and dirt being harboured and circulated through the air. Furthermore, concrete floors do not support the growth of toxic moulds and bacteria and are very easy to clean and maintain.
Above all this, concrete floors enable you to attain the benefits of sustainable design and construction without having to sacrifice aesthetics. Decorative concrete is definitely an ideal example of the synergy between beauty, sustainability and economy. Concrete floors give you a durable, low maintenance floor that will last the life of your property and look good doing it. Whether working with a new or existing concrete slab, your concrete floor can be customised to your exact preferences and needs. Choose from ranges of colours, aggregates, finishes and levels of exposure as well as decorative toppings and stains. Your concrete floor is really only limited by your own imagination.
Concrete is unrivalled as an environmentally friendly flooring building material, the benefits of using concrete in buildings are vast, however the real benefits are exercised when using the material as a finished flooring solution.
With so many benefits and sustainable credentials polished concrete floors are still under used in large scale construction to date, however this trend is changing and with increased demand on the flooring solution, this will only improve the quality of workplace and living environments as well as reduce the impact on our natural resources and environments.