Sustainable Concrete Flooring
Concrete flooring can truly result in an incredibly beautiful floor where unlimited self-expression can be reached. However not all concrete floors are environmentally sensitive!
A concrete floor really sits on the fence for being an eco product however we feel that there are some ways in which it can be incorporated into a green home and felt they should be discussed.
The Environmental Impact of Concrete Flooring
Concrete flooring has many environmental issues in how they are made and this also varies amongst manufacturers as well. To make it a bit simpler to understand we are going to break concrete flooring into three types of flooring:
- Traditional Concrete Flooring
- Recycled Concrete Flooring
- Sustainable Concrete Flooring
Traditional Concrete Flooring
These are concrete floors which are created and installed from scratch. These floors, countertops and sinks have become a very trendy design construction for new builds and renovations. They are a terrific product allowing for endless possibilities and superb durability. Unfortunately they do not make the environmental grade!!!
A newly constructed concrete floor is made by combining cement, water and aggregates. Grinding together a combination of natural elements that are found in clay, limestone and sand into a fine powder will result in the creation of cement. Concrete's dependency on cement is a major environmental flaw as the creation of cement is an energy and fossil-fuel intensive process that results in being an enormous carbon-dioxide contributor!
Aggregates are a combination of natural materials such as gravel, sand, stone and rocks that improve the stability and durability of concrete but also tax quarries and natural resources.
Water is the last ingredient that is required to bind all of the cement and aggregates together and the use of water in this process is yet another reason why these floors are not green.
Another reason these floors do not qualify for a green standard is their potential for added chemicals and chemical pigments during the construction process. Sometimes additional chemicals are added into concrete to help speed up the hardening process and to make it easier to work with.
Although traditional concrete flooring does make a stunning floor they simply do not pass the green standard but there are some new technologies being made to help concrete pass the grade...
Recycled Concrete Flooring
New substitutes are being made out of various industrial waste materials that are resulting in great advances for the concrete industry helping it to become cleaner while reducing CO2 emissions.
High-Volume Fly Ash - This recycled product is an industrial by-product of coal burning power plants. Countries such as India and China are huge coal burning nations which produce upwards of 100 million tonnes of fly ash waste annually. According to an article written for the National Concrete Pavement Technology Center by P. Kumar Mehta concrete that contains more than 50% of fly ash, "e;reduces the water demand, improves the workability, minimizes cracking due to thermal and drying shrinkage, and enhances durability to reinforcement corrosion, sulphate attack, and alkali-silica expansion. For countries like China and India, this technology can play an important role in meeting the huge demand for infrastructure in a sustainable manner."e;
When looking for a green floor to install in the home look for a concrete that is made primarily made with Ash crete, a concrete substitute made with over 97% high-volume fly ash.
Another way to choose an eco-floor is to use a concrete product that has been made by incorporating recycled materials. There are a few new products that are available today that are doing just that...
IceStone - This company produces beautiful concrete products for the eco-friendly home. Ice Stone is made by combining cement with 100% recycled glass resulting in a high performance concrete material. Ice Stone is primarily made for countertops, backsplashes and table tops however they also provide flooring solutions as well. They do not add toxic pigments or use any petrochemicals in the production of their product and their materials can contribute to LEED points.
Squak Mountain Stone - Is another environmentally conscious company that is working with recycled paper, recycled glass, coal fly-ash and cement to produce an eco-friendly concrete product called recycled fibrous-concrete. Also specializing in countertops this company can also produce floor tiles that have met the approved durability standards.
Sustainable Concrete Flooring
There is one option to have a sustainable concrete floor that unfortunately requires that you already have one! This is a very economical and environmentally sound way for commercial spaces and residential buildings that already have concrete as an existing floor or as a sub-floor to do their part. Many business and home owners have opted to use a very environmentally conscious method to refinish their existing concrete floors instead of replacing it with new flooring options. Refinishing a concrete floor reduces consumption, waste and various pollution related to the manufacturing of new flooring products.
The eco-friendly way to restore and grind concrete is by a dry method where water is not required and the dust that is produced during the process is retained within the machine. This can be achieved by a mechanical diamond grinding process. Companies like Rock hammer Inc. offer this restoration process to their clients while also providing other green concrete and stone solutions for the home.
The Health Impact of Concrete Flooring
Where your health is concerned, concrete flooring performs much better! They are very easy to clean and do not harbor dust mites and other allergens typical of other flooring materials.
Concrete also works very well in combination with radiant floor heating and solar design homes for their heat retention capabilities. As the sun shines all day on these floors the heat is absorbed and is later released into the home when it needs it at night. The heat produced from the floor rises naturally in the home and does not force allergens into the air as it would with other heating systems.
Although concrete flooring is not the ideal green floor, there are some positive green advancements being made to improve this product. Choosing manufacturers that are doing their best to include recycled materials and safe additives is one step in the ability to include this very sexy floor into your green home.