What makes any one floor type environmentally sustainable? There are a multitude of factors that can qualify, such as the materials used to create the flooring, the durability and lifespan, the post-installation upkeep and any special functions the floor has. Polished concrete slabs scrub up very nicely in each of these criteria, making them a viable solution for sustainably designed homes.
Perhaps the most impressive quality a polished concrete flooring system has, is the ability to absorb and hold temperature. Harnessing the sun’s free energy source, the large mass of the concrete retains and distributes heat evenly, warming up in the day and cooling down slowly after the sun has gone down. This natural property reduces the need for climate control and in-turn, lessens the carbon footprint of the room.
Additionally, polished concrete floors are highly reflective and can reduce the need for lighting. More effective with lighter-coloured slabs, the polished surface aids light distribution around a room and can cut the need for electrical lighting by up to 15%.
Concrete is a sustainable product for two reasons: Firstly, the concrete mix 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. To further reduce the environmental impact of a concrete floor, recycled materials can be crushed and incorporated into the visual design of a polished concrete floor, like crushed glass, recycled plastics, marble chips and metal shavings.
The last point to make on the recycled elements of a polished concrete floor, is that the floor itself is for the most part recyclable. Once no longer wanted, concrete can be ground up and repurposed rather than going to landfill.
Low Lifetime Maintenance
As one of the most durable materials on the planet, concrete has unrivalled longevity. When a flooring material is durable, the frequency of required repair or replacement is halved. A longer floor lifespan means less waste product produced overall and less materials needed.
Maintenance required on a polished concrete floor is minimal compared to that of hardwood floors or delicate tiles, as it is firstly, harder to damage.
Higher Air Quality
Sustainable building design extends beyond waste products and reduced energy costs, to the way a material can affect the surrounding air quality. 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. 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. It should also be noted that concrete floors do not support the growth of toxic moulds and bacteria, and are very easy to clean and maintain.