Case Study

Polished Concrete and the Environment

According to the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC),

“Buildings generate about 35 per cent all of greenhouse gases, 35 per cent of landfill waste comes from construction and demolition activities, and 80 per cent of all water is consumed in and around buildings.”

The vast majority of buildings in Canada, and around the world are built with some form of concrete slab. Most flooring methods require the use of additional materials. Polished Concrete reduces material consumption by converting the existing concrete slab into a decorative, long lasting and environmentally friendly finish.

Polished Concrete Reduces Maintenance Costs and Can Last a Lifetime

In a new construction project or a renovation, polished concrete can represent a significant cost savings over the lifetime of the building, despite having a slightly more expensive upfront cost. Typical institutional floor finishes require significant regular maintenance, such as buffing, waxing and resurfacing. Any floor surface that requires layers of additional material or adhesives is vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and will eventually delaminate and require replacing. Polished concrete does not require the installation of any additional materials that can wear out over time and it does not require any regular waxing or resurfacing. All that is required to maintain a polished concrete floor is cleaning, as is required with all floor surfaces. A polished concrete floor will likely last as long as the building itself, and will continue to gain character as it ages.

Polished Concrete Reduces Energy Consumption

On top of reduced maintenance costs, polished concrete can also help to reduce a building’s overall energy consumption. Polished concrete’s highly reflective surface can help to increase the amount of ambient light within a space; reducing the energy demand for artificial lighting. When used in combination with passive solar design principles, the thermal mass of polished concrete can also be effective at reducing the energy associated with artificial heating and cooling.

Polished Concrete Improves Indoor Air Quality

Another important consideration for buildings, both new and old, is the impact of indoor air quality. Environmentally conscious design seeks to avoid the use of materials that emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Many floor finishes require sealants or glues that off gas over time and can negatively impact indoor air quality in a building. Polished concrete floors can be installed without chemical sealers and can help to improve indoor air quality.

Joel Turgeon, B.Arch.Sc
Vice-President