by Andrew Knopp

Looking for a list of reasons to convince your building and construction team that polished concrete or terrazzo floors are the right choice? Look no further. Below, you’ll find an extensive case for using terrazzo and concrete flooring in your facilities. The long-term environmental benefits are many, but immediate benefits include cost savings, COVID-safe indoor air quality properties and a streamlined maintenance program that is good for everyone’s health.

Concrete + Terrazzo Clean Up Indoor Air Quality

The environmental benefits to polished concrete and terrazzo floors begin indoors. These flooring materials should be top choice in 2020-21 for indoor air quality, which is of utmost concern with COVID-19. We now know that the most significant component of a COVID-19 safe indoor environment is an Indoor Air Quality plan, as the virus is spread widely through droplets transmitted indoors. Rather than live with carpeting that harbors bacteria and allergens or investing in materials with high-VOC finishes that compromise indoor air quality, facilities would be wise to choose polished concrete or terrazzo flooring, which will help to keep indoor air pure. A finished concrete or terrazzo floor will have no VOC off-gassing, as compared with other hard flooring choices such as VCT, LVT and epoxy. In addition, these flooring substrates are non-porous, which eliminates moisture, mold and bacteria. 

Most importantly, these flooring options need not undergo an extensive stripping and waxing process. Eliminating the toxic stripping and waxing process is wonderful for indoor air quality, but it’s also good for the health of your workers. In the time of global pandemic, it’s never been more important to take care of our front-line workers, and help them to breathe easily. It’s estimated that up to 30% of the population have chemical sensitivities. Floor stripper is known in the industry to be one of the harshest chemicals on the respiratory health of custodial workers. Because of these sensitivities it is important to consider other options that are safer for occupants, and polished concrete and terrazzo flooring are at the top of that list. 

Concrete Is Literally Under Your Feet

Concrete is an essential building material used throughout the world, with proven performance for strong, durable and economical construction. In fact, concrete is the second most consumed material on the planet, after water. The United States uses about 300 million cubic yards of ready-mixed concrete annually for such diverse applications as paving, bridges and dams, high-rise buildings and homes, retail, office, manufacturing and municipal infrastructure.

Finishing a building’s floor by simply polishing the existing concrete material substantially decreases the environmental footprint of the project, and saves on everything from natural resources to pollution. That’s not to mention the significant saving on costs associated with manufacturing and delivery. It’s no wonder then that polished concrete is becoming an increasingly popular option in schools across the world. Every year schools spend millions of dollars replacing worn out floors. These materials are not only costly, but they also have a negative impact on the environment. In most cases, concrete is already there. Polishing it costs next to nothing, and comes with many long-term environmental and economic benefits.

It is true that sustainable floor coverings have come a long way in the last ten years, and consumers now have more options in terms of color and texture choices for their cork, bamboo, or carpet fiber flooring. However, with even the most sustainable of other floor covering choices, the materials used to produce them are manufactured, transported, and then installed on the jobsite. When they wear out, these materials end up in landfills only to be replaced by additional manufactured, transported, and installed materials. By utilizing the slab that is in place already, polished concrete or terrazzo floors do not require any such manufacturing of goods used. Concrete slabs are a part of construction, and can be beautiful flooring options. They become an even better environmental choice when an existing slab is stripped of floor coverings and restored (for the last time).

The Additional Benefits of Polished Concrete + Terrazzo Go On and On …

Polished concrete floors are also very durable, easy to clean and maintain and can be highly reflective, which reduces the need for artificial lighting. With the proper maintenance program, these flooring substrates will last a lifetime and never have to be replaced.

The durability of polished concrete floors is unsurpassed in the market, and when a refurbish or re-polish of the slab is finally required, it can be done at a fraction of the cost with almost zero waste. Custodial employees are able to use their existing equipment along with a combination of two to four diamond floor pads at their own leisure to be able to bring the floor back to its original shine.

When it comes to the natural energy efficiencies of a building, polished concrete and terrazzo work very well in combination with radiant floor heating and solar designed facilities as a result of their heat retention capabilities. As the sun shines all day on these floors, the heat is absorbed and is later released into the space at night, greatly reducing the load on HVAC systems.

The reflective nature of polished concrete, based on the level of sheen desired, not only provides that beautiful aesthetic look everyone has come to know but can also greatly reduce the amount of artificial illumination required for any building space. By maximizing the natural light via reflectivity, the energy efficiency of a building’s lighting system can be greatly improved and the overall amount of energy used reduced. Polished concrete and terrazzo floors help save energy and reduce lighting bills by amplifying the amount of natural light entering a building during the day and reducing the need for artificial light at night. For some projects, highly reflective concrete floors achieve LEED certification and slash energy consumption.

Polished concrete and terrazzo outshine other flooring materials—not only because of their polished veneer, but also because of these substrates’ sustainable properties. From long life cycles to natural energy efficiencies, polished concrete and terrazzo floors are the latest and greatest choice for all types of facilities looking for a simple and inexpensive way to significantly decrease their environmental footprints and boost their indoor air quality.