Going Green – Building Material Focus – Concrete

Not too many people wake up and shout, “Concrete! I see concrete in my home environment somewhere and today’s the day to make it happen!” 

Concrete has a bad rap. It’s so common we barely notice it. It has industrial connotations. It’s also the thing you skinned your knee on as a kid when you fell off your bike.

As early as 7,000 years ago, both the Egyptians and the Romans were using concrete in construction.  They were no dopes. They recognized the easy accessibility of the ingredients needed to produce it which included readily available: water, aggregate (sand and gravel or crushed stone) and cement. Considering the length of time concrete has been in use, one can frame it as a somewhat inexhaustible resource that we can use in building construction with little fear of depleting our supplies. While the continued and exhaustive consumption of any natural resource is not “good” for the environment, concrete is a nearly inert material. Thus, it can be recycled in order to create more concrete for the future.

Today, concrete can be mixed with resins and colors to create truly astonishing finished effects…looking nothing like their “name” and even less like that concrete sidewalk of childhood wound-memory. Concrete applications for home design today are so varied that it has become an interesting choice for flooring in a variety of home and commercial spaces, to include those that are below grade level, (like a basement). Beautiful custom flooring applications can be applied and fashioned to a smooth, satiny sheen and in designs and patterns you cannot even fathom.  It can also be made to look like stone or tile.  Add a perfect area rug over the top and the look and foot feel can be terrific. Furthermore, beyond flooring, concrete can also be engineered to create stunning and spectacular counter tops as an alternate to laminate or stone.

And the even happier news on the green design front is that many landfill bound materials can be used as filler in the production of concrete. What is otherwise trash or industrial byproducts – such as blast furnace slag, recycled polystyrene and even something called fly ash, which is a byproduct of coal-burning electric plants –  are commonly used in the making of concrete.

Speaking in the most “concrete” terms – concrete may deserve a 2nd look.