I always hesitate to write about concrete as a green building material. Concrete manufacturing is one of the most energy and water intensive processes around with an average CO2 output of one kilogram per kilogram of concrete produced! So, when I was at the Green Building Festival a few weeks ago, I passed by the booth for Concrete Elegance and spoke with Alla Linetsky about her product. I had written about Concrete Elegance before, but it was purely from a decor perspective, its green attributes at that time were ignored. As it turns out, concrete from Concrete Elegance is a pretty ‘green’ product after all.
Concrete Elegance was established in 2004 and since 2006 the company has been continuously improving the environmental footprint of its product. Some of the improvements it has made include:
- Replacing 80% of Portland Cement — the energy intensive part of concrete — with recycled cementing materials, mostly with steel mill slag from Ontario smelters
- replacing all of the sand and gravel with the broken, multi-coloured glass shards left at the bottom of our recycling boxes that would otherwise go to landfill
- producing a product that is less than half the thickness (and therefore weight) than traditional concrete but just as durable
- sourcing up to 88% of all ingredients from Ontario
- replacing steel reenforcement with glass fiber filaments which use less energy and are lighter and stronger than steel
- casting on permanent table surfaces, eliminating disposable formwork material using VOC free ingredients and sealer.
In addition to its environmental qualities, concrete offers a lot of flexibility in design. Because it’s a poured substance, it can be made into unusual, thin-walled three dimensional shapes that would be impossible to fit with solid sheet material. It can be polished or honed and needs sealing only occasionally.
The cost is similar to stone surfaces and largely depends on what your needs are. For instance, concrete can be made into fireplace surrounds, floor tiles, counter tops, backsplashes, and even complete counter tops with sinks (although not recommended for your primary sink). It can be used in interior and exterior locations.
Concrete, like all surfaces, does chip so you need to pay attention — although chips can be repaired, you will see them. A knife will scratch the finish so use a cutting board, and while the food-safe sealer applied is non-porous it develops its resistance over time, so it’s best to clean up spills quickly in the first few weeks.
For more information on Concrete Elegance, visit their website.
610 Bowes Road, Unit 14, Concord, ON, L4K 4A4
(note: please call before you visit as they may be at a customer site).
One of the best things about concrete is that it is recyclable and can look amazing when enamelled.