Concrete Alterations

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Utilizing concrete in flooring finishes can reduce the environmental impact associated with extraction, processing, fabrication and disposal of traditional flooring material such as ceramic tile, vinyl flooring products, hardwood flooring and carpeting. Decorative concrete flooring can also be changed during renovation activities without removal of previous surfaces such as ceramic tile, marble tile and slate. Unlike other flooring products that have to be removed and sent to landfills, color, texture and patterns of decorative floors can be altered with minimal effort. Our installations are sealed and therefore require only natural cleaning products such as soap and water, thus reducing the need of harsh cleaning chemicals.

Many building owners are unaware of the negative impacts their buildings and surrounding paved surfaces can have on environmental health. But the effects are dramatic, ranging from resource depletion to climatic changes to disruption of fragile ecosystems. Consider these disturbing facts:

  • With about 1.4 million homes built each year, homes represent 55% to 60% of all environmental impacts of buildings. (Source: USGBCs LEED for Homes Committee)
  • It can take over 40 trees to build one wood-framed home.(Source: PCA)
  • Operating a typical home or building over time consumes far more energy than it does to build it, according to Vera Novak, an environmental specialist and one of the Industry leaders. While investigating the life cycle of buildings, she found that a mere 2% of total energy is expended for materials and construction and a staggering 98% is used to heat, cool, and power the building.
  • Studies have shown that urban environments have higher temperatures in areas where there are few trees and lots of buildings and paved surfaces. This additional heat (called the urban heat-island effect) causes air conditioning systems to work harder, consuming up to 18% more energy.
  • Stormwater runoff is a leading source of the pollutants entering our waterways. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 90% of surface pollutants are carried by the first 1-1/2 inch of rainfall.
  • As much as 95% of the hydrocarbons in urban runoff is from the binder used in asphalt pavements.

How decorative concrete qualifies for Green building credits?

It is widely recognized that concrete is a sustainable building material and contributes toward achieving certification for most types of construction projects under the LEED green building rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). What is less recognized, and virtually undocumented, is how decorative concrete impacts the process of obtaining LEED certification.

Concrete itself can be a large contributor to obtaining LEED certification, but so can the decorative finishes used to give concrete its endless color and design options. The growth in the popularity of sustainable building has driven the decorative concrete industry to develop products that not only fit the "green" building trend, but also give designers, architects and homeowners more ways to incorporate colorful and artistic elements into their designs while earning LEED credits. Here we discuss how specific decorative concrete finishes can contribute, directly or indirectly, toward obtaining LEED certification.

Depending on the type of finishes or materials used in decorative concrete, the impact on obtaining LEED points may be direct or indirect. The impact is direct when the decorative product is the primary finish and will directly contribute toward obtaining a LEED credit. A good example of this is a low-VOC stain and sealer system for the concrete floors of a project that meets the criteria of Credit 4.1 for low-emitting materials. Decorative finishes that indirectly impact obtaining LEED credit enhance the primary system, but don't alone contribute toward LEED certification. An example is adding integral color to pervious concrete paving used on an exterior parking lot to control water runoff (Credit 6.1: Stormwater Design). The integral color is a decorative enhancement to the paving, but has no impact, positive or negative, toward obtaining the LEED credit

What is LEED?

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

This program was developed to provide building owners and operators a concise framework for implementing real-world green building design as well as construction and operations solutions. LEED is flexible, and works throughout the life cycle of both commercial and residential buildings. It can be used for new construction as well as the retrofit of existing buildings. There are LEED programs for different types of projects, including LEED for New Construction, LEED for Schools, LEED for Commercial Interiors, and LEED for Homes. Each program is based on five key credit categories, which differ depending on the type of project:

Sustainable Sites
Water Efficiency
Energy and Atmosphere
Materials and Resources
Indoor Environmental Quality


Each key category is comprised of specific and measurable tasks that must be met to be awarded points, or LEED credits. The greater number of points results in a higher LEED ranking. There are 100 possible points, and it takes 40 points to qualify for the minimum LEED certification.

Certified: 40 - 49 points
Silver: 50 - 59 points
Gold: 60 - 79 points
Platinum: 80 points and above


For more information about the LEED program and how to achieve certification, visit the USGBC website