Ten years ago, it would have been unheard of to suggest a concrete floor in a corporate setting. Even five years ago, it was a stretch and was usually reserved for contemporary interiors.
But today, architectural concrete flooring is a hot, stylish option for corporate environments. Practically, it's durable and cost-efficient. Aesthetically, concrete can morph to meet almost any image criteria.
- Image Building. Concrete's biggest asset is its chameleon-like ability to reflect almost any image and culture. It's hi-tech and funky. It's sophisticated and reserved. It's natural and organic. Through pattern, color (often referred to as "stained" concrete), degree of texture, and accessories (like divider strips), concrete can achieve any number of looks.
In particular, color technology in concrete has come a long way. Though it still retains a more natural appearance, concrete doesn't have to be gray. It can be bright and very engaging. Color is handled on-site and considered part of the installation project. The color and texture of the concrete can vary slightly, which adds character and effect to the floor, even though the surface is smooth.
- Maintenance. The look stays fresh. Concrete is nothing if not easy to maintain. Unlike many other hard-surface flooring materials, it doesn't require grout, which can become dingy and dirty if not properly cared for. And it's very resistant to topical moisture. It's finished with an epoxy clear coat, which requires only a damp mop to clean.
- Air Quality. The clean-ability factor also plays another important role with the ever-growing interest in clean buildings and indoor air quality. Concrete does not trap dirt and dust, which can offer decreased absences and increased productivity.
- Cost. Concrete is cost-effective, ranging from $4 to $10 per square foot, depending on the amount of floor prep needed, the amount of color being used, and the intricacy of the floor pattern. Of all hard-surface flooring materials - marble, granite, terrazzo, and hardwood - as well as most resilient floors, architectural concrete is the least expensive, and it can deliver just as much impact (see "Life-cycle Costing" chart).
- Safety. With a non-skid finish, architectural concrete has very good slip-resistance as compared to other hard-surface floors, and meets all ADA requirements.
- Replacement. More likely than not, you'll tire of a concrete floor sooner than you'll need to replace it. It's extremely durable.
G. Harold Chapman is president and CEO of Greenville, SC-based Bonitz Flooring Group, a member of StarNet Flooring Cooperative (www.starnetflooring.com).