A potential customer (whether a property owner or an architect) might ask how decorative concrete floor could possibly meet LEED requirements and be considered environmentally friendly. If that question arises, here are your talking points:
Thermal mass: Concrete takes a while to heat up – and also a while to cool down. That’s because it has what’s called thermal mass – heat storage capacity. A concrete floor has lots of thermal mass, which allows concrete to dampen out the highs and lows of temperature fluctuations in a room, reducing the overall heating of cooling load. That saves energy and also allows a size reduction in heating or cooling systems. Properly designed, concrete floors can also contribute to passive solar heating and cooling. Energy performance in LEED for Homes is worth as much as 34 points (Credit EA 1), so this is potentially a huge contribution. In the NAHB Guidelines, this would qualify for points under Section 3.2.1.
Radiant heating: Concrete floors, whether elevated floors or slabs on grade, are the perfect medium for radiant heating. Utilizing embedding plastic tubing in the concrete, radiant floors provide quiet and comfortable heating and cooling that can result in energy savings of 10 percent to 30 percent, according to the Portland Cement Association. Another advantage of radiant heat is that it easily integrates into solar heating systems. Again, the added energy efficiency contributes to credit EA 1 in LEED or Section 3.2.1 in NAHB.
Recycled content: Both LEED and NAHB encourage the use of recycled content and award points for doing so. Concrete can easily incorporate fly ash and slag as supplementary cementitious materials. Using fly ash and locally produced aggregates yields LEED credits for environmentally preferable products (Credit MR2.2). NAHB Section 2.4 provides points for using recycled materials without being specific about what that means.
Indoor air quality: Concrete floors make a huge contribution to indoor environmental quality, simply because of the fact that cured concrete is completely inert and implies the absence of carpeting or vinyl that can release volatile chemicals into the air. In LEED, points can be claimed under Credit EQ 1 by complying with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Indoor Air Package. In the NAHB Guidelines, claiming this credit is more difficult, although a case can be made under Section 5.4, Innovative Options for Indoor Environmental Quality.
Credit could be claimed for a durable structure that requires little maintenance; termite and mold resistance and waste reduction.