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Benefits  > Indoor Air Quality
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  Concrete floors hlep prevent indoor air quality problems by removing the need for carpet.A number of factors can contribute to poor indoor quality, including:
 
 
  • Tobacco smoke
  • High VOC levels, frequently due to materials used in cabinetry or manufactured wood products such as laminate, particleboard, hardboard siding, and treated wood
  • New, wet, or damp carpet
  • Odors from products used for cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies
  • Combustion byproducts from burning oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood
  • Poorly operating central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
  • Outdoor sources such as radon, pesticides
  • Outdoor air pollution

Complaints due to poor indoor air quality routinely include dryness of the mucous membranes and skin, nose bleeds, skin rash, mental fatigue, headache, cough, hoarseness, wheezing, nausea, dizziness, and increased incidence of asthma, and eye, nose, and throat irritation.

Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the building. High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants.

 

Concrete was selected for ceilings, floors, and framing in this station. (PCA No. 10074)Concrete contains low to negligible levels of VOCs. These compounds degrade indoor air quality when they off-gas from new building products.. The table presents the VOC concentration and emission rates for common materials.
 
Polished concrete floors do not require carpeting, which can be a source of VOCs. In addition, carpet is linked to higher levels of allergens because it holds dust and can harbor mites and mildew, so a finished concrete floor eliminates this as well.  Exposed concrete walls do not require finishing materials.
 
The level of VOCs in concrete construction can be further reduced by using low-VOC materials for form release agents, curing compounds, dampproofing materials, wall and floor coatings and primers, membranes, sealers, and water repellants.
 
Concrete (3 in. or more in thickness) acts as an air barrier. This helps improve indoor air quality by limiting the amount of moisture that can enter a building or wall through infiltration. It also provides better control for the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.
 
Concrete does not contribute to indoor air quality problems caused by flooding. Concrete is not damaged by water; concrete that does not dry out continues to gain strength in the presence of moisture. Concrete submerged in water absorbs very small amounts of water over long periods of time. In flood-damaged areas, concrete buildings are often salvageable. Conversely, building materials such as wood and gypsum wallboard can absorb large quantities of water and cause moisture related problems.
 
Concrete will only contribute to moisture problems in buildings if it is enclosed in a system that does not let it breathe or dry out, and moisture is trapped between the concrete and other building materials. For instance, vinyl wall coverings in hot and humid climates will act as a vapor retarder and moisture can get trapped between the concrete and the wall covering. For this reason, impermeable wall coverings (vinyl wallpaper) should not be used with concrete walls.
 
Concentrations and Emission Rates of VOCs for Common Materials
Building Material

VOC Concentration, mg/m3

VOC Emission Rate, mg/m2h

Concrete with water-based form-release agent

0.018

0.003

Acrylic latex paint

2.00

0.43

Epoxy, clear floor varnish

5.45

1.3

Felt carpet

1.95

0.080

Gypsum board

N/A

0.026

Linoleum

5.19

0.22

Particle board

N/A

2.0

Plastic silicone sealer

77.9

26.0

Plywood paneling

N/A

1.0

Putty strips

1.38

0.34

PVA glue cement

57.8

10.2

Sheet vinyl flooring

54.8

2.3

Silicone caulk

N/A

<2.0

Water-based EVA wall and floor glue

1,410.0

271.0

 
 
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Resources
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Located at BookstoreBob Harris' Guide to Stained Concrete Floors (2004)
Bob Harris, Decorative Concrete Institute, Item Code LT283, 100 pages
Guide to Stained Concrete Floors is a 100-page, full-color resource with detailed information and practical tips on staining concrete interior floors. This publication is available for $35 at the Portland Cement Association Bookstore.
Located at BookstoreBob Harris' Guide to Stamped Concrete (2004)
Bob Harris, Decorative Concrete Institute, Item Code LT284, 144 pages
Available for $45. The guide covers topics of vital importance for anyone planning to stamp concrete, including: - Nine sources for stamping design ideas - Maximizing your profits by knowing what to charge - Concrete mix considerations for stamping concrete - Site conditions affecting stamped concrete work and how to prepare or avoid them - How to prepare concrete for stamping, including tips for striking off and finishing - Three important steps to applying color hardener - Tools that are essential for successful stamping - How and when to start stamping - Important issues to avoid when stamping - Fixing minor flaws in stamped concrete work - Effective techniques for the application of sealers - 10 ways to promote and sell your stamped concrete work - How to distinguish your stamped concrete work from competitors
Located at BookstoreFinishing Concrete with Color and Texture (2004)
Steven H. Kosmatka and Terry C. Collins, Portland Cement Association, Item Code PA124, 72 pages
Available for $35. This publication is a basic guide for planning and constructing decorative concrete surfaces on concrete slabs. While intended primarily for concrete contractors, it also will be useful to concrete finishers, concrete finishers apprentices, homebuilders, general contractors, architects, engineers, landscape architects, homeowners, vocational education students, specification writers, inspectors, and many others.
Located at BookstorePolished concrete outshines other flooring options (2006)
Environmental Building News, Volume 15, Number 2
Article requires subscription (weekly subscriptions available for $12.95). Stone-polishing techniques and mineralizing treatments are turning concrete into one of the most functional, most cost-effective, and greenest flooring options around. In this feature article, Alex Wilson explores the ups and downs of polished, densified concrete.
Download DocumentMoisture in ICF Walls (2001)
Gajda, J. and VanGeem, M., CTL Group, # SN2190a, 65 pages
Free to download. The potential for moisture problems in ICF walls was investigated to determine if the walls have any inherent properties that make them susceptible to moisture problems. The investigation was conducted in several phases. In the first phase, wall sections were constructed and instrumented to determine rates of drying as affected by various combinations of exterior and interior finishes and vapor retarders. After one year of monitoring in a controlled atmosphere, the walls were carefully disassembled and examined for signs of moisture-related distress. No signs of moisture damage or distress were noted. The second phase involved analyses of the condensation potential of wall sections utilizing various interior finishes, vapor retarders, and exterior finishes. Analyses were performed for winter and summer seasons for locations throughout North America. Results of the analyses led to recommendations on vapor retarders. The final phase involved recommending standard window details to mitigate water entry at joints. Additional details were developed to address proper practices for exterior walls, from the foundation to the eave, for a variety of exterior finishes and construction types. Details were developed with the assistance of construction tradespeople to facilitate effective, yet practical, means of ICF construction.
Download DocumentWhat's Your IAQ I.Q.? (1999)
Environmental Council of Concrete Organizations, #2846
Architects, engineers, and builders are becoming more proactive in assuring the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) of the buildings for which they are responsible. Concrete is the best building material for forestalling sick building syndrome. Concrete also reduces the outgassing of indoor air pollutants. Because concrete structures are more energy efficient, they lower emissions form furnaces. This document is available for free from Environmental Council of Concrete Organizations. To find this article: Follow the link provided, then click "catalog" and scroll half way down the page to find the article.
Located at External Web SiteChanges In Store (2006)
Wal-Mart showcases green concrete technologies at its store in Texas.
This 4 page article was originally featured in the May 2006 edition of Concrete Producer Magazine, by Hanley Wood. Wal-Mart testing a range of green strategies at this prototype store in McKinney, TX. Along with other green strategies, concrete was used as interior finish flooring, reducing VOC's and maintenance, and pervious pavement in the parking area to improve ground water quality and quantity.
Located at External Web SiteConcrete's Contrubition to Sustainable Development
Concrete is the most widely used building material on earth. It has a 2, 000 year track record ofhelping build the Roman Empire to building today's modern societies. As a result ofits versatility, beauty, strength,·and durability, concrete is used in most types ofconstruction, including homes, buildings, roads, bridges, airports, subways, and water resource structures. And with today's heightened awareness and demandfor sustainable construction, concrete performs well when compared to other building materials. Concrete is a sustainable building material due to its many eco{riendly features. The production ofconcrete is resource efficient and the ingredients require little processing. Most materials for concrete are acquired and manufactured locally which minimizes transportation energy. Concrete building systems combine insulation with high thermal mass and low air infiltration to make homes and buildings more energy efficient. Concrete has a long service life for buildings and transportation infrastructure, thereby increasing the period between reconstruction, repair, and maintenance and the associated environmental impact. Concrete, when used as pavement or exterior cladding, helps minimize the urban heat island effect, thus reducing the energy required to heat and cool our homes and buildings. Concrete incorporates recycled industrial byproducts such as fly ash, slag, and silica fume that helps reduce embodied energy, carbon footprint, and waste.
Located at External Web SiteICF Points to LEED (2008)
Insulating Concrete Form Systems contribute to LEED credits
This two page .pdf summarizes the credits available to designers and building owners when using high performing insulating concrete forms in wall construction. Documents available for download to ICFA members.