Published : 1 June 2016
Building and interior design trends move so quickly, it's sometimes hard to keep up! It's in, it's out, it's cool, it's not! But what is interesting is how certain products have evolved over time to prove their worth and versatility. And one of those is concrete.
When a method for producing Portland cement was patented by Joseph Aspdin in 1824, it was considered revolutionary - although various forms of the substance had been used since 700BC.
Safe, affordable, resilient, this was a major breakthrough in construction, especially after reinforced concrete was invented in 1849 by Joseph Monier.
Over time, however, concrete lost its allure somewhat, with exposed walls considered crude and ugly. But guess what, it's back! Not only as a fantastic building material but, also, as an inspiring product for interior decoration.
Outstanding energy efficiency
There are many variations on the theme these days, such as CLC - or cellular lightweight concrete. Also known as aerated or foamed concrete, CLC delivers a more sustainable solution by reducing the amount of raw material needed, and the energy needed to mould it into shape. It also provides outstanding energy efficiency and, due to the absence of toxic materials or volatile organic compounds, excellent air quality.
Durable and long lasting, CLC is low density, does not rot, is not attacked by termites, and is fire-proof and mould and mildew resistant, therefore requiring less maintenance.
What's more, being lightweight, it's cheaper to transport - and therefore cheaper to buy - and can be recycled at the end of its life. What a winner! Who'd have thought concrete would become the ultimate green building material!
The popularity of CLC - or AAC - in Australia has grown since its introduction here 20 years ago, largely because of its compressive strength. It is one-fifth the density of normal concrete but still has half the bearing strength, and load-bearing structures up to three storeys high can be safely erected with block work.
Great for interior design
But increasingly, the product is being used in Australia in its panel form, as a cladding system. This means entire building structures can be made in AAC from walls to floors and roofing with reinforced lintels, blocks and floor, wall and roofing panels available from the manufacturer.
Concrete has another clever little trick up its sleeve when it comes to interior design - it is magnificent when polished!
Polished concrete is basically concrete that has been treated with a chemical densifier and then ground with progressively finer grinding tools. Stains and dyes can be applied to enhance polished concrete, as well as other options such as scoring, grids, borders and other designs.
This type of flooring brings many advantages. It's durable and low maintenance, non-slippery (if polished correctly), reduces dust mites and other allergens, and won't go mouldy. It is also suggested that highly reflective polished concrete reduces lighting needs and improves natural lighting.
It's a very 'green' flooring choice, too. For example, cleaning is easily done with just warm soapy water once a week.
It's very sustainable, as it's making use of the materials already present. Think about it - most modern buildings are built on a concrete slab, so polishing it eliminates the energy and material consumed by applying a floor covering.
And, I find it reduces the need for extra heating in winter! Concrete is a fantastic product for soaking up heat from the sun during the day. Make sure you shut your home up before the chill of night sets in, and you'll be toasty all evening!