Concrete love

We have our green floor plan covered

Shawn Eldredge likes to paint.

Shawn Eldredge likes to paint.

Photo By Anne Stokes

SN&R buys a building, wants to make it green and pays Sena: Eco-Warrior Princess to write a weekly column about it.

You know this guy. His name’s Shawn Eldredge and he ran for mayor and lost.

No big deal. We still like him, his friendly personality, his passion and vision for improving our city. We at SN&R also like his high-quality construction work, and he’s among our top choices to be the flooring and painting subcontractor for the building we’re renovating on Del Paso Boulevard. SN&R will consider two criteria when finalizing this decision: cost (the cheaper the better, baby!) and green (our motto: Go green or go home!). Eldredge’s company, Capitol Painting and Construction, fits the bill.

Our 19,000-square-foot building has concrete floors throughout. We thought about several options and promptly shot them down. Bamboo? Heck no! Although made from a sustainably harvested material, it’s too expensive. Linoleum? Nah, this material seems slightly odd for an office workspace. We could use wall-to-wall carpet, but carpet’s nasty. It collects dust and isn’t that eco-friendly; unless you buy recycled carpet squares, you’re producing a lot of material waste. And besides, all of these flooring materials require a manufacturing process that pollutes and the shipment of products across hundreds—maybe thousands—of miles via trucks. Or as Eldredge calls these vehicles: “giant carbon footprints from hell.” So we’re sticking with concrete, which we’ll cover with a soy-based stain.

“I’ve fallen in love with wax and concrete,” Eldredge said. “To me, it’s the greatest thing ever.”

If an occupant doesn’t mind the natural characteristics of concrete—primarily the harsh acoustics—this flooring is super dope. SN&R worried about noise levels, but after much debate decided the acoustics of a concrete space was not enough to warrant a less-green choice. We have some female employees who wear high heels, and several staff members listen to the radio as they work, while others need peace and quiet to focus. But if noise becomes a problem in the future, we’ll mitigate sound levels with acoustic panels and toss down some throw rugs—basically anything we can do to break up the space. I’m not too worried.

Why else is a concrete floor sweet? There’s no creative restriction, said Eldredge, who did the floors for R15, Cafe Bernardo, Luigi’s Slice and Fun Garden—and each one looks different and cool in its own way. Soon he’s going to put a concrete overlay on linoleum in the kitchen of his house, and he’s stoked.

“Concrete floors are very edgy,” Eldredge said. “There’s nothing common or uniform about them. They’re each unique.”

All right, one decision down, another one to go. Up next: painting. Eldredge has painted all his life, and he’s currently educating himself to be an environmental geek, so he had plenty of advice to share. One tip I’ve heard repeatedly during SN&R’s renovation process is that we must use low- or no-VOC paints. The VOC refers to volatile organic compounds emitted as breathable gases at room temperature, some of which may cause short- or long-term health effects in occupants. I’m a big fan of healthy indoor air quality, and thankfully my bosses are, too. But be forewarned that no-VOC does not mean nontoxic, and some of these products may actually contain harmful chemicals, such as ammonia, acetone, fungicides, biocides and formaldehyde. These ingredients won’t necessarily be listed on a label, either.

To be totally green, we’d pay our subcontractor to use the old brush-and-roll painting method, which reduces the amount of material waste and emissions caused from less-efficient airless paint sprayers. Unfortunately, labor costs double with brush-and-roll, so SN&R will go with sprayers.

We do have one more little hitch in our giddy-up, though. In terms of exterior painting, green-building experts recommend using light colors that reflect heat during the summer, instead of absorbing warmer temperatures into the building. Last I checked, our building will be covered in deep red and black—not exactly the lightest colors in the rainbow. Don’t worry, we’ll figure out what to do about that glitch.

In the meantime, someday soon you might see Eldredge over on Del Paso Boulevard spreading some concrete love!