- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Ian Nichols
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
The RetroPlate Concrete Polishing System (RetroPlate) is revolutionizing the flooring industry through simplicity; simplicity in both the ease of application, care and by eliminating unnecessary materials and coatings all together. “I was at a green products trade show years ago and I’ll never forget what someone said, ‘The most environmentally friendly product is no product at all,'” recalls Vernon Talbot, managing director of Utah-based RetroPlate. “The comment left a lot of people scratching their heads but it made sense to me, because that’s exactly what the RetroPlate method is all about.”
RetroPlate takes what most people think of as plain-old concrete, which Talbot points out is already part of the building envelope, and transforms it into a highly abrasive resistant and impact impervious, light reflective and environmentally friendly flooring system. In every step of the RetroPlate polishing system, an environmentally safe approach is taken, beginning with a formulation of water and naturally occurring materials.
RetroPlate’s water-based, sodium silicate product works by chemically interacting with calcium hydroxide in the cement component of concrete. By refurbishing existing concrete, the system saves energy and limits waste.
“We are not creating a topical floor covering, nor are we creating a flooring product that will require extensive maintenance, stripping or ongoing topical treatments,” explains Talbot. “We are simply utilizing natural products to enhance the performance of other natural products.”
Talbot goes on to explain that rather than adding to the list of materials with tile, carpet or wood flooring, which usually travel across the country, will eventually need to be replaced, maintained or end up in a landfill, RetroPlate utilizes what is already there.
Greener from the start
This makes RetroPlate inherently green from the get go with minimal or no environmental impact at all. “The RetroPlate concrete polishing system is the original concrete polishing system and we’ve been a sustainable option before it was so popular by the nature of what we do,” shares Talbot.
RetroPlate first hit the market in the late 1990s; however, the system is a product of the well-established, 80-year-old Curecrete Distribution Inc., makers of the Ashford Formula (Ashford), the first product to protect and seal concrete through the process of chemical densification.
“RetroPlate came about as a result of Ashford customers wanting more for their existing flooring,” recalls Talbot, who’s been managing and marketing RetroPlate for the better part of 18 years. “This customer demand sparked smaller, individual projects, but things really began to take off when we started working with Home Depot,” continues Talbot. “In their hay day, when they were building 400 Home Depots nationwide, per year, RetroPlate was used on all of the store’s floors. It really gave us huge visibility and allowed a range of contractors to get to know the system.”
Once the word was out, RetroPlate quickly landed more famous clients, from Bed Bath & Beyond to Best Buy, Nike to Adidas and even Disney. “In 2006, RetroPlate was named Top 10 Green Building Product of the year by GreenSpec and we’ve showcased the system at Greenbuild since the beginning of the conference in the early 2000s,” adds Talbot.
Today, RetroPlate is changing the flooring industry on a global scale with coast-to-coast coverage in the U.S. and Canada and 50 distributors worldwide, from Australia to China, Japan and beyond. “We have 300 certified contractors in the U.S. and we’ve done more than 150 million square feet of polished concrete in North America alone and thousands of projects all over the world,” reveals Talbot.
An easy process yields dramatic results
RetroPlate goes to work in three easy steps. The first is to grind the floor to expose sand, rocks and substrate material within the concrete. Second, a densifyer liquid that penetrates the concrete and fills in pores and makes the material more abrasion resistant. The final step is polishing in which a range of various gloss levels, stains, colors, textures, designs and patterns can be achieved, making the final product anything but plain-old concrete.
“RetroPlate turns boring concrete into something extra special,” says Talbot. “We’ve gone into bicycle shops and done tire impressions and implanted sprockets and gears into the floor. In school lobbies we’ve invented students to bring a small memento item to put in the fresh concrete. The results are fantastic and memorable and I’ve heard many people say we’ve turned concrete into granite.”
LEEDing the way
A shining example of RetroPlate’s polished concrete at work is the University of Calgary’s (UC) Child Development Center (CDC), a LEED Platinum project scoring the most LEED points in the world for a cold-climate building. Located at UC’s campus entrance, the 125,000-square-foot center houses researchers, physicians and front-line workers, as well as boasting space for up to 80 children.
Nearly every aspect of the heavily instrumented building can be directly monitored, from the boilers to the elevators. Aside from one of the largest photovoltaic arrays in any Canadian building, capable of producing 65,000 KW hours of annual electricity, CDC also features a high hardness, abrasion and weather resistant RetroPlate system.
“It’s so easy to maintain that it only requires a damp mopping to clean,” shares Talbot. “This floor type also increases reflectivity, up to 30 percent, which helps create even lighting in the space.” Such characteristics contributed to a LEED score of 57 points, the highest yet recorded in Canada and the most LEED points in the world for a cold-climate building.
Such recognition has made RetroPlate a go-to sustainability source in the green building community and Talbot says RetroPlate will make yet another appearance at Greenbuild 2014 in New Orleans. “The RetroPlate system itself hasn’t changed but we’re always introducing new fillers and colors to the lineup and continuing to push the envelope,” he reveals.
For health care facilities such as the award-winning CDC, as well as corporations, retailers, school districts and more, RetroPlate concrete polishing is the natural answer to reducing costs, maintenance and the environmental footprint.
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