I attended the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Chicago in early November with a total of 22,835 people in attendance. Four years ago barely 3000 people showed up. The conference is owned by the U.S. Green Building Council, the folks who developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system to help determine what impact the construction of buildings and the materials used in construction will have on people's health and the planet. I can't remember anything related to the construction industry that has grown so quickly. When you read the cover article on page 28, you will learn that the MGM's $7.8 billion CityCenter project is applying for LEED certification. They want a Silver Certification.

You may wonder what all this has to do with decorative concrete. It turns out that there is significant opportunity for decorative contractors to install decorative concrete that can qualify for LEED points. This can happen in one of two ways. The first is to learn how to include and finish recycled materials in your concrete. The second, and the largest opportunity, is to eliminate the use of carpet, wood, sheet vinyl, quarry tile floor, and other coverings with decorative concrete applications. By doing this energy and other resources can be saved by not covering a floor surface with additional products. Plus, the vapors from some of these products, including the adhesives required to hold them in place, are considered unhealthy to breathe. Concrete is already beautiful; it doesn't need to be covered.

Byron Klemaske, executive vice president for T.B. Penick & Sons, San Diego, says his company now publishes a list of the LEED points that can be earned for each of the decorative products they install. For instance, up to four LEED credits can be achieved by using recycled materials in their decorative concrete. This might include fly ash or slag replacements with portland cement or the use of recycled aggregates. Installing decorative pervious concrete can add two more credits by limiting stormwater runoff, percolating water back into the soil. LEED grants five credits for materials manufactured within 500 miles of a jobsite—your ready-mix producer is only a few miles away.

Regardless of how you might personally feel about global warming issues, the building industry is responding to increased public awareness. It's time to learn more about the opportunities for decorative concrete.