For clothing designer/retailer Eileen Fisher, sustainability and authenticity were the winning combination.
Eileen Fisher is a women's fashion retailer with 42 stores in 15 states, headquartered in Irvington, N.Y., 20 miles north of New York City. Its new Eileen Fisher Lab store is an experimental retail concept that embraces sustainability.
For its premiere location, the company recycled 3000 square feet of space in the former Burnham Furnace works, a large 103-year-old building in Irvington. For a highly sustainable flooring surface, they refurbished the existing concrete that was already there by polishing it into a gleaming showroom jewel.
“We're a high-end retailer, and we wanted something different from our normal construction,” says John DiMeglio, project manager for Eileen Fisher. “We wanted more of a warehouse feel, so we decided to revitalize that slab.”
The concrete floor had a lot of history built into it. “It was three or four different colors,” recalls polishing expert Matt Johnson, owner of Savaspace Inc., Tuckahoe, N.Y., whose Greenearth Floors division worked on the project. The floor had apparently been excavated and partially replaced during various renovations over the decades. “It looked like three different pours at least, and it had pitched and heaved,” he said.
Before the job, Johnson showed the Eileen Fisher design team before-and-after photos from previous projects. He then described the kind of look and uniqueness he wanted to bring out of the floor.
“The variation, avoiding too much uniformity, and the character of the concrete made us choose to go that way,” says DiMeglio. “It fit perfectly with the feel we were trying to achieve in the space.”
The sustainability aspects of polished concrete sealed the deal. Densified concrete floors, polished or burnished, can be maintained with simple cleansers. “It was the ability to maintain this floor for 20 years without petroleum products that will pollute the environment,” says Johnson. “Most other floors need waxing and stripping, and all that goes down the pipe.”
Starting with grinding
The slab's surface required aggressive grinding to produce a single, smooth, flat floor. Johnson's crew removed up to ½ inch of concrete off the surface. “We uncovered all sorts of things in the slab, including oyster shells, and even planks of tulip wood,” he says. Following grinding, areas of cracking and severe spalling needed to be treated with a polish-compatible concrete repair system. He chose Roadware 10 Minute Concrete Mender “because it does not distract from the overall look we were trying to achieve.”
Johnson chose environmentally responsible practices and products. For example, he prefers dry grinding to minimize pollutants. Wet grinding produces a messy slurry that has to be put into the local waste disposal system. Dry-grind dust can be recycled into fireproofing materials, roadbeds, and other applications.
Johnson used a sustainable densifier product. Lythic Densifier is virtually pure colloidal silica, a chemically purer form of silica than the sodium-, potassium-, and lithium-silicates found in most densifiers. It is also less alkaline than silicates, so it's safer for workers to handle. When hardened, it does not produce a caustic residue that must be scrubbed off and disposed of. Nothing goes into a landfill or toxic disposal site. Pure colloidal silica also eliminates the risk of a hard, discoloring surface deposit called “whiting,” a common problem with silicates.
The crew stained the floor gray to unify the varying shades of concrete, and then diamond-polished it to a high gloss. The grinding was time-consuming, but using the fast-applying and fast-acting colloidal silica densifier helped. They completed the job in one week. And the owner is very pleased with the speed and the result.