Case Study: High Performance Building Alliance Project 2024

Project Overview

In 2024, the High Performance Building Alliance (HPBA), commissioned the Renobuild team to undertake a polished concrete job in Enniscorthy. The project involved polishing an area of approximately 500 square meters. The initial inspection revealed that the existing concrete, covered with a levelling compound, was generally in good condition. However, unforeseen complications arose due to the levelling compound and the logistical challenges of working in an occupied building.

Initial Challenges and Discoveries

Upon starting the project, it became clear that the levelling compound was applied to address a surface that had been badly rained on. This discovery came late, leading to several issues during the grinding process. The major challenges encountered included:

  1. Logistical Issues

    Noise and Dust: The grinding process was noisy and produced a significant amount of dust, which disturbed the occupants. This led to a temporary halt of the grinding work on the third day and a subsequent shift to working outside of normal hours.

  1. Surface Condition

    Hidden Defects: Once the levelling compound was removed, it revealed extensive rain damage and deep footprints in the concrete. These defects were not anticipated, as the concrete was not originally laid with the intention of being polished.

  1. Dust Management Solutions

    Managing the dust generated from both the levelling compound and the concrete was critical. We used Longopac recycled plastic bags to bag the dust, which were then placed into one-tonne sacks and transported on pallets. This method effectively controlled dust movement and facilitated easier disposal.

  1. Addressing Surface Defects

    With the levelling compound mostly removed, the full extent of the surface defects became apparent. We promptly informed Mandi Stewart, HPBA CEO and the project architect about these anomalies. It was agreed that additional grinding was necessary to address the visual defects.

  1. Deeper Grinding

    To mitigate the rain damage and remove deep footprints, we conducted extra grinding sessions. However, the inherent characteristics of the concrete mix presented additional challenges.

  1. Concrete Composition and Polishing Challenges

    The building, being Ireland’s first passive commercial office building, had a concrete mix with a high percentage of Ground Granulated Blast-furnace Slag (GGBS, branded as Ecocem). This mix, while sustainable, posed difficulties for achieving a high shine due to its open pore surface once ground.

  1. Surface Densification

    To achieve a denser and tighter surface, we applied a silicate densifier, which was absorbed at 3.5 times the normal rate. This step was crucial for preparing the surface for polishing.

  1. Polishing and Final Appearance

    Despite our efforts, the polishing process highlighted the surface defects. These included tamp lines, drag marks, and footprints. After consultations, it was decided to leave some footprints, branding them as “CARBON FOOTPRINTS,” adding a unique character to the floor.

Project Outcomes

Despite the initial and ongoing challenges, the project concluded successfully. The final polished concrete floor, although not perfect, showcased a distinct character and narrative reflecting the building’s sustainable ethos. The decision to embrace the imperfections, particularly the “CARBON FOOTPRINTS,” was well-received and added an interesting talking point for the space.

Reflections and Lessons Learned

This project underscored the importance of thorough initial assessments and clear communication with stakeholders. It also highlighted the need for flexibility and innovative problem-solving in the face of unexpected challenges. As a contractor with over 40 years of experience in concrete work, this project was a testament to the resilience and adaptability required in the field.

In summary, the High Performance Building Alliance Project 2024 in Enniscorthy, while fraught with challenges, turned out to be a rewarding experience that pushed the boundaries of conventional concrete polishing and showcased our ability to deliver quality results under complex conditions.