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Green Smart Magazine : 2009_new
Concrete has excellent thermal properties, because of its mass, when properly oriented. 'Thermal mass' is a material's ability to absorb and store heat and release it when temperatures drop, helping a home to maintain a more even (ambient) temperature. An insulated slab on the ground is preferable in colder climates, storing heat during the day and releasing it when temperatures drop, whereas a suspended slab would be cooler in the tropics. However, a suspended subfloor using timber or bamboo is more flexible when it comes to sloping sites or renovations, and these materials can also be installed over a concrete slab. They can also be a good environmental choice if properly sourced and properly insulated. This means choosing bamboo -- a readily renewable material -- or timber that is AFS certified, and installing the appropriate insulation for your climate under the floorboards to improve the energy-efficiency of your home. If timber really is your thing, you can have the best of both worlds (if in a cool climate) by including an internal brick or concrete feature wall and/or including in at least one part of your home -- a sunny north-facing The main types of flooring available for any new home or renovation are concrete, timber or bamboo. Concrete will give you excellent 'thermal mass', making it a good choice for cooler climates. However, timber (or bamboo), with its lower thermal mass abilities, is a better choice for climates that don't have a major difference between day and night temperatures. Ultimately, whether you choose timber or concrete should depend on your climate and the orientation of your home. But if timber is your preference there are things you can do to improve its thermal performance whatever your climate. Choosing flooring can be emotive -- many people are drawn to the attractive, warm tones of timber and shun the cold, industrial look of concrete. It would be hard to argue that the natural beauty of a wooden floor does not immensely enhance a home (and its value). But the elegance of a polished or tiled concrete slab is also hard to beat. area -- a tiled or polished concrete slab. This will improve your home's thermal properties while allowing you to enjoy the natural beauty of your timber floor. Keep in mind though that covering the slab with anything other than tiles -- carpet, lino or timber or bamboo floating floors -- will reduce the slab's thermal properties. gs If a timber floor is what you want, make sure it's from a sustainable source, i.e. from Australian Forestry Standard (AFC) certified forests, or use bamboo. Bamboo is growing in acceptance as an alternative choice to timber. A renewable material (it is extremely fast growing), it can be harvested every three to five years, compared to exotic timbers which can take from 80 to 100 years to mature. It is said to be harder than most timber hardwoods, is naturally moisture resistant, and does not warp, buckle or twist. As with conventional timbers, it can also be installed over different surfaces by gluing (using glue with low VOCs) or nailing as a floating floor. Concrete definitely has a role to play in 'green' building. Apart from it having superior thermal properties, the focus today is on replacing the energy intense cement component with environmentally friendly 'cement' alternatives. After all, cement is really just a 'glue' that binds little stones together to make one big stone in a shape that we want. timber or concrete? greenfloors Combining timber and concrete flooring will give you the best of both worlds. Photo courtesy Bayside Peninsula Building choice floored for story > Louise Tigchelaar greensmart 9 67 ABOVE: This home effectively combines timber and polished concrete flooring, and a stone wall feature Photo courtesy Adam Sebastian West