Terrazzo flooring has a long and rich history that dates
back over 1500 years. Terrazzo, from the Italian word
for terraces, is one of the original recycled products —
created centuries ago by Venetian workers utilizing the
waste chips from slab marble processing. Today terrazzo
flooring continues to provide the ultimate in durability and
low maintenance, typically lasting the life of the building.
The combination of beauty, durability, and low maintenance
has led to a renaissance in the use of terrazzo over
the past decade. The demand for terrazzo is increasing
in many markets, from performance driven institutions such
as schools, airports, and hospitals; to the designer driven
markets of retail and commercial buildings. Terrazzo is
the ultimate choice when evaluating finishes on a life
In recent years the construction industry has begun to focus on the
environmental impact of many construction materials. The evaluation
of products in the “green movement” encompasses many elements,
which must be weighed on a scale of relative importance.
These elements include the longevity of the material, the composition,
maintenance, recycled content, embodied energy, and the
“cradle-to-grave” environmental impact.
Sustainable construction is at the core of green construction. Terrazzo
floors have an outstanding record of durability and performance
dating back over a thousand years. The floors will typically
last the life of the structure. In many older buildings, the floors
can be restored to their original luster at a fraction of the cost of
replacing the finish.
Low Maintenance – Both cement and thin set epoxy terrazzo floors
have extremely low maintenance costs. Annual stripping and resealing
can utilize environmentally friendly water-based products.
Routine maintenance includes dry and damp mopping, with an
occasional spray buffing. In comparison, carpet requires energy
intensive daily vacuuming and periodic steam cleaning.
Terrazzo is composed of naturally occurring aggregates, recycled
glass or plastic and processed cement or epoxy binders. The binders
constitute approximately 25%-30% of the volume of the terrazzo
floors; the remainder of the floor is composed of aggregates,
pigments, and fillers. Initial life cycle assessments of embodied
energy appear extremely favorable due to the longevity
and low energy usage for maintenance.
Several glass aggregate suppliers are currently providing postconsumer
recycled glass to the marketplace. Several slab marble
and granite quarries have supplies of post-industrial stone left from
slab granite and marble processing. The plastic chips actually
contain as much as 20% recycled plastic. Aluminum divider strips
may also incorporate recycled metal.
Both cement based and thin set epoxy terrazzo systems are comprised
of zero VOC materials. Terrazzo exhibits little or no offgassing
over the life of the cured floor. The non-porous, cleanable
terrazzo finish does not support microbial growth, nor allow moisture
to accumulate, helping to maintain a mold-free environment
with improved indoor air quality.
The United States terrazzo industry
consists of many manufacturers, suppliers
and distributors, strategically located
throughout the country. Terrazzo
is manufactured on-site minimizing
post-commercial waste and transportation
costs. By comparison, much
of the marble and ceramic floor tile
used in the United States is manufactured
overseas and imported.