The Urban Ecology Center (UEC) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is an urban environmental, non-profit, organization that is open to the public. With the three locations in Milwaukee, the UEC’s mission is to foster an ecological understanding as inspiration for change, neighborhood by neighborhood. These community centers work to educate the public and foster an environmental ethic with urban youth; as well as protection and preservation of urban natural areas. In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the Center’s first green facility, Chris Binder, facilities manager at the UEC was looking to create a scale representation of the shore line of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee County on their existing concrete floor.
“We wanted to create a place where visitors to the center could discover that nature is accessible to residents in their own neighborhood,” Binder says.
The Waukesha, Wisconsin-based, Floorcare USA, Inc. (FCUSA) was approached by the UEC to create a scale representation of the shore line of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee County on their existing concrete floor.
During the design phase of the building, which opened in 2004, concrete was chosen to act as a heat sink during the winter months. At that time, the UEC had painted the shore line of Lake Michigan on the concrete. Areas of the paint were not holding up to Binder’s satisfaction. Fortunately, the UEC already had areas of the building featuring polished concrete, and Binder was happy with how the existing polished concrete was performing. Based on that, he was interested in incorporating an environmentally-friendly polish and dye system to create Lake Michigan’s Shoreline and the tributaries flowing into lake on the floor. Having a durable, long lasting, low maintenance floor using sustainable methods was the goal of the project.
“I pushed to use the concrete dye,” Binder says. “A big part of our mission at the UEC is to follow sustainable practices and we liked the idea of dye being a more sustainable flooring product. Everything done in this building models environmentally-conscious decision making.”
In addition to a sustainable flooring product, the UEC features reclaimed wood panels, hand-made furniture made from Poplar trees, solar panels on the roof and many other environmentally friendly products to deliver the sustainable message to the community.
Removing the existing paint
FCUSA began the process by mechanically scraping the existing paint off of the concrete. Once the paint was removed, FCUSA ground the concrete with 40 grit diamonds and exposed Class B salt and pepper aggregate with a 32-inch Innovatech Predator grinder. The floor was then ground a second time with a 60/80 grit diamonds. Before beginning the polishing process, Quick Cut hybrid diamonds were used to remove any scratches and further refine the floor. FCUSA began polishing the concrete with 100 grit resin bonds and sequentially polished to 400 grit.
To achieve the artistic vision, FCUSA accurately taped off Lake Michigan’s Shoreline and tributaries flowing into the lake. This would ultimately form the areas to be dyed. “This procedure was probably the most challenging aspects of the project,” Binder says. “We needed to layout the floor to scale because we wanted to be able to show our visitors how accessible nature is to the local residents in this urban area.”
Not only will visitors notice the polished concrete floor featuring the shoreline of Lake Michigan, but the UEC offers visitors scale, aerial images to lay down over the floor to view their schools, homes or other local landmarks in their neighborhood. “It’s our way of educating residents in urban areas that access to nature is right in their own backyard.”
Once these areas were taped off, FCUSA masked off these areas to begin the dying process. To create the water of Lake Michigan, a combination of different color solvent based dyes were used. The dye colors used were Ameripolish Patriot Blue, Slate Blue, and Green. Weeks before the project began, samples were done on an area of the floor that would be hidden. Many different blues and greens were used in combination to help determine the color that would best represent the water color in Lake Michigan.
Once the dying was complete, tape and plastic were removed. FCUSA and staff members from the UEC spent time touching up bleeders and adding color highlights to the dyed areas with artist brushes. The floor was then buffed and densified with Prosoco Consolideck LS. After the densifier had cured, the concrete was polished up to 800 grit. The floor was cleaned and a Prosoco stain guard was applied over the top. The floor was then buffed with a high-speed burnisher.
The Urban Ecology Center is open year round and timing was critical. The work was completed over the 2015 New Year holiday, so UEC could temporarily shut down while the work was completed. The project required great cooperation between FCUSA and the UEC to complete it with accuracy over this short shut down window. This required long days and late nights by both entities.
Binder is pleased with the end result. “We went from a floor which required constant maintenance to this new, low maintenance floor. That aspect has made it worth it in the end.”