A Winnipeg contractor developed “a revolutionary decorative concrete topping” reminiscent of terrazzo flooring “quite by accident.”
In 2010 Antex Western was remodelling its head office in Winnipeg and hoping to divert 100 per cent of its construction waste from landfill when the commercial contractor's hard surfaces manager, Sal Maida, suggested processing waste into aggregates, and then mixing it with cement to create the floor topping for the new office.
"First I thought he (Maida) was crazy...but it turned out stunning," says president Mike Kolas of the product he calls Reazzo.
"We designed it to be an environmentally positive replacement for terrazzo," Kolas adds.
Reazzo has gone through a number of modifications since then, gaining credibility in the architectural community along the way and the contractor is about to install its biggest job-ever with Reazzo — 80,000 square feet in the MTS Centre, the home of the National Hockey League's (NHL) Winnipeg Jets.
Kolas says Antex Western has three weeks to install all of the Reazzo while competing for space with other subtrades at the centre which is undergoing a $12 million facelift.
By comparison, terrazzo would take about 80 days to place at "a much higher cost."
The contract includes flooring the lobby and the arena's two main concourses. A crew of six will prepare the surface and between 8 and 10 more workers will grind the concrete surface down to expose the face of Reazzo — done in the same fashion that terrazzo is made.
"Reazzo accommodates ridiculously (short) schedules," Kolas says, noting that Antex could place about 10,000 square feet a day — if only one color was specified.
The MTS Centre floor calls for five shades of white, blue and gray to match the colors of the NHL team. Recycled blue glass, clear glass and mirrors will be used. A dark blue accent color — only about two percent of the entire floor — will be epoxy-based "because at that time we couldn't achieve the color density they wanted with Reazzo," says Kolas.
Prior to installation, each color will be laid out in a pattern. A pump truck stationed in the middle of the events floor of the arena will deliver the material to the Antex crew.
Divider bars, required for terrazzo floors to prevent cracking, are not needed for Reazzo because it employs fibre reinforced concrete technology.
"It can be one monolithic pour," says Kolas. "It doesn't shrink, it doesn't crack."
Reazzo contains a number of green-friendly binding agents — industrial waste products such as flyash and slag — that reduce cement content required in terrazzo by 50 per cent.
The installation process — grinding, polishing and then burnishing — is time consuming but he believes that current research will show how to expedite installation. "If we can do away with it, the product will fit (pricewise) squarely into the ceramic and porcelain tile market."
Kolas says key to the development of Reazzo is Dr. Asia Shvarzman, who heads Antex's R&D department and sits on the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) board for alternative cementitious materials.
"She not only created and it and is looking at improving Reazzo through the use of geopolymers, but she also does research on other products we source for business. This is unheard of in our trade."
One of the characteristics of Reazzo that has garnered interest from architects across Canada is its durability/performance — it has strengths of 60 to 100 MPa.
The fact Reazzo has been specified for "such an iconic building" in Winnipeg as the MTS Centre has also raised eyebrows in the design community.
"Reazzo is very local at the moment but we are trying to scale production up fast" to meet growing demand, says Kolas.
It is a challenge not normal to a building contractor's job description. Production could be handled by a number of different types of producers, he says.
"I see a change coming in the industry and I think Reazzo will be a part of that change."