The service life design of concrete is generally 50 to 200 years, although even a thousand years is not unheard of in Europe. As part of the concrete surface, graphic concrete lasts as long as the concrete does. The graphic concrete technique binds it to the concrete, unlike other concrete surface alternatives. Instead of being added to the surface, it is more accurate to say that it is removed from the surface.
The surface retarder used in the graphic concrete technique removes approximately 1 millimetre of concrete adhesive from the surface. The amount of concrete adhesive removed is so small, however, that it has no effect on the durability of the concrete slab/element itself or of the steel reinforcement.
The graphic concrete surface has neither a positive nor a negative effect on attracting dirt. In fact, it has been noted in several locations that graphic concrete surfaces do not attract graffiti in the same way as plain concrete walls, as the street artists apparently appreciate the designs and leave them alone. Naturally, graphic concrete surfaces can be protected in the same way as any other concrete surfaces.
The best proof of graphic concrete’s durability is our long list of references dating back to the early 2000s. For more than a decade our graphic concrete surfaces have been exposed to harsh climate conditions ranging from snow and ice to bright sunshine and heat waves.
Having inspected the graphic concrete patterns of our five oldest references, we noted that the edges have remained sharp and the contrasts as they were originally. Time has left its mark only in parts where water or other liquids have seeped down regularly over the concrete surface. These watermarks would, of course, appear on any façade regardless of the surface and could probably be cleaned using a high-pressure washer.
In the district of Arabianranta in Helsinki, the birds on the graphic concrete facades fly just as beautifully as they did when they first appeared in 2005. The pigment used in the concrete mass has perhaps faded ever so slightly, but otherwise the concrete appears as it did ten years ago.
The Säterinportti parking garage at the Nokia head office in Espoo looks perhaps even better than it did eight years ago. The passing of time can be detected only in the marks left by the creeper vines on the wood latticework next to the concrete surfaces. Otherwise the edges and contrasts of the graphic concrete pattern remain as clear as ever.
The concrete slabs used to create “Memory Tracks” in Tapanila, Helsinki, were installed in 2002. While the adjacent warehouse building and benches have faded over time, the graphic concrete patterns on the slabs are still as sharp as on the day they were cast.
Time will tell what these graphic concrete surfaces will look like after 50 or 100 years, but we strongly believe – for good reason – that they will not have changed at all!