Brian Sieffert

Parging Solution for High Design

Working with Modified Parging Materials Working with Modified Parging Materials

We are working on the new space at the workshop and would like to experiement with our GFRC Face Mix and Vertical Surfaces. We added 3mm glass fibers and adjusted the other admixtures. We used pure white sand and VCAS to get a "whiter" appearence. The cost savings to other bagged goods is tremendous. Now we have to design something to make the walls look good. I was thinking about gallery style white and hanging our sample boards and sample pieces on the wall to resemble art. Another part on us wants to get wild with the walls and see what we can do on the vertical surfaces. Pros: No mesh, Scratch coat may be the finish coat, stronger adhesion, fibers help with cracking, fast cure, staining and design creativity unlimited. Cons: Need to work fast -(3 people per sack mix), need a good trial person, gets messy when spraying, and clean up- Boo. - Brian

GFRC Featured at the Green Show at Chatham University

Nicole explaining the GFRC Admix design to University students
Nicole explains the GFRC Admix design to University students
Concrete Zen participated in Chatham University Annual Green Show for the 2nd year in a row last week. The idea was to raise awareness to the emerging professionals and students of the concrete workshop and the products that can be created locally for design and finish schedules. Our primary focus was on the application of the GFRC- Glass Fiber reinforced concrete. This product is made from our workshop stonger and thinner than traditional concrete mixes. We load VCAS to the cement load that helps with color retention, strength, reduction of salts, surface cracking and pinholes. This product is the industrial by-product of the fiberglass industry. The use of glass fibers helps the strength of the mix and limits the need for re-bar and metal screen. At the workshop mixing the GFRC is a precise undertaking (more like a lab with digital scales , small containers and various scooping accessories). With these methods of production we reduse the waste of extra product, water and aggregate. Extra product is used in a variey of molds we have on standby at the shop. We use all of the surplus product during batch runs.  Concrete Zen is open for suggestions on the use of extra batches for charity, art experiments or any creative use!

Approved Concrete Sample

Nicole displays concrete counter sample Color Blending and Sheen difference between sealers as shown on this sample

Nicole displays the concrete countertop sample approved for production. The Kitchen Design includes Rich making a custom island cabinet. The countertop will include and integral sink and drainboard, recycled black glass and some ammonites as well! Great job Nikki on the infusion of colors in this sample! - B

Finite element analysis of thin GFRC panels reinforced with FRP

gfrc used in lightweight "Benecia Bridge" sectionsIn this article by G.B.Kim, K. Pilakoutas, and P.Waldron, use of FRP in GFRC for flexural strength is investigated. Results of the study show that GFRC re-enforced with FRP increases in flexural strength tremendously, creating spans of up to 3 meters! Check out this article at :

 At our workshop we are working to improve the use of our GFRC as a matrix to hold elements of energy. We can use our admixture to hold LED lighting, solar panels or energy dyes.

Brian Sieffert & Jim Ralston at Cheng Concrete

img_7946 Brian Sieffert and Jim Ralston at Cheng Concrete

I have had 16 years as a General Contractor in the Pittsburgh Area. In the beginning...I was a Painter. I progressed quickly into the rehab and restoration of the older homes in Pittsburgh - specifically the Italianate and Queen Anne Style Victorian Homes. On the interior of these homes they often times had old wall liner paper or calcimine paint. After these layers were removed we had 2 choices: Hard coating or texturing. Texturing came often enough for me to learn my way around a texture sprayer and a hopper gun. GFRC was taught to me by Jim Ralston and Brandon Gore. Jim is shown here in the picture. I had a more extensive GFRC training with Jim and since took the engineering and testing behind this technique to the Labs around Pittsburgh. We have Compression and Tensile Strength lab results of our samples made from the workshop. The results are amazing. GFRC method of decorative concrete was not as challenging for me with Organic Chemistry experience at the University and coating system knowledge from the painting industry. Our shop is a concrete workshop, but resembles a lab with all of the scales, containers, additives and pigments. The transition from the painting industry - to the world of decorative concrete is a great inspiration. It uncovered all of the great professionals out there!

At Concrete Zen we have a great team and hope to contribute to this group of creative and talented individuals. We are taking our experience from all of the other fields and putting our own style on all of these unique mediums and methods. This workshop was started with Phil Martino a pioneer in the Pittsburgh area with Pre-engineered Nucor buildings (One of the largest recyclers in North America). With our combined efforts Concrete Zen can help meet the needs of the Sustainable Trends of the Building Industry !-B

What says a product is really Green?

green20seal1According to the info stated on the website for "The Joint Service Pollution Opportunity Handbook,(view the entire handbook at )" All federal procurement officials are required by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and Executive Order (EO) 13101, Greening the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling and Federal Acquisition, to assess and give preference to those products and services that are environmentally preferable. Environmentally preferable products and services are defined as those that "have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared to other products and services that serve the same purpose. This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance or disposal of the product or service “(Section 201). Environmentally preferable products may include less or non-toxic products, products manufactured with recycled content, bio based products, products and services that reduce waste, energy efficient products and products that reduce water consumption."

This is why its important to look for products and services marked by a reputable "seal" of approval.

Concrete Zen travels at the speed of light

During the research and development phase of 4th quarter 2009, Concrete Zen helps graduate student Elizabeth E. develop this prototype for light transmitting decorative and structural GFRC building members. The concept for the mock up was generated by Elizabeth as part of her building plan proposal for her Capstone Class (Final Thesis class requirement for Masters of Interior Architecture Degree) at Chatham University.

gfrc mock up and finish material display GFRC mock up and finish material display

Concrete Zen gets comfortable with LEED Categories

Concrete Zen workshop created by a joint venture between a commercial & residential contractors Concrete Zen workshop created by a joint venture between a commercial & residential contractor.

I am a member of the USGBC student chapter at Chatham University. I helped push for the chapter's implementation at the beginning of last year. Since then I have been studying how architects and specifiers track and follow necessary criteria laid out by the USGBC in the form of LEED Certification. It can get a bit confusing, but clears up once you go through it the first time! If some of you are needing guidance, this link is good: ttp://

In particular, you can see the part highlighting "Specifying LEED at Early Design Phases" - Nikki

Concrete Overlay with Recycled Glass

This week we finished a prototype overlay with Recycled Glass Aggregate.  It turned out great!  We used reactive staining with different time releases. Concrete Overlays can be as thin as 1/16" over top of a sound existing substrate. The example pictured had to be thick enough for glass broad-casted over top. - B

Concrete Floor

Check our our flickr account for more photos:

Welcome to the Concrete Zen Blog!

Welcome to Concrete Zen's Blog.  Concrete Zen is based in Pittsburgh, PA and is a Decorative Concrete Design, Fabrication & Installation Workshop.  We are eager to meet with creative clients and design professionals. If you can imagine it, we can create it! We can consult for value engineering and design build fabrication as it applies to Sustainable Construction.

Our Concrete mixtures are more environmentally friendly than conventional concrete mixes.  It can also be given any color or texture to perfectly match the environment it will used within.  Concrete countertops are becoming more and more popular due to Eco-resposability, durability, resilience, creativity, the possibility to create almost any color, shape and size. We can match just about any shade of coloe with pigment specialists on staff!

We strive to provide the absolute highest quality and the latest techniques. Our goal is to stay the course of Green Building practices. We want to achieve this without it costing the end user more money to be responsible. Concrete Zen is a workshop created by two leaders in the residential and commercial construction industries with over 100 years of combined construction and engineering experience. We create and install Concrete/GFRC countertops, sinks, design elements, tiles, and overlays. Please let us know how we can help your imagination become reality!