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The Face Companies’ 2021 Golden Trowel Awards Announced During World of Concrete

2021 Golden Trowel CeremonyB4 LaRusso-BB (005).jpg
For 33 years, the Golden Trowel has been awarded to contractors who produce the world’s flattest and most level floors. Bryan Birdwell, a 26-time Golden Trowel winner with six world records, presented this year's awards.

The Golden Trowel has been presented for 33 years to contractors who produce the world’s flattest and most level floors. They are awarded in several different categories, based on how the floor was initially struck off, how wide the floor castings are, how much shake-on hardener or steel fibers were used, and other factors that influence flatness and levelness. Golden Trowel Gold Plates are awarded to the winner in each category, while Golden Trowel Silver Plates recognize truly outstanding entries that achieved exceptional results but did not dominate the category. The thought behind the genesis of the Golden Trowel was that competition would drive up quality. That thought has been proven conclusively to be true, year after year. The best floor in the world back in 1990 wouldn’t even be considered for a Golden Trowel today. And North America no longer totally dominates the awards. North America was shut out of the world records in 2019, won only one of two new world records in 2020, and was shut out again in 2021.

Why are floors so much better now? People continue to learn how to use existing concrete placing and finishing tools to better advantage and are passing on that knowledge and skill to new generations of concrete finishers. Concrete floor consultants are learning what works and what doesn’t and are teaching the best practices. And not to be ignored, batch plants are being held to high standards on the concrete that they deliver to the field. The tools available are better than they were, even just a few years ago. The Somero Laser Screed revolutionized the way concrete could be struck off. As laser screeds got better and better, and as people learned the best ways to use them, the flatness and levelness of floors improved significantly even as daily output was dramatically increased. All these factors have made a big difference in the flatness and levelness of floors. But so has striving for excellence and for the recognition that comes from being the best in the world – a winner of the Golden Trowel.2021

2021 World Records

The Laser Screed category has been undeniably the most hotly-contested category in the Golden Trowel contest for many years. Most of the world’s best concrete floor contractors own laser screeds and know how to use them… but there must be something in the water in Australia, because Australian companies have won world records in each of the last 4 years in Laser Screed categories. Other world record winners in the past ten years have included companies from Brazil, with 4 world records, Spain, and yes, 2 other companies from Australia. The last time a company from the USA won a world record in the laser screed category was 9 years ago when Birdwell Builders won one in 2012. The fact that we are still breaking world records almost every year means that floors are getting better every year.

S&C Concrete Services, of Perth, Western Australia, won their 2nd Golden Trowel, also their 2nd World Record, at Bunnings Midland, a Laser Screed project of 113,000 square feet, with pours 75 ft wide and got an incredible FF 155 / FL 129. That is a very fine floor! They used a Somero SXP Laser Screed.

With so many companies using Laser Screeds, hand screeding a floor using a wet screed technique is almost a lost art. It is hard and tedious work. And while Australia has been dominating the world records in Laser Screeds, Brazilians have been doing pretty much the same thing in the hand screed/wet screed category. Six of the best seven floors in the hand screed/wet screed category have been won by two companies from Brazil. The only floor of the top seven that was not won by a Brazilian company was done by Birdwell Builders in 2012. But of the top seven in this category, one company has five of the best all-time, and that company, Alphapiso Tec em Pisos, has a world record again this year for their project at Assai Nações Unidas. This 67,000 square foot floor hand-screeded floor was a stunning FF 137.8 with an FL of 53.9. And this floor was made with the addition of 4 Kilograms of dry shake per square meter. The Golden Trowel used during this ceremony is the one that they won last year. They were not able to attend the World of Concrete last year, so they are getting last year’s award this year. Incidentally, Alphapiso is no stranger to the Golden Trowel awards, having won a total of 13 Golden Trowel awards, including eight in the Laser Screed category with two World Records, and five in the wet screed category, with two world records. And they have done all of this since 2013.

Other 2021 Golden Trowels:

Grupo Zorzin, also from Brazil, built a narrow strip floor of 46,300 square feet that measured a great FF 135 / FL 121 at their project CD Prati Donaduzzi in Toledo, Brazil. This is their second Golden Trowel. (Their first was a world record, also in a narrow strip project)

GJ Shaw, from Kansas City, another perennial Golden Trowel winner, produced a floor with a Somero S-22E Laser Screed at East Trails Middle School in Lee’s Summit MO that was 88 ft wide, surrounded by walls, and measured a very fine FF 112 / FL 119. Their five previous wins have included two world records for Slab On Metal Deck.

Producing concrete floor surfaces for ice rinks is always a real challenge. The concrete is placed over multiple layers of Styrofoam insulation and over cooling pipes that will create the ice surface above the concrete. This year, LaRusso Concrete, from Wilsonville, OR produced an NHL-sized ice rink at Climate Pledge at the Seattle Center Arena renovation using a Somero S-940 that measured FF 85.5 / FL 67.2. This is LaRusso’s first Golden Trowel award.

Fmin Projects:

Building a large Very Narrow Aisle warehouse floor can be very difficult. The longer the aisles, the harder it is to hold to the very tight tolerances that are required. Unlike random traffic floors, VNA warehouses are evaluated with not two but four different Fmin Numbers, and (this is important) instead of treating the measurements statistically by averaging the good spots in with the bad, VNA warehouses are evaluated by their single worst measurements in each aisle. In other words, it does not matter if you have more than 600 feet of mirror-flat floor; if you have one single spot in the aisle with a flaw, the quality of the floor at that one worst spot is used to evaluate the floor. Fmin is a different sort of F-Number that reflects the ride quality of a floor in a narrow aisle warehouse. There are four different Fmin Numbers that must all meet the spec: Longitudinal Levelness, or fore-and-aft tilt; Longitudinal Flatness, or bumpiness in the fore-and aft direction; Transverse Levelness, or sideways tilt; and finally Transverse Flatness, or side-to-side rocking. Extreme Elements of Akron, OH, produced a VNA warehouse floor at the TJX Homegoods Distribution Center in Warren, OH, with 25 aisles that were mostly 635 feet long, a total of more than 2 ½ linear miles of aisles using two S-22 Laser Screeds, achieving the following Fmin Numbers: Fmin Longitudinal Flatness 128.9; Fmin Longitudinal Levelness 71.1; Fmin Transverse Levelness 135.5; and Fmin Transverse Flatness 119.2.

2020 Silver Trowels

Silver Trowels are a sort of “Distinguished Honorable Mention” category. Silver Trowels are not awarded in every category, but as you will see below, sometimes a floor that would have won a Golden Trowel, is overshadowed by an even more spectacular floor the same year. This kind of a floor deserves recognition and is awarded a Silver Trowel.

B&B Concrete of Kansas produced a rather unique specialty floor for Project Belmont in Mooresville, IN. This was a “Autostore” facility. It is not a car parts store, but rather a robotic storage facility with a tight elevation tolerance where robots crawl along racking to retrieve packages and bring them to a location where they are transferred to trucks. The racking system has to be built on a very flat and level floor in order to work properly. B&B produced this 59,000 square foot facility using a Somero S-22EZ and achieved FF 106, FL 88. They won the Silver trowel because they were in the same category with GJ Shaw. As little as 4 years ago, this would have been a Golden Trowel, but floors are getting better every year. This is B&B Concrete’s first appearance in the Golden Trowel contest.

Concrea Ingenieria from Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico, produced a 312,000 square foot, 80 ft wide jointless Laser screed floor at CDNA Truper. This is a high-tech floor, equipped with real-time load measurement instruments. It measured FF 93, FL 71. This is the 5th award for Concrea, and the first in a Laser Screed category. They were unfortunate in that this project is in the same category as S&C Concrete Services’ world record.

A total of 146 different contractors from North and South America, Europe, Central America, Asia, and Australasia have claimed the 366 Trowels awarded in the contest's 33-year history (1989 through 2021).

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