4 tips on vocs
1. Manage Interior Systems for Healthy Indoor Air
As a kid, I loved that new car smell. I even remember a certain air freshener that promised to prolong the scent. Of course, it's common knowledge now that smelling the newness of products is not a good thing at all, rather indicating the off gassing of potentially harmful compounds into the air, whether that's air in a car or in a building.
Maintaining good indoor air quality in a facility depends on a lot of factors, but one of the big ones is monitoring and managing the various products which can emit harmful compounds into a facility. To do this, facility managers should take several steps.
First, develop a procurement policy. This policy should give consideration to low-emitting furnishings, finishes, adhesives and cleaning chemicals. Also, consider finishes that have been formulated with an antimicrobial agent or have had an antimicrobial agent applied. Antimicrobial agents are intended to inhibit the growth of many types of fungi and bacteria on surfaces. These agents can provide an additional safeguard against microbial contamination provided the treatment remains intact and the treated surfaces remain clean.
Of course, whenever possible, select low-emitting furnishings and make sure contaminants are allowed to off gas prior to installation. Facility managers can request new furniture be stored unwrapped for a sufficient amount of time for pollutants to off gas and ask for it to be shipped in open containers. It is also a good practice to store new furnishings unwrapped in an unoccupied area of a facility before installing them.
When dealing with new construction or a major renovation, be sure to ventilate newly constructed or newly renovated areas before occupancy. After initial occupancy, continue to operate the HVAC systems on a high rate of outside air. One way to measure the quality of the indoor air is to monitor the levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) weekly and maintain this continuous ventilation until acceptable levels are attained. This may take eight or more weeks after occupancy.
2. Paints and Coatings: Match Substrate and Surface
This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor — Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is matching the right substrate to the proper surface.
The type of surface and condition determine the best paint and coatings option. Is the surface concrete or masonry? Wood? Drywall? Metal? Is the surface bare? Is it previously painted? Is the project a touch-up involving color-matching?
The key to ensuring an effective match between the paint and the substrate is understanding label and material safety data sheet information, which is available from the vendor. The paint must protect the substrate while meeting a facility's need for proper air quality and sustainability. Products with high pigment percentages are more costly but offer greater surface protection and better hiding qualities.
Managers might have other objectives, though. For example, with the emphasis on energy efficiency, the goal might be to use paint with a ceramic additive, which provides insulation by adding an invisible, radiant-heat-reflecting barrier. For a high-visibility reception area, managers might need to specify a surfactant to reduce surface tension and smooth out brush marks.
New rheology modifier additives that are free of volatile organic compounds are formulated to improve pigment dispersal, provide good leveling, and resist sagging. They also prevent misting and paint scatter during application.
Biocides — preservatives and fungicides — are additives to latex paints used for exterior or high-moisture interior applications. Manufacturers add defoamers to prevent air entrapment so the surface is free of pinholes. They also are developing multi-tasking additives, such as defoaming-coalescing agents.
Matching the texture of the surface to be painted requires using the same application method — brush, spray or roller — as used originally. Another technique is using clear spray-on sand or orange-peel coating before applying the final coat.
3. Green Paints in Schools and Health Care
Facility managers in schools and health care facilities may want to use the "greenest" paints and coating they can find. VOCs from paints affect children, elderly and the sick more than a typical healthy adult.
Besides the usual green paint certifications, Greenguard also has a standard called Greenguard Children & Schools certification. The chemical emission limits are more stringent to protect children, the elderly and the immuno-compromised.
For a list of low-emitting paint and coating products, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools is a good resource. The organization's product database is still in beta form, and not many paint products are listed, but it can serve as an additional resource for facility managers on the hunt for low-emitting paints.
4. Assessing the Performance of Green Paints
This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media, with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is the impact of VOCs on paint performance.
The relationship between volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and the performance of paints and coatings used to be very strong. The three main sources of VOCs in paints were the resin system - or the base of the paint - pigment, and the solvent that mixes everything together.
Shifting from oil-based to water-based paints has lessened the number of chemicals in paints, but it was a challenge for manufacturers to lower the chemical levels in pigment to acceptable amounts. Pigment, which affects depth of color and the number of coats workers have to apply, is a key component in any paint formulation.
But now that manufacturers have reduced the chemical levels in pigment, managers can strike a balance between environmental impact and performance when specifying paints.
The U.S. Green Building Council's rating system, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, references both Green Seal and Greenguard certifications. Vying for certification under LEED, Green Globes or other green building certification programs can be overwhelming in terms of specifying products that meet the rating system's requirements. A Green Seal or Greenguard label ensures managers that certain products will earn points toward LEED certification, providing a roadmap for specifying environmentally responsible paints.
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