Facility Maintenance Decisions

A New Era for Paints and Coatings

Product performance catches up to growing end-user demands for ‘green’ products

By Renee L. Shroades   Maintenance & Operations

For decades, maintenance managers have been looking for low- or no-odor paints and coatings that are durable and dry quickly. To make the task even more challenging, minimizing the costs of painting projects also remains a top priority in maintenance departments.

To help managers meet these needs, paint and coating manufacturers have introduced new and reformulated products.

“Those same needs existed 30 years ago, but because of new developments in technology, we’ve been able to produce products that better meet those needs,” says Jeff Spillane, marketing manager for Benjamin Moore & Co. Besides assessing new products, manufacturers say, managers also are taking a closer look at the way they manage painting projects, including whether and how to outsourcing such tasks.

“We’re in a world today where everything is faster and more efficient.” Spillane says. Painting projects are no exception.

Fewer Solvents

Many of the changes that have taken place in paints and coatings in recent years are a result of state, local and federal governments and air-quality boards enforcing stricter regulations on volatile organic compound (VOC) levels.

VOC regulations continue to get more stringent. On July 1, 2006, an air-pollution-control agency in southern California posted a regulation that mandates the use of drastically lower amounts of VOCs in paints and coatings, Spillane says. In general, products that meet the VOC regulations for the south coast of California also will meet the requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, he says.

The biggest push for tighter regulations might be coming from end users demanding more coatings with lower VOCs, says Steve Revenew, director of marketing for architectural products at Sherwin-Williams Inc.

“We are seeing more and more consumers who want to be environmentally friendly,” he says. “So they are looking for low-VOC coatings that are long-lasting, which from an environmental standpoint, is important, as well.”

Meeting these requirements while maintaining product performance has been a top challenge for manufacturers.

“Lower-VOC paints didn’t always offer high performance, compared to their higher-VOC counterparts,” Spillane says. They weren’t as durable.

Technology advances in recent years have resulted in paints with lower levels of VOCs. Manufacturers now offer low- and no-VOC paints that more closely match the performance levels of their higher-VOC predecessors.

“Today, you can buy water-based epoxies that offer up to 90 percent of the performance characteristics of some of the solvent-based products,” Spillane says. “Soon, there won’t be a need for the solvents anymore. It is a dying industry. The demand for them decreases every year.”

VOC regulations also have affected other coatings, including primers and floor coatings. Because primers use solvents to promote adhesion, seal surfaces and block stains, it has been more difficult for manufacturer to lower VOCs in such products without compromising performance, says Tim O’Reilly, business manager for primers and clear finishes at Zinsser Co.

Water-based primers — which generally have lower VOCs than oil-based primers — help with adhesion and sealing but don’t block many stains, O’Reilly says. On the other hand, oil-based primers often can block deep stains on substrates.

The requirements for oil-based primers are less restrictive than for other paints, but it is restrictive enough to make it a challenge. Most regulatory agencies allow higher VOC levels for solvent-based primers for specialty applications.

On the Horizon

What can specifiers of paints and coatings manufacturers in coming years?

“I think coatings will be lower in VOCs than they even are today,” O’Reilly says.

Adds Paggioli, “States that have been behind in posting stricter VOC regulations will catch up with the rest of the country.” Those states will probably take a close look at California, which has the most stringent regulations.

“I think there will be some technology that will allow coatings to hit those low VOC levels and remain stable when frozen,” O’Reilly says. Technology advances probably also are likely to allow users to paint in lower temperatures and with higher humidity levels. Managers also are likely to see more mold-proof paints.

“Hopefully, there will be a stronger integration of antibacterial and mold-and-mildew resistance built into coatings,” he says. “It’s happening on a regular basis today, so I think that technology is only going to get better.”

Also, water-based products will become the standard in primers.

“Our intention is to build products that are water-based that do everything oil-base products do, so people can move away from solvents all together,” O’Reilly says.

Managers also will see more decorative options for floor coatings.

“We’re seeing, especially on commercial side, more customers are looking for products that not only perform really well but (that) are also good looking,” Pagiolli says.

Because more managers are concerned about the environmentally friendliness of facilities, some decorative floor coatings will feature recycled materials, such as glass or aggregates, he adds.

Finally, to improve durability, manufacturers are investigating nanotechnology. For example, Zinsser is looking to add microscopic, rock-hard particles to resin to improve one of its clear floor coatings.

“As the coating begins to wear, those rocks prevent further wear of the coating,” O’Reilly says. Such technology might allow floor coatings to have 15-year life cycles.

When specifying paints, managers should keep an eye on the big picture, Paggioli says. They might have a certain look in mind for a finished surface, but selecting the wrong product can lead to nightmares for maintenance departments if the product isn’t durable or if cleaning is difficult.

While painting projects might not be the highest on a manager’s priority list, such tasks still require careful consideration when it comes to specification, preparation and application.

Says Spillane, “If you don’t do it right and it fails, now it’s a bigger nightmare than you already have.”

Going Outside: Outsourcing Issues

As the formulation of paints and coatings evolves, so do managers’ strategies for completing painting projects.

In a growing number of cases, paint manufacturers say, managers are turning to contractors, whereas 20 years ago, many departments primarily used in-house painters.

“These painters knew exactly what products they were using, how well they held up, and how often they had to repaint,” says Jeff Spillane, marketing manager for Benjamin Moore & Co. They also were aware of the traffic levels and abuse that certain areas endured and the kind of paint that would work best.

In-house painting crews often have a deeper knowledge of facilities, Spillane says. Painting crews familiar with the condition of substrates, how often they require painting, and the budget constraints are more likely to care about workmanship and product quality. And because they are in-house, they are more invested in protecting equipment and surfaces.

Today, fewer organizations have a full staff of in-house painters, mostly because of the costs associated with retaining full-time workers.

This evolution obviously affects the planning and execution of painting projects, sometimes for the better and sometimes not.

For example, contractors might be under pressure to get a job done on a schedule and a budget that might not be adequate to do the job properly.

“A manager might tell a contractor that they have a specific block of time to paint it, and it’s really not enough time to prepare the substrate properly, apply the coating and allow it to dry properly.” In other cases, outsourcing a job is a beneficial option, says Mark Paggioli, marketing director for Dur-a-Flex.

For example, applying a floor coating obviously is different than painting a wall.

“The preparation requires special equipment and workers with experience to ensure the floor comes out right,” Paggiolli says. “Sometimes, maintenance organizations might think they can do it themselves, but those decisions usually result in trouble.”

Adds Spillane, “If you don't have someone on staff who is knowledgeable in painting and specification, you need to get professional advice. If you have a facility that needs to be painted, it would be advantageous to ask someone with expertise in painting to look at the substrate, recommend preparation steps, and products and create an instruction list to give contractors so they can all bid on the same thing.”

Managers in these situations must ensure that the contractor they hire completes all of the steps in the specification. One option is to consider creating an instruction list for contractors for all painting projects.

“I'm sure in many facilities they are working off of specifications, but I'm also aware of organizations that don't think that they need a specification just because they’re painting a wall,” Spillane says. In some cases, the results did not meet organizations’ expectations.

— Renee L. Shroades

Recycled Paint Standard

In August, Green Seal rolled out a national environmental standard for the recycled content of latex paint. The standard is aimed at assuring end-users that recycled paint is environmentally beneficial and performs as well as paint with no recycled content. For more information, visit www.greenseal.org/certification/environmental.cfm.

— Renee L. Shroades

Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »

  posted on 9/1/2006   Article Use Policy

Related Topics: