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A New Era for Paints and Coatings
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.
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.
— 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