Paints and Coatings: Going Beyond VOCs
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Ten years ago, paints and coatings manufacturers focused on making products with few or no volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOCs remain a component of paints and coatings, and the emphasis on improving products from an environmental standpoint continues to expand.
“Low-VOC is no longer a specialty product offering,” says Jenny Burroughs with PPG Architectural Coatings. “It is a must-have option for all brands in the space.”
As maintenance and engineering managers strive to improve the sustainability of institutional and commercial facilities, their paints and coatings needs have evolved.
A one-paint-fits-all mentality no longer applies as discussions of odor, durability, wearability and even preventing the spreading of germs can impact a manager’s decision on product specification.
As environmental standards continue to evolve, and paints and coatings technology improves, managers need to keep up with the changes. Paints and coatings manufacturers offer their insights on issues managers face in selecting new-generation paints and coatings with sustainability in mind.
Knowing the facility
Manufacturers’ ongoing emphasis on producing more environmentally friendly products includes focusing on specific kinds of facilities in an effort to match in closer detail the needs of managers.
Managers who are seeking LEED certifications for their facilities must know the accepted VOC levels for paints and adhesives that contribute to the certification.
“As government regulations, green certifications, and health awareness continue to increase, it is important for facility managers to understand the nuances of green paint technology to better serve customers’ needs in commercial spaces,” Burroughs says. “VOCs present in paint can be emitted by both manmade and naturally occurring materials and are known for their impact on air quality.”
Among the paints and coatings on the market today are products focused on eliminating the spread of bacteria such as Staph, MRSA, and E. coli — an obvious asset for health care facilities.
“We don’t arbitrarily make a product that will catch all if you will, a one-stop product that you can do everything thing with,” says Rick Watson with Sherwin-Williams. “We listen to our customers and understand in a real-world setting what you need and how to get there. “Some attributes that facility managers can use in some regards, such as a microbicidal paint, is really an exciting innovation. The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) registered and approved microbicidal paint kills 99.9 percent of infection-causing bacteria on a painted surface two hour. You’d think that (technology) would be specifically geared toward hospitals, but it can range from athletic facilities to restaurants to headquarters and college campuses. They also have the benefit of that product.”
For hotels and restrooms, managers might consider odor-eliminating paints as a specification option for their facilities.
“Products that reduce and eliminate odor help break down those odors by attacking them on a molecular level, so that when airborne molecules actually come in contact with the surface, that technology will break that compound down and neutralize it,” Watson says.
Managers also must look beyond the one-paint-fits-all concept and consider the paint or coating that best matches the facility’s needs. The decision to choose general application products to fit needs could wind up harming budgets.
“A lot of people find a paint they really like that works for them, and they’ll use it many, many times, including for applications where it’s not meant to be used,” says Nathan Ferraro with Rust-Oleum. “If you’re primarily painting hospitals, you’re going to find something that’s low in VOC, and you’re going to be really good at applying that paint.
“But if you have to paint something that’s more a maintenance application, you may use that same paint because you’re familiar with it. You know when you have to recoat it. They have the ability to use other coatings, but they become attached to specific lines of paint.”
Paints and Coatings: Going Beyond VOCs