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Choosing the right paint these days is far harder than it used to be. The tortured sessions when trying to pick just the right shade of taupe can pale when compared to sorting and choosing paints based upon myriad other factors, like durability, salt-spray resistance, colorfastness, "scrubability" and more. And then there are sustainable criteria, like low levels of VOCs.
How then to choose? One answer is to look for the seal of a certification program. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), Green Seal, Greenguard, and the Master Painters Institute (MPI) all test products against their standards and then label those that best meet their criteria. But that criteria list often is long. It's also fraught with questions: What do all the various certification standards mean? Will green aspects of paint affect performance? And perhaps most importantly, how do facility managers choose from among a crowded field of certifications?
Traditionally, paint standards have covered basic performance issues, attributes that might include adherence, opacity, resistance to corrosion or salt spray, and many more.
That is still true today. One benchmark source for information is ASTM. ASTM Committee D01 sets standards for many of the physical properties of paint, including adhesion, flow, weathering effects, optical properties and more. ASTM's standards cover a multitude of characteristics, from optical qualities to biodeterioration to pigmentation specifications.
Because the ASTM standards are broad-based performance criteria, it's common for other certification standards to adopt ASTM standards and then add environmental performance standards.
Technically, ASTM's D01 committee has a sub-group responsible for "environmental concerns" (ASTM standard D01.08) though no standards are currently listed. That's where other certification standards pick up. Green Seal, for example, uses ASTM results but adds its own criteria for environmental testing.
"The way a paint applies and flows must meet ASTM expectations," says Linda Chipperfield, vice president of marketing for Green Seal. "It has to be corrosion-resistant, alkali-resistant, etc. But then we add a host of requirements to those basic test results."
Increasingly, paints have been subjected to environmental tests, mostly to determine how off-gassing VOCs affect indoor air quality.
Greenguard standards also seek to protect human health and improve indoor air quality.
"Our aim is to reduce people's exposure to chemicals," says Henning Bloech, executive director of the Greenguard Environmental Institute. "Accordingly, our standards and certifications address product emissions criteria — including VOC emissions from paints, adhesives, sealants, and finishes."
The Master Painters Institute does not have a specific green certification, but includes green criteria in products that qualify for its Approved Products List.
Standards for Performance Help FMs Choose the Right Paint