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Sustainability Considerations for Painting Products
Managers who pay close attention to the sustainability of paints and coatings benefit their organizations and facilities in many ways. Doing so preserves natural resources and protects the ecosystem, lowers the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), minimizes the amount of other hazardous chemicals, reduces the facility's carbon footprint, reduces waste, conserves clean water and air, and promotes health and safety by reducing carcinogens. More sustainable paints also often reduce life-cycle costs by delivering a longer-lasting, tougher finish that is easier and less costly to maintain.
Even though past paint and coatings applications might have been successful and long-lasting, today's formulations have advanced to the point that it pays to revisit painting policies and conduct research on each new project with sustainability in mind. Since sustainable paints save natural resources, outdated specifications for paint pigments and thinners and policies on painting frequency might no longer apply. New water-based paints not only contain few or no VOCs, they also contain acrylic compounds that dry harder, last longer, emit fewer gases, and require re-painting less often than some petroleum-based products. Sustainability makes economic sense, too.
Managers can consult several guidelines when selecting sustainable paints and coatings. For example, the U.S. Green Building Council has developed two sets of guidelines, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for New Buildings and LEED for Existing Buildings.
LEED's objective is to provide managers with a set of standards on sustainability that are repeatable project after project. Parts of the LEED rating system, under the Materials and Resources category, allow points for using sustainable building materials and reducing waste.
The rating points are customized according to project type and building type — for example, schools, health care facilities, and commercial facilities. The system does not certify individual products, but guidelines help managers determine if products help the facility earn LEED certification.
Another way to evaluate a supplier's commitment to sustainability is through reporting guidelines using the Global Reporting Initiative's Sustainable Reporting Framework to report an organization's sustainability progress. The framework provides guidelines on the process for reporting and materials to report in a standard format.