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When it comes to painting projects, facilities managers must make a series of critical decisions in order to create a productive work environment for future occupants. With the many options that are widely available, managers have to narrow down their priorities on materials and choose products that not only have longevity and cleanliness, but also ensure that finished projects will contribute to the health and safety of everyone that enters the building.
Meanwhile, sustainability is becoming a higher priority in all institutional and commercial facilities. Managers are looking for the most environmentally friendly products that will help lower their facilities’ carbon footprint. Sustainable paints are now boasting long-term performance along with environmental benefits. For example, Green Seal-certified paints automatically qualify for points toward the LEED v4.1 low-emitting materials credit. In addition, the paints and coatings are also compliant with WELL and Fitwell standards.
FacilitiesNet spoke with Nina Hwang, senior environmental scientist at Green Seal to discuss why more facilities should use Green Seal certified paints and how they aim to create a safer environment for all those involved.
FacilitiesNet: Why should more facilities utilize Green Seal paints? How does this help facilities managers?
Nina Hwang: Green Seal requires certified paints to have low-VOC content, safer chemical formulas, and proven functional performance. This means that using these products can help facility managers make progress toward their organization’s sustainability goals while also making spaces safer for building occupants, with no sacrifice in product performance.
VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are commonly used as solvents in paint products. They pollute indoor air and cause a range of symptoms from headaches to coughing to mental sluggishness. Using Green Seal-certified paints avoids these harmful health effects for both facilities department employees and building occupants.
Beyond VOCs, Green Seal prohibits a range of other hazardous chemicals that are carcinogens, reproductive toxins, or otherwise harmful to people who are exposed to them.
Crucially, Green Seal also verifies that certified paints meet ASTM standards for functional performance in areas such as adhesion, applicability, scrubbability, and washability. So, the Green Seal certification mark provides assurance to facility managers that they are buying products that are both safer and equally effective.
FacilitiesNet: How do Green Seal paints help earn sustainable certifications? How can they further a company’s sustainable mission?
Hwang: Green Seal-certified paints align with the LEED v4.1 green building rating system, which means they can help facilities get LEED-certified or, for those that are certified, maintain their LEED certification. Green Seal-certified paints also align with WELL and Fitwel certification standards.
Overall, Green Seal-certified paints are safer for people to use and better for indoor air quality than other paint products. When facilities managers choose these products, they are protecting the health of their own employees, as well as building occupants.
FacilitiesNet: What are the benefits of using sustainable/low VOC paint?
Hwang: VOCs are common air pollutants that are harmful to human health and the environment, so limiting exposure to these substances has widespread benefits. VOCs were first regulated due to their environmental impacts. These chemicals interact with sunlight on warm days to form ground-level ozone, which contributes to the formation of smog and can worsen asthma and other health conditions.
Paint releases VOCs when it is applied and, depending on its chemical formula, may continue to off-gas for months as the paint completes the curing process. Where paints are applied indoors, these VOCs can build up when ventilation is poor, exposing building occupants to their harmful effects. Short-term exposure to VOCs can cause coughing, decreased lung function, low energy levels, headaches, and impaired mental focus. Long-term exposure to VOCs is associated with neurological disorders, including dementia and tremors.
Green Seal sets limits on VOCs in two ways: content and emissions. We restrict VOC content in the product formula, and we also require an emissions evaluation to verify that the product does not off-gas hazardous chemicals during a specified period after the initial application, providing an indicator of safer air quality for building occupants.
Using certified low-VOC paints reduces the harmful effects of traditional paints and protects the health of people and the planet.
FacilitiesNet: How will anti-microbial paint influence facilities managers? What benefits does it have over other paints?
Hwang: The effectiveness of antimicrobial paints in preventing sickness is still unproven, and there is more research needed into any potential risks from the active ingredients in antimicrobial paints. Facilities manager should keep that uncertainty in mind when considering products that may be more expensive due to antimicrobial ingredients.
Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor for the facilities market.