Sustainability and Green Design

Specifying high-performing paints for building longevity
 
Sponsored by Benjamin Moore & Co.
1 AIA LU/HSW; 1 AIBD P-CE; 0.1 IACET CEU*; SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the value of a thoughtful approach to material specifications to meet or exceed sustainability goals over the life of a project.
  2. Recognize the importance of reviewing transparency reports and specifying products that have secured health product declarations (HPDs), environmental product declarations (EPDs), and Declare labels.
  3. Describe how specifying environmentally responsible, high-performing paints can reduce maintenance and improve a building’s longevity.
  4. Explain the importance of ensuring that contractors use specified materials and products that support project sustainability goals.

This course is part of the Business of Architecture Academy

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Greener Products

As an industry leader, this manufacturer’s commitment to corporate responsibility and sustainability is also reflected in its products. As an example, in 2006, it saw an opportunity to improve its paint with what it now considers a “game-changing technology.” By developing proprietary colorants and new machines, the manufacturer was able to remove certain ingredients in some of its products. For example, its waterborne colorant is engineered with a technology that disperses pigments in a patented blend of ingredients that contain resin and other additives without the use of glycols. The result was a zero-VOC colorant that has incredible color and durability.

In addition to manufacturing its colorants, the company manufactures many of its own resins. This allows it to customize the ingredients to ensure the resin works best with the chosen pigments and additives. The result of proprietary resins and proprietary colorant technology ensures a cohesive system with uncompromised durability, low VOC, better fade resistance, and improved color retention regardless of color.

Low- and zero-emission products are a great example of how a manufacturer contributes to the broader social and environmental good, and if it can create a top-notch product in the process, that sets a standard for the entire industry. In the case of this industry manufacturer, most interior paints are submitted for third-party testing to ensure that they meet or exceed the strict standards set by California’s Department of Public Health and California’s Collaborative for High-Performance Schools (CHPS). In addition, some of its products qualify for the company’s own internal certification, an assurance that these products meet—and often exceed—rigorous environmental and performance criteria regarding VOCs, emissions, application, washability, scrubbability, and packaging while also delivering premium levels of performance. Finally, many of the company’s products are certified to Master Painter Institute’s Green Performance Standard.

A THOUGHTFUL APPROACH TO MATERIAL SELECTION: SPECIFYING HIGH-PERFORMING PAINTS FOR BUILDING SUSTAINABILITY

When it comes to green build projects, material selection can offer one of the best opportunities to support the project’s sustainability goals, green construction codes, and potential green building program credits. However, that upfront investment is only part of the picture; ongoing maintenance and overall building longevity are also critically important in terms of materials and products. Regardless of the project, materials that are durable and designed for longevity not only keep a project looking good and performing well, but they can also support sustainability goals. In short, the less often something needs to be repaired or replaced, the better. Surface protection such as paint and coatings are often first thought of as an aesthetic element of a project, coloring and beautifying the materials they coat. However, coatings play an important role in protecting the surface materials. This is equally true whether the project is an architectural interior or exterior, a bridge, a car, or even a road or surface. Paints and coatings are engineered to perform under varying conditions, so even a relatively thin layer of paint can help resist scuffs, fend off corrosion and abrasion, withstand temperature extremes, and protect against ultraviolet exposure and moisture. Areas with high traffic—whether vehicular (such as parking garages), pedestrian (such as hallways or interiors), or equipment (such as a warehouse)—are all examples, of places where architects and designers can contribute to the sustainability of a project by making maintenance easier and ensuring that the project has a long life.

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Moore & Co.

One way to keep a high-traffic area such as a hotel hallway looking good is to use a high-performance paint that resists scuffs and cleans easily.

Reducing Maintenance through High Performance and Longevity

More often than not, high-quality and high-performing products play a critical role in reducing the required maintenance of a building, and they can increase the overall longevity of the surface. Yet, often the upfront cost of specifying a high-performing product seems to be more than what a budget can accommodate, and so architects, designers, and contractors may, logically, specify less-expensive options. Once maintenance and longevity costs are factored in, however, the initial expense may seem worth it.

When discussing sustainability and environmental responsibility, reduced maintenance is important. One of the most common maintenance requirements in the built environment is repainting over the course of a structure’s life cycle. Whether the building is an exterior residential or commercial building or the interior of a high-traffic commercial space, paint is used for both protection and aesthetics. And the choice of what kind of paint can make a huge difference in how frequently a building or project needs maintenance.

Other Benefits of High-Performing Paints and Coatings

So far, we have talked about the sustainability benefits of using high-performing paints and coatings, mainly in terms of reduced maintenance and long-term surface protection. Both of these issues translate directly into reduced maintenance costs over the lifetime of the building or structure. With thoughtful product specification, often the initial capital cost to invest in a durable, long-lasting product or material is offset by less time and money spent on maintenance.

Another consideration with this type of product selection is whether the space in which it is used can afford to be out of operation while it is being repainted. Health-care facilities and hospitals are particularly vulnerable to this issue in that they typically function around the clock, and so staff and patients can’t be moved or exposed to fumes. If, however, a high-performing paint is used at the start of the project, the space will need to be repainted far less frequently than if conventional paints are used.

Health-care facilities are by no means the only places where high-performing products reduce the need for repainting. Schools, hotels, restaurants, and retail space—anywhere that gets high traffic and where surfaces come into constant contact with people, furniture, or equipment—will inevitably require frequent cleaning. Conventional paints are not designed to address these needs and cannot handle intensive cleaning or scrubbing. When high-performing paints are specified—for example, paints engineered to resist scuff marks—building operations and maintenance staff benefit from being able to quickly and easily ensure that surfaces look newly painted for a long time. Less time is spent cleaning, retouching, and repainting all lower maintenance costs. In this sense, high-performing paint serves as a sustainable design option. By protecting surfaces for an extended time and requiring infrequent repainting, less material is shipped and used.

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Originally published in Architectural Record

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