The blog is continually looking for best-in-class developments in the global coatings industry that look beyond gate-to-gate manufacturing efficiency improvements and make an impact across the three pillars of sustainability. With approximately 40% of a coating’s cradle-to-grave environmental footprint lying downstream of its manufacture, there is much to be gained by considering ways in which paint manufacturers can assist their immediate customer base and downstream consumers make their own contribution to sustainable development.

One way of helping downstream industries is by enhancing the functionality of coatings products. Not only does this require coatings companies to provide innovative new products drawing on their own technical expertise and that of their suppliers, but this has to be backed up by a clear understanding of each stage in the coating’s life cycle. In designing the coatings of the future, paint manufacturers must understand downstream requirements of paints, their modes of application, the anticipated roles to be played by the coatings and the ways in which coated products are disposed of, once no longer required.

Over the last two years, I have been particularly impressed by two development coatings products that can help downstream industries significantly cut their energy bills. Both of these examples demonstrate what I describe as the Unilever effect. There, a change in the composition of laundry detergent permitted the temperature of the water used for washing clothes to be reduced, thereby delivering energy savings for the consumer. Both AkzoNobel and Becker Industrial Coatings have achieved similar results in specific coatings applications.

These two examples are of interest to architects particularly now that building codes favour energy-saving designs. One is a decorative application and the other draws on the capabilities of industrial coatings to enhance substrate longevity, reflect the sun’s radiation and insulate buildings.

The first comes from AkzoNobel, which has utilized its Lumitec technology in what it calls its ‘Light and Space’ colour range in its Dulux and Sikkens brands of decorative paint. This family of coatings has been formulated especially to improve light reflectance from painted internal surfaces of buildings. It provides a lighter and brighter living environment without compromising energy efficiency. The paint absorbs up to 50% less light than conventional emulsion paint colour ranges. As a result, architects can design buildings with reduced energy losses by specifying reduced window sizes. Additionally, those using the buildings can fit lower wattage bulbs than they would otherwise have done for the same level of brightness. Energy savings of up to 22% energy are claimed compared with building designs based on conventional emulsion paint colour ranges.

The second example comes from Becker Industrial Coatings, which has developed what it calls BeckryTherm technology. To quote the company’s literature, this is ‘a coating system for the exterior using high-durability binders to deliver high solar reflectivity and high emissivity, together with an interior coating system that delivers very low emissivity and improved thermal barrier properties within the building envelope. The economic benefits are significantly reduced costs for air conditioning and heating buildings, and clearly there are significant benefits for sustainability viz reduced CO?emissions. Building occupants are clearly more comfortable and, aesthetically, a wide range of dark colours are now possible with the same benefits as the lighter colours.’

Beckers’ hard work and innovative systems were recently recognised by the British Coatings Federation (BCF); the only coatings trade association in the world I am aware of that runs a competition each year to identify and recognize the company that has made the greatest contribution to sustainable development. In November 2013, the independent judges justified their award of the coveted BCF Sustainable Innovation Award to Beckers because they were, and I quote, ‘impressed by the size of the achieved energy savings described in this submission (some 20% energy savings claimed). Dedicated R&D for the product development, coupled with the use of dynamic thermal simulation modelling of structures, had produced a technology that is finding increasing application around the globe. The company had persevered in solving a multitude of technical issues to produce a portfolio of solutions, and combined them with clear and compelling communications to the market place. There is reason to believe that these first steps will open up a broad range of opportunities for extensions of this current generation of products.’Praise indeed!

Internationally recognised sustainability rating schemes such as the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program require these energy-saving properties to be considered during the design process. Moreover, both the US Energy Star program and the European Energy Performance Buildings Directive 2010/31/EU recognize the importance of passive cooling technologies and the need for improved thermal performance of building envelopes.

In other words, architects can improve the green credentials of the buildings they design utilising coatings technologies such as those promoted by AkzoNobel and Beckers.

My one regret is that we are left in the dark about the constituents of these coatings products. We do not know whether raw materials with high environmental impacts have been used in their formulations, which could counterbalance the evident energy savings benefits described above.

 I guess that we are still a distance away from assessing these products from cradle to grave but, without doubt, these two examples represent a very significant step forward. May there be many more!