Moving beyond low VOCs, paint can play a bigger role in achieving higher sustainability targets.
With most new buildings aiming for a Green Star SA rating, not everyone realises what exactly it means for paint to be sustainable.
According to Mayan Desai, Marketing Manager (Professional) at Dulux, one of the biggest issues is the lack of accurate information. “Sustainability is such an emotional issue, however many people blindly accept what companies are claiming and don’t really question what it means when there are green claims made about specific products.”
Beware of greenwashing
Greenwashing is when companies make false or misleading claims about the sustainability credentials of their products. This is no part helped by the many controversies that surround VOC’s in paint. Desai highlights the debate around zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paint as an example.
“Many people have the impression that the term Zero VOC’s mean there are no VOC’s in paint. This is not true as this simply means that there is no more than 5g/l of VOC’s in the paint. And while the difference between normal paint and low VOC paint is quite significant, zero VOCs are a relatively small improvement on the latter.”
He points out that there is a common misconception that by using paint with zero VOCs, more points are scored for Green Star ratings (The GBCSA ranking system for green building projects). “While zero VOC products are admirable, the reality is that there is a maximum of one point that can be scored in this regard, whether low VOC or zero VOC paint is used,” he explains.
“Professionals such as architects have many things to consider and rely heavily on paint manufacturers to impart the correct information onto them. It is disappointing when you see incorrect information being given to architects and design professionals by other companies” says Desai.
The basics of sustainable paint
According to Desai, specifying low VOC products is important, but one should also look at the company which is behind the green product in terms of how they manufacture the paint and where they are procuring the raw materials from.
Secondly, it is important to specify the right amount of paint. “There is so much wasteful expenditure regarding products on big building sites. Sometimes the wrong products are used as a result of incorrect specifications or the notorious practice of specifications being “swung” at site. These then have to be corrected by stripped and reapplying the paint, which is not good for the environment.
“In addition, it is important to question the durability aspect of paint. The impact on a business that has longer maintenance cycles, by far outweighs the short term savings made on selecting paint that is not as durable.
“Paint in itself is not sustainable. It is how you make it and manage it that counts in terms of sustainability. For example, Ecosure, Dulux’s low VOC range, allows clients to achieve the ideal mix between reaching sustainability targets and quality,” Desai notes.
Taking sustainable paint a step further
Having explored the context of the environment beyond just looking at products, Dulux has identified two areas in which the way paint is managed on site can play a bigger role in achieving higher Green Star targets.
In terms of waste management, Green Star looks at how building waste is managed and if there is an environmental waste plan for the building going forward.
Dulux’s EnviroWash System is starting to gain widespread popularity now in becoming part of a holistic environmental waste plan on site. According to Desai, this system allows water and solid paint waste to be separated from each other to prevent paint waste damaging and clogging the water systems. Once filtered through the system, the solid waste becomes an inert substance that can be safely disposed of in a normal landfill, while the clear water can be reused on site or pumped out via the water systems.
Another area, energy consumption, is a major contributor to Green Star ratings. Dulux’s Light + Space range of colours has high light reflectance values (LRV) that are especially beneficial in big buildings with artificial lighting in terms of lowering energy consumption.
“Having tested this product, we found that one can save as much as 30% in lighting costs, but for Green Star to take this into account, actual calculations will need to be done per project,” Desai says.
“We want to do more than just provide low VOC paints and rather define paint’s role in a holistic solution that will ultimately benefit the built environment at large. One can’t ever get complacent, but has to continuously find new ways to contribute to sustainability.”
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