The Ongoing Quest to Coat the World in Green

[October 19, 2015]

Featured on Coating World, click here to view article.
By Jeff Alexander, VP of Sales, Coil and Extrusion Division

As the climate continues to change, human population continues to grow, and our natural resources continue to diminish, industries have seen a global shift, placing greater importance on green design and sustainable business practices. However, green design is less about following a popular trend than it is about simply respecting our limited natural resources. The architectural coating industry is no exception to this trend, as building and construction regulations continue to evolve and incorporate higher standards for environmentally friendly practices.

Manufacturers are working harder than ever to develop high-performance coatings that lessen the negative impact on the environment. To do this, coating developers created innovative manufacturing techniques that protect air and water quality while reducing the unnecessary consumption of natural resources. Specifically, Valspar’s green agenda focuses on eliminating the use of hazardous materials, introducing biorenewables, incorporating recycled materials, lowering VOC emissions, decreasing energy consumption and reducing waste, while proving it can all be accomplished cost-effectively.

A Look Back

As the industry began to shift, numerous organizations were on the forefront, pushing manufacturers, contractors, architects and owners to include sustainability in their building discussions. Valspar actively aligns itself with numerous organizations that set standards and rating systems to guide those in the industry down a sustainable path. In order to create eco-centric initiatives for the future, the company doesn’t just comply with regulations, but also sits on technical committees and works with pioneers in the green movement including American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International, Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and Energy Star.

In February 2003, in response to the headway made by organizations like LEED and Energy Star, the first Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) was introduced by the European Union. The regulation spurred the removal of selected heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium from products around the globe. In 2013, LEED introduced Version 4 of its regulation program, increasing the level of transparency and accountability for building construction and operation. LEED v4 set new standards for the disclosure of building product materials and practices to ensure the quality of future environmentally focused construction. Today, the Living Building Challenge has emerged as one of the most advanced certification programs across the industry, mandating the highest standard for sustainable building practices and product requirements.

Remaining on top of the ever-evolving material resource requirements for certifications from these organizations encourages coating manufacturers to keep sustainability and innovation top of mind. Coating manufacturers around the world worked tirelessly to create paints that eliminated adverse environmental implications and pushed the industry towards a more sustainable future.

Analyzing the Coating and Application Process

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) have long been part of the coating industry as their properties have aided in the application of coatings. Recognized as a component of the common aroma of paint fumes, VOCs are believed to contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and urban smog, which in turn, may contribute to adverse health effects. After truly understanding the effects of VOCs, coating manufacturers directed their focus to creating formulations that lessen the need to use solvents. Valspar was able to achieve this by using a higher percentage of solids in its formulations that resulted in less coating volatizing into the air.

The next step is to look at the coating process. Even the way Valspar’s coil coatings are applied to the metal used for wall and roofing panels has been enhanced for better environmental performance. Coil coating— where the paint is rolled onto the metal in a factory setting— is a pretty energy efficient technique. When coil coating metal paneling, the VOC gasses that are released during the process are returned to the system, and through the use of a thermal oxidizer (also known as a thermal incinerator), become fuel for the curing process.

A Defense Against the Rays

When the strong rays of the sun strike the roof and exterior of a building, the absorbed infrared light is converted to heat, which leads to a rise in interior temperature. Within an urban sprawl, this problem compounds with smog, asphalt and a lack of vegetation creating a phenomenon known as the “heat island effect.” This effect can dramatically increase costly air conditioning and electricity expenditures for building owners.

To help mitigate the heat island effect, manufacturers turned to solar reflective pigments that reflect infrared radiation while still absorbing the same amount of visible light. Through the incorporation of these pigments, manufactures created solar reflective coatings that stay much cooler than their non-reflective counterparts. Solar reflective coatings not only help lower energy costs without sacrificing durability, performance or beauty, but also provide an array of colors options that previously absorbed considerably higher amounts of infrared light.

Roofs with higher reflectance also have lower surface temperatures, which help reduce ambient air temperatures and save money on air-conditioning costs. Valspar estimates that its solar reflective coatings can average out to $20 to $30 of savings per year per 1,000 square feet of roof space, and the nationwide incorporation of cool roofs could yield an annual savings of $1 billion.

What Does a Green Future Look Like?

Coating manufacturers across the globe are continuously looking for new innovations that will push the industry to a greener future. Valspar believes that biorenewables and recycled materials are crucial elements in the implementation of a green agenda.

For example, Valspar was the first to introduce both biorenewable materials that remain in backers and a biorenewable polyester resin system for interior coil applications. The company uses recycled biorenewables like vegetable oil, which is an effective substitute for fossil fuels. Valspar has a number of patents on both virgin vegetable oil and recycle or used oil. Valspar’s products contain a resin system composed of up to 30 percent biorenewable products, resulting in a sustainable finished product that doesn’t lose biorenewable materials during the curing process. Used predominantly in the coatings developed for backers, giant coils of sheet metal are turned into all types of pre-painted construction products. These materials are not only eco-friendly and sustainable, but can be achieved without any significant cost to the coating material.

A Case For Maximizing Energy Efficiency

When building the Center for Courageous Kids in Kentucky, energy efficiency was top of mind. Developers looked for the perfect combination of roofing material and coating to help in the quest for the lowest energy cost.

As many of us know, summer camp is a cherished tradition for many families, giving kids an outlet to connect with new friends, new skills, and the great outdoors. But for children with life-threatening illnesses, this tradition is one among many that can fall by the wayside, taking a backseat to medical appointments and the need to stay close to care facilities.

That is what the late Betty Turner Campbell set out to change when she founded the Center for Courageous Kids in Scottsville, Kentucky. Turner Campbell remade her father’s 168-acre farm into a medical camp that gives sick children and their families a place to swim, ride horses, boat, fish and more—all free of charge, and all with an on-site medical center that gives kids the support they need to embrace new activities.

Opened in 2008, the Center features 16 buildings with unified white exteriors and metal roofing panels painted in Valspar’s Fluropon coating in a vibrant Award Blue that stands out against the surrounding green acres.

“Ms. Campbell was presented with four color schemes for the building. She decided on the white and blue combo because it was cheerful, happy, and crisp,” said Roger Mutie, president of the Center. “The Center is a happy place, and we’re happy to have our facility represent that.”

The complex uses more than 50,000 square feet of Snap-Clad metal roofing panels provided by Petersen Aluminum. “We decided on the metal roof because of its durability,” Mutie explained. “We wanted to keep longevity at the forefront of the project and knew a metal roof would be able to survive severe weather better than the alternatives.”

Valspar’s Fluropon 70 percent PVDF coating will provide tremendous UV protection to help preserve the cheery blue coloration of the roof. Additionally, due to Valspar’s solar reflective coating formulation, the roof remains cooler, therefore helping to lower the internal building temperature, and ultimately saving on energy costs. This coating also provides outstanding stain resistance and is certain to stand up to the elements of the environment, all while retaining its brilliant appearance for years to come.

The impressive campus includes a dining hall, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, horse stables, bowling alley, and cabins, along with outdoor facilities for archery, horseback riding, hiking and boating. After having served nearly 18,000 campers since its founding, the Center continues year-round operations to give kids a place to “have fun, find respite, feel normal and forget about their every day struggles.”

Even with the contributions Valspar made to the Center for Courageous Kids and the continued success of the company’s green agenda, there will always be new projects to try, challenging environmental issues to address, and the continued pursuit of creating products that exceed the requirements.

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