Breathe Easy with Green Paint

March 1, 2008

Knowing the facts about green paint will help you make smart, environmentally friendly decisions for your interiors

One of the major components of environmentally responsible building is selecting the appropriate paint. Air quality is a leading concern, and paints that reduce the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are low in odor and contribute to better indoor air quality.  Although there are misconceptions about the prohibitive costs of green coating options, leading manufacturers offer low-VOC paint with better hiding capability, which translates to fewer coats needed and more durability, thus minimizing the frequency of costly repaints and callbacks.

The Technology Behind Green Paint
Recent technology advances in green coatings have brought a new generation of performance-rich interior products to the market. These technological advances include waterborne coating formulations that reduce VOC emissions, emit almost no odor, contain low or no silica, and contain antimicrobial properties that resist mildew, bacteria, and other microbes on the paint film. These coatings prevent stains from penetrating better than the ceramic coatings on the market, resist burnish marks, and withstand repeated washings.

Testing Green Paint
When selecting a green coating, ensure that the product offers a high degree of washability, scrubability, and burnish resistance. If the product is validated through testing methods such as those provided by West Conshohocken, PA-based ASTM Intl., terms like "washability," "scrub cycles," and "burnish resistance" will accurately represent the product's capabilities.

Washability is the most important performance criteria because it measures the coating's ability to release stains. If the stain is not easily removed, you may have to repaint. Scrub tests measure a coating's resistance to repeated scrubbings with a bristle brush scrub media. Results are generally reported in cycles; the higher the cycle number, the better the performance. On the other hand, burnish-resistance tests evaluate the changes in a coating's sheen after a number of cycles from a soft cloth. Results are reported in units of sheen change, which compare the sheen before and after burnishing. The lower the burnish resistance number, the better.

The Benefits
The benefits of specifying green paints include reduced operating costs and diminished exposure to pollutants. In fact, a recent study by the U.S. Green Building Council found that children in sustainable schools have 20-percent higher test scores, and hospitals using environmentally sound technologies discharge patients 2.5 days earlier than traditional hospitals. And, on the retail side, the study reports that consumers linger longer and spend more money in green buildings.

In addition to being the responsible selection, green paint is a benefit to contractors because its limited amount of airborne volatile compounds makes it possible for construction crews to work alongside painting crews, thus reducing job time. What's more, high-quality, environmentally responsible paints maintain durability and a fresh appearance longer, requiring infrequent repaints. 

Steve Revnew is director of marketing, product development, at Cleveland-based The Sherwin-Williams Co.

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