These days, it’s not uncommon to hear businesses from nearly every industry discuss “sustainability” or plans for a more sustainable future. As the term becomes more ubiquitous in today’s business planning, its definition can be somewhat vague. For our purposes, sustainability refers to a company’s efforts in reducing its environmental impact through the use of more environmentally-friendly building materials and less consumption of natural resources. While the coating industry works diligently in manufacturing products that adhere to high standards for sustainability, there are several ways to be more sustainable and environmentally conscious.
1. Reduce the use of volatile organic compounds.
For a long time, volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, played a large role in the coating industry because they contain properties that assist in applying coatings to a surface. However, VOCs are now recognized for playing a significant role in contributing to the generation of ground-level ozone and urban smog, which leads to negative health effects and environmental issues.
To mitigate the harmful effects of VOCs, modern coil coating processes incorporate a thermal oxidizer that destroys the VOC gasses released during the coating process and prevent them from entering the atmosphere. The energy generated during this process is returned to the facility in the form of heat, where it can be used to preheat fresh air entering the baking ovens or to heat part of the facility. This results in products that are more environmentally friendly, even before they leave production.
2. Invest in better building materials.
By providing a waterproof and corrosion-resistant barrier, coil coating actually extends the life of a metal substrate. For example, textured products have coating applied to both sides of the metal to enhance its long-term durability and allow for the metals to look like virtually any material the designer would like, including wood, slate and asphalt.
3. When it comes to roofs, keep it “cool.”
If you and your family plan a day at the beach, you wouldn’t dare leave the house without sunscreen, or would you wear dark clothing, which absorbs the Infrared portion of sunlight and is the reason that object get hot in the sun. Well, the same Infrared rays from the sun can also affect the temperature of a building’s roof which can lead to increased energy costs. In areas where there is a concentration of buildings—and therefore also a concentration of roofs—which are being heated by the sun, a “heat island effect” takes place, and the urban setting in close proximity to this concentration of buildings heats-up (compared to rural settings). This accumulating temperature exponentially escalates due to local smog, asphalt and lack of foliage. Like sunscreen, architectural coatings can help combat the heat island effect by reducing the amount of infrared light absorbed by an exterior surface. These are known as solar reflective coatings.
4. Learn from organizations dedicated to creating sustainable solutions.
In addition to coating manufacturers, several key organizations have dedicated their time and efforts toward setting industry standards for the evaluation of and certification for environmentally-conscious construction practices and building materials. ENERGY STAR® is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) is a third-party verification program led by the U.S. Green Building Council that is designed to authenticate a building’s adherence to the most up-to-date environmental standards. The Living Building ChallengeTM is a green building certification program and sustainable design framework that visualizes the ideal for the built environment.
In the future, it’s safe to say coating manufacturers will continue to meet and exceed the demand to create products that help increase a building’s environmental sustainability and lessen its contributions to global warming. As we design buildings for a new generation, it’s important to be cognizant of the environmental footprint we leave today, so that it may be smaller tomorrow.
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