Low- and Zero-VOC Paint Technology

By Kerry Pianoforte, Editor | April 15, 2014

Paint manufacturers look to low- and zero-VOC technologies to drive growth.

Over the past several years, both commercial and consumer demand for environmentally-friendly products has been increasing. As more regulations come to pass, consumers of paints and coatings are becoming more aware of the advantages of using “greener” products.

The move to use low- and zero-VOC coatings is being driven by both environmental regulations and increased consumer awareness.
At the forefront of regulatory issues is California’s  South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). The SCAQMD develops, adopts and implements an Air Quality Management Plan for bringing the area into compliance with the clean air standards established by national and state governmental legislation. SCAQMD is one of the nation’s most stringent regulatory bodies on paint and coatings emissions and is considered a bellwether for national air quality actions.

Another major player in the push for more environmentally-friendly products is The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) initiative. Throughout the past several years LEED has continued to gain momentum. In fact, at the end of 2013 it launched Leed v4, the newest version of the LEED green building program. Developed by the USGBC, LEED has revolutionized the marketplace since 1998 as the world’s benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

Coatings manufacturers look to low- and zero-VOC products as a key driver for their business. Global Industry Analysts (GIA) recently released a trend report on latex coatings. According the report, growing demand for low-VOC coatings drives the market for latex coatings. The market for latex coatings is projected to witness strong growth driven by increasing awareness about health hazards of VOC containing paints and coatings, and rising demand for environmentally friendly paints.

Latex is a milky emulsion of plant extracts comprising proteins, resins, starches, alkaloids, among others. Latex coatings or water emulsion coatings include various thermoplastic resin particles, covered by an emulsifier for keeping the particles separate in the liquid phase. Growing demand for paints and coatings containing low VOCs and implementation of stringent environment and health safety regulations related to VOC are projected to drive market growth. Characteristics such as low odor, and zero-VOC content make latex coatings especially suited for industrial maintenance applications.

“In 2013, our revenue from eco-premium solutions – including low and zero-VOC products – was almost $5 billion, or 24 percent of our total revenue,” said André Veneman,  corporate director for sustainability & HSE at AkzoNobel. “Eco-premium solutions are a fundamental driver of our strategy for creating more value from fewer resources and we continue to measure the proportion of revenue that they generate. Our 2015 target is to achieve 30 percent of revenue from eco-premium solutions.”

Benjamin Moore is committed to developing the most environmentally safe and sustainable portfolios in the industry. “In fact, we were the first to market with a true zero VOC product, Natura, in 2008,” said Kelly Sinatra of Benjamin Moore. “Today, we are transitioning many of our premium products to zero VOC.”

Lower VOC coatings are at the heart of AkzoNobel’s portfolio of coatings products. A few examples of the company’s low- and zero-VOC coatings products include the Dulux Ambiance range of decorative paints, which was launched in China last year; Sikkens Autowave 2.0, a low-VOC waterborne basecoat with best-in-class color and application performance that was recently introduced to the vehicle refinish segment by its Performance Coatings business; and Interplate Zero, an advanced, patented, water-based IMO PSPC-compliant zinc silicate shop primer for the marine segment with zero-VOCs, which is reducing the volume of VOCs emitted in shipyards globally. “All of these products along with AkzoNobel’s broader eco-premium solutions portfolio is helping to improve our customers’ environmental profile and productivity,” added Veneman.

“Benjamin Moore offers zero VOC products in both our premium and professional segments,” said Sinatra. “Within our premium segment Natura is zero VOC but in 2014 we are transitioning the majority of our premium products to zero VOC.”

Benjamin Moore recently launched its newest product, Benjamin Moore Natura Renew, the first premium, bio-renewable paint with zero emissions. Natura Renew is highly durable and plant-based, the first of an entirely new class of innovative, eco-friendly paint, the company reported. Natura Renew is now available at Benjamin Moore retailers in the Pacific Northwest and will roll out nationwide later in 2014. Through Natura Renew, Benjamin Moore is catering to consumers in the growing LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) U.S. market, which includes goods and services related to the environment, health, social justice and sustainable living. This market is estimated to be $290 billion, of which $100 billion is spent on green building. Research shows that one in four adult Americans is part of this group, making it ripe for innovative products and consumer goods.
“Benjamin Moore is excited to continue our history of pioneering products with this launch of the first-ever, premium paint product made with bio-renewable materials and zero emissions,” Mike Searles, president and CEO of Benjamin Moore & Co. said in a press statement. “The size and growth of this market shows that greener, more sustainable products matter to consumers, interior designers and architects. With Natura Renew, we’re able to offer these discerning customers an authentically sustainable paint without compromising performance, color and durability. This sort of breakthrough innovation, delivered through our network of independent dealers, is the hallmark of Benjamin Moore.”
Natura Renew, which contains up to 40 percent bio-renewable materials, is an extension of Natura, Benjamin Moore’s most sustainable and eco-friendly paint. Natura Renew delivers zero emissions, offers easy application and is both durable and washable for a long-lasting finish. Available in thousands of colors with an eggshell and semi-gloss finish, it was developed in partnership with DSM, a global leader in sustainability and bio-renewable science. Natura Renew is the first product to market with a low odor, zero emission paint made with plant-based renewable ingredients.

PPG Industries offers a number of low-- and zero-VOC products, including PPG Architectural Coatings products, PPG Pitt-Glaze WB1, SPEEDHIDE zero and Pure Performance. PPG Pitt-Glaze WB1 provides maximum protection and service life in high-traffic areas. With its low-VOC content and low-odor, this waterborne acrylic epoxy is ideal for use in renovation and new construction of commercial and institutional facilities and ensures the service needed to avoid facility disruptions, the company reported. There is no mixing or measuring necessary and has an unlimited pot life.

PPG SPEEDHIDE zero Paint is PPG’s professional line of zero VOC interior latex base paints that not only allows users to meet green specifications, but provides outstanding durability, ease of application and good hide and coverage on the job. Speedhide zero’s low odor allows painters and maintenance professionals to paint in occupied spaces with very little disruption to everyday activities. Speedhide zero paints meet the LEED VOC standards and complies with MPI, GREENGUARD and the Collaborative for High Performance Schools Standard.

PPG Pure Performance zero-VOC  paint’s low-odor formula is ideal for schools, hotels, hospitals, office buildings, retail spaces, home residences, and more.

Low- and zero-VOC products are most sought after in interior applications. “Specifically, in residential homes it is usually children’s rooms or family rooms,” said Sinatra. “In professional areas, Benjamin Moore offers Ultra Spec 500, a zero-VOC paint designed to make a job go smoothly via outstanding application properties and excellent durability. Opportunities in the hospitality, recreational, educational and retail segments are where this product is the ideal choice.”
“Today our R&D efforts go beyond just zero-VOCs,” added Sinatra. “We have focused our attention on emissions and bio-renewable technologies. In fact, we recently introduced the first premium bio-renewable product with zero emissions, Natura Renew.”

AkzoNobel’s sales forecasts show that the balance of growth is shifting. “First observed last year, we see increased growth in waterborne wall paint products in all regions globally,” said Veneman. “With regards to our Decorative Paints products, we are introducing reformulated products with significantly reduced and virtually zero-VOC content. This reduction trend will continue in the future. Our Performance Coatings business sees increasing demand for low and zero-VOC products from the transportation and building segments.”

“Driven by customer, market and societal needs, more than two-thirds of our RD&I investments ($516 million in 2013) is channeled towards producing environmental innovations in the form of new and improved products, new and cleaner or lower footprint processes, and customer applications with less environmental impact,” said  Veneman. “Our research and development efforts are focused on further VOC reduction, lowering other emissions that impact the planet and reducing embedded carbon. The introduction of new technologies such as “water in oil” and improvements in water-borne products have already led to a reduction in average VOC per liter of 20 percent from 2009 to 2012. We continue to push for further reductions in this area from both new technological innovation and market education – a real challenge in some markets.”

“Embedded sustainability is a core component of our company strategy,” said. “Our focus is on generating more value from fewer resources, as part of our Planet Possible sustainability strategy. To implement this, we are working internally across functions and externally with suppliers and customers on specific focus areas such as VOC reduction, eco-premium solutions, packaging/end-of-life and own operations.”

Related Market & Technology: