Driven primarily by increasingly stringent environmental regulations, and to a lesser degree, increasing consumer interest in buying environmentally friendly products and the growing popularity of green building standards, most notably the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) initiative, the market for low and zero VOC has experienced growth.
"The 2009 market was definitely improved for low and zero VOC coatings," said Rocky Prior, president of Mythic Paint. "It is becoming more commonplace to find these materials specified on projects, thus increasing their volume."
"We have continued to see growth in low VOC coatings," said Steve Revnew, vice president of product development for The Sherwin-Williams Company. "The reason for this growth is two-fold. First, VOC regulations continue to become more stringent and second, more buildings are being built using green standards.
"Going green has become popular with professionals in the painting industry as well as with consumers across the board, and professionals are keeping up with the interest in green coatings from all perspectives, both by acknowledging the demand aspect as well as from the perspective of meeting regulations by specifying the appropriate product," said Revnew. "Traditional residential, multi-family residential and commercial markets are all areas for continued growth in green building."
"The market opportunity is to identify anyone who is concerned about the environment or reducing their personal exposure to VOCs," said Carl Minchew, director of product development at Benjamin Moore. "Because this is a fairly complex subject we see hospitality and health care facilities as growth areas. There is also an important consumer segment, especially the so-called dark greens, and it's growing well."
Riding the green wave
Nowadays companies are taking a holistic view when it comes to going green. It simply is not enough to offer low and VOC paints. They are also utilizing sustainable packaging and implementing fuel efficiency in all aspects of paint production.
"Today, many companies, including paint manufacturers, are establishing sustainability goals for themselves and are implementing environmental initiatives within their business practices," said Revnew. "For example, leading paint manufacturers are making great strides to minimize waste and improve energy systems in their facilities by minimizing fuel consumption in distribution routes, using renewable raw materials such as soy and sunflower oil in paint formulations, improving product packaging with recyclable materials, and equipping delivery trucks with biodiesel fuel."
Sherwin-Williams is one company embracing and practicing environmental stewardship. "Above and beyond developing new and improving existing products to meet demand for 'green' coatings, we're taking steps to manufacture and package products in a responsible way," he said. "Products with our proprietary GreenSure designation offer maximum performance, long-term durability and were designed and manufactured taking steps to reduce environmental impact and to meet or exceed the most stringent regulatory requirements. The designation assures our customers at a glance that the coatings were manufactured in a way as to leave little 'footprint,' and many come in recycled plastic containers. These sustainable containers are 100 percent recycled from post-consumer resin, and their labels, printed with soy ink, contain 75 percent recovered fibers and 25 percent post-consumer waste. What's more, some of our products are Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified as well as certified for Greenguard for Children and Schools by the Greenguard Environmental Institute. The attention to the process of creating and certifying our coatings-beyond the products themselves-goes a long way to build consumer confidence, which is how we are tapping into this resource."
Benjamin Moore has also been on the forefront of environmental responsivity. "We have been there all along and we are thrilled to see consumers catching up," said Minchew. "We introduced our first zero VOC product, called Pristine, in 1994 and we have been in the market ever since. In addition, we have long been serious about the environment with an environmental policy in place to make sure we nurture and protect it."
"Mythic Paint is more focused on providing a premium product that is totally safe for the consumers' family, rather than just being green," said Prior. "By choosing our products the consumer does not need to sacrifice their own health for the sake of a high performance product. The fact that we are an environmental product that is made in a zero discharge facility, and contained in totally recyclable paint pots is less of a focus than making sure we are totally safe for people and their pets. Being truly environmental, in our mind, is just the right thing to do."
Sherwin-Williams has a wide variety of coatings that contain less than 50 grams per liter of VOCs. "Our newest line includes the ProClassic Waterbased Acrylic-Alkyd," said Revnew. "ProClassic Waterbased Acrylic-Alkyd coatings offer alkyd paint performance at a less than 50 grams per liter level for high-volume commercial and wood trim/accent applications, respectively.
"Meanwhile, we've updated our zero VOC Harmony interior latex. The new formulation, which features a similar technology as that found in baking soda, reduces unpleasant indoor odors after the paint is first applied. The coating, which offers even better durability, hide and application than ever before make it a popular choice for professionals looking to meet green standards and eliminate disruptive painting odors in their building and remodeling projects."
"Due to their low VOC content, VOC-compliant coatings can be applied in occupied spaces with minimal impact on daily activities," said Revnew. "This means painting crews can work on a project during regular business hours, offering project managers cost savings as they avoid payment for work performed during overtime. What's more, our low VOC paints perform on par or better as it relates to hiding and longer lasting performance compared to paints not currently complying with the latest regulations. These qualities translate to fewer coats needed to achieve a durable surface, which minimizes the frequency of costly repaints.
"Recent technological advances in environmentally responsible coatings have also brought a new generation of performance-rich interior products to the market that offer even longer-lasting durability and high-end aesthetics, along with application ease," Revnew continued. "Some environmentally responsible paints also contain antimicrobial properties that resist mildew, and other microbes to help maintain a fresh appearance longer. In addition, these coatings prevent stains from penetrating better than ceramic coatings on the market, and resist burnish marks and withstand repeated washings and visible paint wear, making them perfect for high-traffic areas and facility environments. Low VOC coatings are constantly being updated and improved, and we can expect to see products with even better durability and ease-of-application properties as VOC regulations and consumer demand drives the market."
"All of the products on Benjamin Moore's Gennex platform are low VOC, meaning less than 50 grams per liter," said Minchew. "The Gennex platform, and this is critical, is comprised of zero VOC colorants. So when we make a low or zero VOC paint it stays low or zero VOC in any color the customer desires. We do not add VOC with our tinting colors as most companies do. Furthermore, we have a great new zero VOC product called Natura. Because it is part of our Gennex family of products it remains zero VOC in any color you want."
Benjamin Moore also just introduced a line of exterior stain products called Arborcoat. "In time for spring painting these stains are low VOC and feature outstanding performance across all products and finishes," said Minchew.
Mythic Paints's latest offering is zero VOC, zero toxin exterior flat paint. "Like all our ten finishes, the exterior flat can be tinted to any color without adding VOCs," said Prior. "Independent testing labs have proved that Mythic Paints is as high, if not higher durability, coverage and performance than any of the traditional paints."
As environmental regulations continue to change, coatings companies must focus on developing products that now only meet the regulations, but meet their customers' performance demands. "As VOC regulations are constantly changing, the varying standards require that paint and coatings products be made to comply with the most restrictive of all the VOC regulations in existence," said Revnew. "Additionally, VOC regulations are not hard and fast, but rather change nearly every year. This means that as the compliance rules continue to change and become more stringent, certain types of paints will begin to disappear from store shelves, and new paint specifications will have to be adopted.
The concept of "going green" in recent years has become increasingly popular in all areas of business. But for many companies going green is not merely a buzz word, but a philosophy on how to run a business. The Sherwin-Williams Company prides itself on taking a holistic view when it comes to issues of susta inability. Not onl y are they at the forefront of developing low and VOC products, but they incorporate that philosophy into all aspects of its business.
In line with this focus on sustainability in all aspects of business, Sherwin-Williams has developed the EcoVision program. "EcoVision is Sherwin-Williams' corporate philosophy and sustainability program, whereby, the company is committed to being a recognized leader in the development of sustainable processes, products and activities that are profitable, preserve natural resources and contribute to social improvement," said Diana Strongosky, vice president of research and development, paint and coatings division at The Sherwin-Williams Company.. "The five areas of focus for this program are conservation, innovation, accountability, respect and responsibility."