Sustainable Development Goals and the macro challenge
So how is sustainability defined? At its most fundamental, sustainability – and the pursuit of global environmental sustainability – is defined as ‘the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.’ It is usually spoken of in terms of being kind to the planet, reducing harmful emissions into the environment and reducing our carbon footprint.
The United Nations (UN) champion the sustainability cause through a series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that fall under its Envision2030 initiative. SDG11, for example, is focused on Sustainable Cities and Communities. More than half of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas and by 2050, this proportion is expected to rise to 68%.
SDG12, meanwhile, addresses responsible consumption and production. It too has ambitious targets: by 2030 it is looking to substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. More than this, it is seeking to achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their lifecycle and minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
These are some of the macro challenges that all global manufacturers are looking to address: how to do more with less, and how to collaborate with the whole supply chain to pursue a responsible transition across the entire value chain.
Challenges to industry and powder manufacturing
Within the powder coatings industry specifically, Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) studies compare the environmental impact of products over their lifecycle. Various aspects are important to different stakeholders in the built environment: architects are looking to gain relevant certification levels for their creations; fabricators and applicators benefit from reducing emissions in their production processes; and building owners benefit from a long-lasting finish that is easy to maintain.
All these stakeholders can benefit from powder coatings technology. As well as having a high utilization of material - up to 99% - and any overspray can be recycled, new powder coatings are being continuously developed that require a thinner layer of powder to achieve the same result; and when compared to liquid coatings, fewer layers of coating are typically required, thereby increasing processing speeds and production throughout. Designing powder coatings that consider the entire product lifecycle from start to finish is transforming the way such coatings are perceived.
Sustainability and the architectural sector
So, to what extent are trends in powder coatings specifically impacting the architectural community to support their sustainability ambitions and create lasting legacies that endure?
To put the scale of the environmental challenge into context, the World Green Building Council (WGBC), of which AkzoNobel is a Corporate Advisory Board member, recently published some alarming statistics that showed that buildings and construction account for 39% of all energy-related CO² emissions. The WGBC is therefore, understandably, accelerating action to eliminate the buildings and construction sector’s emissions by 2050. The increasing use of powder coatings means they have a crucial role to play.
Whereas architects have a keen eye on the aesthetic appeal of powder coatings, one of the most significant trends of relevance to all stakeholders is product durability. The performance of the powder coating is key: the more durable the coating (e.g. on the cladding, a window frame, a louvre etc.), the less need for the surface to be maintained or repaired.
Standard durable finishes are complemented by superdurable and hyperdurable coatings, which means that the latest generation of high-performance powder coating products will protect architectural designs for up to 30 years, with performance warranties and industry certifications to match. The most durable products of all meet the most challenging global standards including AAMA2605 and Qualicoat class 3.
Durability and weatherability are two perhaps obvious elements that can significantly enhance a building’s sustainability credentials. Arguably less obvious, but still important, is specifying powder coatings whose durability is such that they require less cleaning. This both further extends product lifetime but also dramatically reduces cleaning cycles and therefore the chemicals and water required to keep a surface looking as new as the day it was built.
The future is green
The other significant area in which powder coatings can play a pivotal role is in helping architects to achieve improved sustainability performance for their buildings. The WGBC believes that green buildings provide ‘some of the most effective means to achieving a range of global goals, such as addressing climate change, creating sustainable and thriving communities, and driving economic growth.
With the demand for green buildings inexorably on the rise, the role and significance of powder coatings is rising with it. This is partially because, compared to liquid coatings, they meet architects’ performance and sustainability standards, without limiting their creative integrity. For example, new powder coating finishes mimic wood or stone and deliver all of the aesthetic advantages of a ‘natural’ finish without any of the environmental (and practical) downsides.
New finishes, and the ability to coat different substrates including wood, thanks to lower curing temperatures, are driving the market to re-evaluate what’s possible. The European Commission’s Renovation Wave Strategy involves expanding the use of sustainable construction to aid the target to double renovation rates in the next ten years while ensuring renovations lead to ‘higher energy and resource efficiency’.
A vision of a sustainable future
Architects are a demanding audience; they imagine and create. Building and façade consultants, property owners, specifiers, fabricators and applicators are similarly demanding, and need their work to endure. And in this world of constant innovation, powder coatings are becoming more sustainable while also contributing directly to the sustainability of buildings and features they are designed to protect and enhance.
Within the industry, AkzoNobel is leading the way, having committed to reducing energy use by 30% and use 100% renewable electricity by 2030, and move towards a zero-waste company within the same timescale. From a technology perspective, AkzoNobel achieve more than 50% of its sales from sustainable solutions in 2030.
Architects can look to Interpon powder coatings to bring their ideas to life, seeking the combination of the best products as well as exceptional levels of service. They look for a partner that continuously introduces new finishes to protect their creations with highly durable powder coatings, however harsh or demanding the environment. But they also value a partner that believes in sustainability, not just in being kind to the environment and reducing its carbon footprint and harmful emissions, but also in creating sustainable products and relationships that stand the test of time and create impressions and futures that last beyond generations.
Bob Dirks is Global Segment Manager, Architectural Powder Coatings, AkzoNobel and co-author of Interpon’s whitepaper - Building a Sustainable Future. For a copy of the whitepaper visit https://architectural.interpon.com