Consumer awareness, government regulations and the widespread acceptance of energy efficiency standards for buildings are driving the development of sustainable architectural coatings, but “greenwashing” has created confusion in the market, according to a Lux Research report.
The report, Painting a Green Future: Opportunities in Sustainable Architectural Coatings, assesses these coating technologies and evaluates their performance and value to the end user. The Lux grid graphic (above) shows the research house’s assessment of each technology. The term “technical value” in the graphic means the value of a coating technology — including performance, durability, cost and its range of applications — to the end user.
The $53 billion architectural coatings market produces decorative and protective paints as well as coatings that improve the energy efficiency of buildings. These coatings also use a tremendous amounts of petroleum, water and energy, which has prompted the development of sustainable products. Lux estimates the share of sustainable coatings in the larger architectural coating market will grow from 10 percent as of 2011 to 20 percent by 2016.
Sustainable technologies, which reduce the energy, resource and other environmental impact of paints and coatings, are moving beyond low-volatile organic compound content, according to Aditya Ranade, a Lux Research analyst and lead author of the report. Advances have been made in additives like surfactants and coalescing agents as well as energy-impacting coatings like cool roofs and solar paints.
Still, these sustainable coatings technologies often get confused with greenwashed unsustainable alternatives, said Ranade.
Lux Research developed a sustainability grid metric to identify seven distinct technologies with established green credentials, including elastomeric cool roofs, low-e coatings and paint recycling.
Cool roof coatings, which reduce unwanted solar heat gain, have traditionally been limited to hot, sunny climates. Thermally responsive coatings that can switch from white to black could expand the use of cool roofs beyond the sunniest regions, Lux said. Still, the high-potential technology is years away from becoming mainstream.
Several new coating technologies allow solar cells to be sprayed on buildings. However, this long-shot technology is still in its infancy and most emerging products remain in labs, Lux said. Solar paint has a low, 2 percent efficiency rate of converting sunlight to energy. In comparison, solar photovoltaic panels used on rooftop installations have a 13 to 15 percent efficiency.