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Building greener cities

Buildings are responsible for 37% of global energy-related carbon emissions, which makes construction one of the largest contributing sectors to climate change. As an industry leader committed to creating more green buildings, we supply a wide range of products and technologies that can play a vital role in making cities and communities more sustainable. To help explain how we’re helping to tackle the challenges being posed by the built environment, we spoke to Wijnand Bruinsma, AkzoNobel’s Director of Sustainability, and Jeff Jirak, Director of the company’s Powder Coatings business. 

When people ask you to explain what a green building is, what do you say?


Wijnand: It’s a question I get asked quite often – and not only during World Green Building Week! The simple answer is that green buildings have both commercial and sustainability benefits. They aim to reduce carbon emissions from the built environment, preserve precious natural resources and improve the quality of life for people who live and work in them. Green buildings also have a higher asset value of up to 10% more, and lower operational costs. So whether it’s in their design, construction or operation, green buildings reduce or eliminate negative impacts and can have a positive impact on our climate and natural environment.


Our Power Coatings business is a major supplier to green building projects all over the world, why are these products so important?


Jeff: One of the many advantages of powder coatings is that they’re more sustainable,  compared with liquid coatings. They release significantly fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – for example. Any overspray can also be collected and reused, which minimizes waste, and their durability increases the lifetime of both the materials they coat and the entire building itself. So they offer significant benefits during the construction phase, as well as when a building is in use. Our portfolio even includes Interpon D2525 Eco1, which reflects the sun’s infrared light and can help keep buildings cooler in the summer – therefore reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint.

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Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center building in Athens, Greece.  


The theme of 2023’s World Green Building Week is “Building the transition”. What does this mean to AkzoNobel?


Wijnand: The built environment is the largest contributing sector to energy-related carbon emissions. That’s why green buildings need to play a key role in the transition to a more sustainable future. Many of our paints and coatings contribute to making cities and communities more sustainable. We offer innovative technologies and sustainable solutions that help to decarbonize buildings, increase circularity and improve well-being. As a result, we play a big role in helping projects to achieve globally recognized green building certifications, such as LEED, BREEAM and WELL.

Can you share an example of a project where our powder coatings have been instrumental in achieving green building certification?


Jeff: A great recent example is the LEED Platinum certified Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center building in Athens, Greece. It’s an important cultural and educational hub, which includes the national library and the Greek national opera. We supplied our Interpon coatings for the steel window frames and various metallic building components, which made an important contribution to it being classified as a green building. There are also many other examples – from all over the world – of how we’re doing everything we can to help accelerate the transition to more sustainable built environments. 

Can you elaborate on how we support customers by providing a more detailed understanding of the lifecycle of products used in the built environment?


Jeff: One of the things we do is create transparency around the environmental footprint of our products. We do this through what’s known as an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). This is a verified certification which provides information to buyers about a product's impact on the environment. AkzoNobel as a whole has EPDs for more than 300 products. I’m very proud that we recently received EPD certification for our Interpon D powder coatings for a third consecutive time since 2014, setting new standards for the industry.

What other products does the company supply for buildings that offer sustainability benefits?


Wijnand: It’s a long list, but examples from some of our other businesses include Sikkens Alpha Air Clean1, which actively cleans indoor air by removing invisible pollutants; Dulux Forest Breath Anti-virus2, which helps to effectively work against certain viruses and types of bacteria; and CERAM-A-STAR 10503 for roofs, which provides exceptional durability, offers superior resistance to moisture and UV exposure, and also supports heat island reduction through its Cool Chemistry technology.

Looking ahead, what are some of the key challenges and opportunities you foresee related to building the transition in the construction industry, and how is AkzoNobel prepared to address them?


Wijnand: Towards the middle of the century, as the world’s population approaches ten billion, the global building stock is expected to double in size. It means we have a great opportunity across our businesses to contribute to more sustainable cities. Because meeting consumer demand and remaining ahead of market trends will be significant growth drivers in the market for green building materials. There’s also a major opportunity to help make the existing built environment more sustainable. The need to collaborate and innovate more is only going to increase, something we did to great effect as part of the recent ENVISION project. We worked with several other partners to develop technology that can harvest solar energy from every part of a building – not just via panels on the roof. It’s already being used on residential housing in the Netherlands, avoiding the need to use gas for heating. So there are exciting times ahead.

For more information about how we contribute to creating more green buildings, visit the dedicated section on our website.

1 Interpon D2525 Eco is available in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

2 Sikkens Alpha Air Clean is available in Europe.

3 Dulux Forest Breath Anti-virus is available in South East, South and North Asia.

4 CERAM-A-STAR 1050 is available in North America.

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