Shaping the future of our cities

Did Blade Runner get it right, or will future cities have more realistic foundations? We take a detailed look at one of the biggest challenges facing the built environment.

If you think about the cities of the future, it quickly conjures up images of bustling, Blade Runner-style skylines, full of monumental skyscrapers, flying cars and vast expanses of neon.

Back in the real world, the future of our cities will almost certainly be built on more realistic (and less dystopian) foundations, such as resilience, durability and sustainability.

As we head deeper into the 21st century, one of the biggest challenges facing the built environment is finding effective ways to reduce its environmental footprint (buildings are responsible for close to 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions). So, whether it’s in their design, construction or operation, the buildings we live and work in are going to have an increasingly important role to play in making our cities and communities more sustainable.

As a company that’s committed to creating more green buildings, this is a major opportunity for AkzoNobel. We supply a wide range of products and technologies that can help tackle some of the challenges the built environment is trying to overcome.

“Green buildings need to play a key role in the transition to a more sustainable future,” explains Wijnand Bruinsma, AkzoNobel’s Director of Sustainability. “We can make a vital contribution, because we offer a whole range of innovative technologies and sustainable solutions that can help to decarbonize buildings, increase circularity and improve well-being. As a result, we can help projects to achieve globally recognized green building certifications, such as LEED, BREEAM and WELL.”

One of the biggest challenges is how to keep buildings cooler, without having to rely entirely on air conditioning. We’ve developed a number of products that can reflect sunlight – such as our Cool Chemistry range of paints and coatings – which in turn help to reduce the amount of energy that buildings consume. As the planet continues to warm up, it means cities located in hotter climates in particular can benefit from incorporating these smart coatings into their design. And given the rate and spread of global warming, our heat-reflective products will also become an increasingly viable solution in other parts of the world.

Products that are part of our Cool Chemistry portfolio include:

  • Interpon D2525 Low Solar Absorption powder coatings, which contain a reflective pigment that deflects infrared light – and the sun’s heat
  • CERAM-A-STAR 1050, a high-performance SMP coil coating which provides exceptional durability and offers superior resistance to moisture and UV exposure
  • Dulux Weathershield Sun Reflect, a high-performance exterior wall paint which can reduce the surface temperature by up to 5° Celsius

A recent example of where some of our products have been used is the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s Solar Innovation Center. We supplied powder coatings from our Interpon brand that reflect heat and help to reduce energy use inside the building. 

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s Solar Innovation Center

“Improving the sustainability of the whole built environment takes a range of solutions for both new and existing buildings,” continues Bruinsma. “It encompasses commercial, industrial and residential buildings in different environments all around the world. In many cases, sustainable solutions also bring financial benefits to applicators, owners and building users.”

But we aren’t stopping at Cool Chemistry. We’re currently developing a Cool Coatings range, which will take the cooling of buildings to a whole new level. We’ll leave it to our Senior Scientist, Anthonie Stuiver, to explain how it works.

“When you apply a “normal” coating and a heat reflective coating, both of them will heat up. The heat reflective coating (Cool Chemistry) will heat up less, compared with the coating that doesn’t have heat reflective pigments, so it can help keep the building cooler. However, even though it heats up less, it still heats up. That’s why we’re currently developing Cool Coatings, which don’t heat up at all. These special coatings can radiate heat, but don’t absorb it. As a result, they can start to cool.

Known as passive radiative cooling, the technology used in Cool Coatings has shown in tests that it can reduce temperatures by more than 5° Celsius. “Cool Coatings are amazing,” continues Stuiver. “The principles have been known for some time, but innovative academics have recently been showing how we can bring this to the next level and create coatings that don’t heat up at all, or can even induce a cooling effect.”

He adds that if tests continue to go well, the very first product – an exterior wall paint – could be launched within the next few years. 

Learn more about some of our sustainable solutions.

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