Developing a better trade paint and a tool for sustainable product development

Dulux Trade paints have long enjoyed a reputation for quality and performance. So when “specifiers” – the builders and architects who determine what products will be used for a particular job – began to include sustainability in their specifications, Dulux was confronted with a major challenge: to strengthen the sustainability profile of its products without sacrificing quality.

To meet the challenge, Dulux launched a project in 2007 which eventually led to the introduction of Dulux Trade Ecosure® Matt, the first product in a new range characterized by significantly lower “embodied carbon” profiles and virtually zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) content. Embodied carbon is a measure of the total CO2 emissions produced during the production and delivery of a product.

Environmental Impact Analyser

To achieve that goal, Dulux teamed up with an independent agency, Forum for the Future, to develop an “Environmental Impact Analyser™”. Then, with assistance from raw materials suppliers, it carefully assessed every aspect of the paint manufacturing process.

‘Dialing up’ alternatives

That assessment revealed which components are the highest contributors to embodied carbon. Taking advantage of computer modeling – combined with further research – it was then possible to ‘dial up’ alternative formulations delivering lower embodied carbon without sacrificing product quality.

According to Richard Barcock, UK Paint Technical Manager for Decorative Coatings, the team he led concluded that the preferred approach was to adopt what is called a high PVC (Pigment Volume Concentration) formulation – basically, using higher levels of pigment for a given concentration of the binder in the matt paint, which yields excellent covering power (opacity).

But here, the team faced a serious problem. “Typically, as you increase the amount of pigment to binder,” Richard explains, “you get to a point where there’s not enough binder to hold the pigment particles together, which leads to poor cohesion and a deterioration in the paint film performance.” Happily, the team hit upon a breakthrough discovery: with the inclusion of a novel high performing polymer resin, paint film durability is every bit as good as the more traditional matt paint formulations. That has been great for AkzoNobel customers, of course. But in addition, the Environmental Impact Analyser developed for the project is now being used to bring a wide range of more sustainable products into the marketplace.

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