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Canada’s New VOC Rules in Paint & Coatings and its Impact on Green Building Standards

Ahin Bose, National Marketing Manager, Canada
The Sherwin-Williams Company

Amid the growing customer demand for green design solutions, it is important that trade professionals understand the standards and future regulation changes for achieving green building certifications. When it comes to meeting those standards with paints and coatings, guidelines on indoor air quality are important to follow. The good news is that paints low in odour and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can help meet these indoor air requirements.

To be classified or marketed as low-VOC paint, government organizations require that the VOCs are limited to 50 grams per liter for field applications. Green paints that meet these environmental standards have 20-30 percent of the VOCs of traditional paints. However, low VOC should not be the only criteria for green. Quality green coatings should also offer trade professionals a number of performance benefits. These include minimal odour that allows for application in occupied spaces; better hiding and longer lasting performance to minimize the frequency of repaints; antimicrobial properties that resist mould and mildew on the paint film to maintain a fresh appearance; superior stain and burnish mark resistance that make the coatings a perfect fit for high-traffic areas; and a washable, scrubbable surface that eliminates the need for harsh cleaning chemicals.

While these performance benefits make specification of quality green paints seem like an easy choice, it can still be a challenging decision for trade professionals. This is largely due to the fact that it can be difficult to stay up to date on the VOC content regulations and standards that qualify a coating as “green.” In September 2010, the Canadian Federal Government enforced a structured VOC limitation program that set forth rules that can be implemented by industry. The Regulation introduced 53 coatings categories, modeled from the standards set forth by the U.S Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) each with a set content limit that exceeds any previous federally required standard seen in Canada. While the VOC requirement being introduced does not automatically deem all products as “green”, it does provide a definite platform from which to build from and improve upon for coatings manufacturers and their customers.

For painting contractors, their customers, and the public generally the challenge becomes one of understanding and accepting the new rule changes. The acceptance that very soon, older technologies, now deemed non-compliant, are either be gone already, or will soon disappear from shelves forever. The acceptance that, as an example, oil based surfaces in architectural environments cannot be readily recoated with any another oil, and that extra time will be needed to correctly prepare a surface for recoat with a compliant option. While the Regulation does not allow for the import and/or manufacture of any products deemed non-complaint as of last September, it has allowed vendors to sell through products for a set period of time as long as it was created before the Regulation came into force. It really is a case of “get it while you can”, but many contractors have already decided to push ahead with their own changeover plans, and have moved to new lower VOC technologies before being forced to do so.

Using Green Design to Build Business Success

As technology improves and we all become more aware of our global footprint, the green trend will soon simply become the green standard, and understanding how to meet the new regulations will be a differentiating factor for consumers when selecting a paint, building, or design contractor. As the green building movement gains momentum, consumers are getting smarter about the sustainable aspects of their purchases. What’s more, they want to do business with companies who exhibit a strong commitment to the environment while making the products they will purchase. Trade professionals who are in step with the green regulations, knowledgeable of green coating trends and who provide environmentally friendly product offerings will be a valuable resource to their customers.

Be sure to talk with a reputable manufacturer’s representative about green paint and coating options. Knowledgeable specialists can provide specific product information and technical performance data that will help in selecting products that deliver maximum quality, appearance, performance and value to customers.

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