LEED v4 Impact On Painting Decisions

By Rick Watson
From the September/October 2015 Issue

In LEED 2009, paints and coatings were able to contribute mainly to two LEED credits—Low Emitting Materials and Heat Island Effect. In LEED v4, paints may contribute to five credits. (Photo: Sherwin-Williams)

When the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system was overhauled about two years ago, one of the key changes was an increased focus on the content of the materials used in producing building products. The launch of LEED v4, the newest rating system, led applicators and specifiers to look for paints and coatings that met the updated requirements, while still providing top-notch performance.

LEED v4, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, is more focused on materials and how they affect the environmental quality of a space. As a result, many paint manufacturers have worked to provide coatings that meet the v4 standards and volatile organic compounds (VOC) regulations, while also providing the benefits facility executives expect, including washability and maximum coverage with fewer coats.

Originally developed in the mid-1990s, LEED is a set of rating systems designed to provide consistent and credible standards for sustainable buildings. It includes construction, design, operation, and maintenance, and projects earn credits that add up to satisfy green building requirements.

LEED v4 is quite different from the previous rating systems and, as an example, it places a premium on disclosing materials used in paint. For instance, LEED credits for coatings can now be obtained by simply being forthcoming with product ingredient information.

Paint manufacturers responded to the latest version of LEED by creating products that satisfy the new requirements, making it easier for specifiers to meet the v4 guidelines.

As mentioned earlier, one of the primary aspects of LEED v4 relates to material disclosure. The rating system takes into account not only what a component is, but also where it came from. For instance, there are colorants—used to tint latex and water-based paints—that do not add to the VOC content of paint and are packaged in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles made of recycled plastic.

Indoor Environmental Quality

The LEED v4 IEQ credit relates especially to coatings and paints, with the intent to reduce concentrations of chemical contaminants. It includes requirements for the manufacture of the product, as well as for the teams applying the product (when it’s applied wet, on-site). A building’s interior is defined as anything within the waterproofing membrane.

This credit covers VOC emissions into the indoor air, the VOC content of the materials, and testing methods by which indoor VOC emissions are determined. The threshold of compliance is at least 90% by volume for emissions, and 100% for VOC content.

All coatings and paints applied on-site must meet applicable California Air Resources Board (CARB) limits or the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMB) VOC Rules.

For healthcare facilities and schools, all products applied to the exterior of the building must meet both CARB and SCAQMB.

The good news is there are many paints and coatings that meet these stringent guidelines.

Identifying The Right Coating

LEED v4 is a complex rating system unlike any of the versions that came before it. In many cases, facility managers are aware of LEED and desire to achieve a high level of environmental sustainability. However, their primary concern in the end is in balancing that desire with their need to use products that meet performance, aesthetic, and budget requirements. In that regard, it’s important that facility managers ensure they draw on all knowledgeable resources—whether that’s their architect, contractor, or paint manufacturer—who understands the details of LEED v4.

FESeptOct15-CaseStudySB-RickWatsonWatson is director of product information and technical services at Sherwin-Williams. He joined the company in 1988 in the management training program. Shortly thereafter he became a professional coating sales representative in Ft. Wayne, IN. Watson progressed through a number of roles of greater responsibility to his current position in Cleveland, OH.

Sherwin-Williams has developed a reference guide, “Green Programs & VOC Regulated Areas” that includes information on LEED and other green building standards, as these relate to paint and coating choices. Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or send an e-mail to the Editor at acosgrove@groupc.com.