Architects, construction specifiers and building owners are shortchanged on comprehensive, objective technical information about the properties and performance characteristics of architectural paint and coatings when faced with the task of evaluating and specifying such materials.
| Walter Scarborough|
That was a central message delivered Tuesday during the opening program presentation at the SSPC Commercial Coatings and Flooring Symposium, part of the SSPC 2012 convention in Tampa, Fla.
Walter Scarborough, Dallas regional manager of HALL Building Information Group LLC and a nationally recognized authority on construction specifications, said specifiers and architects find it problematic to evaluate or make comparisons among architectural paint and coatings products due to the “lack of independent and objective product standards based on technical testing of product qualities and performance.”
Scarborough was the opening speaker at the Commercial Coating and Flooring Symposium, a diverse program sponsored by Durability + Design. He addressed the topic of “An Architect’s Call for Paint Standards.”
Scarborough’s presentation served as a kind of thematic preface to the Commercial Coating and Flooring Symposium, which was organized and presented by the recently formed SSPC Commercial Coating Committee.
SSPC has given the committee a mission of developing independent, consensus-based standards on various types of coatings and related materials used in commercial and institutional applications. The committee’s scope of work also includes the development of guides related to surface preparation, coatings selection and coatings application for the commercial, architectural and institutional sectors.
Ken Trimber, president of KTA-Tator Inc., is chair of the Commercial Coating Committee.
The Specifier’s Dilemma
Jokingly calling the standards-deprived reality faced by specifiers “My Personal Dilemma,” Scarborough said that as an architect, he “gets a little depressed” when he is faced with writing an architectural paint specification because he doesn’t have the technical data to evaluate and select the appropriate paint products.
“It’s almost impossible, because of the absence of independent product standards, to make an educated decision based on an evaluation of competitive products,” he said.
Illustrating the point, Scarborough recited some of the terms he frequently encounters when reviewing product data literature on architectural paint and coatings. The products might be described as offering “long-lasting beauty,” for example, or be called “best,” “high hiding,” “resistant to scuffs,” or maybe even the “ultimate in stain resistance” or “revolutionary.”
“How long is ‘long lasting,’ and what is the definition of ‘beauty?’” he said. “Are there paint products that are short-lasting and ugly?”
The term “best” implies that other products might be labeled as “good” or “better” or maybe even “economy,” he continued. “However, product literature containing these other words has never been seen.”
He proceeded to skewer the subjectivity of such product-literature claims, asking, for example, if “very easy application” implies that other products are “hard to apply,” or ask what is meant by “superior scuff and burnish resistance.”
“Does that term mean other products possess other levels of resistance? What constitutes burnish?” he asked.
Scarborough said a short list of data information currently seen in product literature is somewhat useful, such as solids by weight and volume, gloss level and volatile organic compound content. Other data may be useful to the applicator, such as viscosity, dry time, coverage, and cleanup.
But far too often, he said, specifiers are left to make too many decisions based on common perceptions, such as the conclusion that percentage of titanium dioxide is the definitive measure of quality, that three coats should be applied to any surface to be painted, or that water-based products are inferior to solvent-based products.
“When a specifier writes a specification, one of the most important objectives is to establish a competitive bidding environment, which is usually accomplished by naming several manufacturers and products in which the products are competitively equivalent,” he said. “However, this is almost impossible for architectural paint products because there is no categorization of paint types nor objectively-based data about quality and performance properties. There is not an effective way to establish that competitive bidding environment because it is impossible to determine equivalent products.
“Essentially, there are no standards for architectural paint products.”
The Standards Imperative
Specifiers, Scarborough said, typically rely on independently developed industry standards in crafting specifications. These standards are usually developed and maintained by a consensus of members of an association, society, council, or institute directly involved with the material, service or function that is the subject of the standard.
In the case of architectural paint and coatings, meanwhile, the specifier is left to his or her own investigative skill or experience to evaluate and specify products and systems.
To address this void, Scarborough listed a number of measures of product performance and characteristics where standards should be developed. These measures should include washability, scrubbability, hiding, hardness, durability, resistance to stains and scuffs, abrasion resistance, surface burning characteristics, permeability and resistance to air infiltration, and sustainability.
He said such standards should quantify and qualify such performance or properties, and in some cases define such qualities at different performance levels. Such standards, he said, should be similar to those that currently apply to high-performance protective coatings.
The SSLPC 2012 Coating and Flooring Symposium also included the following presentations and speakers:
• Extending the Life Cycle of Coatings Applied to Commercial Buildings, Barry Law, Master Painters Institute;
• Fundamentals of Making Good Decisions in Coating Selection, Allen Zielnik, Atlas Material Testing Technology, an AMETEK Company;
• New Architectural Wall Coatings Technology Targeted at Stricter Hospital Infection Protocols, Steven Reinstadtler, Bayer MaterialScience;
• Moisture Vapor Emission Rates of Concrete Floors—Can Moisture Meters be Used Instead of Anhydrous Calcium Chloride?, Kevin Brown, KTA-Tator Inc., and George Holz;
• Hard Truths about Concrete Polishing, Joe Reardon, PROSOCO Concrete Products Group;
• The Impact of the Painting Industry by New Building Codes and Standards for Air/Vapor Barriers, Kevin Knight, Retro-Specs Ltd.
• Air Barrier Testing of Concrete Masonry Assemblies and the Effects of Surface Coatings on Air Permeance, Nicholas R. Lang and Jason J. Thompson, National Concrete Masonry Association;
• Use of Atlas Test Cells to Assess the Performance of Coatings over CMU with Varied Permeance, Cindy O’Malley, KTA-Tator Inc.; Chuck Duffin, Sto Corp.; and Steve Revnew, The Sherwin-Williams Company;
• The New SSPC Commercial/Light Industrial Committee, Ken Trimber, KTA-Tator Inc.