Environment sets the rules – developing durable exterior products is a balancing act
Development of high-quality exterior products results in the long life-cycle of exterior surfaces and decreased environmental impact. Climate conditions set a variety of requirements for products that must function both in heat and frost, rain and sun.
The third-generation paints are soon here. So, believes Pernilla Ståhle, head of the Group Expert Team for Exterior products and head of the RDI in Sweden. By third generation paints she refers to bio-based products, made of renewable plant-based raw materials. These lay ground for an oil-free future. For now, however, those products are still in the early phases of development.
– Water-borne products, the second generation of paints, are now the market standard. First, they were rather expensive compared to solvent-borne products, but as the water-borne products were developed further, they became more affordable, mainstream and of high quality, Ståhle tells.
Developing only high-quality water-borne products is not, however, enough anymore. Questions regarding health and the environment play a significant role in the development process. Tikkurila has responded to the market demands by concentrating on sustainable and safe solutions, both in research and product development.
Healthy choices for climate and customersNearly all Tikkurila exterior products in Scandinavia are now water-borne. Other market areas are following the trend.
– People are more aware of the health impacts. From water-borne products, it is mainly water that evaporates into the air, whereas from solvent-borne products it is solvent that evaporates. The rest of the product that is left on the surface is basically the same, Ståhle states.
In addition to health impacts and user friendliness, environmental questions play a big role in the development of exterior products.
– More and more regulations guide the selection of raw materials and the use of chemicals in the products. In addition, climate change affects our long-term strategy in developing products, Ståhle explains.
Long-term protectionExterior products play a rather big role in prolonging the life-cycle of a building and its maintenance cycle. Long service life of surfaces is a key principle in durable exterior painting. Long service life is guaranteed by various tests which stress the surfaces like the real climate conditions do.
Tikkurila exterior products are tested against UV exposure, both outside in real life as well as in demanding laboratory tests simulating rain, heat and sunshine in cycles.
– Creation of high-quality products that are also environmentally friendly is a real challenge which requires chemists with long experience and deep knowledge in Polymer chemistry.
In the future, we might see exterior products that are self-cleaning and energy efficient. Now there are already a wide variety of exterior products that do more than protect the surface and make them beautiful.
– Some products are integrating with the treated substrate, which means that they do not show, but are absorbed into the surfaces and structures, making them stronger or giving them other functionalities. These are used for example in the concrete elements used in constructing bridges, Joonas Auvinen, Group Product Portfolio Manager tells.
Auvinen knows how to find a solution for almost every surface in the city. Tikkurila has solutions for various surfaces – both vertical and horizontal, for instance for concrete, roofs and plastered surfaces. Repairing facades is time consuming and often expensive, so a long maintenance cycle is important for clients.
Climate conditions set the requirementsTikkurila operates in several different climate conditions, which set different kind of challenges and expectations for the durability of exterior products.
– For example, in the Nordic countries exterior products may have to endure more than hundred cycles of temperatures passing through zero degrees, whereas in Southern Europe the number of these cycles is lower, Auvinen tells.
According to Auvinen, regardless of the market area, what customers value the most is safety and easy user experience. However, there are several differences between market areas regarding the appropriate maintenance cycle and construction culture.
– In Southern Europe, more vivid colors are used than in the Nordics. The construction culture differs also in the way how coatings are used. In Finland, for example, a faded color is a reason to paint the surface again. In contrast, e.g. in Russia fading is considered natural and the surface is maintained when it starts to crack.
Despite differences between market areas, there has been a clear shift in the painting culture. All stakeholders from raw material suppliers to producers and consumers value options that are both of good quality and safe, for them and the environment.
5 facts about Tikkurila's water-borne exterior paints
Text: Eveliina Salomaa, Vapa Media
Images: Tikkurila Oyj