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Painting Preventively : paints to eliminate health hazards

Big Project ME looks at the growing market for functional paints

Paint manufacturers in the region are already producing sustainable products

Dubai last month witnessed a new set of building code – 79 regulations make up the Green Building Code created by the Dubai Municipality. All eyes will now be on the various components of the construction market – particularly, their ability to adapt to the new directives.

Paint manufacturers, though, it would seem, are already ahead in the race towards achieving their ‘green’ goals. “Paint is one of the oldest construction materials,” says Syed Ameer Hamza Hasan, CEO of Kansai Paint ME.

“It is a medium of communication and expression for the end-users, but essentially it’s been intertwined with life itself,” he adds, referencing to the protective aspect of paints in the lifecycle of a building.

Broadly, three codes regulate the specifications and processes for paint products in the region. Besides the extensive LEED and Estidama ratings, manufacturers often also work within the framework of the Master Painters Institute, an international body dedicated to educating about and accrediting the paints industry.

At least two local and multiple international companies are household names for paint products, and their industry in the region is large. “The country’s market alone is worth 75 million liters per annum,” says Laurence Brown, country manager for Hempel Paints Emirates.

“Our architectural and concrete coatings account for 5-6% of the current market share,” he adds.

75 million liters is a substantial number in a country that is rapidly moving towards glass facades, and paint manufacturers are now focusing on – much like their glass counterparts – increasing the functionalities of their products.

“Global companies are leading innovation in paints,” explains Hasan, “not only with a sense of altruism – although there are such companies too – but mostly to create a sense of brand differentiation.

“Therefore, the trend now is towards sustainability – vegetable-based resins have replaced oil-based ones, and there is a reduction to total elimination of solvents in products to avoid their associated fumes,” he adds.

Hasan’s point is a valid one – indoor paints, for all their advantages of economy, decoration and flexibility, are questionably appropriate for sensitive audiences, such as those in schools and hospitals.

“In schools, for instance, there are greater pollution levels due to the increased number of children, and the propensity to get infected is higher,” says Hasan.

“Unfortunately, most people (developers/contractors) don’t use anti-bacterial paints in schools, despite the fact that high quality anti-bacterial paints are known to reduce bacterial elements by 99.99%!”

Brown lists the primary ingredients that go into the creation of audience-friendly paints.

“The two most important requirements common between the (abovementioned) codes are the use of non-toxic raw materials for production, and low rates volatile organic content (VOC) in the final product.

“It is also our policy as a company to ensure all our products are ‘zero-lead’,” he adds, referring to the elimination of the metal as a raw material to reduce the toxicity of applied paint.

While municipal codes govern the specifications of a product, competition ensures continuous research and development are undertaken to promote market share. Returning to his argument about altruistic practices, Hasan adds. “Augmenting the existing functionalities of paints has become essential, especially in countries like UAE where high footfall is a commonality.

“The need is high for a paint that lives and thinks. For instance, locations such as Dubai Mall require paints with evolved characteristics to ensure the high traffic does not promote spread of diseases.”

Undeniably then, the role of the government becomes crucial in the decision-making process pertaining to the choice of paints. Contractors, often in a bid to cut costs, may compromise on the functionalities and safety aspects – as might a layman customer. Hasan identifies this as scope for governmental activities to promote better construction practices.

“UAE is a thriving country on its road to bigger achievements in the next few years. However, most global governments or national systems are typically not organised to realise the cost of expensive, multi-functional raw materials (paints) as a prevented loss of manpower or medication.

“Showing the construction industry and end-users the bigger picture through education is definitely something the government can undertake in the future,” Hasan adds.

The paints industry is an oft-forgotten one in the myriad of construction elements – its quality is an expense best calculated as profiting longevity or deteriorating health standards.  As technology evolves to develop functionalities like temperature-reduction, bacteria-resistance and fire-safety, UAE’s market for paints eagerly grow into a critical one for the construction industry.

This feature first appeared in the February 2014 edition of Big Project ME. Read the full version here.

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