Pushing boundaries for the environment
By DALE BANTON Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings EMEAI.
THE pressures for more environmentally-friendly products to meet even higher specification requirements from architects and designers means the flooring industry must push the boundaries. Here we’ll examine the emerging issues for flooring technology serving fast-moving markets. The flooring industry faces increasing pressures from the regulatory authorities and the government for environmentally-friendly products throughout the supply chain.
At the same time, the rise in complex building designs, new materials and tougher specification, brings increased expectations from architects and specifiers who want to know they can meet these new levels of compliance without compromising design and safety.
The use of epoxy and polyurethane resins for industrial and commercial premises makes concrete exceptionally durable and offers robust protection, especially for food and beverage and pharma environments.
The priorities of the high-tech manufacturing and industrial processing sectors are increasingly focusing on improving quality, hygiene and safety, with emphasis on creating stringently clean production environments.
When it comes to applying new or refurbished flooring or wall coatings, the requirement is to create a safer workplace for employees, reduce risk of odour or tainting in the production process while at the same time keep any disruption to working operations to a minimum.
For the food and drink industries particularly – or those sectors producing goods which rely on the highest hygiene standards – this has become a pre-requisite rather than desirable.
Each and every project presents its own specific requirements and should be considered on its own merits against a series of criteria.
These will include a full understanding of the site, the specific environment it will be applied in and what is being produced in that facility. Only then can the resin flooring solution be chosen to ensure it meets all performance needs.
Resin flooring products are by nature hard-wearing, created by mixing together a combination of materials to start a fast, controlled reaction, resulting in effective protection in heavy commercial and industrial environments.
However, in using solvents which give them their good wetting properties, there’s also a presence to a greater or lesser degree of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have also been linked to side-effects for people working in these environments.
A breakthrough using science
In listening to our customers through our own research to understand their needs, our advances in science and technology have enabled us at Sherwin-Williams to meet even higher project specifications with a dramatic effect on the levels of solvents used.
The result is the Elladur range, which represents a breakthrough for the industry, and our customers. Created by a specialist team of chemists, this takes the very best of polyaspartic technology – enabling fast curing of the coating – to new levels making it easier and safer for applicators and allowing fast return to service
We have developed a product which reduces the levels of VOCs with rapid curing and reduces turnaround times to hours rather than days. Customers also benefit from its UV stability which means no discolouring and its non-tainting properties with no lingering unwanted odours.
We are also working to the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), providing a certified score of environmental sustainability while demonstrating compliance to best practice requirements.
Comprehensive and rigorous trials
For the manufacturing and industrial markets particularly the food and drink, health and pharmaceuticals industries – where hygiene must be of the highest level – this breakthrough in technology is a significant leap forward.
Comprehensive and rigorous trials of this range of products provide evidence it’s possible to meet the most challenging requirements in hygiene and durability while offering safe, easy use of handling and application of the coating.
Using our own testing laboratory on-site, we have pushed these products through the most stringent technical and mechanical requirements. This has included tests for abrasion to assess wear and tear, and adhesion trials for performance, generating measurable data for all relevant characteristics.
With the increasing demands for a sustainable flooring industry, and with the changing requirements of architects and designers, we must continue to find new solutions for these challenging environments.
The chemist’s view
Industrial chemist Ali Kalantar of Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine EMEAI provides the background for finding a cleaner, greener solution – and the benefits to the marketplace.
Whatever we come up with in an industrial laboratory it has to work in a real-life site scenario.
We’re always mindful when we look at new formulations on what differences there might be in a controlled environment versus an actual site situation, where there are many differing circumstances and indeed environmental conditions.
Elladur was developed and trialled working closely with customers in the field to understand concerns and challenges and find solutions that would work in many different scenarios and environments.
R&D work started in earnest had seen an opportunity to create a product range that can deal with the demands of modern construction while maintaining high performance and expectations. A big issue with polysaspartics products is the short workable potlife.
As it’s a fast-curing technology you sometimes only have between three to four minutes to mix and apply the materials. Any longer and it becomes sticky and unworkable.
An easy option to extend potlife is the addition of solvent, which then created further issues around odour making it pretty unpleasant to use.
Solvents also helped maintain viscosity and provided good wetting properties so it wasn’t easy getting to grips with a new technology that did without them.
In developing Elladur we tackled these common complaints and we’ve succeeded – after two years of research and trial – to create a totally solvent-free system without the loss of performance.
Elladur has a good workable potlife with low odour and, without solvents; it’s a much nicer product to use.
Why did we go to the effort to make a completely solvent-free product?
Several reasons, but one of the most compelling is its contribution to the lifecycling of a building. Our Elladur range provides high performance flooring solutions in newbuild or refurbishment projects by allowing a fast return to service and not shutting areas down for any longer than they have to be.
It also improves the experience of contractors working with the product by reducing exposure limits and others working around the flooring application, as a low-odour product causes less disruption for others working in close proximity.
Being solvent-free Elladur can also – and probably most importantly – meet the demands of a top end, environmentally-friendly specification like BREEAM for the first time.
Previously, architects often written specifications for a building requiring products with a low VOC content. This was very challenging for the marketplace if the VOC content restricted the performance of a product resulting in the use of inferior products. They ticked all the green boxes, but potentially couldn’t perform in the long term.
This is what we – as a team of chemists – set out to try to resolve.
With our new solvent-free formulation the market can now respond with confidence to a stringent VOC specification without sacrificing performance. We’re actually adding other performance parameters such as fast curing and UV stable technologies.
We’re now already working on the next generation of Elladur products to push boundaries for this state-of-the-art technology even further.
This is what makes it a groundbreaking development.
Diverse industry demands
Different environments require different types of products. The modern food industry requires floor and wall finishes of the highest standards to comply with industry guidelines for increasingly stringent hygiene regulations and efficient production.
This means the choice of resin range is designed to be hardwearing, producing surfaces that are easy to clean and aid the decontamination and maintenance processes and should be:
- Hygienic surface (optional anti-microbial agent)
- Strong robust durable coatings
- Thermal shock protection enables steam/pressure cleaning
- Non-taint products (solvent-free/water-based)
- Suitable for dry or wet process environments
Modern industrial flooring for warehouses and similar environments requires floor and wall finishes which are of the highest standards to meet the day-to-day demands of production and distribution whilst maintaining or improving health, safety and hygiene requirements.
For automotive and related industries, production line environments require hard wearing, chemical resistant, anti-slip, easy to clean and maintain floors.
Workshop environments are realising the benefits of resin flooring solutions and switching from traditional floor paint solutions to hard wearing, durable, anti-slip, easy to maintain resin systems that offer high chemical resistance properties.
The hard, seamless surface achieved with resin coatings means oil and chemical spillages are easily cleaned, maintaining high standards of cleanliness which isn’t possible when operating on a bare concrete floor or painted floor.
Showroom environments generally require hardwearing, easy to clean decorative flooring solutions, with the chosen decorative product often reflecting corporate branding.
For pharmaceutical and healthcare environments, hardwearing and durable finishes are required that are easy to clean and offer real advantages in maintaining high levels of biological and environmental safety, through their ability to withstand effective cleaning regimes.
Resin floor finishes help meet the demanding requirements of health and safety in terms of slip resistance while providing aesthetically pleasing, tough surfaces than can be colour-coordinated for design and safety purposes.