Focus on construction: Fostering sustainability for a greener building industry

07 December 2023

Experts from IMCD Coatings & Construction discuss how sustainability is taking centre stage in the construction coatings sector and how to improve a product’s green credentials

In IMCD‘s ‘Coatings & Construction Global Customer Trends Survey 2023-2024’, 34% of the respondents selected ‘Green & Circular’ as the most impactful megatrend for the next two years. Within the construction market segment, the respondents ranked it even higher at 38%, decorative coatings was at 37% and industrial coatings 28%. When we look at the formulation trends in this segment, the rating becomes apparent.

Green buildings and energy efficiency

One key driver for a more sustainable future is adopting greener buildings and infrastructure. Thermal insulation is one way to help increase energy efficiency and the well-being of its inhabitants. IMCD’s most recent project on this topic is a flexible thermal insulation system composed of three layers: render, skim coat and decorative paint. As a result, this system allows to get the same thermal insulation value as the most common insulation panel: ETICS, or External Thermal Insulation Composite System with EPS (expanded Poly Styrene).

Reducing carbon footprint

Cement accounts for nearly eight percent of global emissions. For cement-based products, an effective way to reduce the carbon footprint is switching to blended cement. For dry-mix products, such as grouts, tile adhesives or self-levelling compounds blended cement can result in a 10-30% reduction in the carbon footprint compared to cement Type I.

Moving from solventborne to waterborne

When creating more sustainable formulations, one of the goals is to achieve the same performance results as traditional ones, ensuring a seamless integration into the market. Waterborne coatings have matched the performance of their solvent-based counterparts in many markets and are a good example of this effort.

Alternative raw materials

Bio-based formulations are expected to grow in the next few years and are one piece of the carbon reduction puzzle. For 74% of our customers, the use of renewable raw materials will be an important formulation trend. One market segment that is driving the adoption is architectural coatings.

When formulating towards CO2 neutral paints and becoming more circular, customers in Europe, the Middle East & Africa and South America listed recycled raw materials. IMCD used their portfolio of recycled binders, pigments and fillers combined with more sustainable additives to formulate water-based decorative paints based on 80% recycled materials.


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Tackling sustainability in a practical matter

Sustainability is a continuous process that requires constant evolution. Collaboration and commitment to environmentally responsible practices are the key to unlocking a greener and more sustainable industry. To facilitate this journey towards sustainability, selecting the right materials is important. However, formulators often encounter challenges when navigating through various definitions and concepts that may convey similar meanings.

To address this, IMCD Coatings & Construction has taken steps through its Sustainable Solutions programme to align the industry’s definitions and avoid greenwashing. As part of this effort, IMCD aims to simplify the material selection process by organising its sustainable materials into six categories that are most relevant in the coatings and construction industry. Each category adheres to specific rules based on leading sustainability standards. This approach ensures that materials undergo rigorous evaluation in line with predefined standards, providing documented evidence of their sustainability benefits.

  • Circular & Renewable: Materials in this category aim to reduce dependency on fossil-based resources. They embrace circularity by harnessing renewable, bio-based, recycled, or waste materials, thereby contributing to a more sustainable resource ecosystem.
  • Durability & Maintenance: Enhancing the longevity of final formulations, these materials not only improve performance but also decrease maintenance needs. This translates to significant resource savings over a product’s lifecycle.
  • Emissions, Waste & Resources: These materials reduce or eliminate emissions and waste from cradle to grave, helping achieve a lower carbon footprint.
  • Material Efficiency & Innovation: Materials here achieve comparable or superior performance while demanding fewer resources. This is achieved by optimising active ingredients, volume solids, or overall formulation performance.
  • People, Health & Safety: Prioritising the well-being of both users and the environment, these materials eliminate hazardous substances or enable the formulation of safer products by replacing concerning substances.
  • Productivity & Energy Savings: Think of materials that increase productivity or reduce the need for energy in the manufacturing process and during application, or that have properties that deliver energy savings in the end use.

In summary, there is a growing emphasis on environmental, social and governmental policies. Even though sustainability is an ongoing journey, it can be attainable through innovation, collaboration and transparency. Together, we can unlock a greener and more resilient future.

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