Volatile organic compounds, more commonly referred to as VOC’s, are a group of carbon-based chemicals that can easily evaporate at room temperature. VOC’s are commonly found in building products, furnishings and paints used in everyday life and they also contribute to greenhouse gases.
The greater emphasis on the environment and green-building practices is helping to educate manufacturers and consumers on the green credentials of their products, services and facilities. The big name commonly used to support green credential claims across Europe and the U.S is LEED®, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system set up by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to assess the environmental credentials of a building.
Validating sustainable building strategies and practices used in the design, construction and operation of buildings is a high priority for manufacturers and developers, who strive to be LEED® leaders. For sustainable building practitioners, understanding volatile organic compounds, knowing what the acceptable levels are and being able to make an educated decision when specifying products and materials to improve a facility’s air quality is at the top of the priority list.
Locally, the name commonly used when discussing environmentally friendly design and construction is The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and the Green Star rating system. Launched by GBCA in 2003, Green Star provides a framework of best practice benchmarks for sustainability and assess sustainable design, construction and operation of buildings, fit-outs and communities using four key rating tools. These rating tools cover a wide range of sustainable topics including energy and emissions.
The current Green Star – Interiors v1.2 rating system lists the Max VOC (TVOC) content limit (g/l of ready-to-use product) as:
|Product Type/Sub Category||Max TVOC content|
|Walls and ceilings – interior gloss||75|
|Walls and ceilings – interior semi gloss||16|
|Walls and ceilings – interior low sheen||16|
|Walls and ceilings – interior flat washable||16|
|Ceilings – interior flat||14|
|Trim – gloss, semi gloss, satin, varnishes and wood stains||75|
|Timber and binding primers **||30|
|Latex primer for galvanized iron and zincalume||60|
|Interior latex undercoat||65|
|One or two pack performance coatings for floors **||140|
|Any solvent-based coatings whose purpose is not covered in table||200|
|Maximum TVOC Content Limits for Paints, Varnishes and Protective Coatings
* g/l of ready-to-use product
Many types of floor coverings contain VOC’s including carpet, vinyl and resin-based flooring to name a few and the level of VOC content can vary greatly from floor covering to floor covering. There is a common misconception that all resin-based flooring materials contain high levels of VOC’s, however, this is not always the case and when it comes to resin flooring, not all materials emit the same level of VOC’s.
Paints and coatings used within the interior of a building seeking to meet Green Star requirements should not exceed limits for volatile organic compounds. This helps to reduce the number of indoor air contaminants that are odorous, irritating, and/or harmful, improving the comfort and well-being of installers and occupants and helping to improve the green credentials of the buildings themselves.
Flowcrete manufactures a large number of floor paints and specialist resin floor coatings that are either extremely low in VOC content or completely VOC-free, meeting the relevant Green Star TVOC requirements for low emitting materials and air quality.