Painting The Town Green: 
How AkzoNobel Is Championing
Sustainability In The Paints Industry

From paints developed to cool down buildings, to emulsions designed to prevent the growth of bacteria, here’s a look at some of the ways in which paints and coatings company AkzoNobel is paving a greener way forward.

With climate change and global warming looming, sustainable solutions are becoming more common. There are more electric vehicles on the road, plastic straws are being replaced with paper ones, and even paints are becoming greener—and no, we’re not talking about the colour!

If you’ve ever moved to a new or redecorated your current home, you’d know the importance of paint. There are thousands of different shades of the same colour, and even the slightest difference could impact how your room looks. But did you know that apart from aesthetics, paints and coatings can also create warming or cooling effects on your home?

Enter AkzoNobel, the parent company of many paints and performance coatings brands (including the iconic Dulux paints) that’s leading the way in terms of sustainability in the paints and coatings industry. We sat down with David Teng, Commercial Director at AkzoNobel Decorative Paints (South East & Asia Pacific), to talk about all things green, from their signature KeepCool™ paints, to their annual Paint the Future challenges and their partnership with McLaren Racing.

KeepCool™ & Carry On

The journey towards sustainability is a never-ending one, and David tells us that over the years, sustainability has been integrated in everything that AkzoNobel does. One way in which this is exemplified is through the development of products like their KeepCool™ technology for paints.

Designed to tackle the problem of global rising temperatures, the KeepCool™ technology, when used on roofs and facades, is able to reflect invisible infrared energy—which is virtually half of the sun’s energy—responsible for the increased temperatures in urban areas compared to its surroundings. By reflecting this energy, paints with KeepCool™ technology can lower exterior surface temperatures of buildings by up to 5°C, resulting in a 10-15% energy savings annually as less air-conditioning is required for cooling.

For interior spaces, Dulux’s Wash & Wear Anti-Viral emulsion is another one of AkzoNobel’s breakthrough developments that protects walls against the growth of certain bacteria and viruses, with the added benefit of repelling tough stains, which makes cleaning up easier—great for homes and families with children.

Apart from these products, David shares some of the big plans the company has for future products.

“We are designing innovative products that are able to purify the air around us by contributing to the abatement of noxious emissions from motor vehicles and decompose harmful gases like nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).” He adds that they are also in the process of developing more durable exterior paints that do not fade under strong ultraviolet (UV) rays, to decrease the need of repainting. Ambitious, but also very exciting.

Some of AkzoNobel’s innovative product offerings include the Dulux Pentalite with Hygiene+ and Procover+ technology to prevent the growth of mold and fungus, and provides higher opacity with a single coat, the Dulux Wash- & Wear with Anti-Viral properties, and the Dulux Weathershield Powerflexx with its signature KeepCool™technology. Images courtesy of AkzoNobel.

On The Fast Track

Testing out prototypes and new formulations in labs is standard protocol, but a great way to really put new developments to the test is by partnering with organisations that can make full use of these products, and AkzoNobel’s long-standing partnership with McLaren Racing is one such pairing.

A McLaren race car from 2018. Image courtesy of AkzoNobel

Having worked together since 2008, AkzoNobel and McLaren Racing extended their 13-year partnership yet again this year, just ahead of the recent Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain. This year, AkzoNobel provided heat shielding with their Intertherm 50 high temperature coating for McLaren’s new MCL36 race car, of which a single coat is thinner than the width of a human hair. Yup, we’re amazed too.

Of course, you might be wondering how this is related to sustainability. As McLaren Racing’s new sustainability partner, moving forward, AzkoNobel hopes to explore new possibilities in the areas of sustainability, technological innovation, and product development. And with Formula 1’s aim to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030, we can expect to get a glimpse of new, greener products on the tracks soon.

The Future Is Painted

When it comes to innovation, nothing beats the wacky ideas that young, fresh minds can come up with, which is why AkzoNobel introduced their Paint the Future global startup challenge back in 2019, which has been held annually since.

Two of the winning teams of AkzoNobel’s 2019 Paint the Future challenge got the chance to further develop and produce their winning solutions—an autonomous building-painting drone and an automated weatherproof spraying head known as the Slash (pictured above)—with AkzoNobel. Image courtesy of AkzoNobel.

As part of the programme, AkzoNobel invites startups from all around the world to submit their solutions to key challenges highlighted by the AkzoNobel team each year. After which, a handful of finalists are selected to participate in an accelerator event, and the winners get the chance to work with AkzoNobel to further develop their solutions and explore mutual opportunities.

Some of the winning solutions from the inaugural edition of the Paint the Future challenge are quite impressive. Apellix, an American startup won with their custom-built drone for autonomous paint application that works while tethered to the ground for power and paint or coating supply. This vastly reduces the amount of time and effort needed to paint large buildings, as well as product wastage as the drone is able to paint more even coatings than the average person can.

Similarly, Qlayers’ winning idea was an automated painting and spraying head designed to coat large surfaces in any weather conditions. The Netherlands-based startup’s device reduces the manpower required to complete large painting jobs, and prevents over-spraying of products from occurring, minimising waste.

This year, the Paint the Future challenge is based in India, and will focus specifically on digital consumer experiences—we can’t wait to see what innovative ideas will be shared!

In such a competitive industry, there is a constant need to innovate, develop new and improved products, and implement more sustainable practices consistently, which can be overwhelming. However, David tells us that seeing all of the breakthroughs being made and collaborations across industries are what inspire him to keep going day after day.

“Developments move at high speed in this industry, but such innovations are only meaningful when they bring real-life, long-term economic and environmental benefits to people and the world as a whole, so I’m always inspired to try my best to meet these needs,” David says.

Likewise, we’re excited to see what new products AkzoNobel will release next. But for now, we’ll be busy repainting our walls with some of that Dulux Anti-Viral emulsion.

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