New Heights of Sustainability

Pittsburgh-based corporations PNC Financial Services Group and PPG Industries Inc. have played integral roles in the development of sustainable architecture.

A trend toward increased specification of powder coatings for monumental buildings

By Shelley Verdun

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Given, their proximity and history, it’s no surprise that PPG coatings have figured prominently in many of PNC’s signature architectural projects, including its boldest yet: The Tower at PNC Plaza.

Designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Gensler to be one of the greenest office buildings ever built, the 33-story high-rise appears on the surface to be a conventional glass-and-steel skyscraper.

Yet, the tower’s sleek, powder-coated exterior serves as an attractive cover for the innovative double-skin façade which is engineered, along with a rooftop solar chimney, to create a “breathing” building that uses fresh air and solar energy to naturally cool, heat and ventilate itself for much of the year.

Powder Coatings Enhance Sustainability

Another innovation associated with the double-skin façade for The Tower at PNC Plaza is the use of Coraflon Sunstorm powder coatings by PPG, which were specified for their Sparkling Mica appearance, as well as their hardness and near zero volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. Reducing such emissions while improving energy efficiency, maximizing natural light and optimizing occupant comfort were among the primary  goals for The Tower at PNC Plaza, which earned LEED Platinum certification.

Based on fluoroethylene vinyl ether (FEVE) resin technology, CORAFLON SUNSTORM powder coatings deliver exceptional durability and weatherability in a wide range of colors and glosses, including the Brilliant Mica finish specified for the tower. They also feature performance that is equal to traditional polyvinylidene (PVDF) liquid fluoropolymer coatings, with weathering characteristics that meet or exceed American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) 2605 specifications for corrosion resistance, chemical resistance and other designated criteria.

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World’s Greenest Office Tower

In striving to create the greenest office tower in the world, PNC, Gensler and its project partners constructed a building that was designed to surpass the highest level of LEED certification. Powder coatings played an integral role in that achievement.

For decades, liquid coatings had been the product of choice for monumental building projects in the U.S.; however, demands for more sustainable design and construction have driven increased specification of powder coatings, which are now recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a sustainable coating option.

One primary difference between liquid and powder coatings is the lack of solvents in powder coatings, which virtually eliminates the emission of VOCs. While most liquid coatings applicators address this challenge by incinerating emitted VOCs as fuel, that process still requires consumption of natural gas and, therefore, the emission of carbon.

Compared to liquid coatings, powder coatings also incorporate more efficient material recovery systems for recycling, achieve better production efficiencies, and require less energy for transport because of their lower volume and lighter weight. Durability also is a hallmark of sustainability and another area in which powder coatings excel.

In addition to their hardness, scratch resistance and abrasion resistance, powder coatings adhere well to aluminum, while offering exceptional color and gloss retention. As a direct-to-metal coating, the need for traditional chrome-containing primers also is eliminated, offering an additional environmental benefit.

Thanks to their unique combination of sustainability, durability and aesthetics, powder coatings have proven to be the ideal solution for protecting and enhancing The Tower at PNC Plaza. For these same reasons, they are equally well-suited to meet the demands of a new generation of sustainable building facades.

Shelley Verdun is the powder coatings product manager for PPG Industries Inc., Pittsburgh. For more information, visit or call (800) 258-6398.