Sustainable and Healthy Coil Coating Alternatives

Innovations in sustainability have become a standard throughout many industries, including the architectural and construction markets.

Having a positive impact on the environment and public health

By Jeff Alexander

(Photo: Horton Photography, courtesy of Petersen Aluminum Corp.)

Every year, new products and business practices are being introduced that conserve energy and limit the carbon footprint of a building—both in the short and long term. Coating manufacturers have contributed to these efforts by continually developing and improving new sustainable products and coating technologies.

When it comes to coating metal, coil coating is considered the most environmentally responsible way to go. Pre-painted, or coated, metal can be recycled without loss of quality. Unlike brick, cement, wood and many other building materials, aluminum and steel continually recover their original performance properties, even after multiple times of recycling—allowing them to be used again and again. In fact, about 95 percent of the pre-painted metal used in buildings is collected and recycled after it has served its purpose.

What to Look for in Sustainable Metal Coatings

The coil paint process is highly regulated and employs U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved water and pollution equipment that makes it possible to apply coatings to metal at high speeds with minimal environmental impact.

If you are looking to make a more sustainable choice when it comes to coating metal, start by looking for coating systems and manufacturers that support product transparency by offering an informed product selection through voluntary disclosure of ingredients.

Certain coil coatings offer more environmentally friendly features such as solar-reflective pigments. These solutions are formulated to reflect the sun’s infrared energy. Incorporating high-performing pigments reduces the amount of infrared light absorbed by an exterior surface. This alleviates the urban heat island effect and results in lower energy consumption for a building. A solar-reflective pigment coating can also help protect buildings against harsh outdoor elements, including humidity and corrosion as well as dirt, stains and chemicals.

Transparency in the manufacturing process takes it easier for purchasers to make informed product decisions. It’s important to look for coatings that can be applied to different substrates and have chrome-free offerings. Other notable ingredients to watch out for in coatings can include hexavalent chromium, lead, phthalates and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The absence of these ingredients can help coatings meet Living Building Challenge’s Red List 4.0-Compliant requirement.

A few other requirements now becoming more and more standard are products that qualify for LEED points and those that have Health Product Declarations (HPD).

Look for transparent labels and lists such as Declare or HPDs. Developed by the International Living Future Institute, Declare is a “nutrition label” for products, which provides a transparent method for disclosing ingredients. The HPD is a flexible tool that can be used similarly. It notes when products have achieved the LEED v4 Material Ingredient Reporting credit. For builders aiming to achieve credits under LEED v4, a product must contain life cycle impact reduction, head island reduction, product disclosures and optimization, environmental product declarations and material ingredients.

Partner with Experts

Today, sustainability is a standard, not an option, which is why having a partner that can help you plan and specify coatings that have a lasting sustainable impact on the environment is so important. It is important to find the right coating partner who provides innovative and environmentally responsible coatings. Look for a partner constantly developing new coating formulations that deliver beauty and long-term performance, along with meeting specific market needs. Choose a coating and a coater that has expertise in sustainable solutions and product services to help you make the correct decisions on a healthy building that will be healthy for the environment.

Making the right decision when it comes to coil coatings will help create more sustainable buildings, which will reduce a manufacturer’s emission footprint. But above all else, it can extend beyond the walls of these buildings and begin to positively impact the health and well being of the surrounding world.

Jeff Alexander is vice president of sales at Sherwin-Williams Coil Coatings, Minneapolis. To learn more, visit

(Photo courtesy of McElroy Metal)