G7 Executive Talk Series

Branded Story / AkzoNobel

Authored by: Pamela Phua

Smart Facades for a Sustainable Future

What are some of the most pressing challenges that we face today?
According to the United Nations (UN) Chronicle, energy consumption and pollution are two critical issues faced by urban communities, which account for half of the humanity or 3.5 billion people. About 60 to 80 % of the world’s energy, which is a dominant contributor to climate change, is consumed by cities. The air quality in cities has deteriorated to such an alarming level that about 92% of the world’s population breathe unsafe air and more than 7 million die annually, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

What can we do to change the situation?
In the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, United Nation has established 17 Sustainable Development Goals with a comprehensive list of targets to be achieved by 2030. Individual countries are expected to take ownership and establish national framework to implement the actions. As a leading global paints and coatings company with a strong commitment to sustainability, AkzoNobel supports these goals, which is in line with our purpose to create everyday essentials to make people’s lives more liveable and inspiring. We have been at the top of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index rankings for the fifth time in six years.

At AkzoNobel, we believe that we can address some of these challenges with the innovative solutions that we have developed. With a focus on India and China, we highlight the major problems faced by these two populous countries and the solutions that we can offer.

While India’s economy continues to expand at the world’s fastest growth rate of about 7.5% annually, millions of its citizens are exposed to increasingly unhealthy air.

The latest air quality report from the WHO in May 2018 has announced that the world’s top 10 most polluted cities all reside in India.

Residents in India’s capital, New Delhi, which has been ranked the sixth most polluted, are taking the brunt of the health crisis due to vehicle emissions and burning of crops and woods. The air has become so smoggy and severely toxic that Delhi’s government had to declare public health emergency and school closure last year. It also unveiled 26 new programmes with a budget of US$ 8.2 billion to clean its air with such initiatives as electric buses and vehicles, tree planting, switching from coal-fired to electric or gas ovens.

The air quality in cities has deteriorated to such an alarming level that about 92% of the world’s population breathe unsafe air and more than 7 million die annually, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

How can AkzoNobel help Indian cities combat pollution? We have developed an air-cleansing paint based on photocatalytic technology that can degrade major atmospheric pollutants like nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides. These gases not only pose health implications themselves but also contribute to the formation of PM2.5 particulate matter that can penetrate deep into lungs and bloodstream causing diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections. With sunlight exposure and moisture, our paint will generate radicals that can decompose these pollutants. A large-scale field trial is currently being planned to quantify the efficacy of our paint in improving the air quality in Delhi.

To help improve air quality in India through reduction of the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOC), we have launched our strategic programme called Waterway. Our aim is to drive the transition of solvent-based products currently offered in our portfolio for wood care and metal care applications to water-based products with equally high quality and performance.

We can help to mitigate soil pollution in India by controlling the release of biocide used in our paints. Biocide is a film preservative added within the regulatory compliant amount in an exterior paint to help protect building facades against the growth of fungus and algae, which is especially important for tropical and subtropical climates in India. Conventional types of biocide may not be able to release effectively from the paint over its lifetime and they may also be washed off by rain and can contaminate the soil. Encapsulating the biocide allows for its controlled release at its optimum level, therefore safeguarding our paint for better durability in terms of film protection while minimizing the environmental impact due to soil pollution. Our researchers also continuously strive to explore biocide-free or low-biocide solutions.

Public urination has been a major issue in India. The Government has launched a nationwide campaign called “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” to promote public cleanliness. To address this problem, we have developed a superhydrophobic coating with extreme liquid repellency that can protect walls by resisting the adhesion of urine, spit and other stains. Our product will be able to help transform and maintain cleanliness of many cities and towns across India, thus providing the communities with more liveable neighbourhoods and inspiring surroundings.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), China has surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest energy consumer in 2009. This has definitely taken a toll on air quality due to China’s predominantly coal-based energy production.

Key major economic zones such as Beijing and Shanghai have been marred with pollution and notorious thick choking smog in recent years.

In China, buildings account for a large part of China’s energy consumption. In order to promote building energy conservation, the Chinese government has developed a sophisticated policy system in recent years. These include building energy codes which state the minimum standards for the energy efficiency of building components such as envelope; heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and the power system. These codes are mandatory for residential and commercial buildings in urban areas, and voluntary for rural residential buildings but are promoted through incentives.

How is AkzoNobel going to contribute positively to better the country’s energy efficiency and adapt in this storm of policy changes? We approach this by providing solutions for suppressing heat outflow in winter with our Thermal Insulation Decorative Board systems and reducing the heat gain in the building in summer through our Keep Cool offerings.

Thermal Insulation Decorative Boards are prefabricated boards constructed in the factory setting where the insulation and decoration layers are assembled together. These boards are made with a controlled quality unlike the traditional Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) which are highly subjected to the reliability and quality of workmanship. They can be easily secured on the exterior façade of a building just like a jigsaw puzzle with a smart system of bracket and screws. The system also incorporates Air-vent plug to prevent moisture built-up that leads to cracking and peeling issues we see in traditional insulation systems. Factory fabrications also allow us access to a much wider technology platform such as UV-curing systems and sol-gel processes, which would have been prohibitive to use in conventional exterior wall paint. This solution essentially allows us to provide a better and higher quality alternative to building insulation and hence effective energy management.

Another contribution from AkzoNobel concerns the energy savings brought about by specialised coatings. Other than improving our existing Keep Cool offerings to chase the ever tighter standards, we have also extended our Keep Cool offerings to Texture products in China. Keep Cool coatings reflect heat by reflecting in Infra-Red (IR) and Near Infra-Red (NIR) radiation of the solar energy. This is achieved by careful pigment management and the use of special IR-reflective pigments. With less heat built-up on the building façade and less heat transfer to the inside of a building, less energy is then required to maintain a comfortable temperature. Based on the simulation results from external parties, energy savings are quite substantial.

Giving back to communities is deeply rooted in AkzoNobel’s culture. Our Human Cities initiative is our commitment to regenerating and energizing urban communities across the world.

Beyond Innovation: People
Proposing true and sustainable technical solutions is one aspect of our contribution. We also firmly believe in improving everyday life through our Corporate Social Responsibility.

Giving back to communities is deeply rooted in AkzoNobel’s culture. Our Human Cities initiative is our commitment to regenerating and energizing urban communities across the world. We use our products and expertise to help cities deliver a stronger sense of community purpose, pride and happiness.

For instance our global “Let’s Colour” program has been revitalizing urban areas all over the world, with almost 70 million people benefiting from 2000 projects and 12000 volunteers. The 100th mural of the 100 ‘Let’s Colour Walls of Connection’, created by AkzoNobel and global peace movement MasterPeace, took place last November in a school in Badshahpur in India. The project transformed the lives of more than 5,000 children by getting them back to school and ensuring they continue their education and improve their grades.

AkzoNobel has also partnered with SOS Children’s Village to train the next generation of painters and drive local economic growth through painting training and business development knowledge, thus contributing employability of young people coming from a difficult background. This successful partnership has been rolled out in countries like Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa, Indonesia, and will be extended to up to 10 countries such as India in 2018.

Pamela Phua has more than 20 years’ experience in Research, Development and Innovation (RD&I) in the coatings industry. In her current role as Director of RD&I for AkzoNobel, she drives new technology development and product implementation across the South East, South Asia and Middle East regions.

Ms Phua was instrumental in setting up the global research and laboratory operations for AkzoNobel Decorative Paints (Global Exterior Wallpaint Expertise Group) in 2011. In her global capacity, Ms Phua implements the functional and product innovation strategy for Exterior Wallpaint. She spearheads the RD&I functional excellence, standards and capability and the efficient delivery of processes as the approved Standards & Processes across the globe. Her efforts enabled AkzoNobel’s businesses to roll out new products and services across the region in a fast and coordinated manner, supported by an agile supply chain, efficient sourcing and robust quality control.

Some leading innovations launched by Ms Phua and her team included interior and exterior emulsion paints such as Dulux Weathershield Powerflexx, Dulux Pentalite, Dulux Wash & Wear / Easyclean, and Dulux Catylac / Inspire. Her expertise and experience has been instrumental in the setting up of industry standards in Singapore. She is the Technical Chairperson for the Singapore Paint Industry Association and a committee member in the Chemical Standards Council of Singapore.

She has helped to set up several Singapore Standards, including SS345, SS150, SS500 and SS494. She is an industry consultant to regulatory bodies such as Spring Singapore, Singapore Green Label, the Housing and Development Board, Singapore Green Building Council, National Environment Agency and the Singapore Institute of Architects. She is also an A*Star certified auditor for accredited testing laboratories in Singapore.

Pamela took part in various series of United Nation Climate Change Conferences, last being COP23 in Germany Bonn in 2017 where she shared innovative solutions to combat challenges around Climate change and contributing to developing smart cities for better tomorrow.

Pamela Phua
T : +65 90279663
E : pamela.phua@akzonobel.com