Professional Builder talks to Dulux about some of the advances in paint technology.
Some of the most recent innovations at Dulux Trade seem to stretch the boundaries of what paint can realistically achieve. Take its lumitec Light and Space range, for instance, an advance in technology that’s designed to reflect 20 per cent more light, thereby potentially saving energy in an interior through the use of fewer artificial sources of light, and making rooms feel more spacious in the process.
“Essentially, it works by utilising a very, very clean pigment,” explains Ted Szuman, Dulux Trade’s head of innovation. “As a result, more light bounces off than is absorbed. That does mean we have to use higher grade materials, and there’s an increase in price as a consequence, but the effects are impressive. We’re seeing people using it in smaller rooms to make them appear bigger, which is of significance when it is considered that living spaces, particularly in new builds and our inner cities, are getting smaller. Moreover, if you already have a source of natural light from a window, then the paint will enhance its effects still further.”
“Science is at the heart of everything we do,” says Marianne Shillingford, creative director of Dulux UK. “Indeed, in addition to our lumitec paints, as a company we’re currently dedicating significant resources to bio-mimicry. This a field with huge potential because, by studying the surfaces of plants we’ll shortly be able to introduce hydrophobic and dirt repelling properties to our coatings – something that will be adopted into our Diamond range very soon, in fact. We’re also looking at how nature itself produces colour, so we can replicate that process and produce a more natural finish to our products.”
Sustainability is, of course, the driving force behind so many new solutions, whether it’s helping to cut the energy demands of a building, or reducing cleaning requirements. That’s why, by utilising both reclaimed and virgin material in a single formulation, the manufacturer will be addressing the demands of the circular economy with a recycled paint. These are consideration that will only increase, but the core concern will always be colour, and here again its considerable infrastructure as the market’s leading player is brought to bear.
Whilst Dulux produces thousands of colours, professional builders might be surprised at the amount of research that goes into the latest trends. Akzo Nobel’s Global Aesthetics Centre is based just outside of Amsterdam, bringing together its internal designers, and leading external figures worldwide, to chart shifts in taste in parallel with major socio-economic changes. Not only that, but in sectors like dementia and healthcare, it is the ambition for the décor to directly impact on the outcomes for patients, whilst in workspaces the effects on productivity are given real consideration.
The multi-national giant spends huge amounts on initiatives like these long before its product ever gets as far as a merchant’s shelf, making sure that its colour palette is applicable to every conceivable space and scenario, and analysing its properties with mathematical acuteness. How does it react under different light conditions, for instance? And how is the paint applied and used in the real world, away from labs and R&D testing?
The end-result of all of that consultation is a colour palette that’s subject to a constant process of renewal, with the Dulux Colour of the Year for 2019 named as Spiced Honey, for instance, a deep ochre that is intended to inspire optimism and confidence. Colour is not just about decoration – it can manipulate space to create different proportions, a not insignificant reflection when it is considered that recent research has revealed that we now spend an incredible 90 per cent of our time indoors, whilst WHO forecasts predict that stress-related illness will be the primary cause of sickness worldwide by 2020. “One of the best places to see biophilic design in action, where a space mimics nature, is in a zoo,” continue Ted Szuman. “In order to ensure the animal’s welfare, designers are required to replicate their natural environment as far as possible. That’s often done in very creative ways, and it’s that kind of originality that we want to achieve ourselves.”
Of course, all that science and investment in research has then got to be introduced and understood by the boots on the ground who will actually be doing the applying. The bridge between individuals like Ted and the end user is the Dulux Academy, where contractors can engage with the new products and techniques in an environment where it’s safe to make mistakes. Not only that, but it’s an ideal space to contribute to the product development process itself where its experienced decorators and trainers will be asked for their own feedback on anything new that has emerged from the men and women in white coats.
“It’s not just about producing a new formulation, and then delivering it to market, because we have to demonstrate the benefits,” says Ted “That’s why its the health improvements that can be accrued for decorator and client alike that’s driving the adoption of low VOC and water-based alternatives. It’s become a process of education and initiatives like our academy can again play its part, because we need to get the message out there that our water-based solution will apply just like solvent products, but with all the natural benefits of the former. Solvents have remained popular because they can take up to 12 hours to dry, and contractors have previously liked the open time that provides. We need to make the case for quicker drying times on a job because ultimately, and wherever possible, the corporate aim is to switch over all of the products in our portfolio to water-based solutions.”