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Sustainability, Safety and Wellbeing: It’s All About the Finishing Touches

The correct specification of paints, coatings and colour can support the sustainability and safety of dwellings – and even improve occupant wellbeing – while helping you create better spaces. In this article, Peter Howard, Sustainability Lead at Dulux Trade, delves deeper into these topics and offers up advice on the effective use of paints and coatings.


Sustainability is climbing the agenda for housebuilders looking to take a best practice approach and prepare for the Future Homes and Building Standard that comes into effect in 2025. It looks to cut carbon emissions in new homes by 75 to 80% and improve sustainability in existing properties through renovation works and extensions.

To effectively cut carbon emissions, it is crucial that housebuilders and developers consider the role of every aspect of the build – from the bricks and mortar down to the finishing touches. Paints and coatings play a vital role here, as they can preserve buildings and reduce the need for regular redecoration work, thus cutting emissions over the lifetime of a property. Opting for durable products, like Dulux Trade Scuffshield, will extend maintenance lifecycles thanks to Ultimate Scuff Resistant Technology that protects walls against scuff marks, making it perfect for high-traffic areas like communal corridors and living spaces. It is also cleanable and scrubbable, so any marks can be easily removed without the need to redecorate.

Water based is king

It is also recommended to use water-based paints and coatings. Unlike solvent-based products, water-based alternatives contain low volatile organic compound (VOC) levels. VOCs are chemical vapours that contribute to greenhouse gases, global warming, rising sea levels and ground-level pollution. Exposure to high levels of VOCs can also have negative effects on the health of the applier and occupant and cause symptoms like eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as headaches, loss of coordination and nausea in more severe cases.

Water-based paints and coatings not only have significantly lower VOC levels resulting in lower carbon footprints, but also deliver quicker drying times, so all coats can be applied much faster. Spaces also do not need to be ventilated, meaning occupants can move back in as soon as the paint has dried, reducing disruption. Water-based paints and coatings are also non-yellowing, meaning colours like white or lighter tones will stay looking their best for longer.

Safety first

When designing housing, the safety of occupants needs to be front and centre. Paints and coatings play a vital role here and must be compliant with Building Regulations. Approved Document B – which is concerned with the fire safety in and around buildings – says that internal linings in buildings should “adequately resist the spread of flame over their surfaces” and if ignited, “have either a rate of heat release or rate of fire growth which is reasonable in the circumstances”. To achieve this, they must be compliant with BS 476-6: 1989 (also known as part 6) and BS 476-7: 1997 (or part 7) and achieve Class 0.

BS 476-6: 1989 refers to the amount of heat released when the product is burned and BS 476-7: 1997 (or part 7) looks at how quickly flames can spread across a surface. BS 476 also defines products based on four classes, with Class 4 indicating that the flame will spread across the surface rapidly and Class 0 showing that the spread of flame and heat released from the surface are limited. To achieve Class 0, a product must achieve Class 1 when tested to BS 476-7: 1997 and pass the test for BS 476-6: 1989.

It is also important to recognise that historic layers of coatings in older buildings can be a hazard and contribute to the spread of flames. To ensure the correct paint specification, the Dulux Trade team will work with customers to advise on the products needed to achieve Class 0 – like the Dulux Trade Pyroshield range that has been developed to inhibit the spread of flames across a painted surface.

A splash of colour

Once you have decided on the type of paint, the next job is working out what colours will make the space feel homely and welcoming. This means thinking beyond bright white walls and considering how colour can be used to brighten spaces and instil emotions in those that occupy them.

Over the last few years, interior design trends have incorporated the soothing and inspiring colours of nature. Between 2004 and 2007, cooler blues and greys were making their mark, whereas optimistic yellows featured between 2007 and 2013. Dulux Trade’s Colour of the Year 2023 – Wild Wonder – reflects the popularity of neutral tones.

Wild Wonder is a hue inspired by the warm tones of harvested crops and its upbeat glow looks to connect us with nature and create a sense of energy and positivity. To help identify complementary colours, there are also four trend palettes that all work in harmony with each other and Wild Wonder – making it easy to combine shades and create stunning spaces that occupants can feel at home in:

•  Lush Colours – beautiful forest hues that are inspired by the plant-filled habitats of gardens and woodlands. This palette places a focus on better mental health.

•  Buzz Colours – upbeat tones of pinks and ochres that capture the bustling biodiversity of a wildflower field or grassland to showcase the power of connections and community

•  Raw Colours – harvest shades that mimic nature’s raw materials, echoing the natural world to help make a building feel grounded and inspiring

•  Flow Colours – warm neutrals and deeper seashore tones that bring a sense of fluidity and momentum.

Bringing colour to life

The Dulux Trade Commercial Colour Services team have years of specification experience, and help professionals create beautiful and attractive spaces, using evidence-based research and principles focused on delivering the very best occupant experience. The team was hailed for their expert design support on a council-owned social housing regeneration programme by Exeter City Council that followed the principles of their Better Homes For Local People strategy that promises full and transparent consultation and involvement with those affected by building and renovation projects from the outset.

The process ensures there must be support from social housing residents for proposals at every stage of the process – placing them at the heart of decisions about the ongoing management and future of their estates.

A collaborative taskforce of Exeter Council, contractor CLC Group and the Dulux Trade team – led by AkzoNobel Specifier Development Manager, Bob McLellan – set itself a project to replace the existing magnolia and brown palette of a number of properties with something more uplifting.

A range of schemes were devised to optimise space, improve aesthetics and help to promote better outcomes for residents, who collaborated on the project and were invited to choose the one they liked best. The result was an enriching colour palette featuring cool whites and a range of nature-inspired blues and greens, mixed with contemporary greys.

In summary, the correct specification of paints, coatings and colour can support the sustainability and safety of dwellings – and even improve occupant wellbeing – while helping you create better spaces.

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