Next generation coatings and paints

Mike Turner of Ian Williams looks at some of the latest trends in coatings and paint products.

Over the decades, formulations and applications have changed significantly and paint continues to be a dynamic sector, contributing heavily to the sustainability, aesthetics, health, safety and efficacy of buildings. Paints and coatings now offer solutions stretching way beyond their original ‘wall-covering’ function.


One of the biggest challenges faced by the coatings industry over recent years has come from an environmental perspective. Through legislation and best practice, we’ve all had to make the transition towards next generation products with reduced carbon and solvent content. For manufacturers, the challenge has been to invest significantly on new water-based formulations that are fit for purpose and offer the same longevity, lower whole life costs and durability as solvent paints, but without the environmental damage.

For maintenance providers, the challenge has been to develop new applications that take into account these formulation changes. We’ve had to implement solutions ranging from perfecting the intercoat adhesion of water- based coatings onto legacy solvent paints, to developing appropriate application techniques with new types of brushes and new brush strokes that ‘brush out’ differently. This in turn has put the spotlight on the top-level training and development of our team of painters and decorators and our commitment to 10 per cent of our workforce being apprentices.


In tandem, highly-engineered specialist and niche products are a big growth area for both internal and external coatings, especially across the highly diverse housing stock found in the public sector. Paint can now offer a whole host of features and benefits previously unavailable like, for example, anti-graffiti solutions. Graffiti can seriously compromise the reputation and feel of a building, but until now the only way to get rid of it has been an expensive and inconvenient refurbishment, with no guarantee that more vandalism won’t occur immediately on completion of the project. However, thanks to sophisticated coatings which are applied in advance, spray paint and graffiti can now be removed from almost any interior or external surface.

Passive fire protection in homes – especially multi-dwelling and high rise properties – has understandably been in the media spotlight recently, and huge strides have been made in coatings to improve fire safety performance. Conforming to Fire Rating Class 0 is an obligation in certain premises such as Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) but is also recommended in other buildings to help prevent flame spread.


Another fast-moving area in coatings and paints is the use of light, colour, texture and finishes to improve life and work conditions. Scientific research has unequivocally shown that the way people engage with a building, positive or otherwise, can be directly affected by the colour and design of the space. The Equality Act Guidelines are designed to help avoid discriminating against people with disabilities, including visual impairment and dementia, concerns that are increasing against a backdrop of an ageing population.

It’s now accepted that over 80 per cent of visually impaired people can discern colour differences, so the use of contrast can make way finding and building navigation much easier – e.g. painting whole doors and architraves in a contrasting colour with the surrounding surfaces; making the skirting boards the same or a similar colour as the wall gives visually impaired people an accurate indication of the size of the floor; using a colour that contrasts with the background draws attention to key features like switches, sockets and handrails.

All of these developments mean that the features and benefits of paint now extend far beyond ‘just a wall coating for a bit of colour’ and we can’t underestimate its potential benefits on health, well being and the protection of the UK’s housing stock.

Mike Turner is the executive director of Ian Williams