The 2015 Southface Campus refresh was driven by a holistic approach to sustainability in our built environment. It was rooted in evidence-based design around enhancing health and well-being. A survey of Southface employees inspired decisions regarding materials, color selection and needs for flexible workspaces. Validated by third-party research in environmental psychology and biophilic design, the campus refresh has created a built environment that is healthy and efficient, allows occupants to thrive and provides Southface a platform for demonstrating how industry is leading the way.
The average American spends 90 percent of his or her day indoors. And although most people understand the dangers of outdoor air pollution, few consider the impact of indoor pollution on their health. In fact, EPA data shows that indoor air pollution can be more dangerous than outdoor pollutants. Indoor air pollution can come from mold and bacteria, cleaning products, asbestos and off-gassing from certain furnishings and building materials. Building occupants can become ill due to the chemicals in their homes or work space, which is why many companies, families and schools are looking into safer building materials.
ECOS paint, owned by Imperial Paints, is used to mitigate harmful chemicals from an interior paint and lessen the health impacts for building occupants. The smell of a freshly painted wall is not just the paints drying. That smell is the release of chemicals, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and other irritants into the enclosed space. Developed more than 25 years ago, ECOS brand paint and varnish demonstrate 0.0 percent VOCs in their product. ECOS brand paints is frequently used in nurseries, schools and hospitals—environments with vulnerable populations that are particularly susceptible to harmful chemicals. ECOS paint is even used in the interior of the Louvre to protect the artwork there.
Julian Crawford, CEO of Imperial Paints, describes the industry trend toward healthier products:
“There is a general trend to healthier building tools; people are recognizing that you don’t have to include harmful chemicals to make a good product. There is strong momentum towards environmentally friendly products, which will foster stronger commitments from individuals and corporations to understand the impact of the products they use.”
ECOS paints are also making an impact in office buildings around the country. VOCs are a major cause of Sick Building Syndrome, the term used for buildings with poor indoor air quality and ventilation making occupants ill, giving them headaches, allergies and flu-like symptoms simply from being inside an unhealthy building. This is an important consequence of building performance for Southface to highlight, and was considered while doing our refresh campaign. Bonnie Casamassima, Project Manager for the Commercial Sustainability Services team, said, “We were honored to collaborate with ECOS Paint during our refresh. Working with them supported staff well-being and eliminated disruption to workflow. Due to the product’s zero VOCs we were able to work in the spaces right after they had been painted.” Most of the interior of the Southface office was painted overnight with ECOS paint; the walls look fresh and no one noticed any smell the next morning.
Imperial Paints continues to create a higher standard of paint and varnish products in the industry because of their priority to keep people healthy indoors. When asked about the future of non-VOC emitting paint Crawford replied, “We are starting to see the beginning of corporations being as motivated as individuals, having a similar concept of healthcare, environment and employees. For me, that is important—that corporations finally decide that it is important for employees to work in a healthy environment where they don’t get sick or [get] headaches. We are starting to see that with big companies and that is the difference.”