Environmentally "Friendly"

Included with the listings are three ranges identifying VOC levels of specific products. These ranges were arrived at using information from the EPA (U. S. Environmental Protection Agency) with requirements that came into effect on September 1999. Also included in the research and analysis to establish the three ranges for each MPI Product Category was information from the more stringent of the Air Quality Management Districts in California. The last factor was the analysis of the VOC levels of known products and known trends. These ranges will be adjusted to reflect changes, as we know them, and published with future editions of the MPI Approved Products List.

These VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) ranges are now identified numerically under the heading of “E”, as these are easily converted to a specification. The options now are E3, E2, E1, E0 (outside range) or n/a (not available or verified in time for printing). E3 is the lowest VOC range, E2 the next lowest, and E1 the next lowest.

These VOC ranges are only one aspect of evaluating the performance of a product. The product with the lowest VOC may not be the best overall-performing product available in the category.

A new method, which addresses Ozone Forming Potential (OFP), is being investigated by the National Institute of Building Sciences.

The responsibility for determining the requirements of a particular jurisdiction remains with the contractor, the manufacturer, and the specifier. This information is only presented for comparative informational purposes. While efforts are made to ensure its accuracy, the VOC levels listed are those supplied by the manufacturer. The method of calculation is as requested under EPA Method 24.

MPI Gloss and Sheen Levels (and drywall finishing levels required)

Of particular note are the gloss and sheen levels required for approval. The levels are important from performance and appearance aspects, and therefore are now shown above the specific category. Standards have been established to realign gloss levels in latexes to those retained in alkyds. MPI has moved away from ‘traditional’ names for gloss levels as these names and levels differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. In order to provide some method of comparing some of the merits of one product to another, it became obvious that levels not names, were needed in MPI categories.

MPI Gloss and Sheen Standards are now as follows: Gloss@60° Sheen@85°
Gloss Level 1 a traditional matte finish - flat max. 5 units, and max. 10 units
Gloss Level 2 a high side sheen flat - 'a velvet-like' finish max. 10 units, and 10-35 units
Gloss Level 3 a traditional 'eggshell-like' finish 10-25 units, and 10-35 units
Gloss Level 4 a 'satin-like' finish 20-35 units, and min. 35 units
Gloss Level 5 a traditional semi-gloss 35-70 units  
Gloss Level 6 a traditional gloss 70-85 units  
Gloss Level 7 a high gloss more than 85 units  
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Levels of drywall finishing as defined in "Recommended Levels of Drywall Finishing" GA-214-96 advise that a flat finish (MPI Gloss Level 1) can go over a properly prepared Drywall Finishing Level 4 unless 'critical lighting conditions' are present. It would appear that this would also apply to MPI Gloss Level 2. A properly prepared Drywall Finishing Level 5 should precede gloss Level 3 and higher. Where the finish is of critical importance, specifiers may wish to consider a 'veneer finish' before application of the specified paint system. Textured finishes, not subject to critical lighting conditions, may be applied to a properly prepared Drywall Finishing Level 3 or 4.

Manual Updates
These product listings are under constant review. Users are urged to ensure that their manual(s) contain the most recent update of this chapter. Accept no listing supplement from any other source except M P I ! Registered manual holders receive these updates (at the address submitted) at no cost for a period of one year from date of purchase.

New Information – MPI’s New Environmental Notation System is updated as is MPI GPS-01-08 and GPS-02-08.

For the most part, efforts to improve the environment relative to paint and coatings have revolved around Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). In some instances, life-cycle aspects have been considered, but most (both regulatory and voluntary) bodies consider only VOC levels and VOC reduction. Few, if any, ‘factor in’ coating durability, performance, or ‘duty-cycle’. Reducing VOCs without appropriate consideration for life or duty cycle is seen by some to be a case of “a half loaf is better than no loaf at all”.

But, is it? MPI has been advised of ‘user’ concerns from specification writers, architects, and property managers from U.S. Federal and State Government agencies, from the military, from Canadian Federal, Provincial, and regional Government agencies, and from owners across North America. We are given to understand this same body of concerned people and agencies is now using MPI’s performance standards.

Over the last several years, MPI has developed new categories of higher performing products and the coatings industry is beginning to respond with products that meet those standards while more and more ‘users’ are increasingly specifying those product categories. Recently, MPI completed studies in its coatings lab and confirmed the essence of those results in the field. MPI then published the MPI Green Paper #1. Following very strongly supportive initial reaction, MPI is now embarking on the next phases of the Environmental Notation System (ENS), and has introduced the MPI Green Performance Standard (www.specifygreen.com).

Important Note: With MPI’s newly adjusted VOC ranges for most of the most-used interior waterborne categories, products indicated as E2 or E3 will meet or exceed most jurisdictions (including the paint requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program), even before the duty cycle and other bonus points are considered.

[Note: This version of the MPI Approved Products List contains a designation to assist architects and owners with identifying those products which currently meet (or exceed) the requirements of LEED, OTC ( N.E. states), and CARB. Until the next revision of LEED, we are advised by USGBC that higher relative performance cannot yet be considered. (LEED currently considers only the VOC level when considering environment ‘friendliness’. Basic performance is not tested to an accepted minimum standard, nor is higher relative performance, color choice, or appropriate specified use considered.)]
GPS - this check mark in the last column means that the product meets the MPI Green Performance Standard (also meets LEED which was previously shown as an “L”).

ENS will ‘bonus’ (plus or minus from a base line) higher performing MPI product categories.

  • It will also ‘bonus’ higher performing MPI gloss/sheen level categories.
  • It will also provide ‘bonus’ opportunities for appropriate use of a product category. Examples include:
    1. The durability of a Flat would be much greater on a ceiling than it would on a high-traffic school corridor wall.
    2. A semi-gloss alkyd is much more durable and serviceable (and ‘environmentally friendly’!) on interior doors and frames than is a conventional latex over a duty cycle.
  • ENS will provide ‘bonus’ opportunities for individual products that address new environmental Ozone Forming Potential (OFP) initiatives when these are approved by appropriate agencies either as purchasing decisions or in environmental regulation.
  • An EPR Rating will be the total of the “E” range number and the applicable bonus points (+ or -).
  • The “E” (VOC) range will be published on virtually all of MPI’s approx. 150 categories of coatings. The EPR Rating will initially be published for selected indoor categories. This will allow program users to further familiarize themselves with the options while maintaining present information.

The ENS (Environmental Notation System) has many life cycle considerations but does not include costs such as raw materials production, containers, transportation, disposal, etc. Color choices, which impact environmental friendliness, are also excluded. This system sets a high standard for coating durability but does not include the higher cost of more frequent repainting or the costs (both in dollars or employee disruption) associated with repainting occupied facilities where lower performing paint is used.

Also, MPI believes that flat paints (i.e. below 5 units at 60 degrees) are almost always the lowest performing sheen and are not always appropriately specified for many high traffic areas. This, coupled with the very high error level in current VOC testing below 100 g/l, causes MPI to decline (at this time) to drop its VOC ranges as low as 50 g/l called for by some authorities. MPI believes that true environmental friendliness considers product performance first, then selects on the basis of environmental friendliness.

MPI also believes that specifiers and ‘users’ should consider lighter colors when concerned about true environmental friendliness. Lighter colors most often have lower levels of colorants. The vast majority of universal colorants currently used not only result in a decline of performance, but also contribute their own VOCs in addition to that of the paint. Lighter colors often reflect light better, and this can make better use of available light without further requirement for more energy use.

Specifiers and ‘users’ should also consider gloss and sheen levels higher than “Flat” for most applications, not only for greater light reflection, but also as performance generally increases with the increase in units of gloss. Further, higher gloss levels are more serviceable (i.e. more soil resistant), therefore often requiring less strength in the cleaners used. This generally results in less environmental impact from the cleaners used, and often results in assisting to extend the duty cycle of the applied paint.

MPI’s lab currently tests a wide variety of paint products to its performance standards from a wide variety of North American paint manufacturers. It uses a ‘battery’ of tests and test methods (e.g. the MPI scrub test reflects ‘real world’ conditions as to when maintenance painting is required. Other scrub tests require a break completely through the paint film, but few owners wait to see this condition before repainting).

Products passing this testing (and subsequent random confirmation and/or challenge testing) are listed in the current edition MPI Approved Products List (APL).

The APL is an integral part of the MPI Architectural Specification Painting Manual, and the MPI Maintenance Repainting Manual. These manuals are part of a larger Quality Assurance program in existence since the mid 1960s.

Components of the program are now referenced in guide specifications from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Federal agencies, the Canadian Government National Master Specification, owners like LDS Church, major architectural firms, specification writers, condo councils, property management, etc. Some apparently reference components: paint categories or products from the MPI Approved Products List, MPI referenced paint systems from options (with pros & cons) available, MPI Surface Preparation Standards, MPI Gloss/Sheen Standards, MPI Guide Specifications, etc. Some reference the complete program.

The latest to adopt MPI Standards is MASTERSPEC®, a publication of The American Institute of Architects by ARCOM.

U.S. architects & specification writers should check out www.specifypaint.us
Canadian architects & specification writers should check out www.specifypaint.ca
All environmentally concerned persons should check out www.specifygreen.com