PPG Coatings Improve Air Quality at ‘One of the Healthiest Offices in the World’

The Spine, located in the heart of Knowledge Quarter Liverpool – a central hub for higher education and research in the city – includes the new northern home of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). Designed by renowned architecture and building consultancy practice AHR, the building has been hailed as one of the healthiest workplaces in the world, thanks to the pioneering research in biophilia, health and wellbeing that has been drawn on for its creation.

One of the most exciting new developments in the north, The Spine reflects the RCP’s global stance as a leader in health and healthcare, using the latest innovations in wellbeing-focused design, while being a striking new addition to the Liverpool skyline. The landmark development is not only BREEAM Excellent rated for its sustainable approach; it is also one of the first buildings in the UK designed to the WELL Platinum Building Standard®, certified for mental health and physical wellbeing.

When it came to finding the right paints for the unique project, AHR turned to PPG’s architectural coatings business to support with the development of a coatings specification with indoor air quality and occupant wellbeing at the forefront.

Creating a healthy workspace

Speaking about the project, Robert Hopkins, regional director at AHR, said: “The Spine is one of our most exciting and revolutionary projects to date. We’ve had the opportunity to place unprecedented focus upon what really makes a positive, healthy and happy workplace. Working with the RCP, we’ve achieved a design that sets the bar for the incorporation of biophilia and its possibilities in a modern workplace. With wellness being such a core part of our ambitious design, we needed to make sure that every single element positively contributed to our objectives, and the paints used were no exception.”

Research shows that we spend 90 per cent of our time indoors – a statistic that is only likely to have climbed in the wake of Covid-19 – and with indoor air being up to a staggering five times more polluted than outdoor air, it’s a topic that continues to gain attention.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) was therefore a high priority at The Spine, so the team at AHR needed to source paints that complemented their vision and would help them achieve the building’s coveted sustainability ratings.

Cleaner air with Air Pure

Working closely with PPG, AHR specified a range of sustainable paints from the manufacturer, including JOHNSTONE’S® Trade Air Pure – a bio-based wall and ceiling paint proven to purify indoor air.

Indoor spaces contain a number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde, which is present in all houses and public spaces at varying concentrations and can be harmful at raised levels, sometimes causing breathing issues and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. Molecules are emitted from a range of common indoor materials including chipboard, fibreboard, furniture, carpet, glue and interior fabrics.

Once applied, the revolutionary Air Purifying technology in Johnstone’s Trade Air Pure neutralises up to 70 per cent of formaldehyde from indoor spaces and continues to do so for years after application. What’s more, the formula is 45 per cent bio-based and comes in 100 per cent recycled packaging, making it the ideal choice for AHR as part of a comprehensive system of measures to reduce toxin levels and promote indoor air quality.

Robert continued: “When it came to choosing paints for The Spine, we knew we had to find options that were water-based and would have the least possible negative impact on occupants. So we were delighted to find a paint that would actually improve indoor air quality. By using Johnstone’s Trade Air Pure, we’re optimising the air quality within the building and helping to enhance the general wellbeing of occupants, all while limiting the impact on the environment.”

A comprehensive coatings solution

Other water-based and low-VOC solutions from PPG were used to give a professional, long-lasting finish to various spaces within The Spine. These included Johnstone’s Trade Aqua Water Based Gloss and Water Based Satin – which are quick drying, making them a practical, time-saving solution for large-scale commercial projects – as well as Johnstone’s Trade Covaplus Vinyl Matt, Acrylic Durable Matt and Acrylic Durable Eggshell.

The colour palette was also carefully considered to support the integration of wellness and biophilic principles. Natural tones were chosen to have a calming effect on the mind while complementing the timber curtain wall and floor. The palette has also been used to represent the growth of a tree as you travel higher up the building; earthier tones fill the ground floor, merging into green, leafy shades and patterns on the floors above, with the introduction of blues on the upper floors.

When it came to application, Smith Painters Limited were tasked with painting the vast building. James Beech, operations director, said: “Johnstone’s Trade paints are always a joy to work with and consistently ensure we’re giving our clients the best finish possible that stands the test of time. When working on The Spine, we were particularly impressed with Air Pure, both in terms of application and its innovative air purification qualities, and we’ll certainly be recommending it to clients in future.” Smith Painters Limited have since gone on to win the Education category at the Johnstone’s Painter of the Year Awards for their outstanding quality of work on this project.

Mike Lee, PPG A&D development manager, said: “The Spine really is leading the way when it comes to prioritising the health and wellbeing of building users, so we’re delighted that we’ve been able to work with the team and help them to achieve such high standards in sustainable design.”

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