Reused paint to grace Gateway’s walls

by Emily Dalnodar

A collaborative decision by University officials and a host of other agencies will coat the interior walls of the new $35 million University Gateway center with used paint.
Designers are not running low on cash, but instead publicizing a new conservation idea: recycled paint.
The project is part of a “green” building initiative spawned by the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, the University’s Waste Abatement Committee, Hirshfield’s Painting Mfg. and the Minnesota Painting and Wallpapering Employers Association.
“Green buildings is an idea to build buildings in a way to conserve resources and generate as little waste as possible,” said Andrew Phelan, assistant director of the University’s environmental health and safety department and chairman of the Waste Abatement Committee, which heads the green initiative.
Though recycled paint is not new to Minnesota — it has existed since 1996 — the Gateway venture will signify the largest commercial use of recycled paint thus far in the state. Other recycled paint projects involved smaller residential and commercial buildings.
Once completed, those involved said they hope the structure illustrates to the greater community that recycled paint isn’t just a raw concept but a quality alternative to virgin paint.
“This is an excellent example of demonstrating the use of recycled paint,” said Linda Lindquist, market development specialist at the environmental office. “From an application standpoint it will demonstrate that it’s an industry-grade paint that can be purchased by contractors and used effectively.”
Initial hesitations arose about using an unfamiliar product in the highly publicized Gateway building, said Nancy Novak, interior designer at KKE Architects, which heads the building’s design.
Novak said she wasn’t sure the product would perform or outlast normal expectations, but after discussions with painting experts and environmentalists, the project moved forward.
“I think we’re all very confident that it’ll be OK,” Novak said. “Nobody’s worried that it’s not going to work. It goes through more tests than regular paint.”
In fact, the entire process of collecting recycled paint, mixing it, testing it and remixing it is an exhausting effort that far exceeds the efforts of making virgin paint, said Mark Uglem, executive director of Hirshfield’s.
“It’s actually tougher to make recycled paint than virgin paint; I don’t know what color you’re giving me. I don’t know what gloss. I don’t know whether it’s cheap paint or not,” Uglem said.
All the waste paint donated by painting contractors bidding for the Gateway painting job needed inspection and approval before remixing.
The one-day paint drive collected more than 1,000 gallons of different color, gloss and quality paints.
“They were expecting the Gateway job itself to use 1,100 gallons, but we have more than enough for this project,” Phelan said.
Recycled paint will coat a majority of the interior walls, Novak said. The only areas exempt from the paint are ceilings and door frames, which require a different product.
The Gateway building is slated for completion this summer, at which time Phelan said he hopes to convince project coordinators at other University renovation sites to use the recycled paint as well.