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Friday 12 August 2016

In his final year project, mature student Peter Jenks has been exploring just how sustainable modern construction paints really are.

Peter Jenks came to Southampton Solent as a mature student – and now he’s graduating with first-class honours in construction management. We caught up with Peter at this year’s degree show, to talk about his final-year project and how Solent helped him balance study, work and family.

Tell us a bit about your final project

My project was titled An investigation into the sustainability of the reduction of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in paint for buildings in the UK, and questions whether the industry was right to move from solvent- to water-based coatings in decorative applications. 

The complex composition and use of paint in the built environment must be balanced between the sustainability of use and the impact of not protecting construction materials.

Solvent-based paints are believed to be major sources of VOC emissions in the indoor environment, and designers often specify water-based trim paints due to their lower VOC content, in order to satisfy sustainability codes such as BREEAM.

However, the specified products are inherently fast-drying, which is not conducive to the smooth finish anticipated by designers and clients, and can result in expensive re-visits for decorators.

Water-based paints also contain and emit more chemical than the oil-based paints they are intended to replace. And by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages and ecosystems around the world will suffer. Fresh water is one of the most valuable natural resources, often something that the UK struggles to manage successfully.

However, the majority of investment in research and development made by the coatings industry is being spent on projects aimed at meeting existing regulations. The purpose of my study was to provide independent professional guidelines for the reduction of expensive re-work and appropriate quality expectations.

Painter and decorator opinions were especially valued, because little in the literature was identified from their perspective.


 What was the inspiration behind your project? 

Throughout a 35-year career I have been involved with every kind of paint application and removal – from aircraft to submarines and just about everything in between. If it needed painting or protective coatings, I have probably done or overseen it.

I have painted for Formula One racing, where paint is measured in grams per car, and undertaken projects involving underwater coating in the hostile marine environment where protection is paramount.

I started in the construction industry as a painter and decorator but evolved through other sectors over the years; but when I recently returned to construction, I discovered that paint for buildings, which is probably the least offensive paint I have been involved with, has changed.

Painters and decorators are struggling to achieve quality finishes with these legislatively reactive developed paints, whilst client expectation has not changed. Continual re-visits by painters and decorators result in additional paint use and many unnecessary road miles, leading me to question the true sustainability credentials of the legislation. 

What have you enjoyed most about your time at Solent? 

As a mature part-time student with a full-time job and a family, it was critical that I manage my study time effectively. The built environment lecturers and staff have always been willing to help, support and encourage me with my coursework.

Without this assistance it would have been difficult to manage my studies in such a timely manner or with sufficient detail. The team has consistently provided constructive clear feedback, and are always approachable and friendly.

The five years which I have studied at Southampton Solent University have been made a pleasure by the enthusiasm and subject expertise of construction management staff. Their guidance and support have made my experience at Southampton Solent University memorable, and an absolute pleasure. 



What’s next for you? 

The company that I am employed by have supported me throughout my time at Southampton Solent University. I intend to return the compliment by using the knowledge I’ve gained for competitive advantage!

What advice have you got for other students or potential students?

People will not help you unless you help yourself. But if you have tried your best but still have difficulty, Southampton Solent University is willing and able to help.

Many years ago a very wise man told me that a door will seldom be opened for you unless you created the door. Had I not insisted five years ago that Southampton Solent University was the place I should go, I would not now have a first-class honours degree, and I would probably still be painting other peoples’ doors!