Mother of invention: Learn to take advantage of sustainability

Oct. 18, 2010
Paul Studebaker, CMRP, editorial director, says let sustainability open your mind to better possibilities.

Fall is my favorite season for outdoor painting. Here in the Midwest, it’s the best time of the year to be outside. The lower temperatures and less-direct sunlight help the paint go on smoothly and level properly, while breezes keep the mosquitoes at bay. So I’ve been taking advantage of the fine fall weather to paint my shed.

It’s 12 ft. by 20 ft., about 12 ft. tall, with a gambrel roof, T-111 siding and cedar trim. I built it about 15 years ago using a plan designed to take maximum advantage of 4 ft. by 8 ft. sheets and learned the hard way that when you want to nail the edges of adjacent full sheets of T-111 on the edges of 2-by-4 studs, everything has to be cut, leveled, plumbed and squared within 1/8 in. And 1/16 in. is better.

These days I enjoy wielding a paintbrush, but it was not always so. I came of age in the era of oil-based paints, and it was years before I learned practical ways of properly cleaning a natural-bristle brush. I knew my brushes would be ruined by hardened traces of paint, so I bought cheap ones that worked poorly and left me constantly picking loose bristles out of the work. I became an artist of the aerosol can.

But you can’t paint a shed with spray cans. By the time I needed to do that, latex paints were on the market but far from perfected — just second-class paint for lazy people looking for easy cleanup. Real painters still used oil-base, at least for priming, and so did I. But naturally, I ventured into water-based topcoats. Now I could appreciate and properly maintain high-quality brushes, and I started to enjoy brush work.


Back then, it was tough to decide which paint to use. You’d study Consumer Reports reviews, read the warranty and the labels on the cans (that used to list ingredients by percent), and maybe talk with the guy at the paint store, your dad and your friends at work before you made up your mind. When I built the shed, I chose the paint with the lowest percentage of water. Now, the words “100% acrylic” tell me I’m getting great paint.

Water-based paints didn’t excel until regulations limiting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) started to threaten the existence of oil-based coatings. Then paint companies invested some significant R&D and came up with today’s terrific products.

Maybe paints would be just as good today without the incentive to reduce VOCs, but I doubt it. Sometimes it takes a nudge to move an industry, technology or person out of a comfort zone and open up to alternatives they would not otherwise see or consider. And once they can see other possibilities, you can’t presume to predict exactly what direction they’ll go, or how far.

Veteran readers of Plant Services will notice that my job title has changed to editorial director, and Mike Bacidore is now editor in chief. As editorial director, I’ll be helping to make sure Plant Services remains an excellent source of information about industrial productivity, maintenance and asset management. And now, I’ll also be helping to build resources to support your facility’s initiatives in sustainability.

We’re taking the same pragmatic view of sustainability that has guided our coverage of industrial facilities management: Where’s the ROI? Our sustainability coverage will be timely but not trendy. You’ll get actionable information on significant developments, not tons of trivia, with the resources and background you need to make informed decisions about if, when and how you’ll implement them.

We hope you’ll take advantage of sustainability (and our coverage) to open your eyes to new possibilities for yourself and your facility, and that you’ll bring good ideas to the attention of others in your company who are concerned about energy efficiency, environment, safety and sourcing.

We’re thrilled by the possibilities we already see for interesting, exciting and useful information we can gather and convey under the Sustainability banner, but we’re sure there’s more we don’t know about. If you have a topic you’d like to see us cover, don’t hesitate to tell me.

Contact Editorial Director Paul Studebaker, CMRP, at [email protected].

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