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Better, brighter paint


I recently attended a conference with Akzo Nobel, the company that owns and manufactures Dulux paints. I learnt about its extensive sustainability strategy, known as Planet Possible, and it got me thinking about the way in which I use paints and how it affects not just the look and feel of a space but also its energy use.

Colour has more than an aesthetic impact: it can be a practical means to increase the natural light falling in through windows, reducing the amount of electricity that building occupants use as a result – a material that impacts on occupant behavioural use.

Natural light is good for you, too – it helps the body make vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’, which helps you fight off viruses and could save you trip to the doctor.

So how can we use paint and colour to save energy and feel healthier?

All colour (and so paint) reflects light – the more light it reflects, the less we need to use artificial electric light to compensate. Picking lighter colours in key areas of the buildings we occupy will reflect more natural light and will save energy.

But how do we know which colours to pick?

Hue, light reflectance value and chroma

There’s a handy notation next to most colours provided by Dulux which tells you how much light gets reflected. The notation consists of three parts: hue, light reflectance value, and chroma.

Hue tells you which colour you’re getting as you would see it in a rainbow – pink has a red hue, pure yellow is a hue and so on.

Light reflectance value, or LRV, indicates the brightness – and, specifically, how much light bounces off the paint. The higher the number, the brighter the colour. 00 is very low and 99 is the highest and the brightest.

Chroma is the intensity of the colour – a bit like saturation. A low number will be a neutral grey, and a high number – up to 999 – will be vivid colour.

It’s the second part that we’re interested in – brightness. We want more light to bounce off the paint. So pick colours with a high LRV number – they’ll reflect more light around your room.

Change paint, save energy

Dulux’s Light & Space range of paints add brightness to a room by using Lumitic technology to reflect up to 40% more light than normal paint. It means you can turn the lights off a bit later – around 20 minutes according to Dulux – and you can make the most of natural light during the day.

Think about it – if the average home uses 35 lights, and turned on each of them 20 minutes less per day, that would be the equivalent of a single light bulb used continuously over 177 days. Pretty amazing, huh? It really adds up, and in this way we can see the electrical savings light reflectance can really have on domestic energy use.

Light & Space has special light-reflecting particles in the paint to create this effect, so that for the same hue, paint is more vivid. Your room will be brighter and will give you more of the natural light which, as we are starting to see already this year, leaves you feeling healthier and happier on the inside, too – with a potential marked decrease in your energy bills.

Heath Design was set up in 2005 by designer, writer and television presenter Oliver Heath to bring aspirational sustainability and good design together – from eco consultancy, architecture, eco interior design, product design and writing. For more information, visit

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