Some companies have taken steps to help reduce VOC emissions, and they include businesses that have traditionally made the green crowd see red. For example, auto body shops. One shop that has taken a wrench to this perception is Pierce Collision Inc. The Natick-based auto body shop is one of the few certified waterborne shops in Massachusetts.

VOCs won’t be treated as VIPs any time soon by environmentalists. In high amounts, VOCs, aka volatile organic compounds, can wreak havoc on Mother Nature.


However, some companies have taken steps to help reduce VOC emissions, and they include businesses that have traditionally made the green crowd see red. For example, auto body shops. One shop that has taken a wrench to this perception is Pierce Collision Inc. The Natick-based auto body shop is one of the few certified waterborne shops in Massachusetts, according to Stephen K. Pierce, who owns the business with his brother, David. For its waterborne system, the company chose Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries.


In the following interview, Stephen provides the lowdown on waterborne technology as well as the history of Pierce Collision to Daily News staff writer Bob Tremblay.


QUESTION: Why did your company get involved in this technology?


ANSWER: We wanted to stay ahead of the competition, knowing waterborne technology will be required by all body shops in the United States. A date of 2012 has been proposed.


We also wanted to take a proactive stand in protecting the environment by going green with PPG’s paint finishing system. PPG is a worldwide company that specializes in automotive coatings and other specialty products. Recently, we switched to a low VOC, waterborne basecoat from a conventional solvent borne-based system. VOCs are commonly used in paint coatings and cleaning products. When released into the atmosphere they help to create ozone and smog.


Our use of waterborne basecoat for refinishing our customers’ vehicles significantly reduces the emissions of VOCs into the atmosphere. This move helps us do our part to improve the quality of our air and contribute to an overall healthier work environment.


When compared to a conventional solvent-based basecoat, PPG Envirobase High Performance paint can reduce basecoat-sourced VOC emissions by up to 80 percent. Waterborne basecoat is the latest coating technology that’s typically used by manufacturers to create the original color on today’s vehicles.


According to PPG, the introduction of its waterborne color toners for use in collision centers provides the enhanced ability to match a vehicle’s original finish. This is a major technological advancement with no downside. Not only is the paint better ecologically, it gives better color matches and it’s faster to complete a repair when compared to the solvent-based system we were using.


Not every auto body shop qualifies for use of this waterborne paint. The paint equipment must be up to date and top notch. PPG has to test the air systems that are used to spray with. The air has to be clean and dry and there cannot be any moisture or oil in the air lines.


We were tested by PPG and passed every test. Our shop’s air is clean and dry. And our spray booth is heated in such a way that we can bake the finish just as the vehicle’s manufacturer did. The water-based paint we are using gets reduced or thinned out with deironized water, not a lacquer or solvent thinner like most shops use. This way we’re not putting any solvents into the atmosphere.


For a shop that mixes an average of one gallon of solvent-borne basecoat color per week, the move to waterborne basecoat annually saves more than 300 pounds of VOCs from being emitted into the air we breathe. This is the equivalent of taking more than 1,000 vehicles off the road annually.


If all auto body shops changed, that would make a remarkable difference in the quality of our air. Also, by making the change to waterborne paint systems we are reducing greenhouse gases.


Costwise, installing this new system was a sound investment. We found that we are saving time and money because it is a faster system to use.


Q: How did the company come about?


A:  Pierce Collision Inc. was started by my brother David and I after many years of experience running other auto body shops in the area. With our shared experience, we were confident that we could manage a body shop on our own.


I started working in the auto body business in Natick in 1974. David started working in the business in 1978. Over the years both David and I gained experience working both on the floor and in management positions.


In 1989, David was working in an auto body located at our present location. The owner of the shop chose to leave the business. We saw an opportunity to start our own business so we took over the lease in 1990 and changed the name to Pierce Collision Inc.


MetroWest Daily News