Lite Notes by Ellen Rogers
by Ellen Rogers
March 30th, 2020

Building Better Buildings

The world is a very different place compared to when I last wrote this blog. Many of us are still adjusting to what’s become a new normal—at least for now—whether that means learning to work from home or simply adjusting to having to stay home. This is our world right now, and staying home is what we need to do. However, it’s also opened my eyes to thinking about what happens next. I like to think we’re all going to come out on the other side more mindful and aware of all that’s around us, as well our own health and well-being. The same may even apply to architecture and how and where glass is used.

Last week I found articles on several architects’ websites about how the coronavirus could change the way buildings are designed. I love this quote from Luke Leung, director of sustainable engineering at SOM in a Fast Company article: “Buildings have to be the secret weapon in the future to combat infectious diseases.”

That’s a pretty powerful statement, and there are a number of ways glass and glazing products can contribute to the solution. Finding ways to have cleaner air is one step toward combatting such infections, and Leung says bringing fresh air into buildings is part of that, as it will help “minimize the time that you’re exposed to anything.” Of course, this goes beyond just having the windows open, but there are ways to design buildings that use glass and glazing products to contribute to natural ventilation. Here’s a pretty stunning example of an office building in Germany that boasts “select operable openings” for natural ventilation.

When it comes to buildings becoming a part of the solution, hospitals are probably the most important place to start. And over the past few years, we’ve heard a lot about how glass products can contribute to a cleaner, more sterile environment. Different types of privacy glass, for example, can be used as a room divider instead of curtains. Curtains are more likely to carry bacteria compared to glass, which is much easier to clean. With privacy glazing, the glass can transition from clear to opaque by flipping a switch. Switchable and other types of dynamic glass can also be used in hospital room windows, further eliminating the need for curtains and blinds, which can carry germs.

Products like privacy and dynamic glazing are already being used in healthcare environments. As the architectural community continues to explore ways to design hospitals and other buildings to help fight the spread of future pandemics, I expect we will see the market for glass grow. Just as natural disasters and acts of terrorism created demand for a vast range of protective glazing products, I think we could see similar development as a result of the coronavirus. This could happen through more development in antibacterial coatings for glass, hardware and other surfaces.

The coronavirus has impacted all of us in some way. And yes, there are challenges during these uncertain times. But I’m an optimist, and I think we will come out of this better, stronger and more focused—and that goes for our glass products and their applications. Stay safe, stay well, and stay home.

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