Going Anti-Viral

By Debra Levy

You know that picture of the COVID-19 virus that you have seen everywhere? You know it—the one with the little red spikes sticking out like little bullets waiting to explode in the lungs? I hate that picture. At this point, it makes me sick to my stomach when I see it. It stares at me mockingly saying “I am 1/millionth of your size, yet I can destroy pretty much everything you know and love, including you yourself.” I prefer to look away when it comes toward me. I prefer to fight back in every way I can.

The speed of it is the amazing thing. In just 10 weeks, almost everything about our collective and individual realities has changed. A science fiction movie plot has become our reality. Yet, unlike a movie plot, the ending is still being written. When we finally glimpse this story’s closing credits, much will be changed. The COVID-19 crisis will launch, advance or hasten a number of those changes. Here’s my list of the ones that will impact the glass industry the most:

1. Out of Touch: The ability to enter and exit a building or room without touching any surface (except your feet to floor) will become standard. The use of smart and/or automatic doors, touchless entry and egress and touchless security systems will become the norm. And the touchless movement will not be limited to physical structures. Money will be collected and information exchanged, all in ways that require little to no physical contact.

2. Inoperable Becomes Operable: Good ventilation has become a life-saver. Certain businesses and churches in Virginia, for example, are only able to open if they are housed in structures with good ventilation. Operable windows will become important, even in highrises as designers struggle to find ways to open windows without jeopardizing occupants or passersby below. Low- and medium-rise office buildings with inoperable
windows will be at a distinct disadvantage in the real estate market.

3. Anti-Any and Everything: Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral coatings will continue to advance with glass as a viable substrate. Some of the coatings already exist and more will come on the market in the future. What’s more, I predict that eventually a “health-safety code” will be added to building construction with different threat levels and different specifications the buildings must meet at each threat level. Human density will be key.

4. There’re New Apps for That: In just a few short weeks we have seen innovative glass companies adapt to our new reality by creating and selling products for the times. These include sneeze guards, life safety barriers (the old bank teller windows) and more. One glass retailer with whom I spoke told me his company is doing a lot of business fitting the cars of Uber drivers with a glass barrier between their front and back seats. Many offices and retailers will retrofit for health safety and use glass to do so.

5. Glass as a Healer: Throughout this crisis, we have seen how glass has been able to keep a connection that otherwise would have been lost. More than any other building material, glass helped people continue to share their lives … even if it was the end of life.

Picture how hospital design will be changed because of COVID-19. There will be even more glass so that health professionals can see in without going in. But there may be additional windows for family members as well. And though this virus lasts a relatively long time (5-9 days) on glass when compared to other materials, it is one of the easiest to clean and keep clean.

My favorite picture so far has been of a young woman standing outside of a nursing home, holding up her hand to joyously show her grandfather her engagement ring. It’s a simple and totally human act that would have been lost to them both without the glass to connect them. There’s a presence, immediacy and subtlety that we get from each other that can’t be achieved on Zoom or Facebook. And because of this, usage of glass and respect for this amazing building product will continue to grow. Stay safe and have an invincible summer.

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